Friday, February 24, 2012

Art as Therapy

Hello friends and readers.  Just a quick post to tell you that in attempting to fill my mind with things other than my miseries, I started a new blog this week.  Go to a Museum and Call Me in the Morning.  The title borrows the old doctor's cliche and was inspired by my recent first visit to my therapist in five or more years.  While she doesn't prescribe anything except self-awareness, I prescribed for myself a visit to The Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, after my session with her. It helped and it inspired.

I have so, so many photographs I've taken at various museums and galleries, both locally and abroad (though they are much stricter in Europe), I thought it would be a good thing to revisit those experiences by placing whatever photographs I've been able to garner and perhaps also find images on online of the works I was not allowed to photograph in London, Switzerland, Spain and Netherlands. And hopefully one day Paris, Italy and...who knows...

A huge, loving thanks to those friends and readers who left such kind and generous comments on my blog birthday/depression post. It really did help to write it, though in the re-reading, combining those two things, as Linda mentioned, was quite a juxtaposition!  It almost seems a bit bipolar, which classically I am not but as anyone who has experienced mood swings is aware, those highs and lows can, at times, appear very close to one-another in times like these.  I am making a strong effort to try to find joy and peace in moments, instead of wishing to feel it all of the time.

I leave you with a photograph I took on Wednesday of one of my favorite paintings at Smith.

Photograph by Gina Duarte


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fourth Blog Birthday, Depression and More

I almost let this fourth birthday of The Pagan Sphinx blog go by without acknowledgement. I don't know where my head is these days! Quite literally, in fact. More on that later.

I just went through and cleaned out some hundreds of spam comments manually, as I don't know of any other way to do it. Those were left on the blog before I began the pre-approval of comments. I've recently dealt with another jag of them. Though this time I screened them out, it was a bit of a bitch and I may begin to have to employ comment verification as well. I hope you will forgive the inconvenience. It's those Friday evening nudes that attract the most attention from the pornographers, so as long as I'm posting those, I can probably be guaranteed at least occasional spam.

While doing this housecleaning, I realized that it was four years ago around this time that I started this blog; during a February recess from school and with trepidation of what I might be getting myself into. The only thing I knew about blogging is that my ex-husband and good friend The Cunning Runt had a blog on which he was publishing not only his wonderful photographs but also some excellent political commentary. I began to read it and thought what a rewarding idea it might be to share my passion for art and a few formative topics with the blogging world.

My first post was nothing. Just a sort of meek shout out and included a photograph of the view of the river from my front yard. The first person to comment was a lady who then went by the name of DCup and has since grown into her own as a very creative and even more popular blogger - Lisa of That's Why and Politits. Thanks, Lisa for that first comment. Without it I would have probably retreated from blogging, immediately calling it unsuccessful.

 For me, sharing anything with a wide audience causes a bit of panic and any excuse not to do so is always a handy reason  not to. That isn't to say I completely eschew getting personal. I sometimes do but for the most part I do it through comments where it is hoped that it'll sneak by without too much attention. Overall, though, I'd say I'm a fairly private person. I think this is because I am an introvert and one of our characteristics is that we love people but...only a select few at one time. :-)

So here I am, still. I have received (I'm not sure if that includes the spam or not) 9,300 comments and I just noticed that my 200th follower just joined (though I'm not always sure if most of them ever come back!) I like those nice, round numbers. I still love blogging, mostly for the people I've met both literally and virtually. My passion and labor of love for The Pagan Sphinx has grown into a more mature relationship. The honeymoon phase lasted a lot longer than I ever expected it to but it has settled into a calmer place. It helps me to view it that way, as it was beginning to feel like the end of a relationship. I'm very grateful and happy that I didn't give up on it so easily.

Perhaps this next topic should be a separate post but since I don't often have the guts to sit down and actually write anything, I think I should continue just in case the temptation to quit because it's hard gets the better of me. It is private and difficult for me to write about this but I have to in spite of myself, as depression needs to be talked about more openly and I am seeing inroads in that direction socially. I want to be a part of that direction. I've not kept my depression a secret but I haven't exactly written about it openly either. Mostly because this blog was never meant to be this personal. I am usually reticent to get into personal issues that people may either shy away from or feel pressure to respond to. Then there are my own feelings of vulnerability when I do share openly about my life to a wide audience.

Since childhood, I have a type of depression that is referred to as dysthymia.  I know first-hand how it runs in families as I grew up with a father who struggled with it. I believe my brother does, though he has never discussed it with me. Luckily, I don't have another (or co-morbid) condition like anxiety and substance abuse and neither do any of the people in my family who have this type of depression. Medications often do not work as well for dysthymia as they do for major depression. It also may take longer after starting medication for you to feel better. I know about this first-hand as well.

What is most difficult about dysthymia is that on top of this already low mood, major depressive disorder can set in and it has with me, on at least two other occasions in my life. Once in the 80's and once in the 90's. I'm afraid that I believe to either be in a particularly bad phase of dysthymic depression or perhaps even on the verge of a major depressive episode. I have never been so bad as to be hospitalized but the problems that a major depressive episode cause me are fairly far reaching - work, relationships, lethargy, boredom, crying jags, loss of sleep and even a drop in appetite.  The later I haven't seen for some time now, being in a phase of less than ideal weight since my mid-40's. But it used to be that I could shed twenty pounds ( 9 or so kg) in a month's time when I was in the throes of depression.Very unhealthy, wouldn't you agree? The only good thing about it  is that I secretly liked being thin and so did, not so secretly, my ex. (CR - if you read this, I don't mean that in a nasty way and it could very well have been my perception more than anything you actually ever said or did to make me feel that way. Please believe that.)

So here I am. I've been avoiding telling my family so as not to worry them. I'm still undecided as to if I should. My brother might serve me my head on a platter for burdening my mother with it, as he believes with absolute faith that she cannot handle it. I don't think I agree with him but just in case he's right, I'm not telling my mother. I usually link these posts to facebook and that's either not happening or will be posted to a selected audience.

I have been avoiding believing I'm really depressed again for over a year now. It's hard to admit once again feeling defeated by this illness. Therapy is a very gut-wrenching, emotionally and psychically exhausting process. But I finally did it. I made an appointment with my former therapist. It took me a long time to find her five years back, so when I called today, I was relieved that she was still in the area and had a slot available for me. The process I went through to find her, if I were to go into detail, would boggle your mind. There are so many unhappy, over-worked, incompetent therapists of various stripes, at least here in the U.S. Some I would even say could be damaging. I went through therapists like one goes through socks. I finally tried weeding them out by credentials and went for what was suggested to me by people I know in the field of mental health - start only with those therapists who have a ph.d in psychology. Some with clinical masters of social work are also very good. Bingo, it took only one other therapist before her, who seemed very capable but I detected a bad fit, before I found Dr. S.  She is a gifted therapist, kind and warm without sacrifice to boundaries and she has a beautiful office in downtown Northampton, Mass. where after a session I can either hole up in my favorite cafe and ruminate on my session or even walk up the road to Smith College's art museum and hang with the art. Perhaps near a Munch.  :-)

The piece of my treatment I am dreading the most is probably needing to see a psychiatrist for a medication re-evaluation, as my doctor won't up my current dose, saying it's already "hefty" enough and I may need to try another medication. Oh, joy.

I have had many dealings with various shrinks, too. My experiences have largely been negative. Here in the states, unless you are wealthy, there is no such thing an a psychiatrist who is also an analyst. Mostly, they prescribe medication; often one on top of another, on top of another. They are alchemists of sorts. I can think of five right off the top of my head (some were my daughter's doctors) who all shared similar characteristics:  cold detachment, indifference and let's hurry up and figure out how to set you right, with what pills and don't you dare come in here and try to be part of your own treatment plan. I'm going in with the mindset that I don't have to tell this person anything about myself other than what I've been diagnosed with and what the symptoms are.

Many things are wrong in life right now - work is not going well and I am having significant relationship issues. No outward drama, which is not my style nor his. But these issues are taking their toll on us both and we need to figure something out. What that will be, I'm not sure yet.  As for work, my concentration is off and it's been noticed. Lots to deal with right now.

Thanks for reading. Okay. I'm hitting the publish button now...

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