Easing Anxiety & Fear With Art Therapy

At the end of 2011, when my watchwords (creativity, honesty & soulful purpose) for 2012 appeared, I had no idea just how much they’d become companions for my journey through Cancerville.

Even though Fall has officially begun, I want to talk about how I spent my summer, and how creativity has shown up as part of my journey to wellness.

Most of the other people I’ve met in Cancerville have a challenging time with the notion of giving grace in the face of this difficult diagnosis; referring to cancer as a beast which conjures up ideas of noble fights and merciless warriors focused on destruction of the enemy. Destruction, enemies, fighting… do not feel or sound like Love to me, but fear.

Fear is a companion we meet on any journey in life and it isn’t going anywhere. I’ve learned, fearlessness isn’t about a state or condition where no fear exists. That’s called grace. Part of healing, for me, has been about understanding and accepting with grace, my diagnosis and the fear about it. A state of grace allows me to accept and see the gifts that come with this journey.

The wisest of warriors understand fearlessness is really about how we show up in the face of our adversity. How present we remain when fear gets up in our face. Remaining present is a condition we cultivate from within, and is not based on certain external conditions being met or the absence of them.

This summer, I completed six rounds of chemotherapy. Every two weeks for 12 weeks, I went in, got hooked up and sat and watched as Adriamycin & Cytoxin (AC for short in Cancerville) was pushed into my veins. One of the reasons I believe I was able to handle chemotherapy with mild to very little side affects was because of what I told myself about what was happening to me. I told my story about it, and refused to listen to or chime in with others who wanted to compare long lists of complaints. I couldn’t focus on those things if I expected to heal with the help of chemotherapy.

What I did do though, when fear arrived (because it did and continues to visit regularly whispering to me stories about poison, toxicity and long-term side affects) was a lot of art.

What do you think about when you create art? Do you remember art class in school? It was one of my favorite times because I knew I could relax. Turn my brain off; at least a portion of it. And since fear is so good at serving up endless scenarios as possibilities for my future, encouraging me to size up exactly what I’m up against, art has been the perfect therapy to bring me back to the present moment and help me focus and stay there.

One of my favorite art projects this summer has been transferring Instagram photos to wood (specifics about how to do it yourself can be found in this post). Transferring Instagram photos to wood requires time, which is what I got a lot of these days. Rolling wet paper—that’s been glued down onto one inch thick 6 x 6 inch pieces of wood—into little balls takes a lot of patience. And when I’m working with it, I can’t really think about anything else. Not cancer, not chemo, not my upcoming bi-lateral mastectomy. Just whether or not I’m being gentle enough with the soaked paper so I don’t remove the ink that’s been transferred to the wood.

I also purchased a coloring book made specifically for women that encourages creative expression and giving you a voice to all the parts of the healing journey. Called She Dances Between the Worlds, this 90-page journal provides illustrations by artist Shiloh Sophia McCloud as well as blank pages that will support pencils, watercolor, markers or acrylic paint. The artist also includes her own inspirational thoughts about being a creative woman like “Yes, it is her we are after here — yes, the outrageous one within you!!!” and quotes from other brave, creative feminine voices.

Yes, it is her we are after here — yes, the outrageous one within you!!! ~ Shiloh Sophia McCloud

At a recent breast cancer support group meeting where Art Therapy was the evening’s topic, we were encouraged to write a word down and use any kind of medium provided in the class to expand and express ourselves. I started to write the word “whole,” then chickened out for a second and with only the “w” drawn thought about changing it to “well.” Since surgery was on my mind, I decided to honor myself and my fear about the transformation my physical body will undergo next month. I recognize that I’m in the process of discovering greater wholeness. Even though surgery looms, for the first time in my life I’m really listening to my inner teacher, trusting her voice and what she wants me to acknowledge and understand.

And very soon, I plan on doing something with the plaster bust I created during Keep-A-Breast’s Treasured Chest event.

All summer long, I’ve focused on creativity, as a way to help myself heal and to keep my mind focused on affirming life & it’s pleasures; slowing down my endless mind chatter that is filled with anxiousness, worry & fear.

Art therapy is teaching me how to remain present with uncertainty. I’m practicing trusting myself and this journey through Cancerville, believing there are no mistakes & I can’t do any part of this wrong. Which is the same advice every good art teacher gives to her students.

When was the last time you picked up coloring pencils or magic markers? Or sat and colored with your children? It’s a wonderful way to come back to the moment and practice being gentle with your self when the tides of fear rise up and feel overwhelming.

Facing breast cancer or other chronic illness and looking for some relief from the anxiety it brings? If you’re interested in shifting some of your own personal stories about health & wellness, this optimystical way I see things—is my gift, my superpower—that I’d love to share with you. If you feel you’d benefit by it, visit my coaching page for more info.
Advertisements

Music That Saves Me

My music playlist for the bi-weekly trips to chemotheraphy. I have a category just for music on my blog because that’s how much I love it. And it does save me every time.

A song can be timely even when it’s not popular. I love artists with rich lyrical content. I love music that helps me say what I need to say or have been unable to say until I hear the song.

Many of these songs are about rallying my own personal troops of positivity. I imagine all the people in my life who love me and are routing for me stomping their feet to Gwen Stefani’s Holla Back Girl when she sings “fire it up!”

Music Saves Me. So does art & creativity, writing. And saying, “I love you” as often as possible.

 

Ready to talk about how to feel empowered to survive & thrive on your cancer journey? If you’re interested in shifting some of your own personal stories around health & wellness, this optimystical way I see things is my gift—my superpower—that I’d love to share with you. If you feel you’d benefit by it, visit my coaching page for more info.

 

What Story Are You Stuck To?

“So how’s chemo going?” she asked. “How are you feeling?” I told her the truth. My truth. We all have one. They are the stories we live.

From the start, it was easy to see that around 90% of the people going to this support group are telling themselves all the same story.

It’s comprised of elements of what’s reflected to them from an external world. A world that says, “This is truth.”

The world’s story about [breast] cancer goes like this…

[ intentionally left blank so you can just be with your own thoughts and watch them race by like Malibu Grand Prix drivers in the finishing straight away bearing down on the checkered black & white flag. ]

Thank god the world’s story is not my story.

When I was pregnant with my now 18-year old daughter, I felt like it was a required initiation ritual or something, to listen to each and every other woman who had ever had a child, tell her story about it.

Each personal story filled with… well you know, horror! And terrifying “OMGs!”

Secretly I consoled myself, “Women have done this forever Mynde. It’s built into my nature.” And, always, most certainly, I would smile at each woman to honor whatever was true for her as I repeat in my head, “Not my story.”

This mantra has become my optimystical shield of sorts. Protecting a private sanctuary within. The place inside myself where I tell different stories about my life, about cancer. In fact, I’m not even focused on the cancer as much as I’m focused on where I’m going. Toward wellness. 

My truth about chemo was startling to hear. For the other women gathered around, it made them stop and look at me, clearly seeking more information. More clarity. Maybe even questioning what they heard me say…

“Was she kidding?”

“Is she in denial?”

“Is she for real?”

My truth. My reality. My story… are very different from the world’s. From the story they know. Different even from their personal journeys, if we had sat down and compared notes (which is something I refuse to do because it doesn’t support me and my wellness).

“I am wonderful. I feel really good. Thank you for asking!”

I looked directly into a woman’s face I had never seen before. Two of the other women sitting between us I met at last month’s meeting. All three of them were staring at me like I had four henna-crowned bald heads instead of just one. 😉

I let the silence linger as I stared into a pair of sparkling blue eyes peering out at me over the top of her reading glasses. Three chairs away. She’s probably 10 years older than I am. Beautiful, looks physically fit. Her boobs looks nice from what I can see.

“Hi!” I finally say out loud to her, breaking the awkward stillness of everyone’s gazing curiosity.

To tell a new story in our today, in this now moment. Is Power. To realize in your next now moment, the kind of story you’re telling and, if it suits you better, changing it. Is Magic.

Imagination is our super power.

And our imagination, or the stories we tell ourselves, about the way it is and the way that it goes, have power. I talk more about the power of storytelling on my About page.

My truth about chemotherapy is that I am wonderful. There are things I could focus on that would look like a list of complaints but I refuse to go there.

“Wow, you really are so positive” says the first woman who asked the original question.

What are the alternatives? None of them I see so far are better than choosing to be positive. To be optimystical. I choose to see it no other way. It’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Is there a story you’re stuck to? Are you camping out somewhere, instead of keeping your eyes on where you’d like to be going? If you’re interested in shifting some of your own personal stories, I am taking it super easy and this optimystical way I see things—is my gift, my superpower—that I’d love to share with you. If you feel you’d benefit by it, visit my coaching page for more info. 

Through The Looking Glass

Inspired by Havi Brooks, I’m gonna do a Friday Chicken. I might even ask her if she’s still using her turquoise wig, well because, it’s cute & I’m gonna be bald here real quick-like.

Anywhoodles… this is an update from Cancerville. Ya ready for cancer my way?

Sunday was Father’s day. I sailed in Long Beach with my dad. What can I say? Bliss. And just the way I thought a girl should spend the day before her first round of chemotherapy.

Monday, I met Shirley who put my “help is on the way” reframe I recently found on an Abraham video into action by squirting me full of magic healing potions. You see, I’m a big bonnet-movie girl. I love Elizabeth and all those movies about the past… and the regalia of charging horses into battle (just saw Snow White at the movies, yeah baby!) Except my men will ride up to cancer and kindly ask it to align with wellness and, if not—well, you know the fairy tales endings 😉

I also decided that my chemo mascot is a guinea pig in Florida named Bobo, who had emergency 5-hour surgery to remove a tooth that had grown over his tongue so he could no longer eat! Bobo is owned & cared for by the mother of the woman I live with. And she is a breast cancer survivor. I’m on the look out for a stuffed animal guinea pig to take to future chemo sessions.

Bobo came today! #gifts #love #support #mascots #guineapig #hugmycancer 

Tuesday I visited oncology to receive a shot of Neulasta which will boost my white blood cells. Joanne is the funniest gosh dern oncology nurse on the planet. I am so crushing on how she brings me the grace in belly fulls.

Wednesday was a big day; two tests. Echo cardiogram of my heart was no big deal. I met Renee. She was pretty. And put stickers on me. But not the fun kid-kind, which we were both pretty perturbed about. “Why no Scoobie Doo for me? Where does it go when we grow up?” we both wondered together outloud.

Later, at test number two, I met Alice. She was available for eye contact and human touch as I lay on my belly and was raised up with my right boob dangling down through a hole on a table. They lassoed my breast, took x-rays to position the needle and then biopsied away. My doctors want to confirm there is no cancer here.

Thursday was hangover day. Can’t really explain it except like that. Disorientation with space & time, no matter how many naps. Lots of resting. I speak to woman about her website via Skype (she’s taking Marie Forleo’s B-School) and she has no idea I have cancer. Until I say so. Weeeeeee. Uh, yeah, please read my blog, okay? Love you!

Friday’s on my blog have usually been held open for Music Saves Me (because it does). My battle cry song as I ride down the freeway in my red superhero underwear (thank you Kris Carr for this amazing tip) is Payphone by Maroon 5. Every single time I head out for an appointment, these two things make me feel rock solid.

On a side note, we are San Francisco bound for Pride this weekend. Before all my hair falls out. I’m planning on getting a henna crown tattoo when it does by one the wonderful folks at hennaheals.com.

If you’d like to follow along with me, you can find me on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook! My shoebox of memories are being gathered up in a Flickr set called HUG MY CANCER. Remember, you can hug my cancer whenever you want. Get creative! Every tiny bit counts. ❤

Ready to talk about how to feel empowered to survive & thrive on your cancer journey? If you’re interested in shifting some of your own personal stories around health & wellness, this optimystical way I see things is my gift—my superpower—that I’d love to share with you. If you feel you’d benefit by it, visit my coaching page for more info.