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!!

 

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

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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Sad and Hard, Hard and Sad

I did one of the hardest things I’ve ever done on March 23, 2016.  I had my last appointment with Joseph, my therapist of twenty years.    I’ve been blessed with insurance companies that have paid for my therapy and continue to do so.  With as many diagnoses as I have, even they acknowledge therapy is a necessity, not a luxury.

I knew it was my last appointment with him.  Yeah—a him.  I never thought I would see a male therapist.  Wasn’t it men who abused me?  And even the good men I know—and I know many—don’t want to talk about personal things.  When I do talk about painful truths, I get some very negative responses.

Seeing a male therapist has really helped me.  How could I remain a female chauvinist pig when I was spending an hour each week, not including numerous phone calls, in emotional intimacy with a man?  When I was telling him everything and not being judged?  When he accepted how and where I was and didn’t use power over me, but empowered me?  When he was always there for me?  When my life was changing in amazing ways?  I couldn’t.  Not anymore.

He’s turning seventy and retiring.  He certainly deserves to retire.  He’s worked hard and helped hundreds of people over these many years.  I’m happy for him.  And sad for me.  More sad than I know how to express.  I haven’t written any poems about it, which is what I normally do about upsetting occurrences.   But none are coming.  I think the poems are frozen inside me, frozen in the burning heat of grief.  I don’t know when or if they will become accessible to me.  There’s so much inside me that still isn’t accessible.

I’m glad I haven’t gone numb.  It’s happened before.  I want to feel my feelings.  Sadness, anger, joy, contentment.  My intense grief that my therapy relationship has ended.    I walked into his office crying that day and left crying even harder.

People have told me that surviving the abuse will help me survive this too.  But enduring something traumatizing, terrifying, and degrading isn’t the same as losing one of the best things that ever happened to me.

I have a new therapist now.  I’ve been seeing her for about three months and I like her.  A lot.  She’s helping me with the grief from the end of my first therapy relationship.  She’s really good.  But that doesn’t stop me from missing my old therapist.

Dr. Seuss says not to cry because it’s over, but to smile because it happened.  I do smile through my tears when I remember so many breakthroughs and realizations.   I haven’t been living up to the first part of the quote, haven’t even been trying.  Crying is important and healthy.  I’ve also been writing unsent letters to him in my journal when I want to tell him how much I miss him or some other important or trivial thing.

It’s getting better, six weeks later.  I don’t cry quite so many times a day.  Sometimes I go a whole day without crying.   There’s so much to remember.  Twenty years worth.  I don’t think I’ll cry over this for the rest of my life.  But I will remember and care the rest of my life.

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