The Therapist Profile: Reflections

Writing my profile for websites for therapists, such as psychologytoday.com, has always been a challenge for me. With each new website, I’ve discovered new clearer ways to answer the questions about my work. It’s hard to put into words my practice and approach and how I might be the kind of therapist you would work well with. I definitely look at other people’s profiles for inspiration, more to see how they word things, if they start with questions, what kinds of phrases they use that seem to be really clear  than to paraphrase. My profile is unique and I explain art therapy in the way I think of it from how I experience working as an art therapist, but I’m still not too satisfied with it. It’s an ever evolving process for me, so I’ve often changed my profile on psychologytoday.com (the Main Encyclopedia of psychotherapsits), when I am in the process of putting it on it  other websites.

I’ve recently joined the relatively new website and community of healers/doctors/providers, lighthouselgbt: Safe Space for LGBTQ + Wellness. The first part of the Lighthouse Profile defines the space and providers in this way: “We are a group of NYC based providers who have devoted our careers to caring for LGBTQ+ patients.” This is the link if you’d like to check out the website: https://www.lighthouse.lgbt

I am very excited to be part of the Lighthouse community, especially right now with the political climate we are forced to endure. It is more than ever important to find your “tribe(s)”, no matter whether virtual or “real world”. As an extreme introvert, I need meaningful soul to soul  person to person connections with other like minded open tolerant curious and out of the box people, including in my work as an art therapist. (I have yet to find a group of artists/writers/galleries/publishers/creative professionals that feeds me. Here I am in NYC and the NY Art World is not for me at all, but I’ve never quite found something. I do have plenty of friends whose careers involve creativity and the “arts”, and social media places to share my work, but it is not quite a real community of people for me. I’m hopeful I will find this eventually. I put this in parentheses because it is a whole other topic to explore that is on my mind lately.)

Identity: “Who am I and what am I about?” is a lifelong voyage of discovery. I’m a work in progress. The longer I live, the clearer I am at articulating who I am in whatever sphere of life, and then I’m able to look back and see how I’ve always been this way and are just in process of becoming more fully who I am, constantly evolving. I am passionate about evolving and becoming increasingly aware of ways that I want to present myself to the world more accurately. Whenever I have an “Ah ha” moment, I realize this was who I was even back when I was a 7 year old just being me, without as many barriers to being able to be myself. I understand when my clients report that they have bravely forayed into proclaiming their discovery of their gender or something else and gotten reactions of “you never said this before. You’re not this and that so how is it you say you are this (gender, career, creative mode of expression.) It can be as simple as “But you’re a performer, youre not a visual artist.” “You’ve always been “xyz”. Even, “You should talk to your parent. They are so nice or they are your family.” Someone has gotten to the point of taking a brave stand and boundary with an abuser and doesn’t always get this validated; in fact often people devalue whatever you’re proclaiming. I recently read someone’s essay about their identity as an asexual person and what it is about for them. The comments were downright nasty, some insinuating that you can’t say you’re asexual because you had sex in that relationship or you’re talking about having sex, so you’re not asexual. I’m happy that now there is a phrase, “the asexual spectrum”, which was invented to explain especially to such limited bullying individuals that being asexual is not that simple and only works when not a label slapped on someone.

I can say that most of the barriers I have had to being myself have been self created, but maybe I woulnd’t have created these barriers to radical full self acceptance and standing fully in the light if the world were a lot safer and more openminded and accepting.

“Be yourself. Everybody else is taken.”As I wrote that I think of Oscar Wilde’s words in a way I haven’t before. The two sentences are kind of a dialectic in the sense that being yourself involves having to define yourself in relation to other humans because we use language, verbal and non verbal, to express or hold back who we are. We can’t get out of the aspect of self acceptance that involves negating a sort of “norm” communicated to us by society and their constructs and clarifying taking space as unique and beyond the norm. There should be no “box” to be inside of or outside of in any arena of life; of course that is a fantasy. Imagine being born into a world where gender was a spectrum, where polyamory, monogamy and a romantic approaches and of were all just choices like the color of a t shirt and that your shape, size and color of your skin were seen like a box of magic markers. You wouldn’t need to focus on what you are not and what does not resonate with you as who you are. There would be freedom to be and freedom to play. My challenge: “What gender are you today?” which was the main focus of my last art show, “#Bathroom Art Only” would be like deciding on a cereal for breakfast. Some people want the same breakfast every day; others want different things or no breakfast, or have the same breakfast for years and at age 37 decide to have a completely new breakfast. It would be the ideal of “live and let live”, “whatever floats your boat” and the maxim would be “Be yourself. Be free to be yourself. Be free to evolve and change in your concept of yourself.” with no need to refer to others.

There is a therapy phrase, “ego syntonic” and another one “ego distonic”. I like these phrases because they get to the heart of self acceptanc, self worth and learning how to navigate an unsafe unpredictable world we all have to live in. Something is ego syntonic if it is in sync with who you are and your values and aspirations, like when you put on a t shirt and it fits you in size as well as what it looks like and what kind of t shirt it is. Jobs can be seen in this way. If you are working at a job that is deadening you and feels like it’s not what you want to do or the people you work with are people you would not choose to be around, the job is ego distonic. When I worked cleaning the house of a science fiction writer in the summer during college, it was ego syntonic because he was nice and weird and non critical and paid me cash and the job was temporary; a job doesn’t have to be on your career path to be ego syntonic; it just needs to match who you are and your wants and needs. Same with any relationship. Therapy for example. If you feel comfortable with your therapist for whatever reasons and that there are minimal blocks in the way of your accomplishing your therapy goals created by the therapist, or even if the therapist has done so and you are able to address it, then the therapeutic realtinoship is ego syntonic; at certain points in therapy, it can be very therapeutic for you to notice and tell your therapist that they have said or done something that was not ok with you. Then you have an opportunity for the therapist to adjust/correct and you are improving your communication in important relationships and growth occurs. Often we discover what is ego syntonic by experiencing something as ego distonic. That’s the “everybody else is taken.” part of the dialectic. It means asking “Is this for me or for the other person?” “Am I ok with this or am I now not ok with it even if I was in the past?” “Is this something I want now in my life or not?” “How does this serve my growth or impede it?” The more you can clarify what is ego distonic, you also clarify what is ego syntonic. The process is unique for each person.

As an artist and person who has a deep need to approach life creatively and express myself creatively, I have always been someone who tries many of the t shirts on, or has different breakfasts every day. I like to shape shift and morph and copy and try on things; I learn best by watching how someone does something and trying it out, but reshaping it to do it my way. I don’t learn well by being told what to do in a rigid way or being told what I did wrong. My college was ego syntonic to the way I learn and the kinds of people I needed to find for my life, so I was able to grow as a person during thpse important years. I like seeing diversity and experiencing diversity, as I am easily bored and like the new. At the same time I don’t gravitate towards situations involving meeting new people in a social context. As a therapist I enjoy meeting new clients because I am curious and interested in how unque and fascinating each person’s inner life, identity and approach to life is. As an artist, I often try out new things and then in that process, keep repeating something I’ve stumbled upon. With drawing especially, it involves looking at other people’s drawings or images; to draw musical instruments for my Warrior Series, I looked up musical instruments from other cultures, especially middle eastern and African.

Using the line from Annie Hall comparing relationships to sharks, as an artist I need to be like a shark, constantly moving. The dialect between me the artist and me the art therapist is being the shark and the snail. As a therapist I slow down and stay with whatever the client brings in to explore and process.

Wonder Woman: Not so Wonderful

I did not like the movie. It was a huge disappointment. I went with two 9 year old girls hoping to have the feeling I had leaving the movie “Hidden Figures” with my 9 year old. It was a kind of elation I hadn’t felt after a movie, maybe ever, a really intense feeling of the generations of women dealing with living in our reality and feeling a sense of hope mixed with anger and feeling bedazzled and in some sense of wonderment.

There was no wonder for me in Wonder Woman. I’m not comparing the two movies but I am. Sure, they are completely different but they do focus on women characters and women doing things the people at least on earth in the movie don’t understand and can’t do.

Well, my wonder women super heroes are still the mathematicians in the movie Hidden Figures. I like superheroes; I confess I’m partial to Marvel; my favorite is Ironman, at least the movie.

The movie was endless. Way too long. The writing was trite and unoriginal. The plot was simplistic and boring. Wonder Woman was needlessly overly naive and innocent in an insulting way. Why does the first big female superhero movie have to have a main character who is so ignorant and ernest? Why not make her a complicated and interesting person/superhero/goddess? Greek mythology is full of complicated goddesses. The dialogue is terrible. I don’t care what genders were involved in making the film, I felt insulted. It also was racist in a way that nobody seems to have noticed except for one of my clients who wrote a poem about the movie. She noticed the word “fair” and not meaning proper or level playing field, “fair” the color, used to describe the people/gods during the weird origin montage; I noticed it too and that all the random figures shown were not people of color. On the island there were a few Amazonians; my client who is a person of color, noticed that they cast an African American to play Diana’s caretaker. Lots of light blondes.

Anyway, putting that aside for a moment, the plot was ridiculous and the lines about realizing love not war is important and all the other banal cliches in it, I really don’t understand why this movie was so lauded, but then again, I didn’t like “La La Land”.

I have been wanting fierce independent woman to be the main characters in movies since I was old enough to notice that gender was a thing with these humans I was supposed to grow up with and live with. That’s why Katherine Hepburn was one of my main heroes.

I finally found an article addressing these issues on SlashFilm and then realized the writer hasn’t seen the movie. Anyway, it’s a good article on this topic of people of color in Wonder Woman:

http://www.slashfilm.com/women-of-color-in-wonder-woman/

None of the characters in the movie are very “real”, and lots of superhero movies manage to have some “real” people in it, Spiderman for example.

I felt talked down to. The whole thing was so simplistic it was painful. Seeing all the hype about it is painful too. Even knowing that the two 9 year old girls I went with loved it was a bit painful, but I did not ruin their buzz. One of the same 9 year olds saw “Everything Everything” with me recently, and that merits a whole post, finally a non animated movie where the main character is African American and her ethnicity and race are not part of the story. That movie was simplistic but in a good way. Leaving the theater with her, she asked if I liked it. I did, but it seemed like a fairy tale not a movie about reality, but not in a bad way. She then observed that it was a modern day Rapunzel and that was it! Yes it was, and it was pretty good. It’s very hard to make a movie out of a book involving the characters writing to each other, as opposed to making a movie from comics which are already in story board form.

No wonder was felt. And the whole time, I felt this bothering thought lingering in the back of my head. I bet they used World War 1 for this movie so they could make a sequel using World War 2, but it seems impossible they could do it without it just being the same thing; maybe no sequel. Sorry, to those who loved it: thumbs down and sad that a potential really cool feminist movie did not live up to expectation…

GOALS!

With the onset of this new mindfulness “diet”, I am going to try to set some goals and work towards them. One is to post more regularly on this blog, which is supposed to help with another writing goal, my book of essays. I’m marking my Mondays to remind myself to post.

I will figure out how to fit writing into my schedule.

Then there is the Graphic Novel, now 17 years in progress. Not sure how to tackle it, but the goal is to do something about it.

Other than that, I don’t want to fill up a list of goals I will never do. The food goal is to notice some good food each day that I ate while keeping to the no refined sugar. Yesterday it was frozen raspberries. The day before avocado. Today will hopefully be fresh spinach.

I noticed I started writing about my interest in fashion and set goals with it and never did anything more, so I may pick that up.

Thanks for reading as always. Please make any comments!!!

ADHD and Food

I just had two breakouts for non mistakes, which hasn’t happened in quite a while. I called my credit card to remove a late fee and found out I had just paid ahead for July and had paid for June a few weeks ago. Then I found a webinar and made sure I could take it on the day and time of it; I looked at this Thursday in my calendar where I noted the seminar for the week after, to remind myself. I missed that it was just a reminder and tried to change a session time as well as ask the Seminar people how to transfer a paid for class. The client answered and I realized I had not double booked and could keep the appointment.

Is this just the usual ADHD, where, because you’re using the skills to get things done on time, especially the mountain of monthly bills, and now that I’ve mastered it, where the “H” in ADHD rears its head and starts creating anxiety and impulsivity over things that I did right, convinced I did them wrong? Or something else.

I started the post with the title: “Deadlines Big and Small” but just remembered the ADHD, which, true to form, I tend to forget it exists until it suddenly gets in the way of something. It sounds crazy but it’s kind of like PMS. If you don’t remind yourself the week is there, you forget that there’s a reason the PMS symptoms are there!

I try to look at the funny side of ADHD, now that I know I have all of the letters (some people, especially adults, have ADD, where criteria for “Attention deficit” are met but not “Hyperactivity”).

As I went across the street to mail a check that I know I mailed a week ago but didn’t get to the company, I wondered if my new “food plan” could be blamed for all this generating what DBT calls “extra emotions”. Anxiety about things that are not real. Anxiety about paying bills on time, real when you haven’t paid them and its challenging, but not real when you have and think you haven’t.

Now there is no way to tell for sure what’s going on. I have a new reason for being grumpy, over anxious, generating extra emotions, having ADHD symptoms that were under control before. It’s a great reason, so there is a goal.

I again stopped eating refined sugar. In terms of deadlines, the death line of “No more!” came Tuesday, June 13, 2017, Day 1. Suffice it to say, my eating habits had deteriorated badly and my sweet tooth has been acting up since last summer, so I put on the brakes and decided to try again cold turkey. I had tried moderation but it didn’t work; I “forgot” when and with what to do the moderating, so, giving in to my ADHD and extremes, I am doing the extreme and on Day 7 of eliminating refined sugar from my diet or “food plan”.

Those of you who have sugar addictions know what this is about. Some rats or mice prefer sugar to cocaine, in case you don’t believe it’s an addiction. I realized I had the problem back in high school when I read “Sugar Blues”, probably one of few books about the topic in the early to mid 80s, and tried to do the diet then but failed.

I did this in a similar way back in 2015, probably in March, and lasted into the summer and then lost it all in late August. My new plan is slightly different and I’m hoping to have success this go round if I don’t kill someone in the process.

There are many “withdrawal” symptoms of going off sugar. Headaches, yes, luckily I only had 1 on Friday. Grumpy and irritable, yes, hoping that’s getting under control. Now I can add jumpiness and anxiety of the impulsive kind to what’s going on.

This time round, I will eat a lot less raisins and dried mangoes to try to really lower all sugar consumption, which means looking more carefully to learn where the sneaky “other” sugar shows up, the grams of sugar still there when you get rid of refined sugar. This seems like extreme as a food plan, but actually, it means I will eat more like all the healthy vegetarians out there: fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen fruit, yogurt, eggs, beans etc. because the sugar problem for me is that sweets take the place of healthy food, so when I remove sweets, it’s like magic. Suddenly it’s easier to eat healthy, especially the vegetables and other things like chik peas, black beans, avocados, spinach and other foods.

The diet works at the beginning because it’s suddenly easy to eat much healthier, probably as healthy as the average person, because when you eliminate bad stuff, you just do the good stuff. It’s like the sweets build a wall between myself and healthy eating. It can be very rewarding to do this. In 2015, I ate pasta and pizza. The other day I had the choice of pasta a few times and pizza and got myself to eat a great salad with hard boiled eggs, etc. instead. The good thing is that you still eat plenty of fats and the goal has nothing to do with lowering calories even though it may happen a little because of the new foods.

Habits change and healthier ones suddenly arrive. I see the pineapple sitting in the kitchen that I’ve been procrastinating dealing with. One recent morning I just cut the damn thing and realized again how lazy I get with food. The next challenge is to figure out what to do with dry lentils. At the moment I eat a lot of French Lentil Hummus from Whole Foods but the goal this week is to make the lentils. For most of you, this is just normal healthy stuff you do, but for me, the bar is very low because food is one of those ADHD things, either too overwhelming or extreme; The ADHD causes me to forget to eat and forget to prepare food at home; the thinking ahead has to be learned, and so does the awareness of eating at regular times, as well as not having extremes of getting too full or forgetting to eat for too long. Most of all “cooking” can no longer just be avoided much of the time.

It sounds nuts that I’m almost 50 and haven’t figured it out, but that is ADHD for you. Becoming a vegetarian 21 years ago was great for many reasons, and one ADHD reason was that it eliminated a ton of food that is now off limits, so I won’t get distracted by it. Eliminating sugar as totally as possible also deletes a long list of foods and suddenly there are clear choices of healthy foods, with no toxic foods distracting me. I used to wonder why I was so all or nothing with a lot of this, but the ADHD explains it. The environment is always too overstimulating and distracting, especially when it comes to eating.

Like with clearing clutter, there are and will be great side benefits! Instead of trying to eat mindfully by doing my daily yoga and cultivating mindfulness with other things and DBT mindfulness skills which are great, I will focus on the mindful eating above all, and then the mindfulness in other aspects of life follow. Going at it the other way didn’t work for me, because once I’m not eating healthy, awareness in general just goes down the drain. I have already noticed that it is easier to be mindful of everything else by doing this food plan.

The other day I saw a re dramatization of a British man dying of carrot and VITamin A overdose in a great TV show called Weird and Unusual Deaths, that’s close enough as the title. The man had orthorexia which the medical people pointed out. He was sandwiched into an episode with Isadora Duncan choking to death on her silk scarf and some poor guy dying in his closet.

Anyway, orthorexia is a real issue and should be listed with other eating disorders. It involves getting addicted to eating in an extreme “healthy” way to the point of obsession and other extreme symptoms similar to other eating disorders. Yes, that person you know who does an extreme amount of exercise and won’t eat at restaurants because of their extreme healthy diet could be in the territory of orthorexia. A small dose of it usually helps with getting rid of sugar and is more part of the ADHD, but as one of my goals is to be more present and productive in the rest of the hours a day not spent dealing with food, I’m not worried about carrot juice overdose. To be honest, I haven’t eaten a single carrot in the last 7 days, only because I was having other healthy options.

Anyway the extras also include having more energy and I hope, will also help with some long range goals and my writing. More than art making, writing seems related to getting rid of clutter and eating better, the bad food also being clutter; when I get rid of stuff that is not good, the writing benefits, so maybe I will write my book of essays now!

 

Grids! Grids! Grids!

I’m obsessed with grids; it started a little over a year ago. It’s partly an obsession with squares even though my grids aren’t exactly squares.

The longstanding goal has been: how do I achieve what I do in a drawing but on a painting?

How do I use oil paints but reinvent how I’m using them? How do I get back to oil painting but not the way I  used it in the past and on my first painting? How can I mix pens with oil paint or other paint.

Here are some works in progress:


This one was very different a while ago and went through several layers of making marks and media. I’m trying to have it stay light with the grids and not get too dark.


This is another that reincarnated several times.

I’m not sure about my own rules I’ve followed created by this project:

Fill the whole surface with colored in grids. 

Don’t put two “squares” next to each other of the same color.

Don’t put a color too often near itself.

Make sure the painting doesn’t get too dark.

Cover over big patches of paint.

When I first took a drawing class back in the dark ages and found out I wanted to be a visual artist I had this feeling of needing to cover the entire surface, more with paint than when using other materials.

In another post I will show and tell some more.

None of these have oil paint in them as I haven’t reached that goal. 

I am discovering a whole new world by using paint pens with permanent markers and gel pens. All the white spots are actually basic Bic White Out, which used to be called “Liquid Paper”.