Day 18: 13 Minutes Stay Home, Stay Home, Stay Home

Just finished watching this week’s John Oliver show, very sober in the sense of the word that means taking what needs to be taken seriously very seriously, and ending with a painting of rats in a compromising position from a 1992 auction in Pennsylvania somewhere in the dark caves of Netflix…

When I discussed doing a ‘Covid 19″ Crazy thing, I definitely meant in your house because you should be there if you’re not doing something on the front lines. Like cutting your hair weird because you are not going out to get a haircut and the only way you’ll get a good one is if you are a haircutter or live with one.

I did cut my bangs last night, very quickly with a pair of scissors lying around. I don’t have haircutting scissors even though I am obsessed with scissors and there is a pair I desperately want sold in the MoMA design store (online of course).

I had a good day today because I had work to do and felt good about being distracted by work with clients. The weird thing is that while doing remote sessions with clients, I am of course sometimes talking only about Covid19 and its effect on their lives or briefly checking in on their situation with it, BUT, it’s not the same as hearing the news or reading it and does not bother me because I like hearing how my clients as individuals are managing it and what their points of view are as well as helping them mange dealing with stressors around it if that’s where they’r at.

.Some people could tell of course that I am not in my spacious art studio office but a very cozy little tiny makeshift office. I even dodged being asked if I was home by saying I was in a spaceship. Of course my clients know I’m not at work, but who’s to say that I’m definitevely at home. I still like that boundary of the potential for the fantasy that your therapist exists only in either my spacious cave on Franklin Street or in a space capsule, as both have no windows. I once had a client who said she imagined me sleeping in the paintings stacks and always being in my studio.

I don’t know if I’ve written about it, but way before today, after an initial few days of manic energy posting on list serves about remote therapy, as I have been doing it for years, and posting about online therapist classes, etc. and very hyper quickly starting a Facebook group of Covid response art and an starting my Covid I Ching Altered book, I am now in the second stage of my own stuff with this, being overwhelmed by the news and everything else. This includes all the emails and feeling bad that I can’t make masks. I signed up to voluteer/give free therapy to Covid workers who of course have no time for therapy, I am at a point where I am not demanding much of myself (I considered finishing my book proposal about altered books and working on some other big works as well as trying to arrange art face time hangouts with my friends…) That went out the window.

My new, low bar for self-esteem: I am just showing up at my office, working with my already enough batch of clients, trying to keep up with paperwork and doing this writing daily as well as yoga, remembering to eat, and also sharing the family cooking. Not yet caught up on my comic strip.

That’s it. The rest is just stay home. When outside only every few days, wearing mask and gloves and stay away from people. It’s called Physical Distancing, not Social Distancing.

My days feel even fuller than before. My last big challenge is going to bed at some fucking decent time as I’ve gone into the 1am zone and I should be in bed now at 10:45. That’s it. I’m just a little person trying to do the right thing, happy to have my clients and family and friends and grateful to be healthy and alive another day.

Stay home stay home stay home.

I can edit this tomorrow. I just edited it at 11:39 am. Time to go put together a cool work outfit with makeup and jewelry as my own self-care.

 

Day 3: 13 Minutes

I had a great conversation with my friend. We meet ever Sunday, she, I and another close friend, for coffe and conversation as well as peer led yoga. I always get inspired talkign with her.

I usually have an abundance of ideas and get too disorganized. Having this be 13 minutes helps stop me from continuous rambling. I think I will pick a topic each day to keep this coherent.

Today I’d like to talk about precondition mental health issues and dealing with this crisis. It is hard on everyone, whether they have any mental health issues or not.

Anxiety disorder and trauma related disorders are usually part of a mental health diagnosis, whether it be depression, eating disorder, etc, because having a mental health issue in today’s societal invalidating environment causes anxiety. Now many healthy people are having panic and anxiety.

So for people who have bipoar disorder, depression, complex trauma, OCD, Panic disorder and all the other ones, how do you manage and use distress tolerance now?

If you’re in therapy, continue your therapy by phone or video. Now is not the time to decide on leaving therapy if you have a longstanding relationship with your therapist and if you just started and founds someone who is a good fit, keep up your therapy. Be in frequent touch with your therapist if need be.

Talk openly with your therapist about your financial issues in general and pertaining to paying for therapy if you do pay a fee or copay. I believe in sliding scale for therapy which also involves sliding scale in the present. For example, if you have someone who pays $90 on sliding scale from your regular fee, and they can only pay $60 due to job issues connected to the Coronavirus, I would ask your therapist for a temporary change in fee.

I have been informing clients that if they can’t pay their regular fee due to current hardships, they can pay a reduced fee. If this whole disaster becomes very extreme, I will offer free sessions to clients, partly for my own sanity. One client out of her job not paid anymore reduced her fee with me by 50%, so I am happy that my new plan is working. I don’t want current clients to drop their therapy with me due to financial hardship.

Also, if you’re needing a $30-60 per session for people, you can guide them to go to the Open Path Collective; we’re a group of therapists dedicated to providing therapy that is accessible and affordable for people who can’t afford high fees. The client pays a one time fee of $59 and can choose a therapist and start affordable therapy.

I am already doing remote sessions with a lot of clients due to other issues, so many of them are familiar and comfortable with phone and video sessions. Ask your therapist for telehealth sessions. Many therapists are starting to do this exclusively, whether they are experienced with it or not. I am very greatful to be part of Open Path as I believe strongly in our mission. I will be contacting all my current clients who come in person about starting remote sessions and notifying all appropriate ones about temporary discounts. That’s all for today. See you tomorrow. I plan to continue this topic with providing links to info about it.

Blogging 101 Day 1: Introduce Yourself/Your Blog

A few weeks ago, I considered closing this blog and starting a new one; however I did nothing, knowing to wait and see about big decisions such as that. I ended up coming to the conclusion that I can remake this blog and push the reset button. One thing I was planning was changing the look of the blog, for various reasons. So I thought I would start with the basics, using this great WordPress class about blogging for beginners, (Blogging 101: Blogging U , even though I am not a total beginner. The two week course is called “Learning the Fundamentals”.

Here are some good questions raised in Day 1’s Assignment.

The big question to start with:

Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?

To share my pictures and words with others and to be part of the blogging community.

  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?

I’ve covered a panoply of topics in the past since starting this blog. I can’t remember all of them, but I remember some. They included gender identity, mourning the dead from cultures arount the world, aspects of being an artist, aspects of being an art therapist. If you look at the bottom of the page on this post there will be a list of categories most used on all of my blog posts.

So what would be different now than before:

I have a new found awareness of setting intentions and goals that all are connected in terms of improving the blog and my organization skills.

I think I need to come up with a sort of schedule, like Tuesdays is about Art Therapy, Wedneday is another topic, and then even if I don’t post on those days, I can use them as starting points. So the goal would be to post more frequently and be more aware of what I am posting over time. In terms of topics and uses of the blog, see below.

The other main thing involves my newish art project, “Pictures and Words”, and the fact that I no longer have an artist website. I’ve thought of setting up one, but I decided I will first attempt to make the blog partly an artist portfolio website, where people could see work I’m making and buy work. I don’t know yet how to do that or if it’s possible but that is one of the bigger goals.

Writing for a more specific reason than before. This blog could be where I post drafts of chapters of my book, “The Art Box”.

  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?

Other bloggers of all kinds, also artists, art therapists, people with brain health challenges and diagnoses and their families/friends, anybody interested in the brain health field, art lovers and many others I don’t know yet.

  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?
  • I would like to have an artists website as part of the blog if possible. I would like to have experienced more clarity on my “Pictures and Words” series as it intersects with The Art Box book.
  • I would like to have a clearer vision of the book in progress, The Art Box.
  • I would like the blog to look better and be more consistent and organized.

New Blog Feature: Gender, starting with Gender Activism Presentation

I’m taking the Blogging Fundamentals Class very slowly and not in lesson order (knowing ones learning style is helpful!)

Assignment: Make a feature for your blog to post more regularly on a particular topic!

Challenge Accepted! My Feature will be posts on Gender, Gender Identity, Gender Activism and Related Issues. I hope to try to post weekly and make it on Thursdays but I’ll aim for two posts per month. I may post more than weekly. For example, this post is a many part post as there are many subtopics to it.

Today I’m did a presentation at nearby school PS 234 to a 5th grade class about my activism as an artist and art therapist, especially around gender identity and trans/alternate gender rights. Also to tell them about mental health stigma and activism, being part of the Open Path Collective and LighthouseLGBT affirming website of therapists. Activism in different fronts and through different means, ie. individual personal, making art, then on community level, sharing it on social media platforms for activism, such as this blog, and especially Instagram. I brought in foam door hangers as an art activity for the kids to do at the end. It was a big hit, so I was very excited when I left. I got the kids thinking about guerrilla art and talking about the bathrooms in their schools. One kid said she was only going to use the gender neutral bathroom on the floor below their classroom…

Here are some photos from my solo art show, #BathroomArtOnly, October 2016. I’m going to start the presentation talking about an old art project from the 90s about gender and this more recent one.

Trump Trauma or Trump Overdose?New DSM 5 Disorder

This comes from my own personal experience. Others with this illness, you are not alone! (Stay tuned for post on more severe illness, Trump Psychosis)
New DSM 5 Disorder for OCD or Trauma Chapter, possibly a specific form of PTSD:
Name: Trump Trauma or Trump Overdose, specify whether co occurring with Trump Psychosis
Age: 5 years to 99 years
Symptoms: One or more of the following, occurring at least 3 times/week:
(specify severity: mild, moderate, severe)
1. Trump in any form triggers somatic responses such as nausea, vomiting, digestive issues  
2. Trump in any form triggers responses such as revulsion in form of anxiety, panic, depersonalization, hopelessness and/or depressive outlook.
3.Inability to control obsessive thinking about not wanting to think about Trump and/or experiencing intrusive thoughts/images about Trump.
4. Nightmares about Trump and/or feeling of being in a nightmare while awake. Knowing that you’re not delusional about waking nightmare:
5. Compulsion: Feeling not in control of contact with social media about Trump and spending 20 minutes or more of your day in a Trump Trance writing posts or commenting or reading about Trump while being aware of not wanting to do so. 
6. Paranoia: after other symptoms get triggered, believing there’s something wrong with you or that you’re crazy to have such symptoms/reactions.
7. Frequent Violent fantasies you can’t control about physically assaulting, disfiguring and/or killing Trump or Trump dying sometimes accompanied by brief feeling of euphoria that often triggers subsequent descent into depression.
8.Frequent Violent fantasies regarding sources of info about Trump (usually in form of physically assaulting/destroying TV, Computer or Smartphone, specify whether danger to others)
9. Frequent fantasies about living on another planet, belief and/or realization that you are from another planet if this knowledge further triggers other symptoms. (see treatment)
Treatment/Cure:

1. Cure: Trump somehow disappears. Symptoms should be gone in a few days.

2. Trump gets out of the race. Symptoms will immediately subside, may linger a few weeks.

3. Person with this disorder finds any way to return to their planet and reduce greatly contact with planet earth. Taking a substantial amount of aliens chosen carefully is also a great option. Not a complete cure due to memories of Trump situation and concern for planet Earth.

Treatment for chronic condition:

  1. recognizing you have this disorder and you’re not crazy helps reduce paranoid symptoms while also triggering symptoms if you get reality check through search engine or social media

2. Talking about moving to other countries and picking what country/looking at homes there can help reduce symptoms. Focusing on that country or any other as a safe space may also reduce symptoms.Cure: Trump magically disappears or .gets out of the race.

3. Avoidance of exposure to Trump will reduce symptoms. Tracking time in day that you are symptom free gives hope for recovery. (Trump Disorder tracking App coming soon.)

Medication: Klonopin and similar anti-anxiety medication may help reduce symptoms and other medications of this type may make you so drowsy you forget about him for a while. Any medication proven to reduce nightmare frequency.

Course of illness: whether treated or untreated, will worsen with time. Possible extreme severity can cause another disorder: Trump Psychosis.

guest comic by randomdaze

Great blog that captures a lot about mental illness and stigma…

Depression Comix

maddie1.400

A wonderful guest comic by Randomdaze! The characters in the strip are the artist (Maddie; left) and friend (Anna; right). Please visit her page for more awesome work. Thank you very much!

Read at depression comix at http://wp.me/p3zYhM-1yc

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#26 – Why BPD Should Be Abolished, and What Should Replace It

This is great. I am completely in agreement and glad I saw this post. Just a few days ago I was thinking about how BPD is an insulting diagnosis, as those suffering from it have nothing wrong with their personality. Most early attachment issues are caused by early multiple childhood traumas in an invalidating environment which causes extreme trauma. Based on my clinical experience and readings, I don’t think BPD is useful anymore, and that emotional dysregulation really describes the extreme PTSD biological and environmental symptoms that indicate the diagnosis. The current BPD name does not match this emotional , mental and spiritual disorder. Being on the Borderline between neurosis and psychosis as it was originally observed, is more a reaction from doctors, how they felt around people with this condition. It does not match the condition itself.

BPD Transformation

Do we want people to believe that BPD is a real psychiatric illness that they must manage for the rest of their lives, or do we want to promote a message of hope which says, “You can become free of your emotional distress and live the life that you want”?

By presenting BPD as a severe mental illness which can be managed but not cured, the medical model of the BPD label utterly fails to promote hope. Additionally, the medicalized concept of BPD is scientifically broken: It does not describe a valid illness which is consistent across a population.

Why do we keep using BPD if there is so much wrong with it? Is it possible that we would be better off without BPD?

And if BPD is should be abolished, what should replace it?

This article addresses how to replace BPD.

To this question, my first answer is “Nothing” – that we should simply…

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Blog For Mental Health 2015

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2015 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”

This is the link to the official site for Blog for Mental Health 2015, and I congratulate them on the beautiful image that I was allowed to put in my side bar! I don’t know who drew it but I will try to find out:
http://blogformentalhealth.com/2015/01/30/blog-for-mental-health-2015/

I am very excited to join this cause. I think I can say that my blog is dedicated to educating people about mental health and well-being and calling out society on stigma and stereotypes that are untrue and damaging, as well as being committed to sharing the stories of others who suffer from any mental issues, disorders and people’s courageous roads to recovery through linking to other sites, re blogging great blog posts by people suffering and overcoming on the front lines and by telling my stories about my work as an art therapist, and showing the healing power of art through my journey as an artist myself and others’ finding hope and healing in the arts.

In my blog, “Musings of an Art Therapist/Artist”, I have featured stories abut mental health as well as what I said above, and the impact of art therapy and the creative arts on mental health and well being.

Like almost everybody else, I have personal experience with mental health and mental illness, and I am very aware of how dangerous untreated mental illness can be, having gone to a few terrible funerals of loved ones who died in the front lines/trenches. Luckily, I have witnessed a lot of wonderful transformations on the road to recovery, both of family members, friends and my own patients. Every day I witness huge miracles of survival, strength, resilience and recovery. I see people become healed through caring for their creative spirit as well as their mental and physical body. The work I do I conceive of as spiritual experiences. Or perhaps human experiences with spiritual beings. (Deepak Chopra: “We are not humans having spiritual experiences; we are spiritual beings having human experiences”) I am very humbled and honored in my work as an art therapist to be invited to be a witness and sometimes guide on people’s personal journeys of recovery.

As a therapists, I owe a debt of gratitude to the 12 Step Recovery Program, which has been a beacon of hope and support to many of my patients. I am grateful that I have been able to convince some of my patients to try out this program, attend a meeting, find spiritual connection with others going through similar struggles. It is often a struggle to encourage someone to go to a meeting week after week, but when the person does finally go and finds this miracle of community and mental health, it is wonderful to witness. The 12 Step Meetings of any kind, whether OA (Overeaters Anonymous), AA, Alanon, DA (Debtors Anonymous), or any of the other types of meetings, provide so much support and connection for people who feel isolated and alone on their journey towards well being. If mental health can be seen as a flower with many petals, art therapy is one of the petals, 12 Step can be another if useful, medication management coupled with a caring psychiatrist can be another one, yoga is often one of the petals, mindfulness meditation another, exercise another, making art, music, and other creative arts on your own is another, acupuncture, Reiki and/or other alternative therapies another petal, maybe this image helps one to see that it takes a whole flower or a “village” for mental health to continue to improve and be maintained. “Self-care” is so important to mental health and well being. For myself, this means making art daily, no matter whether it be 20 minutes or several hours, including making art with and alongside my patients; it also means doing my own yoga practice 4-5 days a week for at least half an hour a day, and a few other things. I say this to demonstrate that all of us need some kind of self-care. Quality time with loved ones is of course another form of daily self-care for me and many others.

I am happy to participate in this wonderful “Blog for Mental Health” experience!