Tag Archives: creativity

Medications and Stigmas

I attribute part of the comeback in my mood to a change in my medication.  First a disclaimer: I am only writing about my experiences, and everybody reacts differently to medications.  This is not meant to be advice, support for, non-support for any particular drug treatment program.  I am only following my Doctor’s recommendations.  See a mental health professional to discuss your personal situation.  OK, off soapbox.

When I originally went to my family doctor, he prescribed Wellbutrin.  I noticed a few of things from the Wellbutrin.  Besides helping with my depression, I felt a surge of creativity and strange, often entertaining dreams (both of which I have written about previously).  The problem was that it also seemed to be amping up my anxiety, which would eventually short circuit any gains I was feeling in getting rid of the depression.

When I first went to the psychiatrist to address my issues, he switched me to Celexa for depression and Klonepin for anxiety.  Again this seemed to work, but eventually the gains ceased.  Now I had become unmotivated and apathetic.  Depression back.

So when I went to my group sessions, the therapists and doctors were able to better assess my situation.  I have now added Wellbutrin back into the mix, and am taking all three.  The side effects (namely the anxiety and apathy) so far are cancelling each other out.  In addition, my creativity (and weird dreams) seems to be returning.

It’s hard to talk about medication and depression to people.  I don’t think most people think about depression as a big deal.  Everybody gets the blues, the conventional wisdom goes, and you just need to get over it.  What the don’t realize is that it becomes hard after two years of trying to “deal with it”.  It hasn’t been a bad day or bad month.   The pervasiveness, the physical reactions, and the filter that depression puts in your head (in effect making your emotions lie to you) just make it harder and harder.

I feel like people with depression get off easy with the stigma attached to it.  People only see us as weak.  Other people with mental illness have more serious accusations leveled at them.  People with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Bi-Polar Disorder, and Schizophrenia are labeled as crazy and potentially dangerous.  Autistic people are “weird”.  Those that suffer from Tourette’s are treated as an endless source of comedy.  Well let me say that people with mental illness aren’t weird, crazy, dangerous, or funny.  In fact, there are many people living with these disorders who do not come forward because of these stigmas.  People aren’t really different, they just need help.

A good place to start is The National Alliance on Mental Illness.   NAMI is a nationwide advocate for those with mental illness.  They have support groups in many cities and towns across the country, and offer information and support to both those suffering from mental illness, and for the people who support them.  For more information, visit their website: http://www.nami.org.

Next time: Mindfulness, Meditation, Prayer, and Faith

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Filed under anxiety, depression, medication

Ch-ch-ch-changes

An interesting phenomena has come over me in the week since I have decided that I would devote more time to writing–suddenly I have nothing to say.  No blog posts, no journaling, no progress on the novel that I started, no tweeting even.  It is an odd feeling for someone who can easily punch out 500 words before my brain can even catch up.  Right now it seems I have to strain to even eke out more than a couple of sentences.

I think that perhaps it our nature as humans to resist change.  I remember the first time that I consciously remember what seemed to me to be a major life change.  The school that I first attended was a small parochial elementary school that was run by the Episcopal Church.  Originally it had been a boarding school for the daughters of Episcopal missionaries, and had opened in Dakota Territory a few years before statehood was granted to North Dakota and South Dakota.  Therefore, it was steeped in tradition.  I remember lining up to go to chapel every morning before classes started for the day.  We learned French starting in Kindergarten.  Class sizes were so small, that it was possible for students to move up or down a class for individual subjects to fit their educational needs.  There was an annual May Day celebration.  At the end of the year, the flag that flew near the school was presented to a graduating sixth grader. 

Beyond all those traditions, the actual buildings were beautiful.  They were built from pink quartzite blocks taken from local quarries.  The classrooms had hardwood floors.  The playground area was huge, and unlike most elementary schools, was covered in grass rather than asphalt.  The chapel had Tiffany stained glass windows, given as a gift to the bishop that had established the school.  Carved entryways and railings abounded.

The small class sizes that had been such an asset would turn out to be the undoing of the school.  Faced with declining enrollment and a lack of funds, the church made the decision to shutter the school.  My parents enrolled my sister and I to a well established Catholic School a year before the school that holds such a fond place in my memory closed for good.  The new school was of course a fine school in its own right.  Having a much larger enrollment coupled with a much larger Catholic presence in our community, there were more resources and opportunities at our disposal.  But somehow, the cinder block walls and vinyl floor tiling just seemed to make the place seem dystopian compared to what I had left behind.

The closed school remained empty for several years.  It wasn’t torn down, however, as the “Main Building” was on the National Historic Sites register.  Eventually additional buildings were erected and the campus was turned into a retirement community.  I visited the Main Building recently, and it is still so beautiful that it puts an ache in my heart,even though the change that took place was ultimately a good one.

When I think of the years that it took for the school to be repurposed, perhaps a week to take a break and access my transition from business man to writer doesn’t seem that out of line.  I realized today that not only had I not been writing, but my creative endeavours in the visual arts had come to a stand still as well.  No painting, no photography, no ideas, really.  So today I started to re-engage that creativity, as I think that creative energy flows into my writing.  My fascination with clocks, along with my appreciation for music led to this:

I know, Neil Diamond doesn’t sound like my normal fare.  A guilty pleasure.  In addition I got some modeling clay.  Lovely Wife can vouch for me being a champion Play-Doh sculptor, so I thought I would try my hand at something a little more permanent. 

Of course, anxiety plays a part in my hesitant transformation.  However, I think that the more that I am able to write and create, the more anxiety will dissipate. 

WEDNESDAY FUN: Our New Tenants

Photo credits on this one go to Lovely Wife:

Mama Robin set up shop next to an outdoor lighting fixture.  I can’t wait until her babies are born and hopefully get a good photo.

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Guitar Anti-Hero

In my sudden burst of creativity that I have chronicled, I realized today that there is a part of my creative persona that I have been neglecting.  Long before I ever even dreamed of trying my hand at visual arts, I was always involved in music.  I think that I was about 7 or 8 when my parents enrolled me in piano lessons.  I hated it.  Or at least I thought that I did.  It turns out that the years that I spent haplessly plunking away at the piano gave me a solid back ground in music theory.  When it was time to pick out band instruments, I chose the trombone.  Now this I loved.  I can modestly say that I was pretty decent at playing the trombone.  Furthermore, whatever I lacked in talent I was more than willing to make up for in volume.  It was around this time that I realized that my musical tastes were often dictated by the instrument that I was playing.  Piano playing (for me) was limited to classical or similar sounding pieces.  The trombone became an instrument of jazz, baby.  Even if I wasn’t the greatest, I learned to improvise a little with my trombone.  Tell me, is there anything better than a grimy, growling portamento as only a trombone player can play? It was during high school that I realized that my most versatile instrument was my voice.  Singing became, and has remained, such a pleasure. 

After I became an adult, I wanted some kind of instrument that would allow me to accompany myself singing.  I think it was maybe our second Christmas that Lovely Wife bought me my favorite gift that I have ever received:

A thing of beauty, not only in looks but in sound.  I have never taken a lesson, but I have constantly tinkered.  Depending on my mood, or how it is sounding for me on a particular day, I vacillate between using a pick, strumming with my fingers, using my thumb for an alternating bass line, or finger picking.  Mostly I just strum easy chords that allow me to sing along without thinking too much.  It is amazing to me how much a simple accompaniment can add to the overall sound.

I routinely play country and folk songs.  I do like to tinker around with more “electric” sounding songs, usually making them slow to mid tempo and giving them a whole different sound. 

Invariably, however, I will from long stretches of playing to equally long stretches of it hanging there on the wall, looking at me mournfully and silently calling out “play me!”  I am in the midst of one of those latter periods.  I can’t say why.  I have always wanted to write a song, and with my current creative output it would seem like now would be the time to do so.  Then I think (or perhaps depression thinks for me) that while I am pretty good at stringing some interesting chord progressions together, I seem to have a mental block as a lyricist.  I have confidence in my writing, generally, but my ramblings have neither the brevity nor the poetry needed to make a decent song.  Playing can bring out a catharsis of sorts, so maybe I need to strap up and spend some time with my friend, even if it just playing the old favorites. 

FRIDAY FUN: Naming Suggestions

OK, I know I have at least a few readers out there.  I am giving you the opportunity to weigh in–I feel like my guitar should have a name, but as of yet it remains anonymous.  While I don’t think giving it a moniker will ever make me and it as talented as duos such as B.B. King and Lucille, Eric Clapton and Blackie, or Brian May and his Red Special, I almost feel as if I am depriving myself and it of something.  But I just can’t think of anything.  So, leave a comment on what you think a good name would be.  I tend to think that it is a “she”, but don’t feel constrained to that criteria.  If I have enough, I will take a few of my favorites and perhaps have a poll down the road.  Let’s hear some ideas!

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Filed under guitar, music

A Spike in Creativity

The last week or so I have experienced a huge surge in creativity, especially a desire to delve into the visual arts.  In the past my outlets have mostly included writing and music, with a recent interest in photography.  Perhaps it is the uptick in the success of my photographs that I am wanting to branch out.  Perhaps it is because I am in the process of redefining myself and therefore not letting me hold my creativity back.  Of course, maybe it’s the medication.  

So I found myself yesterday at the hobby store throwing a bunch of different things into my cart. 

The first project I tackled was the simplest, and perhaps the most rudimentary.  I made a necklace for Lovely Wife.  Although this didn’t amount to much more than picking out the materials and stringing them together, I am rather pleased with the results.   I know that Lovely Wife will appreciated it due to the effort (however small) that was put into it, but I hope the she finds it aesthetically pleasing as well.

The second project is a clock that I will place in the man cave.  I have always been fascinated with clocks and watches (which I plan on discussing in an upcoming post) This I am also not going to build from scratch–I bought a movement, and therefore I just have to do something with the face.  Because I am really unsure how I want the end project to appear, I may put this one off for a while until inspiration truly hits.  Right now I am envisioning somewhat of a minimalist approach, with only a few or no numbers.  It will be interesting and satisfying to see how it turns out.

The last will be the most challenging and exciting for me.  I bought three small canvases, some oil paint, and an assortment of brushes.  It is exciting because my brush will take me to places that my camera cannot go.  It also gives me the opportunity to be less literal.  Objects won’t have to necessarily behave the way that they do in real life, or have the correct proportions.  However clichéd, I think that my first painting will be a boat, perhaps leaving the stormy waters behind and drifting towards the sunrise.  I think that it perhaps sounds a little corny, but it captures my mood (or at least my aspiration), and I have always been fascinated by the water and the sea.  I sometimes think that I should have joined the Navy or the Coast Guard, but then again, if I had I wouldn’t have met Lovely Wife.  In any event, however the boat picture turns out, whether a clipper at full sail or a fisherman in a rowboat, this will be going up in the wall of the man cave as well.  The second painting that I would do will hang in out kitchen/dining area.  My wife has collected various wine and vineyard themed art works since we have lived in the house, and I like the idea that I could contribute to this as well.  So far no concept has jelled for the final canvas.

The idea of painting is challenging because I am a complete neophyte.  I do remember in 8th grade or so painting a small scene with a mountain and a river.  While I didn’t think it was a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, I remember getting a C on the project and being a little disappointed.  As long as I did the assignment as per the instructions, isn’t grading art a little subjective?  Maybe this is why I haven’t painted all this time.  In any case, I think that the rawness of my technique may be an asset to my vision rather than a liability.

WEDNESDAY FUN: Photo Favorites

Yesterday evening I was outside playing with the kiddos when I spotted this first sure sign of spring.  Nobody poses for photos better than Mother Nature.

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The Elusive Quest

For the past couple of years, I have tried and tried to succeed in an elusive quest.  There are two cardinals that hang around in our backyard, and I would like nothing better than to get a photograph of at least one of them.  Now, I will admit to not knowing much about the cardinals.  I don’t know if they actually live in our yard, or somewhere near.  I don’t know if they go someplace during the coldest months–it seems like that spend at least part of the winter here, but also seem to disappear for a couple of months.  I don’t even know if these are the same two cardinals every year.  But I do know one thing: they are quite beautiful.

But every time I try to get that photo, they flitter away.    Perhaps if I didn’t have to get so close. 

I got a happy visit from the FedEx man a couple of days ago.  He was here with my new camera.  Yesterday I also saw  one of my red-hued friends hopping around the bushes.  I ran back into the house to grab the camera, feeling optimistic that the better resolution and more powerful zoom would allow me to capture the image of my friend.   I saw him for a split second in the frame, and then he was gone.  I switched to the viewfinder so I could scan around a little easier.  Nothing.  I tried looking with my naked eye.  Nada.  Argh!

The other day Lovely wife looked up cardinals on the internet, and found that they are fond of sunflower seeds, and also that they like to bathe themselves.  The previous owners of our home did have a bird bath in the back yard, but I removed it when it started to crumble to pieces.  No doubt I will be setting one out this spring, along with a feeder full of tasty sunflower seeds.  In addition, I am going to buy a tripod for my camera.  I am confident that with these tools and a little patience I will succeed in my quest.

While ruminating on this today, I realized that the Epic Cardinal Photo Quest is allegorical to my fight with depression.  Every time I seem to have a more permanent happiness within my sight, it flits away, just beyond my reach.  I have become frustrated, and yet I am hopeful and patient.  Recently I have added tools new and old to help me kick the depression.  Medication.  Counseling.  Exercise.  A creative outlet.  I am confident that with these tools and a little patience I will succeed in my quest.

I will get a great picture of a cardinal.

I will be happy again.

LATE FRIDAY/EARLY SATURDAY FUN: Fruit & Veggie Challenge

Today Lovely Wife and I were picking up a couple of things for supper at the grocery store before we picked up the kiddos.  Lovely Wife noticed that Mangoes were on sale and asked if we should get one.  Now, Lovely Wife and I are quite familiar with and fond of Mangoes, but to my knowledge Little Guy and Baby Girl had never tried any.

I have to report that the Mango was a rousing success.  In particular our usually picky Little Guy gobbled up his pieces and asked for more.  He kept asking what it was.  “A Mango,” I would say.

“Mingoes!” he would reply.  We’ll work on that.

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An old fashioned blog tool

Part of the reason that I decided to blog about my journey through depression is that it would serve as a way of expressing the creative side of my personality.  The only problem is that it seems like the good ideas come at the most inopportune times.  I can’t tell you how many times a twist of phrase, or an idea for a photo, or a song melody has popped into my head in the middle of the work day, or while I’m lying in bed or even sitting in the “oval office”.

I needed to get out of the house yesterday, so I made my way to the local Barnes and Noble.  There I found the perfect tool:  a pocket-sized journal.

Remember Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade?  Indy and his dad were looking for the Holy Grail.  When I watch that movie, I can’t help but think that although the Grail served as a good McGuffin, it wasn’t the most interesting treasure of the movie.  Sure, it would be a find of enormous historical and religious significance.  But if you did find it, who would really believe you?  No, the coolest (albeit fictional) artifact of the movie was Henry Jones Sr’s Grail Diary.  Here was a journal of history, legend, faith, art, and adventure. 

So when I saw the little pocket-sized journal at B&N, I couldn’t resist.  It was manufactured by ecosystem out of recycled materials.  While I can’t say that I am a true environmentalist, I do try my best to at least honor the idea of conservationism.  Ecosystem also puts a serial number in the back of their journals, which serves a cool double purpose: you can enter it in on their website to learn the origin of your humble tome, and also register it for lost and found. 

I hope to be able to use mine for drawings, musings, blog ideas, and notes on photos that I have taken.  Hopefully it will help my creativity as much as I think it will.

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MONDAY FUN: The World According to Little Guy

We generally have the radio on in the car while we are driving.  I tend to listen to either country or the local blues/oldies station, while Lovely Wife favors the local Christian music station.  The other day I was driving the kids to meet Lovely Wife somewhere.  The radio was off and both of the kiddos were pretty cranky.  I asked them if they wanted to listen to some tunes, to which Little Guy emphatically answered “Yeah!”.  So I turned on the radio.  He listened for a few seconds before saying, “No, Daddy!  I want the Jesus one!”

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