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.

 


 

 

 

 

 

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!!

Best Birthday Present Ever

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Some of you know I’ve been working on my memoir for a very long time.  A long, long, long time.  Fifteen years or more.  I brought my flash drive to Michigan so I could work on it while my sister and her husband are at work.  I realized that if I pushed myself, I could finish the book on my birthday, September 14th.  So I pushed myself and I finished it that day!!  I’m very excited about it.  It’s almost hard to believe it’s done!  I think I was around forty when I started it.

The next step, when I get home, is to write a query, a synopsis, make a table of contents, and start submitting to agents!!  Wish me luck!

Start an Art Adventure for Three Dollars!

Or even less!  That’s just one of the reasons I think collage is a great way to include art making in your life.  Another reason collage is so wonderful—you can make a beautiful piece of art and not be able to draw a stick figure.  There’s a lot of us in that category! 

Collage is an intuitive process. The best way to keep it intuitive is a method I learned from a wonderful lady, Linda Maree.  Linda’s a collage and writing mentor for so many of us in this area.  According to Linda, and after doing it, I agree with her, the best method is to go through the magazines quickly and tear out anything that catches your eye.  Don’t try to figure out why.  Just keep turning those pages.

Before I met Linda, I would sit and stare at an image, wondering if I wanted to use it or not, read the caption—sometimes I’d read the whole story connected with the picture.  Doing that takes you away from an intuitive process into an intellectual one.   Staying intuitive is the best way to let what’s inside your heart come out.  Staying in the intellect will result in a process that’s about your mind, not your heart, not your soul.

People make art for many valid reasons.  I am advocating doing collage in an intuitive manner to help with healing wounds of the soul. 

In collage you don’t have to decide what to paint, draw, or sculpt.  You simply choose images that present themselves as you flip through magazines.  The results can be amazing—so perceptive, so revealing, so true. 

Intuitive collage is another way to bypass the inner critics we all have to contend with.  Intellectual collage, in which you try to control the process—so you can make something beautiful, so you can make a collage about some certain thing, so you can keep the pain in your soul in your soul and not let it out, so you don’t have to know about it, look at it, deal with it, or feel it—does not heal the soul.

Back to the three dollar part.  To do collage, you need images, adhesive, scissors, and paper to attach your images to.  Most people have scissors, but if you don’t, you can buy them at the dollar store.  You can also buy glue sticks there, but if you don’t want to, school glue works, although your images will not lay flat like images attached with glue sticks.  The wetter the adhesive, the more warping of the page.  A composition book can be used for collage, but you will need to glue two or even three pages together to make the paper strong enough to hold up to the mixed-media canstock2316607process.  Mixed-media is the more popular term for collage these days.  It also includes many other art forms. 

If you have old magazines you’re willing to cut up, you’re ready to collage!  You can also get magazines from friends and family.  Many people are relieved to get rid of them!  Another good source for free and very cheap magazines is the library.  I’ve bought many copies of National Geographic for ten cents each.   Some thrift stores sell magazines.  You don’t need a lot of magazines to begin with.

Another source of interesting images is stuff around your house.  The label on the box of tea.  The wrapper on the soap.  Tags from new clothes.  Wrapping paper and junk mail.  Catalogues.  Old newspapers.  Another use for newspapers and catalogues is to put your chosen image upside- down on, and then apply the glue stick, pushing it out a little past the borders of the image.  This is the best way I’ve found to apply adhesive of any kind to an image.  My friend, Valeria, taught me that.  Thank you, Valeria!

So, for three dollars or less you can jump in and make collage!  I think it’s an exciting adventure.  I’ve been making collage for fifteen years and still love it.  Each collage I make is a new experience and a new revelation.

It isn’t necessary, but if you want to spend more, the first thing I would recommend is a mixed-media notebook.  These can be found at art supply stores and chain stores, such as Michaels and Hobby Lobby.  Do not get a sketch book, even though sketch books cost less.  The paper in a sketch book is too light weight to withstand having layers glued on it.  Mixed-media and water color paper can stand up to just about anything!

I use UHU glue sticks.  They are generally considered to be the best glue sticks available for paper arts.  I don’t know why, but they aren’t available in craft stores, art stores, or big box office supply stores.  Don’t order them from Amazon.  They are charging about five dollars per glue stick.  The only places to find UHU glue sticks, at least around here, are local office supply stores.  They sell from one to two dollars, depending on size.  They really are the best.

The last thing I would recommend is a brayer made of hard rubber.  A brayer is a roller with a handle.  It has so many uses in art.  For collage, I use the brayer over every image as I apply it to my collage and to the collage itself, as I get near the end.  A brayer spreads the glue under the image more evenly and makes the whole collage lay flatter.  I love my brayer!  If you get adhesive on your brayer, you can wash it with soap and water, since it’s hard rubber with a plastic or metal handle.

Collage is inexpensive, accessible, you don’t need lessons, you don’t need to be able to draw a straight line, a stick man, or a daisy.  Collage is an intuitive, soul-searching, soul-healing art form. 

I hope you try it!!

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Therapy Journey

 

I walked into a wall as I entered the office—that’s how nervous I was.  I never thought I would see a therapist, especially since I attended a church that taught psychology was of the devil.  But they’re against divorce too.  I was choosing between a therapist and a divorce lawyer.  I didn’t know that the man I was meeting that day would help change my life more than even a divorce lawyer could.

His voice was gentle over the phone and he spent over twenty minutes talking to me, answering my questions, and telling me things that made sense in a way I’d never heard before.  I decided Joseph would be my therapist.  And he was.  For the next twenty years.

His office was small.  It felt like a safe, cozy burrow away from the rest of the outside world and its crazy-making chaos.  He had a fountain running and dried flower arrangements on the wall.

And a tissue box.  UGH!!  I didn’t want to cry.  In movies, people walk into the office of a therapist they’ve never met and start sobbing almost before the introductions.  Would that happen to me?  I hoped not.

His voice and demeanor were kind and welcoming; he dissipated some of my nerves, but not all.  He asked me many questions I didn’t know the answer to.  Questions about things I’d never in my life thought about before.  I considered myself a smart person, but it didn’t seem like it when we talked.

I was thirty-five-years old when I met Joseph, and meeting him was the first time I’d ever met anyone who understood me, wanted to know all about me, and validated my feelings instead of discounting them.

After eighteen months of therapy and still no tears, struggling to make progress, trying hard to think in a different way, and reading every book about therapy I could find, a remark Joseph made triggered a poem.  I wasn’t a poet at that time, but I wrote a poem.

I brought it to him the following week and when I read it out loud, I couldn’t breathe.  Something was closing up my throat.  Something inside me didn’t want the poem’s truth spoken.  After I struggled and straggled to the end, he suggested I read it to him again.  I told him I didn’t want to.  That suffocating feeling scared me.    He said that was proof that I needed to read it again.  So I did, gasping for breath the whole time.  Joseph said later that reading my poem was the first time I’d shown any emotion with him.  It took eighteen months.  Poems started pouring out of me, sometimes six a day.  I can’t vouch for their literary merit, but they did express my truth for the first time in my life.

That began many years of breakthroughs, realizations, and change.   I left a twenty-two year long crazy, abusive marriage.  I left what I’d realized was a cult that I’d belonged to for twenty-eight-years.  My daughter and I moved in with my parents.  I went to school, learned a profession, and started supporting myself.  I bought a house.  Joseph was with me through all the progress, the faltering, the mistakes, the tears, the failures, and the successes.  Like all therapists, he says that I did the work, he didn’t.  I still say that he was right in there working too.

By the time I was fifty-four and he was almost seventy, he told me he was retiring.  After being there for me during my appointments and numerous phone calls for twenty years, I would lose him.  Even after all the abuse and trauma I had experienced, this felt like the worst thing that had ever happened to me.  We said goodbye on March 23, 2016.

My new therapist, Judy, says my sadness is normal.  I’m glad.  She says  only people who’ve had a therapist could possibly understand my grief.  And she’s right.  My family and friends don’t seem to understand the depth of my grief, but they love me and offer support and caring.  I’m so glad I have them.

My new therapist is helping me with the loss of my old therapist.  I’m glad she’s with me.

 

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