WELCOME!

 

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You can’t use up creativity.  The more you use, the more you have.  Maya Angelou

 

My name is Leslie and I am a creative person.  I am also mentally ill.  I can tell you some of my diagnoses—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder.   I can also tell you some of my creative accomplishments—selling my collages in galleries, writing a monthly column in a newspaper, and publishing personal essays, poetry, and short stories in national magazines and anthologies.

Being mentally ill sometimes interferes with my creativity, other times it fuels it.   Sometimes my mental illness drags me down, other times my creativity pulls me up.  I started writing poetry as part of the therapeutic process and I haven’t stopped yet.   My first collages expressed pain, anguish, and an undeniable need for freedom.  My favorite color then was black, followed by red and gold.  I have since branched out, using all the beautiful colors I can find.

In the book, Touched With Fire:  Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament by Kay Redfield Jameson, the author shows a definite connection between artists of all kinds and mood disorders.  Emily Dickinson was depressed.  Baudelaire tried to kill himself.  Hart Crane tried the same and succeeded.  The collector fairy tales, Hans Christian Anderson, struggled with depression, as did John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress.  Walt Whitman who wrote of the “body electric;” Mark Twain who brought us Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn; and Charles Dickens, author of Great Expectations and David Copperfield, did not let depression stop them from bringing enthusiasm, humor, and unforgettable characters into this world.

But what about us?  What if I “just” write in my journal?  Or if you create paintings that hang on your walls instead of those of the Louvre?  We are still keeping company with talented artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, whose mental illness, self-mutilation, and suicide is a sad story often told.

Do you make music on an organ bought from local mall and have mental illness? If so, you have much in common with Handel, Rachmanioff, and Tchaikovsky.  Irving Berlin, Noel Coward, and Cole Porter are part of our crowd too.

A person does not have to be in perfect, or even good physical and mental health to make amazing contributions to the world.  So many artists, writers, composers, and creatives of all kinds have proved that over and over.  People from the past.  People from now.  You. Me.

Much has been written about how creativity helps in healing.  I’ve made collages of knives and blood instead of cutting myself.  My art told anyone who bothered to look that my marriage was over long before I took my daughter and moved out of the house.  Maybe the collages pouring out of me gave me the courage to do so.

I hope this blog will promote your creativity when that is what you need and help move you towards healing when that is what you need.  Thank you for visiting my on-line home. Please visit me often.

 


 

 

 

 

 

It’s Been So Long Since I’ve Posted

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It’s been a long while since I’ve posted on my blog–so much has been going on in my life, so many changes.   One change I was afraid would happen didn’t.  I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep my house after the long term disability payments from my former job expired.  Now I’m living on just SSDI.  Maybe I shouldn’t say just–because I am happy to have it.  And I am happy that I will be able to keep my house!  I’ve found many programs that provide help for low-income people.  Did you know that if you qualify for EBT (food stamps), you also qualify for a free phone?  Call the food stamp number for your state and ask them about the phone.  Social Security has drug assistance–to help with the medicare premium, co-pays, and the donut hole.  The Hardest Hit Funds will help if you can’t pay your mortgage, if you are behind on your mortgage, and if you owe more on your house than it’s worth.  Like I do!  There’s a lot of paperwork to handle and documents to gather, copy, and send.  But it’s worth it.

Another change is that I am going to school on-line to go back into my former profession:  medical coding.  I am going to do that part-time to supplement my SSDI income.  As much as the law allows, hopefully.  And I’m having an injection into my back in about two weeks.  I sure hope it helps.  Until something helps with the spondylolisthesis (which means one of my vertebra has slipped and isn’t where it’s supposed to be), this back pain is keeping me from doing anything physical.  I can’t even go grocery shopping without help!  Thanks Mom!!

And thanks to all of you for still subscribing to my blog even though I’ve neglected it lately.  I will try not to do that again!!

 

My Favorite Books of 2016

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I know it’s almost half way through February, but I decided to write about my favorites of all the books I read in 2016.  I read other good books too, but, looking back, these were the ones I enjoyed the most.  I’m sure you’ll find some common themes and maybe some authors you’d like to try.

 

North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both by Cea Sunrise Person

The author of this book is an amazing person who survived having almost no consistency or anyone to count on growing up.  And she had to grow up long before she was an adult chronologically.  Person’s happiest memories were those of her time spent with her extended family living off the grid in Canada’s wilderness.  But it all felt apart way too soon.  This book is a can’t-put-down story that is very well written.  I’m glad the author survived—her strength blows me away!

 

Dietland by Sarai Walker

This book is a crazy combination of revenge fantasy, fantasy-fantasy, and reflection on our culture and its attitude towards obesity and how we absorb those attitudes and hate ourselves.  It’s a novel and a very surprising one.  This book was one I didn’t want to stop reading!

 

The Giver Quartet Omnibus by Lois Lowry

This edition includes all four books in The Giver series.  I’d already read the first three, but not one right after the other.  Reading them consecutively cleared up some of my confusion about what happened in the second and third books and how it tied together.  The Giver, has to be one of the most profound books I’ve ever read and I think many people would agree.  I usually stay away from dystopian fiction, but this series is different.  The wisdom and people and relationships are the stars, not radiation, zombies, and destruction.  Once you read The Giver I’m pretty sure you’re going to want to read the next books.  It feels like an imperative to find out what happened to the people in the book.

 

People Farm: A Largely True Story of Exploitation, Redemption, and Organic Sex in a Therapy Cult of the Early Aquarian Age by Steve Susoyev

This is a story about an Eden and like all Edens, it was corrupted.  It’s a story about what absolute power did to one man and what giving away their power did to many people.   It’s a story about the idealism of the sixties, something we might need a little of (and I did say little!) now.  And it’s the story of Steve Susoyev and what happened to him when he thought he found the answers he’d been looking for.

 

The Mother of God by Luna Tarlo

The author of this book experienced something incredible rare.  But not precious or extraordinary.  More like destructive and depressing.  Her son started a cult and came to be regarded as a messiah.  She joined his cult and then left his cult.  Reading this compelling book is not really fun, it’s more like not being able to look away from a train wreck.   But I read it because I wanted to understand Tarlo’s unique experience.

 

Church of Marvels: A Novel by Leslie Parry

A novel set in New York City at the turn of the 20th century, this book brings together strangers trying to survive.  The Church of Marvels is a Coney Island sideshow, but it’s burned down and the mother of two young women burnt with it.  A baby is found in a privy.  A woman wakes up in an asylum.  Everything and everyone comes together in this compelling story and it’s hard to stop ready even if it is 2:48 a.m.

 

 Between Gods: A Memoir by Alison Pick

The author finds out her heritage is not what she was led to believe it was.  She feels she has to choose between the god of her family’s past and the god she was raised to believe in.  She’s trying to finish a book.  She’s engaged, but is she committed?   Because it comes through her father’s side of the family and not her mother’s, Pick jumps through hoops set up by the established religion to become what she feels she already is:  Jewish.   Her frustration is palpable.  There’s a quietness about this book that makes it engaging and powerful.

 

King David: The Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel by Jonathan Kirsch

Kirsch is a Jewish scholar who has written several books about the Old Testament—and one about the last book in the New Testament, Revelations—that are informative, interesting, and eye-opening.  I have never been bored reading a book by Jonathan Kirsch.  I just hope he plans to write more.  I’ve read all but two.  When he reveals something and you see it, there’s this feeling of why didn’t I see that before?  It was always there!  He’s good that way.  This book is about King David, one of the most controversial and complicated people in the Bible.  It’s hard to understand why David was favored by God when you read about all the wrong things he did.  It’s another mystery we’re expected to take at face value and accept.  I used to do that with the Bible.  Every word of it.  I don’t anymore.  If you’re at all interested in how the Old Testament was written and put together and what it contains, I highy recommend Kirsch.

 

The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless

This book is for fans of Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer or the movie directed by Sean Penn.  Into The Wild tells the story of Chris McCandless who turned away from his family and society.  He eventually decided to live off the grid in Alaska, where he starved to death.  Both the book and movie do an excellent job of telling who, what, when, and where—but there’s a puzzling lack of anything about why.  Now Carine McCandless has given us the missing pieces about her brother’s motivation. The family would not reveal what they knew to Krakauer or Penn.  Now Carine has decided to let the world know what led to Chris’ journey away from all that was familiar and into the wild.

 

 

Memoir Excerpt: Halloween

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We loved Halloween!  We’d rush home from school, eat an early supper, change into our costumes, and hit the street–always with Mom or Dad in tow.   Each of us came home with a huge grocery bag full of candy, enough to last at least until Thanksgiving.  But one year I got a big surprise…

Today’s Halloween, so I run home as fast as I can to get on my costume.  Mommy has a costume, too, but she won’t tell me what it is.  We have to hurry up and go trick-or-treating.

“Hi, Lizzy!”  I yell as I run past their house.  Lizzie is sitting on their stoop with an old bum.  I wonder who he is.

I run up the stairs.  “Mommy!”  I run in the kitchen, no Mommy.  I run in the bedroom and bathroom and living room.  Where is she?  My clown costume’s on the couch and my make-up’s on the kitchen table with my wig.  Where is my Mommy?

I run downstairs and knock on Ina’s door.  She doesn’t know where she is.

I run next door.  “I can’t find Mommy!  Do you know where she is?”

“You can’t find your mommy?”  Lizzy laughs.

“Do you know where she is?” I ask.

“You really can’t find her?”

“Where is she?”

Lizzy looks at me.  The bum looks at me.  His clothes are dirty and his face is dirty and his hair is dirty.

“Hi, Leslie,” the bum says.  The bum’s not a bum, he’s my mommy!  “I told you I was dressing up, too.”

Mommy and Lizzy laugh.  I laugh too.

I grab her hand and pull her up.  “Come on!  I need my costume on!  Let’s go!”

“Let’s go trick-or-treating!”  She laughs as we go upstairs to our apartment.

 

 


 

A Small Mouse in a Shrinking Blue Room

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A couple of years ago, I could barely stop crying.  When I wasn’t crying, I was on the verge of crying, using every bit of effort to keep the tears inside.  Over and over, every day.  Not only did I fight the battle of tears every day, I fought suicidal thoughts every day.  My brain badgered me—why bother living?  What’s so great about it?  Living is more trouble than it’s worth.  My daughter, my parents, my family, my friends.  Those are good reasons to live, I’d reply in this battle of attrition my brain was fighting against my soul.  Why should you have to stay alive because of them?  Because I love them and they love me!!  NOW SHUT UP!!

I spent a lot of time wondering who would win.  My soul that wanted to live?  My brain that wanted to die?  I felt like a prisoner of war, waiting to find out who would win and when I could go home.  Where ever that might be.

I told my psychiatrist and he put me on a drug called Saphris.  Saphris is an atypical antipsychotic that, when used in conjunction with anti-depressants, helps with depression.  It helped me.

I remembered again what living without an internal war about living and dying felt like.  It felt good—especially after months of my consciousness being a battle ground.

Like many people with mental illness, I get my insurance through the Healthcare Marketplace.  It seemed to show up just in time, just when I had to stop working and go on disability.

This year I had to change companies.  My old insurance would no longer be available.  But I found a good policy.  And maybe it is a good policy.  But I’m not getting off to a very good start in my relationship with this new company.

My new company does not cover Saphris for depression unless I have bipolar disorder.  Which I don’t.  My doctor found an effective drug for me and he’s not allowed to prescribe it.  Unless I can pay for it myself.  But a five hundred dollar a month drug isn’t possible on monthly disability.  I pay my premium, yet I’m denied the drug I need.

My doctor told me that the Healthcare Exchange policies base what they approve and don’t approve on a contract.  It doesn’t matter what he says.  It doesn’t matter than I was so full of suicidal thoughts that I couldn’t think about much else.  It doesn’t matter what I need.   What matters is their contract.  Nothing else.  In other words, profit matters and I don’t.

I told my doctor I felt like a little, tiny mouse being crushed and he said he felt like a clerk, not a doctor.  They aren’t allowing him to practice medicine the way he sees fit.  He has to do what they tell him to do.

He encouraged me.  He helped me.  Which didn’t prevent a flood of tears when I got in my car.  They told him they might approve other drugs in the same category and tonight I’ll start my Seroquel journey.  I wonder where that path leads?  To improved mental health or deterioration?  I’ll be finding out.  Seroquel is sedating, which I don’t need.  It has more negative effects on diabetes, which I also don’t need.  It makes people gain weight.  I’m already obese and I don’t need to gain weight.   I do need Saphris.  But even though a skilled doctor who’s known me over ten years says I should have it, a person  in some state, somewhere, who has never met me or any of the other people he or she denies medication to, says no.  So no it is.

I’m trying to have a positive attitude.  I’m trying to do the best I can within the system, since it’s the system I have to function in.   I’m not wealthy.   If I was wealthy I would be able to take the medications that help me the most.  That would be the only consideration.  Shouldn’t that be the only consideration for all people?  Not just rich people?

I’ll keep you posted about where this new “adventure” takes me.

 

Here are a couple of resources for any one experiencing suicidal thoughts.  You can call 911.  Don’t be embarrassed.  You don’t have be dying to call 911.  They want to prevent injuries, not treat them after they happen, if possible.

The National  Suicide Prevention Hotline:  1-800-784-2433.  Again, you don’t have to be on the verge of killing yourself to call this number.  Like a leader of support group told me, this line is for preventing suicide.  So you don’t have to have a knife in your hand or a noose around your neck.  If you feel like hurting yourself, call this number.  I’ve called it before when I needed help in the middle of the night.  It’s good to know there’s someone to talk to when everyone else I know is asleep.

The best book I’ve read on this topic is called How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying To Kill Me:  One Person’s Guide to Suicide Prevention by Susan Rose Blauner.    This book helped me more and made much more sense than any other book I’ve read on the subject.

 


 

New Year/Old Year

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A new year to look forward to, an old year to look back on.  I’ve been thinking that 2016 was such a nothing, blah year.  But then I remembered—I finished my book in 2016.  I started my blog in 2016. I’m almost done writing my query letter and synopsis so I can submit my book to literary agents while it’s still 2016.  I started a new book in 2016.  I continued my happy relationships with friends and family in 2016. I survived mental illness.   What’s so blah about that?

Some hard things happened too.  I’ve written about having my last appointment with my therapist of twenty years in March of 2016.  The end of that relationship is one of the hardest things I’ve dealt with in a long time.  But, I also started a relationship with my new therapist in 2016—and it’s a very good one.  I feel really blessed to have found another therapist I clicked with.  I thought it might be a long and arduous search, but it wasn’t so long after all!

Like pretty much every year, I’ve experienced positive experiences that make me feel great just to think about and negative ones that I could cry about right here, at this keyboard, this second.

What about you?  Can you think of one really gratifying thing that happened in 2016?  Two?  Three?   I hope there are some things from 2016 that make you smile!

Ever heard of a ta-da list?  I think Julia Cameron came up with the idea, not totally sure.  It’s the opposite of a to-do list.  What about a ta-da list for the year of 2016?  Write down wonderful surprises,  amazing accomplishments, and suffering you survived—maybe you’ve come out on the other side and are thriving!  I plan to make a 2016 ta-da list in the next week.  We’ve all accomplished a lot this year.  All of us have.   Let’s take some time to remember what we’ve already done before we go back to thinking of all that sill needs to be done.  We deserve it!

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions, do you?  The reason I don’t is that I’ve never kept one in my fifty-five year long life!  If you have, I’d love to hear a comment about it.  And I will commend you in advance, but most of us are not that disciplined.

I do want to make improvements.  Not because it’s going to be 2017 soon, but because the holidays are over, I have more time again, and these are things I want to do.  I put them in the category of goals that I want to achieve, along with the goals I try to achieve during every—or at least most—months, every single year.

There’s a movement of picking one word to embody the year you’re anticipating.  I think that’s more my speed, although it might be harder than it sounds.  http://myoneword.org/pick-your-word/    is the link for the site.  You can also find it on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Youtube.

I’ve decided my word for 2017 will be trust.  I’m facing some scary changes in the coming year that are going to take a lot of trust—in myself, the universe, my friends and family—to go through with any amount of equanimity.  I am afraid.  It’s not here yet, so I’m trying to put my emotional energy into preparing for change, rather than worrying about it.  These changes involve my finances, my living arrangements, other issues.    I plan to write about these things in future posts.  But I am going to need trust running through my veins to face some of the changes that are coming.

What would your word be?  It could be a different word every month.  Every week?  I’ve thought about maybe having the overarching word of trust, but having words for individual months and weeks.  The whole idea is keeping that one word in mind when making decisions and choosing what to do with our time.

If I can keep the word trust in the forefront of my mind, then I can make decisions from a place of trust, rather than a place of fear.  I know from personal experience that fear is not a place of wisdom or even common sense.

Think about your word.  No one else can pick it for you, which makes it a tool of self-confidence and strength.

I’d love hear comments about what word you’ve picked and why.

Have a wonderful 2017!

Floating Away

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Sleep

My solace

My time waster

My mind eraser

til I wake up and remember the dreams

Amniotic fluid to float in

A dark, green pond I barely surface from

 

Yet I do

Surface

Every afternoon

In my bed—the pillows hot, the blankets tangled,

drool crusted on my face, eyes glued almost shut

 

The more depressed I am

the more I sleep

 

And float, though my skin puckers and

my mind grows weary, trying to find what I need

in thick, inky water.

 

by Leslie Wells

You Can Change the World–I Can Too!

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The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do.                                                       anonymous

 

You can change the world.  For everyone who just cracked up laughing, I’ll say it again.  YOU CAN CHANGE THE WORLD.

Those of us with emotional and psychological problems might be thinking:  I can’t even change myself, how can I possibly change the world?

Where is the world?  In deserts where children are dying of hunger and thirst?  Yes.  In Syria where millions are trying flee their own country?  Yes.  At the store checkout when you’re buying your groceries?  Yes.  When you feel like yelling at your kids because they’re driving you crazy?  Yes.  Right here at my desk, as I write these words?  Yes.

I used to think I would have to become a missionary or work with an organization like Doctors Without Borders or Unicef to change the world.  Just because I’m not Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi or the president doesn’t mean I can’t change the world.   The space I occupy and the people I interact with every day are just as much part of this world as distant lands where disaster and famine are occurring.  Just as much a part of the world as anywhere oppression reins.

What if your neighbor is getting her mail and you smile and wave at her and maybe have a short chat.  You changed the world.  There’s a piece of trash on the ground and a garbage can nearby.  Do you leave the trash on the ground and not change the world or do you throw it away and make the world a better place?  This planet is a mosaic of people and places.  We don’t have to change huge swaths of it to make it better.  Changing one tile improves the whole.

Do you believe in the domino effect?  What if you spend five minutes talking the lady who is ringing up a pack of gum you’re buying?  She tells you her problems and you really listen and sympathize.  You both know there’s nothing you can do to fix her problems.  But giving her some time and attention improves her mood.  When she picks up her kids from school after work, she doesn’t yell at them.  The kids go out to play and don’t fight with their friends because they feel so good.  One of those friends goes home to eat supper and gives his or her mom a great big hug because playing was so fun today.  The mom doesn’t drink that evening because the hug felt so good.  Instead of fighting, like every other night in recent history, the mom and dad have a nice evening together and both go to bed feeling better than they have in a long time.  Was that worth five minutes?  YOU have changed the world.

Most of us never know the consequences of small interactions with strangers or acquaintances but it’s hard to think of a situation where kindness would have a negative consequence.

YOUCAN CHANGE THE WORLD—FOR THE BETTER!!