Stinking Thinking

Some of you may remember from my book, “Turning Blue to Blue: How God Used Art to Lift My Depression”, that I have watched and learned from some of the saddest reality shows. Well, I came upon another lesson recently.
The show follows morbidly obese people for a year after their weight loss surgery. In the season finale, a woman believed to be 800 pounds was featured. They were not able to weight her initially due to timing and health concerns.

Her background story was that she had been kidnapped and held at gunpoint by her boyfriend after trying to end their relationship. He managed to escape after killing 2 police officers who had come to rescue her. She continued to fear for her life and hid in her home for years. Food became her comfort. Now she is in her early 40s and wants to change her life.

Due to the severity of her situation, surgery is immediately performed on her. Usually the doctor asks patients to lose 50 or so pounds first to see how serious they are and what kind of family support they have. After surgery it is usually advised to get up and walk as soon as possible. But this patient refused to even try. She would tell the physical therapists at the hospital to come back later. She was busy on her laptop. That went on for several months. Eventually, the doctor sent her home. Despite family that seemed supportive, she continued to refuse to try to walk for 10 months. Finally, at a family member’s request, the doctor came to her home and coaxed her into allowing the paramedics to help her stand. They showed her standing twice in a row for about 5 seconds each. Afterwards she smiled and seemed so relieved. She said she hadn’t believed her legs could hold her. That’s why she wouldn’t try.

Now I realize this is “reality” TV. It was edited in such a way to make it a compelling story. It ended on a hopeful note that now she would continue the hard work to regain her mobility. However, the lesson for me was powerful.

I’ve been watching that show for years and have seen the miraculous physical and emotional breakthroughs patients have had in their first 12 months. But because this woman didn’t believe she could stand, she shut herself down from trying or even getting more help. Many of the patients see a therapist and I certainly think that would have been beneficial for her. So in effect, 11 months were wasted. At 600 – 800 lbs, every day is precious and proven professionals offering help is a godsend.

I thought about myself and some other people close to me. How long have we been refusing to “stand”, because we don’t believe we can, when all the while we have access to everything we need to not just walk but run? What we believe about ourselves and our situations is so powerful. We just can’t allow stinking thinking to hold us back any longer.

Everyday I’m working on freeing my mind. At some points in the day I may need to recite a scripture or sing myself a song. My meds continue to help and so does my art. Through inspirational words on my Facebook page, my writing workshop, my art workshops or talking with me one on one, I hope to encourage those I can touch to free themselves from self-doubt, self-hate, perfectionism, anger and fear.

Three reasons why I’m not trying to sell you my art

3 ladiesYeah, so here are three reasons I’m not trying to sell you my art:

1) No one has ever sold me any art. I have enjoyed viewing and buying art for the last 12 years. I have purchased several pieces for enjoyment purposes. I was out browsing, usually for something else and a piece would catch my eye and my heart. I would buy it on the spot. Only once have I bought an “investment” piece.  But I didn’t buy it for the investment possibilities. Proof of that is I spent lavishly on the framing and the next person to own it won’t care at all, beyond that the LE was well protected.

2) Original art is not a 2014 car. No one needs to explain anything to you about my art when you are looking at it. The title might make you smile. The measurements might help you figure where you are gonna put it, but that information usually comes with/near the art. No one needs to convince you that the acrylic paint used is the coolest new color and your neighbors will be jealous. (Although they very well might be. Just sayin’.)

The story of how my art was birthed out of direct instruction from God to draw, and that without any training and little confidence in my abilities, I launched My Blue is Blue is encouraging or inspiring to some. It may cause you to take a second look at a piece. But it won’t make you buy it.

3) The folks who happily spend $49.99 on a two by three foot reproduction of abstract art are not my customers. I have nothing against those folks. Mass reproduction and distribution have made it very easy for everyone to afford eye catching pieces. I have nothing against the art or the companies that are churning the stuff out. I hope the artists are being properly compensated, but I suspect all those talented, unknown artists somewhere in China are not being paid fairly.

I’ve never wanted to run with the crowd. I never wanted art that I had seen or might see on someone else’s walls. And even though I didn’t know that for what I was willing to spend, I could have had original art, I chose unusual pieces that spoke to me as a woman and as a person of color. I chose pieces that made me smile or added to my sense of peace.

I’m an artist. That’s how I earn my living now. I paint almost daily as part of my continuing therapy. I have produced a lot of art. Almost all of it is for sale. If you see something that grabs you, don’t let price stand in the way. If you’d like something completely unique, I’d love to create it. However, I’m never gonna try to sell you something.

I was angry with God

At this point in my journey I’m all about being honest with myself first,  the Lord second and the world third. It’s not like I was ever big on lying to the world, but I’ve learned I couldn’t really be honest with them when  I wasn’t honest with myself. And really what point is there in lying to God? He already knows!

English: Angry woman.

English: Angry woman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I was angry. I had come to believe that God had let me down when He should have been protecting me from emotional harm. Also, when I prayed earnestly for a particular situation to resolve itself as I wanted it to, He ignored me. Perhaps the real fuel was that I found myself in those situations as a new Christian. I hadn’t made it through the entire Bible yet. I didn’t know about praying in tongues. I didn’t have any good female Christian buddies yet. No one in my immediate family was walking with Christ. All I had was Him. And He let me down.

When this revelation came to me in therapy, I was embarrassed and immediately penitent. I realized how foolish I had been. I realized how ungrateful I had been. How could I ever know all that the Lord had protected me from? How could I take for granted that I was still breathing? I couldn’t!

On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?  -Romans 9:20

Romans 8:28 became real to me all over again. “All things work together for good for them that love the Lord…”

You may have asked or stated, “Why did you let my uncle do those things to me?”

“Why did He let my son be murdered?”

“I was a good husband. I deserved better, God.”

The reality of our lives is that some incredibly painful events and loses have taken place. As Christians, on  a certain level, we want to feel we will be protected from the hurts and losses. But really we know, or we come to know, that neither of those are true. As we mature in our understanding of the word and God’s nature we accept  that pain and loss is a significant part of this walk. We gain strength accepting that God’s grace is sufficient[i], that He has equipped us and that when we lack wisdom we can ask Him for it and we will receive it[ii].


[i] 2 Corinthians 12:9

[ii] James 1:5

all verses from the New American Standard Bible

 

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Super Happy and the Every Day Struggle

“It’s been a long time. I shouldn’t have left you, without a strong rhyme to step to…” – Eric B. & Rakim

comet2Wow, life has been busy. Let’s jump right in.

I am super happy with my life. Almost every day is a struggle.
I love having an unstructured schedule. I can pretty much plan my day around my workout. I hit a gym about 3 times a week. My body has changed a lot. I’m not as frail looking as I was originally after the 40 lb weight loss. I’m developing definition in my arms. Watch out now!

Just about everyday I do something related to painting. Sometimes it’s studying techniques or products. Sometimes it’s looking for or organizing inspirational pieces. Sometimes it’s spending 8 hours on one piece or 8 hours on four.

Marketing the book is just as challenging as I expected.  But lots of folks have shown their support with purchases, leads and introductions. Actually, I’m having a little trouble keeping all the info organized and followed up on.

In spite of all this, almost everyday I find myself lonely, bored and or restless. I have to consciously use my positive coping techniques and self talk. The positive activities to cheer me include painting, getting outside, meeting friends and new people, prayer, exercise, aromatherapy, beverages with a lot of caffeine and sugar and thrift store shopping. Well, maybe those last two really shouldn’t count, huh?

Left to its own devices, my mind wanders off to various dark corners. I think the interesting part of it is, while it probably always did that, now I notice it and it bothers me! Yes, now that my head is clearer, I can see just what a mess I really am. Chuckle.

I’m kinda at a crossroad with my meds. My doctor and I tried to take me off one, but I began to really struggle. Now we need to figure the next dosage or combination of medications. I had dropped out of talk therapy for over a year. I can see it is time to go back and tackle a whole new set of issues.

I thought getting  well was a full-time job. Staying  well is a full-time job! I love my job.

“When I”m writing, I’m trapped between the lines
I escape when I finish the rhyme…
I got soul.” – Eric B. & Rakim I Know You Got Soul

Unfortunately, he was a stone cold drunk…

www.carsforcollectorsclub.com

My parents separated when I was three years old. The
story is my dad started selling drugs and brought some
guys back to the apartment. My mom said he absolutely
could not expose her babies to “those folks” and “that life.”
She told him he needed to head back south to Georgia
and his parents’ house. He went, but they never divorced.

Through the years a few men drifted in and then
out. Only one stuck. Unfortunately, he was a stone cold
drunk. I believe he loved her. He tolerated us. But the
booze had a twenty year hold on him. And actually I’m
not sure my mom ever required him to stop drinking. I
can honestly say I liked him more when he was drunk. He
was angry and mean when he was sober. Even as a twelve
or thirteen year old I knew to be alarmed when he drove
his light blue Cadillac fast through the bumpy streets of
the Bronx, clearly intoxicated. My brother and I were in
the white leather backseat. Back then, seatbelts were just
a suggestion, but I made sure we were strapped in tight.

Even though my mom had a stable job working for
the City of New York and didn’t have a car, high inflation,
high unemployment and the energy crisis at the end of
the 1970s hit hard. I remember watching the news and
seeing cars lined up to get their gas on odd and even days.
Our landlord decided to sell the house we were renting.
My mom couldn’t buy it and she didn’t have the money
to secure an apartment. At that time in NYC, not only did

you need one month rent and one month security, but
you needed an equal to or greater amount of cash to pay
under the table in order to have your name moved up on
the list. We moved in with the alcoholic and stayed there
for a year or so.”

– excerpt from Turning Blue to Blue: How God Used Art to Lift My Depression

My book’s extraordinary cover art

She’s sitting in the corner, all curled up. Ponytail, barefoot, jeans and a white t-shirt. There is a small area on her side, where her shirt has risen up to expose skin. That she hasn’t straightened her shirt suggests to me that she is not much concerned about how it all looks anymore. I also believe that her being insensitive to the cool air on her side says she’s numb to feeling much of anything now.

The walls around her are pulsing, like a heart beat on a monitor the colors race up and then down. Red pulses into brown, brown into blue. It’s jarring to see the movement of the walls when she is so oblivious, so still.

I think I know her. I think I recognize this place. She’s me. This place is my vibrant life, swirling and shifting, unconcerned about me in the middle of it.

The artist captured it all. How did he know? Maybe because I’m not the only one like that, in a corner of a pulsing room.
——————-
People are surprised when I tell them the art on the cover of the book will not be one of mine. They just assumed I would use one of my pieces. The piece I’ve chosen is called Depression. It’s by a young, male artist in Oregon, named Cory Graham.

Soon after starting this blog, I began looking around to see who else was in the WordPress blog universe. I did a search for depression. Cory’s blog Expressionistic Depression popped up, and there she was. I was immediately disturbed and delighted by the piece. I had to reach out to the artist. He shared with me through emails and his blog about his battle with coming to recognize his issue as being bi-polar disorder, the search for appropriate medication and balancing his life now. His talent and his openness drew me in. Also, I could never get the girl in the corner out of my mind. I knew I wanted her to be my cover. I told Cory almost a year ago, but I don’t think he really believed me.

Now with the first draft submitted, it was time to create the back and front covers. Cory was gracious enough to allow me to use the piece. I have my buddies Tom and Cindy at www.MountainHornMedia.com designing the covers.

There is a lot more work for me to do on the project. Marketing and publicity will be more of a challenge for me than writing the book. However, I know how important the title and cover of a book are, especially for a new author. I feel like I’m setting myself up for success with the talented people I’ve been able to create with.

Here’s the link to see and purchase Cory’s art.

http://corygrahamart.com/2013/03/19/my-blue-is-blue-book-cover/

By the way, I’d love to hear how this piece affects you.

Five excuses for not taking your medication – and why they are all stupid

Yes, I’m about to go on a rant directed at those dealing with an anxiety, bi-polar or depression diagnosis.

1) I don’t trust medication (doctors, hospitals, shrinks…)
Hmm, are you also suffering from paranoia? If not, then you can research several doctors online, ask for recommendations, ask questions of your team, research the treatment plan and the medications. But you’re sick so maybe you can’t do all that. Here’s where a trusted friend or family member can help you. Become informed and empowered or discuss a possible additional issue of paranoia or irrational thinking with your therapist.

2) I don’t need them
Really? If it has just been suggested that you take a medication, yet you’ve decided you don’t need them, let’s go back to what precipitated the doctor visits. Either you were sent to the doctor or were brave enough to go yourself. In either case, something was deeply disturbing and painfully obvious. A thorough physical exam was done and the medical fields of mental health and internal medicine converged with a diagnosis. With several years of experience in their fields and an acute awareness of the delicate nature of a troubled mind, a plan to address your issues was created and it included medication.
Perhaps you have been taking the medication as prescribed for weeks, months or years. But now because you are “feeling fine” or because you aren’t feeling better, you’ve decided you don’t need the meds. Bad strategy friend. Instead talk with your doctor and therapist to determine the best adjustments to make. Or find new professionals if you aren’t comfortable with your current team. You, by yourself, simply aren’t qualified to make those determinations.

3) I don’t want to be dependant
Ok, so you acknowledge that the medication is helping you feel better. However, you’ve become impatient with the healing process. “It shouldn’t be taking so long.” “How do I know when I can come off the meds?” Valid concerns that you need to take up with your health providers. If you’ve gotten the homework done on the doctors and your diagnosis, you then need to have patience to work your individualized and multifaceted plan.

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4) I forget sometimes
Your mental and physical health are important enough to set up a system to combat forgetfulness. Here’s another time family or friends can help. First, decide you are going to be accountable to someone for taking all medications as prescribed. Use one of those nifty pill containers with the days of the week on it. Before time to take them, I bring my meds from the medicine cabinet and sit them next to me. When I take one, I turn the bottle upside down. I have found this very helpful. Not missing a dose is super important to me. I’m aware of the dangerous safety issues that can occur if I allow the levels of medicine in my bloodstream to drop dramatically.

5) I don’t like the side effects
“I might gain weight.” “I don’t feel like myself.” “I just feel sleepy all the time.” “It gives me headaches.”
Yeah, but before the medications you were afraid to leave your house or crying uncontrollably several times a week or acting out sexually or unable to care for your newborn.
Talk with your doctors honestly about your side effects. They may be able to make or suggest changes to reduce them.
Sooo, if you really weigh the negatives against the possible positives, isn’t it short-sighted to use side effects as your excuse?

“A 2003 study published in Current Medical Research and Opinion found that 65% of the 1000 people surveyed said they had stopped taking their medicine, and half of those people cited side effects as the reason.”
-“Coping With Side Effects of Antidepressants” WebMD.com February 12, 2012

photo courtesy of http://www.123rf.com/12556053