Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Let's Get Real--- Depression Sucks

There's no sense in trying to sugarcoat this, so I'll just be out with it.
Hannah and I have an issue with depression.

I have grappled with depression as far back as I can remember, even as a young child. It was/is a family of origin problem.
It has kept me from important decisions, from direction in life, from being the kind of mother that I always meant to be. It has often destroyed my quality of life, and I'm sure made those close to me miserable.

I have tried a variety of medications since early adulthood.
I've never liked the disconnected fog I felt (or the weight gain!), and nowadays I avoid most medications and look for more natural alternatives. I really did not want to put my kid on medication.

My whole business model is based on the notion that creativity heals....body, mind and spirit. Art Saves.
No doubt that's why I'm still here.

Imagine my realizing my child not only LOOKS identical to me; 
she struggles with the same issues... 
the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, the often inescapable darkness.
Now imagine the feeling that I couldn't help her with her struggle.
Nothing I'd done for myself, or for other people in my work was helping her.

I was watching her sink deeper and deeper, the stresses of her senior year adding more pain. 
It was so difficult watching her, not enjoying those once in a lifetime moments of her last year of high school.

Earlier this year, she sank low enough to become suicidal.
I had to act, and fast.

Fortunately we were able to find a therapist that she truly respects and even enjoys.
Her closest friends, and a kind teacher who goes far above and beyond, have been loving and supportive.

That therapist gently suggested a trial of medication. I relented, wanting so desperately to see my child better.
I can honestly say that I've (and I think I can say WE've) been pleasantly surprised, especially after finding the right dose for her.
It is so wonderful to have my child back! I am loving seeing her participate in life now!

A few months back, still in the throes of that darkness, we made an amazing discovery.
Well....not amazing to me, because.....ART SAVES, after all, and creativity heals, right? It's what I preach!

I had been "doodling" for a while, finding that it helps to calm my brain and focus better, taking my mind off what's going on in my life, and in the world.
I understand that many create mandalas for the same reason, as a meditation even. I never enjoyed mandalas, because symmetry is just not my thing and I would just become frustrated.
I found though, that when I let go and just DO IT, I can create quite lovely designs. Not perfect designs, but lovely all the same.

One day I doodled a huge black/white border on a poster-sized piece of foamboard, intending it for use as a vision board.
When Hannah saw it, she insisted I allow her to color it in with markers.
I couldn't say no.

It obviously brought her a great deal of pleasure.
Well, of course I couldn't use it as a background now, could I?
She demanded that I fill in the center with more and allow her to color it as well. 

Again, I saw some joy in her... some focus (other than television), some sense of purpose.
our original poster, flaws and all
 She begged for more designs. I obliged. I bought her better markers.
Soon I was designing every day, and she was coloring the designs as fast as I could finish them.
I can't even keep up with her insatiable desire to color!
 She says she loves that this is something we do together, something for just the two of us.
In fact, it's so meaningful to her, she's decided she wants one of her favorite mandalas tattooed on her body!
It has been so delightful watching her not only coming back to the land of the living, but blossoming.

Naturally I have scanned all the black and white designs before allowing her to color them in, and I've scanned all of the finished products.
We now call our designs Zen Rainbow, because all this outrageous color has brought us such peace.

Very soon, we will make a big announcement, because we want to give back.
 But for now, I will be scheduling some Zen Rainbow "color therapy" time at the studio.
Anyone is welcome to come and color with me, but there will be a special rate for mother/daughter pairs.
Stay tuned here for our exciting announcement!


Monday, February 16, 2015

Honest. Raw. In Other Words, REAL. And Unapologetic.

I thought I was ready when I began The Chrysalis Project.

Little did I know that there was more of a process for me, that it had so much more to teach me before I'd be prepared to share it with the world. 

With all the social media hype bringing more awareness to "real women" (oh I'll come back to that one momentarily for sure), my mind kept calling to me "come on Jenny, it's time! The world is ready; jump on the bandwagon!"

Something in me kept saying no....most likely my ol' pal FEAR.
"Things have changed", I'd say to myself. "I'm single now. My body has changed over the last few years. My old life has burned down to the ground. How do I explain that I wasn't ready? That I was afraid?"

For the last few days, my Spirit has been nudging me to do this... you know that racing heartbeat and quivering gut response.... The nudging has become more of a push, and the quiver has made me nauseated. This has become a or die. Now's the time.

Briefly, I wanted to do something significant for my 50th birthday. 

At first I thought I'd do something wild and crazy like have my friends paint my body a la Chris Zydel. 

That's when I began to realize the issues I had with my own body.

I needed something more intimate. I needed to get to know my own body and recognize its beauty.

Since I was a child, I'd been shamed and told I was fat and unattractive. A few years ago, I discovered some photos of myself from my teen and young adult years. I was shocked to see that I wasn't just NOT fat, but I was pretty as well!
During my Chrysalis shoot, rage came up for me, along with tears, when I realized how much had been stolen from me in my earlier years. 

It was difficult to look at my photos alone, without anyone there to do any coaching, but as I sorted through them, I slowly began realizing that I was beautiful just the way I was--- overweight, body altered by bearing and nursing 5 babies and ravaged by years of chronic illness. 

Let me tell you something--- 
We are ALL beautiful.
There is no such thing as "normal". The term "real women" sticks in my craw a bit as well. All of us are REAL women, Ladies. ALL of us.
Perhaps what is meant by "real" is HONEST. 
RAW even.
In my photos, you will find an honesty and a raw-ness that you may find uncomfortable. You might even be offended. That's ok. That's your issue.

A lot has changed since this photo shoot at 50.
Am I comfortable in my own skin?
I can't say that I am completely....yet....
Certainly more so than I was before this process. 
And even more so now at 53.
This shoot changed the way I viewed myself completely. 
I'm ok.

And yet, this still requires an enormous amount of courage, sharing my photos with the world.
My desire to help other women see their beauty has grown larger than my fear. 

For more information on what the Chrysalis Project entails, and how it came about, please visit my Chrysalis page.