6 Lies People With Chronic Pain Tell And 7 Truths They Need You To Know

514px-Madeyski_Pain

Pain, sculpture by Antoni Madeyski, photo courtesy Vert, Creative Commons

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

This summer Keeper Hubby and I did something we have done at least ten times during our marriage. We prepared for another surgery for him. He’s been diagnosed with a condition called degenerative disc disease. No one knows why he has developed this condition at such a young age: it first showed up when he was about 32. Continue reading

5 Ways To Get Rid Of Inertia In Your Life

 

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

*Knocking on microphone* Hello? Anyone there?

I’ve been MIA from this blog for a while. Quite a while. I haven’t touched my WIP for almost 4 months. I’ve lost my way. I could blame it on a lot of legitimate reasons. Continue reading

Moving Forward When Life Goes Sideways

Smash, courtesy Jef Poskanzer, Creative Commons

Smash, courtesy Jef Poskanzer, Creative Commons

I had a plan. I really did.

It was a great plan.

A calendar filled with my writing plans, blog posts, and craft book study for 2014. It was going to be a great year. I was going to be productive, prolific, and positive.

That lasted about one month.

Then life happened.

Unemployment, urgent money issues, health and pain issues, surgeries.

In the midst of all that, Artist Daughter and Saint Nick, along with Poet Son moved to the mountains of Montana. Although I am happy for their adventure, my home and my mother’s heart is a little emptier.

I feel the specters of anxiety and depression tapping at the window, hoping I’ll throw up the sash and let them stay a while.

And just when things seemed like they couldn’t get any worse, they got better.

(You thought I was going to go on whining, didn’t you?)

As it seems to happen, grace flows in the midst of struggle, and a job opportunity presented itself. Now Keeper Hubby and I will also be traveling a new path, discovering a new adventure.

We’ll be leaving behind the purple sunsets of Oklahoma that we’ve grown to love for seventeen years for the bluegrass of Lexington, Kentucky.

So as surgeries heal and health improves, we are busy with packing, selling our house, and trying to figure out how to move four cats 725 miles (!)

And why tell you all this?

Because maybe you had a plan, too.

And life got all stuck and smeared in the teeth of your plans, like a piece of black licorice that reveals itself every time you smile.

Learn to ebb and flow with the things we can’t control by corralling the things we can control.

Be gentle with yourself.

Find your peace on the inside.

Flow around obstacles like water.

When the chaos slows down, you can easily readjust to being productive, prolific, and positive.

That’s my plan, anyway. 😉

I apologize for the huge silence on this blog for the last month, and I may be posting less often until the dust settles, but I hope you’ll stick it out with me.

I’m still going to work that writing and blog post plan going forward, and now some opportunities for new Write Anywhere venues seem likely.

Have you had any chaotic life situations that have thwarted your writing plans? How did you handle it?

Writing Through The Pain

Tracks_Chalbi_Desert

Tracks Chalbi Desert, Marsabit County, photo courtesy Filberto Strazzari, Creative Commons

Writer’s block.

Have you ever dealt with it?

Some writers talk about writer’s block like it’s a virus you catch, and with all the right ‘home remedies’ (everyone has one) you’ll get well and writer’s block will disappear.

Other writers give writer’s block the name of Resistance, as if naming this shadowy criminal makes it easier to conquer. Some say Resistance is actually a natural obstacle to creating art. If you’re getting Resistance in your writing, you’re doing something right, so blow up the block like you’re freaking John McClane.

Still others say writer’s block doesn’t exist, it’s just another excuse to avoid writing.

I’ve had a series of set backs lately. It’s not your average ‘I had a bad day’ but almost its own novel, when things go bad, and you don’t think anything can get worse, it does. Repeatedly. There’s physical pain and emotional pain. It’s a well-planned attack of Resistance.

And it’s more.

It’s a spiritual attack.

I believe we have all been given gifts to fulfill our destiny, and our gifts give others the strength and wisdom to fulfill their destiny. These gifts flow through the spirit. Our spirits can be attacked to the point that our souls are sapped of creative strength if we are caught unaware.

What do you do when life is painful? Do you find solace in your writing or run from it?

My tendency is retreat. I retreat into myself, rehearse all that is going wrong, wallow in the negative, and then there’s no time or energy for writing. Sometimes I can’t transition from that depressive state and focus on a creative project. So the pen lays stagnant.

I intellectually acknowledge that a step towards writing will help me throw off this state of mind, but the inertia that goes with the feelings keeps me from acting. Waves of guilt, especially as I read blogs and social media statuses of writers completing Herculean acts of productivity, try to wash me away and drag me out to sea.

When this curtain of spiritual Resistance descends on me, I try to fight my way out with prayer. I take a walk. I write in a journal, although I have the beginnings of dozens of journals. I make a list of positive things. I talk to someone. I channel the emotions into a character in my writing if I’m feeling particularly brave.

I wish I could say these are my ‘home remedies’ and they always work, but they don’t.

The truth is that sometimes I’m stuck.

Sometimes I’m not ‘Super-Writer’ leaping tall plots and intricate character arcs in a single bound. I know when this happens, it’s just a season, the feelings will pass, but in the midst of the messiness it’s hard to see.

Do you run to your writing or run away from it when life’s troubles come your way? How do you deal with blocks to writing?

Mental Health Series: Depression and Bipolar – 13 Ways To Push Back At The Dark Side

image courtesy Andrew Mason, Creative Commons

This is part two of our series on creative people and mental health issues.

Read part 1 How To Harness Your Creative Temperament and Stay Sane, Married and Sober

I want to say I am not a medical professional, only a fellow creative interested in exploring this subject. Nothing in this post should be considered medical advice. Please see your health care professional for advice concerning a diagnosis of clinical depression or bipolar disorder. Please don’t self-diagnose.

*Depression: a severe sadness, feelings of guilt, hopelessness and lack of self-worth for a period of time

*Clinical Depression: a depression so severe as to be considered abnormal, either through no obvious environmental reason, through an intense reaction to an unfortunate situation or circumstance or through biochemical imbalance

*Bipolar Disorder: Affective disorder characterized by periods of mania (energetic, talkative euphoria) alternating with periods of depression, usually interspersed with relatively long intervals of normal mood

Depressives who in spite of their depression struggle led/are leading very creative and productive lives include Winston Churchill, Hans Christian Andersen, Agatha Christie, Abraham Lincoln, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Janet Jackson.

Comedian Stephen Fry, singer Britney Spears, media innovator Ted Turner, actress Patty Duke, kickboxer/actor Jean Claude VanDamme, author Virginia Woolf, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, author Graham Greene and possibly Vincent Van Gogh are a few of the more famous people who have struggled with bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression

Depression and bipolar disorder can be extremely disruptive to the sufferer and his or her spouse, family and friends. Manic episodes can allow for lots of productive work and creativity or it can be episodic chaos. Depressive angst can drive creativity or bring it to a standstill. The most important thing to know is that you are not alone, don’t be afraid or ashamed of your struggle, and seek medical, psychological and spiritual advice to stay on the healthiest path you can for yourself.

As creatives, we worry that our creative path will be stymied. How can we protect our creative practice if we are in a cycle that seems unmanageable?

“I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow, they fail because of my foes….Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish…Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorry, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction and my bones grow weak…” (Psalm 6, 25, 31, NIV) 

There is a lot of speculation that the Biblical King David was bipolar. I won’t address that, but he captures in his sacred poetry the drowning pit that is depression. I think through the Psalms we not only see him crying out to God in his anguish, but doing something that counselors and psychologists now call positive self-talk.

“My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)

Whether it is a scripture, a positive thought, a mantra, or a happy melody, speaking positive words will help you refocus.

Read 7 Steps To Positive Self-Talk

Speaking positive words won’t ‘fix’ things, but combined with a program that is moving you towards being your best you, it will help. If you tend to depression or depressive episodes, don’t overdo it and let your tank go empty.

Refresh. 

If you are struggling, eradicate self-judgment. Some days accomplishing one thing is an accomplishment. And that’s okay. Be patient with yourself. If not, tomorrow is a new day, a new slate. Add one thing if you can. Reject the pressure, especially the pressure you put on yourself.

Here are 13 actions that can help you refresh:

  1. Exercise – oxygen cleans the blood and clears the brain
  2. Meditate – think on good things, accomplishments
  3. Simplify – declutter your life in all areas
  4. Wait –  patience with yourself is a skill well worth learning
  5. Avoid – triggers: people, places and things that trigger depressive thinking, especially alcohol which is a depressant
  6. Create – art, pottery, craft, fingerpainting, whatever brings passion. Creating brings a positive outlook.
  7. Freewrite
  8. Talk – to your spouse, safe friend, professional counselor, spiritual advisor, to yourself with positive self-talk
  9. Listen – to positive feedback, self-talk, inspiring speakers and sermons, through books, happy music, learn behavior coping mechanisms from counselors
  10. Pray – strengthen your belief system, whatever that happens to be. If you believe in God, reach out. If you believe in yourself, reach in.
  11. Detox – clean out your diet and clean out your relationships. Ask a doctor or nutritionist about the best foods to help you
  12. Sunbathing –  Depression has been linked to vitamin D deficiency. Gentle sunbathing supplies a good dose of vitamin D. Consult a doctor before taking any supplements.
  13. Laugh – makes feel-good endorphins Laugh with family and friends. Read a funny book. Watch a funny movie or tv show. Atttend live comedy show or theatre. Read a kid’s joke book. Even the groaners will make you smile.

Writing and journaling especially helped me as I dealt with a depressive episode. Freewriting let me take my thoughts and create the start of  an essay:

“The dilapidated aluminum siding walls matched my buckling confidence. I stared at the ceiling fan above me, each wide blade caked with mold and neglect. It didn’t cool the steamy stale air that hovered like my depression, a cloud that threatened to suffocate me.”

Need more ammunition to eradicate the blues? Check out these great links:

Question: What do you do to help you overcome ‘down’ times?

Mental Health Series: How To Harness Your Creative Temperament and Stay Sane, Married and Sober

image courtesy crosa, Creative Commons

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

Do your emotions stop you dead in your writing tracks?

Do you find the intense emotions you experience daily make for messy relationships, messy productivity, messy life?

This post is the first in an 8-part series over the next two months on creatives and mental health. I don’t write this as one with all the answers but one who is on the journey. I experienced a severe chemical depression in 2004 that resulted in medical treatment. I also have an ongoing diagnosis of panic disorder, so I have been in the trenches. I want to get a discourse going. Bring this subject out of the shadows and into the light of day.

Realizing the connection between your emotions, mental health and your creative temperment may help your productivity and your daily life. So we’re going to go there.

Stories of famous creatives who struggled with issues like depression, bipolar, panic disorder, etc. abound: Michelangelo, Hemingway, Styron, Piaf, Plath, Van Gogh, Beethoven, Woolf, Kerouac, Dickinson, Asimov, and Streisand, just to name a few.

Part of this may be explained by DNA. Scientists have discovered in the brain scans of creatives and mental patients a similar brain activity. In both groups there is a flood of uncensored information because of a lack of a certain kind of receptor in the thalamus. So we really do see things differently than other people.

Creativity is known to be associated with increased risk of depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.  People who have mental illness in their family have a greater chance of having high creativity. You might have to give your ‘crazy’ Aunt Edna some credit in your next book dedication. There has also been a long-standing cultural mythology of the eccentric creative as a bit mentally unhinged that artistic personalities have to overcome.

Researcher Mihaly Csikczentmihalyi says:

“If I had to express in one word what makes their (creatives) personalities different from others, it’s complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an “individual,” each of them is a “multitude. Like the color white that includes all colors, they tend to bring together the entire range of human possibilities within themselves. Creativity allows for paradox, light, shadow, inconsistency, even chaos –and creative people experience both extremes with equal intensity.”

No wonder in that extreme intensity come intense emotions

Creatives are pre-wired to experience circumstances more intensely. We process these intense feelings through our art, our creativity, our innovation. Our highs are higher, our lows are lower. The elevator from high to low feelings can drop dramatically or explode out of the ceiling like an emotional Wonka-vator. Our anger outward becomes rage, our anger inward becomes spiraling depression.

Some of the mental health issues we’ll talk about in this blog series are: depression, anxiety and panic disorders, addictive behaviors, OCD, ADHD, hypersensitivity, boundary issues, internalization, PTSD, and artistic paranoid jealousy. Disorder has a very negative connotation, but it is dis-order, out of place, not out of mind.

I believe that mental health challenges are not any different than physical health challenges. Understanding, compassion, and access to treatment should be the same as any health issue. I also believe at times emotional struggles may boil down to Resistance.

Resistance can come from outside forces, but most often is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Julia Cameron addresses this in The Artist’s Way:

“Creativity requires faith. Faith requires that we relinquish control. This is frightening, and we resist it. Our resistance to our creativity is a form of self- destruction. We throw up roadblocks on our own path. Why do we do this? In order to maintain an illusion of control. Depression, like anger and anxiety, is resistance, and it creates dis-ease. This manifests itself as sluggishness, confusion, “I don’t know…” The truth is , we do know and we know that we know.” 

Steven Pressfield in Do The Work refers to Resistance this way:

“Resistance cannot be seen, heard, touched or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential. Resistance is a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work. Resistance is insidious. Resistance will tell you anyting to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form, if that’s what it takes to deceive you.” 

Whether it’s Resistance or a medical situation, creatives may have more tendency to emotional turbulence and mental health issues, but it doesn’t mean we have to accept the unpleasant consequences. We can admit we need assistance, and take care of ourselves.

When we live out the best life we can, our creativity is less hindered and we can create our best art. It’s okay to have emotions, but don’t let emotions have you and steal your best life.

Question: Do you think mental health struggles are strictly biochemical or does Resistance play a part?

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Write Anywhere #42

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

What do you do when you can’t shake the clouds? Not the clouds in the sky, but the clouds that sometimes gather in your heart. Maybe there’s a reason, maybe there’s no real reason. You just feel gray, tired, unproductive. That’s the time to head for the sun.

Write Anywhere #42: Splash Pad

image courtesy Creative Commons

I had one of those blah days this week so I took myself to a nearby splash pad at the local park. The sun shone intermittently that day, but what I was really looking for were some sunny hearts.

I found a crowd of them in children playing at the splash pad. All sizes, colors, and shapes, but one thing they had in common: beautiful sunny smiles. Some stomped the puddles gathering on the pad, others raced back and forth through the fountains. The brave ones yanked the rope and doused themselves with a bucket of cool water from above.

I didn’t write but I made some doodles and erased my cloudy heart. I’d like to share some photos with you of the fun, but I didn’t take any. I didn’t want to worry any of the parents. I wanted their day to be sunny, too; reveling in the child-like joy of cold water on a hot day.

Happy Thought
The world is so full of a number of things
I’m sure we should be as happy as kings.
– Robert Louis Stevenson

Where did you write this week?

Question: Do you have a go-to place for getting rid of a blue funk?

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Is Unforgiveness Blocking Your Creativity?

image, Pockets23, Creative Commons

Have you ever had something jolt a memory in your brain? It may be a song that sets it off. Possibly a smell or a television program. A passage of a book. A phone call you let go to the answering machine. Old photos or letters you find in the back of your closet. The dented fender of your car. A conversation your mother brings up. Again.

For me it’s Ding Dongs. Those little chocolate cakes with the fluffy white filling. Without going into all the gory details, Ding Dongs symbolize for me betrayal, manipulation, abandonment, regret and years of working towards emotional freedom.

We all have stuff. Baggage. Issues. If you’ve been on this planet longer than a minute, it’s the one thing all people have in common.

Part of being healthy is dealing with your emotional baggage. Forgiveness is at the top of the list of difficult things to do when emptying your emotional suitcase. It’s not a natural reaction. It’s something we must choose to do.

Why should we forgive? We’re not the ones who did anything – it was them!

“When we are angry or depressed in our creativity, we have misplaced our power. We have allowed someone else to determine our worth, and then we are angry at being undervalued.” – Julia Cameron

Benefits of forgiveness:

  • Lessens stress
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Better sleep
  • Lessens depression and anxiety
  • Strengthens immune system
  • Better relationships
  • Energizes creativity

In the book Boundaries Drs. Cloud and Townsend state:

“To forgive someone means to let him off the hook, or to cancel a debt he owes you. When you refuse to forgive someone, you still want something from that person, and even if it is revenge that you want, it keeps you tied to him forever.”

The conundrum is when we hold on to hurts, we shackle ourselves to the person or event that hurt us. Our bitterness and anger have no effect on those who have offended us, but only drag us down and hold us back from living our best life.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean you approve of the behavior or renew the relationship. You release yourself from its control over you. Easier said than done. Some days you have to forgive minute by minute. Forgiveness is a decision, but the healing is a process.

I believe forgiveness has not only been able to release me from anger and depression, but has released the writing that has been waiting to flow out of me for many years.

Get healthy through forgiveness with these resources:

Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

Forgiveness: Letting Go Of Grudges and Bitterness from Mayo Clinic

How To Let Go And Forgive from Zen Habits 

Question: Has anger and bitterness ever blocked your creativity? Have you been able to channel anger into productive writing?

Time Machine Thursday: Dust Bowl, Then and Now – Could It Happen Again?

Hot, hot, hot!

It’s been very hot and dry here in Oklahoma. The governor has declared a state of emergency and a burn ban because of drought conditions. The mayor has declared restrictions on water. The electric company reports record usage as people try to tolerate the brutal heat.

It makes me thankful for my air-conditioning, though it fights to keep up. I look at my lawn, dried and brown, but still dotted with islands of green grass. I’ve been nursing it along by watering it about every 4 days. What if there was no water to keep the plants from shriveling and blowing away? What if there was no air conditioning to keep my family cool in this abnormal heat?

That’s exactly what happened during 1932 – 1938 in Oklahoma. There were drought conditions combined with high summer temperatures that helped create what today is called ‘The Dust Bowl’. In 1936 the highest temperature ever recorded in Oklahoma happened in the towns of Poteau, Alva and Altus at 120 degrees. People didn’t have the modern conveniences of air conditioning, electric refrigeration, or automatic water irrigation. Combined with the economic conditions of the Depression, it forced a mass exodus of Oklahomans to find jobs, habitable land and homes in the Western states, mainly California.

Cimmaron County, Oklahoma, 1936, Library of Congress

John Steinbeck’s masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath gave a face to the terrible plight many families confronted and Woody Guthrie memorialized it with what was considered the first concept album ‘Dust Bowl Ballads’:

Interested in finding out more about the Dust Bowl?

Here are some books to whet your historical appetite:

Non-Fiction:

Fiction:

Could the Dust Bowl happen again? Conditions are ripe but federal, state and local governments have learned from agricultural policies of the 1930’s. Still, governments can’t control the weather. Hopefully proper land and water management will help. My grass going dry is nothing compared with what some tough Oklahomans endured in the past.

Question: Do you or relatives have any recollections of life during the Depression and Dust Bowl days? Know of any good historical fiction reads set in the ‘Dirty Thirties’? Let us know!