Tuesday, November 16, 2010

No Pain, No Gain! (Part 2, Does Art Heal?

Part of my creative process is to play with what I have before I decide where to go with it.  Many artists will spend time sketching out their ideas, creating templates, writing down the process of what they want to create.  Not me.  I just start playing…..and eventually the ideas will come to me.  As with this journal.  It’s only day 2 and I now know where I’m headed. 

 today I started with a blank piece of "cupcake" paper, already pre-glittered

As I write my thoughts on the healing process, why not print them out and put them inside the pockets?  These thoughts are who I am right now and while they may change and evolve in the future, why not simply make this a journal that combines my creative process with my thoughts on the healing process?  I still don’t have a title…but I have an overall theme that keeps playing around in my head…..”my chaotic life”.  Or it could be the “pockets of my life” for those of you who witnessed the “closets of my life” in DIY TV (I think the reruns are still showing!)

There are many stages within the grief/healing process where it is so easy to step into the right side of your brain.  If the left side shuts down, the right side might just be open.  It’s a possibility to explore.  On the other hand, some events are of such magnitude that the entire brain probably needs a break from everything.  I simply wouldn’t push myself unless I get stuck somewhere along the line and find I’m not healing.

You know, grief is nothing new.  It’s been around for centuries.   So has the healing process.    In the 60s, we put it into stages and added labels.  The second step is called pain and guilt.   Today, science is conducting studies and can show how grief changes chemicals in the brain and the affect it has on adrenaline and the release of glucose in the body.  Fascinating stuff when you look at it from a scientific/medical standpoint.  Painful to the point of not being able to breathe when you are the person experiencing it.

Depending on the event, there can be all kinds of pain. Distress, hurt, anguish, anxiety, immense suffering, misery….the list is endless. 

I think it's important to allow yourself to experience this completely and not hide it or avoid it or try to escape from it.  This is the time when many people tend to turn to alcohol and/or drugs to escape the pain.  And plenty of doctors and therapists are willing to hand out pills to help you get through it.  But if you don’t experience it…how do you grow?

next I inked the edges with tea dye.  just a hint, just a shade different....

The problem is knowing when to experience the pain…and to what level.  If you hurt so much you can’t eat….get help!  If you can’t function, get help.  Grief gets interrupted by social pressures not to grieve.  People tell you to “get over it”, “get on with life”.

We have to understand exactly what it is that caused us this pain.  Sometimes we don’t think to grieve a loss…..things like a job loss, caring for an aging parent (you lost the freedom to live your own life), having a special needs child, living with a person who has an ongoing disease.  Anything that causes you to lose some aspect of your life, or who you are, can cause pain.

And then there's the guilt.  Every single time my son stopped breathing….every single moment we sat in an ambulance with him on oxygen, I would ask myself a never ending series of questions.  Did I cause this?  Was it my fault?  Who did this to me?  To him?  Why?  Why me?  Why him?   Should I have done something different?   Could I have prevented this? How could I have prevented this?  When he was 2 and had bronchitis, should I have done something different then?  When he was born a preemie with under-developed lungs, did I cause that?

It's really scary to have all these thoughts.  But it’s pretty much a universal feeling.   Guilt is the result of dealing with the outcomes of our choices.  We try to imagine a million scenarios that would result in a different (better) ending.  And even though your brain knows it, it helps to hear someone else tell you that you did nothing wrong….this is not your fault.   Therapy helps.  Just having someone to bounce your questions off of.  Someone to listen to your rambling thoughts.

Writing down your thoughts about your pain and your guilt, writing down all the questions you have is good therapy.  But can you put an answer to the questions?  Was it your fault?  Could you have done something different?  Almost always the answer, when you look at the bottom line, is going to be “no”. 

 I added a crepe paper cup to the bottom cupcake,  little girls, snowflakes, tape measure ribbon and cherries.  What's a cupcake without a cherry on top???  (Remember to click to enlarge!)

I hope you know that you can’t really put it into categories like this because each of us go through the processes in our own unique individual way.  But I have learned that it really helps to have a label, to know what it is that I’m feeling, to know what to “expect” sometime down the road. 

I have also learned that there are certain things that you need to force yourself to do every single day while you are healing.  You are probably not going to be able to do most of these during the first stages, but in this phase, you can start to remember to take care of you.

1. Adequate rest, food, nutrition.  You have to keep yourself energized.  But at the same time, this probably isn’t the point where you want to buy chocolate by the truckload!
2.  Move.  You need to force yourself to walk, do some type of light exercise like yoga or simple stretches.  10 minutes a day.
3.  Do one thing per day that gives you pleasure.  Take a bath.  Get a massage.  Listen to music.  Garden.  The key word here is that it gives you pleasure.  And the things that used to give you pleasure may no longer be the same.  But I wouldn’t take up skydiving right now if that’s not something you’ve been doing on a regular basis!
4.  Laugh.  I don’t care how recent the event was, find something once a day to laugh about.  Online jokes are the easiest thing to find.  An old episode of “I Love Lucy.”  It doesn’t take much and you don’t have to laugh hard or long.  Laughter will release endorphins which will help the body heal.
5.  Share.  Join a support group.  Invite friends over.  Listen to them.  Share your story with them.  Human contact and interaction is healing in itself. 
6.  Consider your faith or spirituality.  Prayer is a form of meditation. 

next, I made a tag to put in it.  I'll bet you're wondering where the "pocket" is?  I am loving crepe paper this week!   Grandma Myrtle used to have her lady friends over and she would have all matching party favors. I'm simply remembering some of the things I saw as a child...they were all so pretty.  Now, where did I put those lace doilies?  Surely they are next!

I haven’t talked about the spiritual side of healing until now.  If you read my blog, you know by now how strong my faith is.  But it wasn’t always like that.  I went through phases of being quite upset with God.  And no matter how hard I prayed, my guilt didn’t go away.  The pain wasn’t relieved.  What I have learned is that it was simply my lack of faith and trust.  I have that now.   I can turn my worries over to Him and let go.  It’s a wonderful relief.  I wish I’d had that faith 20 years ago.  It’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way. 

No Pain, No Gain.  Eating sweets really does help the pain.  How?  Sugar is glucose and glucose is energy to the body and every little bit of energy helps.  But if you eat all the cupcakes, you will gain all the weight and that’s probably going to cause even more pain in the long run!   If you don’t allow yourself to experience the pain of an event, how will you ever gain and grow from the experience? 

And there you have it.  The tag fits down into a slit, behind the first girl, in front of the other 2 girls, behind the candle.  Are you starting to feel chaos?  Summer dresses and snowflakes.  New paper made to look old.  Shiny rhinestones with distressed flowers.  Hmmmm.......

What pain have you avoided in your life?  What guilt have you not worked through?  What would you put in this pocket?

Can you tell I'm having way too much fun with this?  The small italic print....that's like being in the right side of your brain...playing, creating, designing.  The larger font...that's the left side of the brain...reasoning, thinking, sorting out thoughts.  And here I am, making you start the process of switching back and forth from one side to the other....all in the same blog!  A little bit of work if you've never done it before!  A little chaotic.  A little bit like my life as an artist!!!


Amy said...

Wow, Jen, this is an amazing post. I have been so blessed, that I don't think I have a major grief in my life. But, I suppose there are things that I simply have pushed down or avoided. I am hoping I can remember your guidance when I end up needing it. I pray that you continue to work through these things in your life.

Jennifer Moore Lowe said...

Amy, I'm simply referring to past issues....life is pretty good right now! I think if you stick with me through the end of this series, you will see! Lots of therapists say there are 5 stages in the healing process....I think there's probably at least 9. My only quesiton is...do I have the energy to make that many pockets? LOL!!!

Shoshi said...

It's so helpful to get the pain "outside" of you, isn't it - through all the activities you list, instead of bottling it up. The loss of my health has much less effect on me now I can get into my ARTHaven and be creative - and if not well enough for that, be creative on the computer instead, or looking at other artists' work to encourage, delight and inspire me, and making contact with my online friends across the globe, being able to rejoice in what I DO have and not grieve for what I have lost. I have gained so much, anyway, since becoming unwell! - intangible things as a result of my life no longer being cluttered with "busy-ness" - time to enjoy the flowers and the birds and our beautiful kitties.

Being able to do Art and bless others through it stops me feeling useless.

If I did not have God to turn to, I do not know what I would do.

"For we know that all things work together for good, for those who love God, who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). This has been my "watchword" for many years now!

Loving this thread!