The reception for the Southeast Pastel Society 2015 Juried Members Exhibition as well as the 16th International Juried Exhibition last year symbolizes the pinnacle of my new found career drawing with pastels. I was so honored to be among such talented and accomplished pastelists and that the judge thought enough of my work that I could be included in the show. A drawing of a hummingbird was accepted into the exhibition again this year. I think I may have established a trend for myself! A couple of weeks ago I was informed that I was not accepted into the Inman Park Festival this year. News of this did not upset me because the Southeastern Pastel Society establishes the benchmark for me as an artist. I now have the self confidence in my work as an accompished artist in pastels.
I gave my second presentation to the Interactions Class at St Mark Methodist today. The topic of discussion was silver linings and what miracles in the graveyard can be found when faced with perceived adversity. What great things that have happened to me from the result of my suicide attempts and how I discovered my second career endeavor working as an artist. I also covered self doubt, the definition of joy, not knowing all the answers, and future in faith. I also presented the drawing that has been accepted into the Southeastern Pastel Society Exhibition this year. Being accepted into the exhibit, as well last year for the first time, are benchmarks regarding my career as an artist.
In the book ‘Unfinished’ by Richard Sterns it is stated that we are commissioned to be disciples of Christ. How can I be a disciple when I do not even fully understand what all our savior has taught us? He loved everyone. This task in of itself is a daunting one. I have spoken about my problem regarding prejudgement of others without even getting to know them. So how is it that I am to love? Perhaps this is where the 12 step program enters in and it is called detachment. When I feel that certain behaviors of others are unhealthy for me then I disengage. Perhaps where the love factors in is protecting myself by disengagement and not showing disrespect to others by judging them and telling them they are wrong. I am confused by spreading the gospel of Christ. I do not wish to convert anyone by word for fear of disrespect. I hope that my actions can make up for my lack of words. I speak freely about where I go to church. I invite others to the church. I hope that this is acting as a disciple of Christ.
The book states further to make a comparison of body building and to people that only flex their spiritual muscles for show as body builders do rather than truly living the Christ discipleship. I have a problem with this comparison. I have heard that many people have found direction in life through the commitment of body building. I have been fortunate enough to have had interaction with body builders and most of them are willing to share their knowledge of healthy living. I was saddened to read this misinformed example of not following through on Christ’s discipleship. The book has gone on further to say ‘even with our greater understanding we still insult the King, going off instead to pursue our own priorities, our careers, our lifestyles, our social lives, and our happiness – even as the King beckons us.’
Are we not to pursue the gifts and talents that God has bestowed on us to develop and nurture in order for us to be examples for others in the name of our savior? Is this not a form of discipleship? I would like to think so.
I gave my presentation to the Interactions Class at St Mark Methodist. The topic of discussion was mental illness and my recovery through it and how my art work has given me new direction in life. Everyone stated they so enjoyed my discussion. I asked the class if anyone had been affected by mental illness and one person stated that their father had and another person had a partner to commit suicide due to it. I shared with the class some of my art work that were considered the cornerstones of milestones of my life. My first drawing at the age of 23; my last at the age of 40; the first drawing I did before picking it back up again at 53; the drawing the gave my representation at Mason Art Gallery; and the drawing into the Southeastern Pastel Society. Everyone loved my work. I also shared how my relationship with God as been throughout my life and how I cannot fully trust. I hope that I relieved some of the stigma that mental illness can generate to the people in the class.
Funny that this happened while I had been reading the book How to Be Heard in Heaven. The other day I was disturbed to hear that someone was praying for a particular outcome. I am amazed that people can continually be naive about this type of demand. It is not our place to impose our will on God. All we can ask is fortitude in handling any issues that may come our way. I may hope for a certain outcome if it will give me solace or positivity, but if the outcome does not unfold itself as I would prefer, I cannot let it impact me negatively. I often find myself saying why can I not be that way or why can’t that happen to me. It does not happen because that is not my path. All I can do is try to do my best with the resources that I have that are available to me. I think that this is all God expects of me. So if other people appear to be more ambitious that me that is okay. They may be better equipped at handling challenges before them rather than myself. If I become overwhelmed my depression will worsen and I don’t need to go back to the place I was before.
‘How to Be Heard in Heaven’ by Eddie Smith states ‘If you don’t know where you are today in the context of God’s will (His plan for your life), don’t press him for the knowledge of His will. Sometimes the Lord withholds the knowledge to teach us to walk by faith. Just as the pilot listens to the tower operator and places his faith in his or her instructions, so God asks us to do the same at times. Oddly, we may not know where we are, or where we’re going, but we can still stay in the center of His will as we obediently follow His instructions.’
My sister was the one who discovered Skyland Trail for me and instructed me to go. I had tried to kill myself because I thought there wasn’t any hope in my situation and that the pain I was experiencing would not go away. When she told me to go, there was something in the back of my mind that gave me a glimmer of hope. I thought to myself that God could be leading me to a better place. I was skeptical when I arrived at Skyland Trail and told them that they could not “fix” me. But at the same time I kept telling myself, as I slowly started to progress through the program at Skyland Trail, that there is a reason for all of this. Through the year God has revealed to me some reasons why my life has had to change and I am continually being informed day by day. Just how do I fit into the big picture? I hope that I will measure up.
As stated in the book Empty No More, “What is your personal graveyard? Your relationship with your children may resemble a tombstone – hard, rough, heavy. You’ve tried to be a good parent, but distrust and frustration have taken over. Does it seem like an unlikely place for a miracle? So did the tombstone outside of Jerusalem.”
I would have not have experience or recognized the miracles that I have encountered if I had not been buried in the graveyard. Being buried has caused me to recognize and not take for granted as much as I have in the past. Depression and anxiety are my graveyard and the depth of that graveyard was my two suicide attempts. My miracles are that I am a functioning person in society and that I now know how to handle and manage my depression and anxiety better than I did before. I have come to accept that my battle with mental illness will continue and that I must counteract the demons inside my head. Thankfully I have a support system here if I feel I cannot manage on my own. What a miracle! As I pursue my new art career, with the assistance of all the financial resources I have in place (what a miracle!), I can recognize satisfaction. Now my goal, which I must continually work on, is to let myself feel satisfied. I must trust in God. The art festival I participated in last weekend did not generate much money. But the crowd was light and considering it was not well attended, most people that came to my table bought something. What a miracle! Last week my work has started to be represented in Fernbank Natural History Museum. What a miracle!…even if nothing sells.
Now when I wake up everyday I am thankful for a restful night’s sleep, proud to be living in my new home, and for my family. All of which I generally took for granted or did not recognize without experiencing the graveyard.
Simple acts of kindness with little effort can sometimes have significant impact on others which then in turn result in joy. The acts of kindness need to be personal rather than universal such as advocating for a cause. I received an email message from someone from church after they saw my website and specifically this blog. Their words were so affirming that it gave me joy. I helped a friend move some furniture the other day. She said she could not have done it as easily if I had not been there. It meant so much to her. Another friend asked me to go to a festival since she had no one to go with. Because I went she was so thankful. All of the simple words of appreciation I receive on Facebook when I post pictures of my drawings makes the day all that more joyful. We can all spread joy through simple acts of kindness. It can go a long way.
My last post was discussing relapse. Little did I know that it was a precursor to an illness. Mononucleosis. I have never felt as much physical pain in my life that equaled my two suicide attempts or the anal rectal surgery. I am still recovering from this. This has shook me to realize that I have a big problem mentally that I have been ignoring. A problem that can ruin me or even kill me if it continues to go unaddressed. The therapist and I will a lot of work to do. I have also been thinking so much of my father during this time due to all the suffering he went through because, like he, I was so bent over in pain I could hardly walk. I started thinking again if he has truly stopped suffering. Perhaps this is something I need to speak to the minister about. As painful as all this has been I am grateful that this has happened. Now I know what I need to work on to get to a better place.
I attended the Georgia Artists with Disabilities Exhibition today in which I had three drawings on display. I enjoyed myself and was able to engage in the event. I am also thankful that I woke up this morning awake and alive unlike what I went through yesterday. Yesterday when I awoke, my head was telling me life was not worth living. I was hindered with the notion of just laying down and staring at the wall. However, I persevered and accomplished what I intended to do for the day although with much difficulty. I do not understand what happened yesterday but can only be thankful that it did not occur today. So much progress has happened for me but as it has been explained to me, as in any recovering program, there will be relapses. I was proud of myself however, as difficult as it was, not to bury my head in the sand and remain stuck.
As stated in the book I have been reading, Empty No More, “The words we speak to ourselves are very important. They shape our view of ourselves and our future. They mold our identity.”
With God’s help I hope to find reassurance that the road I have traveled is the right one for me. The belief and what tell myself I have experienced has lead me to working as an artist in pastels. That I can rebuild my overall self confidence by slowly marketing myself to make myself known without getting impatient which will only lead to self defeatism. Will my disposition continue to cause me anxiety? Will I be able to recognize and appreciate the joys and leave what it is I perceive as suffering behind? What is next for me?
My faith is an open book.
As stated in the book Empty No More, “Loneliness is real, pervasive, and universal. We see it everywhere, from teenage suicide attempts to dating websites. Loneliness is not simply being alone, but being unfulfilled relationally, spiritually, and emotionally. It is a kind of emotional estrangement, a sense of being cut off or disconnected. We can feel lonely sitting in a crowed bus, a mall, a football stadium, or in the middle of a full church auditorium. Loneliness touches us all. If you are a leader, you carry burdens no one else does, and you understand the weight of isolated responsibility. As the saying goes, “It’s lonely at the top”. Or perhaps you’ve joined the thousands each year who move. The moving has carried your earthly possessions to a new location, but there is so much you’ve left behind. As the weeks turn into months, the feeling of loneliness grows, and you’re frustrated at how difficult it is to make new friends. Or maybe high school graduation has finally occurred for your youngest child. The joy of such an achievement may feel satisfying-but the empty nest, not so much. There are many unhealthy ways to deal with loneliness, and I think I’ve tried most of them. You can turn to unhealthy relationships, withdraw from the world, or retreat into the bottle or the party scene. I found that addiction can begin in an attempt to escape loneliness, but before too long it actually fosters it. The more you rely on a substance or behavior, the more private your addiction becomes, the more secretive your actions become, the more alone you are. Work and hobbies offer nice diversions, but the end result of loneliness remains the same.”
I have experienced loneliness for most of my life. God’s intention to have others in our lives started with Adam and Eve. Despite having a supportive family and friends who genuinely care for me, I must do my part to maintain these relationships and however I still feel empty and have concern of feeling isolated. As I move into my new home, of which I am proud, I hope I can be content there and not have the feeling of loneliness/isolation ruin it for me. At the present time I do not have a special someone to share my life. I do have my artwork, community activities, friends and family to help with the loneliness but where is my spiritual relationship with God? I think this is what is missing in my life and needs to be cultivated more so that I don’t feel so lonely. I am working on this.
I ran across this article on Facebook I wished to share. I met with the psychiatrist outside of Skyland Trail last week for the first time. I told him of all the great things that I have to be thankful for that has been happening to me yet I still experience discontent with not being enough. Why can I not revel in the euphoria of all this positivity? He told me that all of these are outside influences and has nothing to do with how my mind works, the chemical imbalance that I experience, or the predisposition that I was born with. This is why I have to be under a doctor’s care and to do my own homework by reprograming and reframing my thinking. The article speaks of this very topic and reminds people the severity of depression it can be.
WHEN the American artist Ralph Barton killed himself in 1931 he left behind a suicide note explaining why, in the midst of a seemingly good and full life, he had chosen to die.
“Everyone who has known me and who hears of this,” he wrote, “will have a different hypothesis to offer to explain why I did it.”
Most of the explanations, about problems in his life, would be completely wrong, he predicted. “I have had few real difficulties,” he said, and “more than my share of affection and appreciation.” Yet his work had become torture, and he had become, he felt, a cause of unhappiness to others. “I have run from wife to wife, from house to house, and from country to country, in a ridiculous effort to escape from myself,” he wrote. The reason he gave for his suicide was a lifelong “melancholia” worsening into “definite symptoms of manic-depressive insanity.”
Barton was correct about the reactions of others. It is often easier to account for a suicide by external causes like marital or work problems, physical illness, financial stress or trouble with the law than it is to attribute it to mental illness.
Certainly, stress is important and often interacts dangerously with depression. But the most important risk factor for suicide is mental illness, especially depression or bipolar disorder (also known as manic-depressive illness). When depression is accompanied by alcohol or drug abuse, which it commonly is, the risk of suicide increases perilously.
Suicidal depression involves a kind of pain and hopelessness that is impossible to describe — and I have tried. I teach in psychiatry and have written about my bipolar illness, but words struggle to do justice to it. How can you say what it feels like to go from being someone who loves life to wishing only to die?
Suicidal depression is a state of cold, agitated horror and relentless despair. The things that you most love in life leach away. Everything is an effort, all day and throughout the night. There is no hope, no point, no nothing.
The burden you know yourself to be to others is intolerable. So, too, is the agitation from the mania that may simmer within a depression. There is no way out and an endless road ahead. When someone is in this state, suicide can seem a bad choice but the only one.
It has been a long time since I have known suicidal depression. I am one of millions who have been treated for depression and gotten well; I was lucky enough to have a psychiatrist well versed in using lithium and knowledgeable about my illness, and who was also an excellent psychotherapist.
This is not, unfortunately, everyone’s experience. Many different professionals treat depression, including family practitioners, internists and gynecologists, as well as psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and social workers. This results in wildly different levels of competence. Many who treat depression are not well trained in the distinction among types of depression. There is no common standard for education about diagnosis.
Distinguishing between bipolar depression and major depressive disorder, for example, can be difficult, and mistakes are common. Misdiagnosis can be lethal. Medications that work well for some forms of depression induce agitation in others. We expect well-informed treatment for cancer or heart disease; it matters no less for depression.
We know, for instance, that lithium greatly decreases the risk of suicide in patients with mood disorders like bipolar illness, yet it is too often a drug of last resort. We know, too, that medication combined with psychotherapy is generally more effective for moderate to severe depression than either treatment alone. Yet many clinicians continue to pitch their tents exclusively in either the psychopharmacology or the psychotherapy camp. And we know that many people who have suicidal depression will respond well to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), yet prejudice against the treatment, rather than science, holds sway in many hospitals and clinical practices.
Severely depressed patients, and their family members when possible, should be involved in discussions about suicide. Depression usually dulls the ability to think and remember, so patients should be given written information about their illness and treatment, and about symptoms of particular concern for suicide risk — like agitation, sleeplessness and impulsiveness. Once a suicidally depressed patient has recovered, it is valuable for the doctor, patient and family members to discuss what was helpful in the treatment and what should be done if the person becomes suicidal again.
People who are depressed are not always easy to be with, or to communicate with — depression, irritability and hopelessness can be contagious — so making plans when a patient is well is best. An advance directive that specifies wishes for future treatment and legal arrangements can be helpful. I have one, which specifies, for instance, that I consent to ECT if my doctor and my husband, who is also a physician, think that is the best course of treatment.
Because I teach and write about depression and bipolar illness, I am often asked what is the most important factor in treating bipolar disorder. My answer is competence. Empathy is important, but competence is essential.
I was fortunate that my psychiatrist had both. It was a long trip back to life after nearly dying from a suicide attempt, but he was with me, indeed ahead of me, every slow step of the way.
Perfectionism has affected me through lack of self confidence. I always have the nagging feeling of self doubt. Will they find out about me that I cannot do the job? Just how effectively can I keep the wool pulled over their eyes? Working as an architect, landscape architect, and a project manager, I always had this feeling of being found out that I could not do the work no matter how much positive reinforcement I would receive. Working in pastels, there is no shroud or veil to hide behind. What you see is what you get no matter what you like of it.
Photograph from my art opening Friday night at Mason Murer Art Gallery. It was such a fun evening. This is my coworker friend from the National Park Service who came all the way from Murfreesboro, TN to see the show. I was fortunate enough to sell three drawings Friday night. I thank everyone who purchased one. My drawings will be on display at the gallery until September 19th. Please come to the gallery not only to see my work but others as well. It is a wonderful space.
I think this is reflected in my artwork. I now enjoy drawing and creating. The sense of accomplishment, peace, and challenge that it brings rather than saying what does it matter? The words of encouragement and admiration that I receive from people when they see my work is astounding for me. I am truly blessed to make such a positive impression on people.