Saturday, September 8, 2007

HEALTH AND CRAFTING





Hello to all you wonderful people who are reading my missive begun on a beautiful morning in late summer. The pictures show ATC's I did some years ago. Those at the top are a few from a series I did during a bird phase that is still not over. The second two are beeswax collages. I made up a lot of those as trades when I attended Artfest a couple of years ago. The bottom one is a collage made with an image of a Latina I found somewhere in cyberspace, rubber stamps, alcohol inks and my trusty dragonfly punch.

I am happy to say that I just joined a Yahoo group called Organized Studio: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/OrganizedStudio/join

A word about the wonderful woman, Vickie Enkoff, who, with her daughter, I believe, started this group. She was a well-loved figure in the crafting and online community for many years and she passed away recently. Much love to her for her generous spirit and the same to her talented daughter, Melanie Sage.

In my intro at Organized Studio, I talked about how my formerly poor health contributed greatly to the creative endeavor I gently call "My Beautiful Mess". I received some very warm welcomes from group members and I'm picking up some good organizing tips and ideas from the posts. Several people there have asked how I overcame chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and the overwhelming host of physical symptoms that accompany those conditions. I thought this would be a good place to let people know some of the things that helped me transform my health so dramatically. I spent about 10 years in a very dark phase physically, emotionally and spiritually. My health began declining dramatically in my mid-40's and after a few years, I was diagnosed with FM. It was at this time that art and craft became my lifelines and I truly became an artist, so the illness brought me a wonderful gift! In the meantime, however, I was in almost constant pain with daily headaches, no energy, clinical depression and little resistance. I caught every cold and flu (15 a year at times) and also injured myself often. I lived in a fog and just limped through life.

I knew at some level that my body was sick because of unresolved trauma. Trauma can result from abuse and neglect, of course, but it can also stem from physical trauma, medical procedures, emotional upheavals such as divorce, loss, adoption, or any kind of event that overwhelms the nervous system (car accidents, falls, even near-misses). Unresolved trauma is, I believe, at the root of many, if not most chronic illnesses. I had childhood issues that I had worked on over the years, but in my early 40's I also fell and injured myself twice. Those falls marked the beginning of the rapid physical decline, but I had a feeling that my condition was actually linked to the family-of-origin issues. While there was some research early on into the trauma/chronic illness connection, I really couldn't find anyone at the time who gave credence to that idea. So, I suffered. I chose chiropractory and acupuncture over painkillers, antidepressants and sleeping pills prescribed by MD's. I had some improvement, but I was still very ill.

Finally, through what I would call Divine intervention (and I am not really a religious person), I found a wonderful therapist 600 miles away. The Divine intervention took place after a very severe depressive episode brought on, in part, by my poor health. Somehow I came out of that darkness with two ideas stuck in my head: "I can't live like this anymore." "I know there's someone out there who can help me."

Without knowing it, I had set an intention. Within a week I had the phone number of my therapist-to-be in hand. What I didn't know is that during the years of my declining health, a man named Dr. Peter Levine, was developing a trauma treatment/renegotiation process called Somatic Experiencing. The therapist with whom I connected had been trained by him and was using this as a primary modality after 25 years of work in the field. I spent two years traveling 600 miles for treatment every 6-8 weeks. Somatic Experiencing focuses on the felt sense or bodily sensations. It is an amazing process that you can read about in Levine's highly accessible work. There are books and cd's available that explain the process (go to Amazon and type in his name). It is gentle, it is fast, it is transformative. At the time I began doing this work, there were only a few therapists in my state who had the training. This has changed dramatically as more and more people experience the kind of healing I did. After my first sessions, my upper back, neck and shoulders which were chronically tight and very painful, relaxed for the first time in a decade. No more burning, fewer headaches (I rarely get a headache now--I used to take Aleve almost daily), more freedom of movement, more strength, more stamina, and MORE JOY. I did sessions for two short years and the results have been nothing short of miraculous. As you can tell, I am very grateful that the counseling and psychotherapy field began addressing the mind/body connection. I am experiencing a level of well-being I once thought impossible. I know that a lot of us artists suffer from these painful, chronic conditions. It's a journey, but a beautiful one. And, of course, SE is not the only way to get well--it's just a very fast, effective and gentle way. For more information about SE and/or to find a practitioner in your area you can go to the Foundation for Human Enrichment website:
www.traumahealing.com

4 comments:

Sarah S./OpalEyedDragon said...

I too have just joined Organized Studio. I'm glad to meet you!

Debbie in NM said...

I have the Fibro & Chronic Fatigue also. I'm finding that I love to do the collages that say how I feel. I just did one that says I hate housework. LOL

I also am a member of Organized Studio.

Keep on creating!

Sheri said...

I've read about FM and so I'm truly in awe of you and anyone with the illness... I'm so glad that art has helped you through the rough stuff.... I want to comment on all your posts but the kiddies are gonna be up soon! I truly love your art!

Charisse said...

This is great info to know.