Career Anxiety in Uncertain Times: Creatives Offer Own Suggestions

We’ve all been through it and we’ll all go through it again. Currently, with this COVID-19 virus mess infiltrating the globe, we’re experiencing things that most of us have never felt or been a part of before. Each one of us is having to learn new ways of living, working and experiencing life.

Anxiety is running pretty high, as is stress and uncertainty. This post highlights what a few people from various creative fields try and do to make the most of our circumstances. Granted, it’s a fairly lengthy piece but the feedback and perspectives yielded by these fellow practitioners are worth the read (no brag, just my opinion).

These insights from writers, photographers, designers, and illustrators — on what they’ve learned about feeling stuck, the comparison trap, and trusting yourself in times of uncertainty — are especially even more pertinent now.

1. Learn to differentiate between feeling and fact.

“I think we all have feelings of inadequacy and it’s both normal and necessary to self-assess our skills and knowledge,” explains Stockholm-based illustrator and print designer Adriana Bellet. “The tricky part is to be able to differentiate when it’s just a projection of our insecurities and when it’s actually a fair warning for us to brush up on our knowledge and keep ourselves up-to-date by developing a new skill.”

For Cape Town-based writer, speaker, and coach Pierre Du Plessis, it helps to distinguish between what is feeling and what is fact. “Simply because I’m feeling stuck, uncertain, or like a failure does not mean it is necessarily true. It helps me to take a step back, look objectively at the situation, my own talents, and listen to the voices of those who support me to get past these emotions.”

2. Life happens while we’re busy making other plans.

While New York City-based illustrator Thoka Maer has never had a grand plan, but nothing was purely down to chance for her either. “For the most part, I trust my intuition, frequently ask ‘why not’ and also put in a truckload of work.”

woman wearing pink top

Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

This trifecta — trusting yourself, calling on curiosity, and doing the work — can lead to career-defining moments. “In 2012, my Tumblr with original GIFs suddenly blew up. That was unexpected momentum that slingshot me into some good opportunities,” adds Thoka.

Even our best laid plans can feel like they were penned by a stranger after some months or years pass. This rings true for Elif.

We are dynamic, ever-changing beings. And just like ourselves, our environment, culture, and the technology we have to respond to are constantly changing too. Being fit enough to respond to those is a relevant skill for this century.” — Elif Gürbüz

Such an attitude can lead us to entirely new professions. For Johannesburg -based sketchnoter Roy Blumenthal, a new career came from an unexpected tap on the shoulder. “I was at a conference, doodling my observations in my notebook,” he recalls. “At the end of the event, someone sitting nearby asked if I was a visual facilitator. I wasn’t. I was an advertising copywriter, filmmaker, and industrial theatre creator, but we exchanged business cards. After some practice, I reached out and she hired me for my first paid gig as a sketchnoter.”

3. Careers are about direction, not speed.

Pierre has experienced how leaning into a specific direction can help us spot new opportunities. “There is something to commitment and being clear on what you want that allows the rest to manifest,” he points out. “If you don’t know where you are going, every road will get you there. Better it is you who chooses the destination and then make adjustments on your route as you go.”

Continue reading

Creative People Living with Emotional Health Challenges

I have anxiety. And depression. I’m on medication as are a lot of other folks, all for different reasons. COVID-19 has us all self-quarantined whether we want to be or not. That’s traumatic in and of itself, with and without the kids in the house.

Having just lost my wife to cancer about a month ago, I’m living alone. There are times I deal with it alright while other times I struggle. Other times, I just simply “lose it.” Part of my therapy is to do what I’m doing now, maintain my writing with these blogs on subjects not only applicable and interesting to me, but also to others.

This post is one of them. I’m traveling on a journey whose destination is unknown to me. I can’t even think about calm seas when I’m constantly being battered by rough seas. The meds help, particularly Duloxetine. My emotional peaks and valleys run more evenly and for that I’m grateful.

Perhaps some of you can relate to this as well as to some of the quotes below. I hope this helps put you on a more even-keeled journey. If you’re of the creative bent, your emotions, like mine, can be both your worst and best friend.

Being a creative person, with high sensitivity and intensity, can increase our vulnerability to emotional challenges like anxiety.

Actor Amanda Seyfried experiences emotional and mental health issues, like almost I in 5 people each year in the U.S. In a magazine interview, she commented about her experiences and using an antidepressant medication used to treat anxiety:

Amanda-Seyfried-Allure-768x456“I’m on Lexapro, and I’ll never get off of it. I’ve been on it since I was 19, so 11 years. I’m on the lowest dose. I don’t see the point of getting off of it. Whether it’s placebo or not, I don’t want to risk it. And what are you fighting against? Just the stigma of using a tool?

A mental illness is a thing that people cast in a different category [from other illnesses], but I don’t think it is.

“It should be taken as seriously as anything else. You don’t see the mental illness: It’s not a mass; it’s not a cyst. But it’s there. Why do you need to prove it? If you can treat it, you treat it. As I get older, the compulsive thoughts and fears have diminished a lot. Knowing that a lot of my fears are not reality-based really helps.”*

Many creative people are born with the personality trait of high sensitivity, which can help nurture creativity, but also lead to vulnerabilities to stress, anxiety, overwhelm, unhealthy self esteem and other challenges.

Psychologist Elaine Aron thinks “high sensitivity increases the impact of all emotionally tinged events, making childhood trauma particularly scarring.” Elaine-Aron-The-Undervalued-Self-video-300x170

In her book The Highly Sensitive Child, Dr. Aron notes that some sensitive adolescents may drink and use drugs to try to overcome anxiety or depression through self-medication. From article Sensitive to anxiety. Continue reading

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL): What Are My Treatment Options?

Have Leukemia? No Options? Listen Up . . .

FREE TELEPHONE/WEB EDUCATION PROGRAM

THURSDAY, MAY 21, 2020

1 :00 PM to 2 :30 PM Eastern Time
12 :00 PM to 1 :30 PM Central Time
11 :00 AM to 12 :30 PM Mountain Time
10 :00 AM to 11 :30 AM Pacific Time

SPEAKER
Dr.Jennifer Woyach

Dr.Jennifer Woyach
Associate Professor
Section Head, CLL and Hairy Cell Leukemia
Associate Division Director, Clinical Research
Division of Hematology
Department of Internal Medicine
The Ohio State University
Columbus, OH

 

Ask Dr. Jennifer Woyach a question during the Q&A Session!

WE INVITE YOU TO LEARN MORE ABOUT:
• Treatment options for CLL
• Side-effects management
• Ways to effectively communicate with your healthcare team about quality-of-life issues

 

To register by phone, call (855) 775-3850.

Register

 

Program Support

Support for this program is provided by Genentech & Biogen; Pharmacylics, An AbbVie Company & Janssen; and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

She’s Free.

Perhaps, somehow, the following words will bring support and strength for some of you reading this post. I hope so. We all go through traumatic times, of death, of separation, which can feel like death.  My wife’s been gone for three weeks now and the pain is raw. It’s all I can do to get through this posting. Too many emotions am I feeling, some stronger than others. Some days are productive while in others nothing gets done. I think of Pam every day and say Good Morning and Good Night all the time.

It seems as if these three weeks have sped along yet it doesn’t feel like it’s been three weeks since she’s been gone. It also feels as if time has stood still. Memories abound in my mind, some wonderful, others bittersweet. At times, I think she’s on a trip and will return shortly. Then I think if and when we reunite, it will be me taking the journey to meet up again with her.

I’m on a lonely road, destination unknown. Friends, family, acquaintances seem to be on the sidelines, trying to cheer me on. I do feel their love and caring and it does help me. Since I have no children, I’m the only one left here at home. However, Pam and I shared a small family of different stuffed animals. Two of which stand guard next to her remains (she was cremated), while the others stay with me in my study. Snoopy, however, goes where I go, except outside.

The reading below is what the funeral home left with me the night they came to retrieve Pam. I have never read anything like it, and I have yet to read through it without breaking down. It’s like a very lovely “last letter” Pam wrote to me just before she passed.

 

I’m free.

woman in white shirt standing on gray rock near body of water

Photo by Thiều Hoàng Phước on Pexels.com

Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free, I’m following the path God laid for me.

I took  his hand when I heard his call, I turned my back and left it all.

I could not stay another day, to laugh, to love, to work, to play.

Tasks left undone must stay that way, I’ve found that peace at the end of the day.

If my parting has left a void, then fill it with remembered joy.

A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss, Ah, yes, these things too I will miss.

Be not burdened with times of sorrow, I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.

My life’s been full, I savored much, Good friends, good times, a loved one’s touch.

Perhaps my time seemed all too brief, don’t lengthen it now with undue grief.

Lift up your heart and share with me, God wanted me now, He set me free.

 

Safe travels, Pam, I miss you and I love you.

Giving Tuesday NOW! C’mon Ya’ll!

I couldn’t let today go by without mentioning, let alone asking for your help and participation. Today is #GivingTuesdayNow Day, a global day of unity and giving. The two organizations below are worthy of your contributions. They both saved my life when I was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL). Because I’ve been involved in the advertising industry for years, I was eligible for help from the Dream Fund, and if it weren’t for the break-through research of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), the doctors at Houston Methodist wouldn’t have known what to prescribe.

In this time of uncertainty, there’s a fundamental truth that gives us hope – that together we can do extraordinary things. Over the past few weeks and months, we have seen many come together to help, give back and heal. Whether that is through donations to community organizations, celebrating doctors and nurses at shift changes or reaching out to a neighbor to help with groceries, generosity has been helping all of us get through this global pandemic. Together.

Giving TuesdayToday, DREAM Fund is participating in #GivingTuesdayNow, a global day of unity and giving. If you don’t already know, Dream Fund continues to provide immediate assistance to our colleagues in the advertising, marketing and media industry who are in crisis and in critical need of emotional and financial assistance.

But they can’t do this without you!

Not only do they need our support, they need our help to spread the word. Please tell your friends and family why you believe in their work and encourage them to support us too! It’s a strange time and certainly, we do not wish to add any financial stress to our biggest supporters, but we did not want to be absent on a day focused on giving back and supporting non-profits.

Follow Dream Fund on Facebook and Instagram and be watching social media today …forward, share and spread the word! DREAM Fund is part of a matching fund, so when you give, a portion of your donation will be matched.DreamFund

Join the movement today, May 5, 2020, and bookmark our donate link today.

 

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We also invite you to join us in participating in #GivingTuesdayNow, a global day of giving in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), a global leader in the fight against cancer, is providing more services and support to blood cancer patients who need help now more than ever. Our LLS Clinical Trial Nurse Navigators continue to help blood cancer patients find clinical trials, and our Information Specialists provide free, personalized one-on-one support to assist patients through cancer treatment and financial and social challenges.

Our recently introduced LLS COVID-19 Patient Financial Aid Program has already helped over 13,000 blood cancer patients by providing over $3.2 million of immediate, urgent financial assistance thanks to the generosity of LLS partners. While corporate funding is fueling this financial aid program, we need your support more than ever to help patients with education, information, financial assistance and more.LLS logo (red)

Together with your help, we can have an impact on the lives of blood cancer patients today.

DONATE

 

And THANK YOU very much!!

Is Creativity an unexpected side effect of Trauma? Part 2.

Many people experience a meaningful improvement in their psychological outlook on life after a traumatic or life-altering event. If we take the example of near-death experiences, some people say they have a far greater appreciation of life, more intense experiencing of daily life, almost as it they’ve gone from black and white to color, and a powerful sense of purpose following such an experience.

Another study by Dr Marie Forgeard investigated the idea that surges in creativity are linked to adverse life experiences. She used an online questionnaire where participants’ answers were used to measure post-traumatic growth, thinking about the event and growth of creativity.

She found that “… adversity-induced distress predicted self-reported creative growth and breadth, in a sample of online participants. Cognitive processing as well as domains of post-traumatic growth/depreciation—in particular, self-reported changes in interpersonal relationships and in the perception of new possibilities for one’s life—mediated the link between self-reported distress and creativity outcomes.”

There is even research and a hypothesis about the “orphanhood effect” which suggests that highly accomplished and talented people are more likely to have lost one or both parents at an early age. The orphanhood effect has been demonstrated in 32 famous mathematicians and seems to be particularly strong for writers (oh, terrific), with 55 percent of writers studied, fitting the hypothesis.

It seems that some people unknowingly strengthen their ability to think symbolically, as a way to cope with their traumatic experiences. Imagination and symbolism are important parts of creativity.

Many highly creative people often link their inspiration to the tragedies they endured in their lives. The famed artist, Frida Kahlo, survived polio and had the heart breaking experience of enduring multiple miscarriages. Yet, she is one of the great painters not only of her generation but even today. Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach was orphaned at 9 years of age, and in later life, 10 of his 20 children died. Continue reading

Healing your Creativity after Trauma. Part 1.

How Trauma Affects your Imagination

“Imagination is more important than knowledge,” so sayeth Albert Einstein. It can take us wherever we want to go. However, it can also take us off the beaten path to an area of our mind we’d rather not venture. Trauma can be our tour guide if we let it, and sometimes we have no choice.

I’m a student of creativity. Like many of you, I’m also a victim of trauma. Several times. Most recently was when my wife died. Coincidentally, I came upon this information about trauma during the time last week when my life went over the proverbial cliff.

It’s difficult writing about trauma when one is experiencing it. Maybe I’ll learn something, who knows. Maybe you’ll learn something, I hope. I continually look for articles that resonate with me so that I may share them with you, and add my take on the topic. This post is no different but it is troubling for me. There are times when my imagination works against me.

Bessel A. van der Kolk, of The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma fame, had this to say about imagination: “Imagination is absolutely critical to the quality of our lives. Our imagination enables us to leave our routine everyday existence by fantasizing about travel, food, sex, falling in love, or having the last word—all the things that make life interesting.

“Imagination gives us the opportunity to envision new possibilities—it is an essential launchpad for making our hopes come true. It fires our creativity, relieves our boredom, alleviates our pain, enhances our pleasure, and enriches our most intimate relationships.”

The imagination is deeply affected by trauma, and while trauma impacts everyone differently, interestingly it can be both positive and negative.

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.” – Carl Sagan

A young mind’s imagination can take a wondrous trek that makes going around the corner seem like traveling around the world.

Continue reading

What of Trauma? Can It Really Help Develop Creativity? Part 2.

Creativity: Unexpected Side Effect of Trauma/PTSD?

paintbrush on canvasWe know that certain functions of the body shut down when a person is faced with a threatening situation. This allows other parts to become more active. Larger sets of muscles receive more blood as heart rate increases, allowing for the well-documented “fight-or-flight” response. While the body tenses and readies to “respond,” some areas of the brain become less active. Hence, the ability to process emotional responses and store memories during a traumatic event can be impaired while pre-programmed survival mechanisms kick in.

POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS

For some, this will lead to a condition known as PTSD (posttraumatic stress). The intense emotions associated with an unintegrated traumatic memory can impair normal functioning in daily life for those experiencing PTSD. Read more here.

Not everyone experiencing a traumatic event will go on to develop PTSD. However, for those that do, PTSD is treatable. Eventually, there can actually be benefits that result from a well-integrated traumatic event. This is called posttraumatic growth.

POSTTRAUMATIC GROWTH

Many people experience a meaningful improvement in their psychological outlook on life after a traumatic or life-altering event. For example, after a near-death experience, some report a deeply felt sense of purpose not previously recognized.

It’s possible that in order to avoid re-experiencing a traumatic event (because memories of the event have not been properly stored), some people unknowingly strengthen their ability to think symbolically as a coping mechanism. Since we know that symbolic thinking is a cornerstone of the creative process, can an unexpected benefit of trauma be an increase in creativity?

SURGES IN CREATIVITY

There is compelling evidence that suggests surges in creativity could be linked to the experience of trauma. Dr. Marie Forgeard conducted an online study to investigate this idea. Forgeard used two measures in the study: (1) scores on a measure of posttraumatic growth and depreciation and (2) scores on self-reported measures of creativity in the aftermath of adversity.

She found that “… adversity-induced distress predicted self-reported creative growth and breadth in a sample of online participants. Cognitive processing [intrusive/deliberative rumination] as well as domains of posttraumatic growth/depreciation—in particular, self-reported changes in interpersonal relationships and in the perception of new possibilities for one’s life—mediated the link between self-reported distress and creativity outcomes.”

It is important to note that intrusive rumination describes a process where the individual is primarily focused on the symptoms of the distress being experienced as opposed to solutions for these symptoms. On the other hand, deliberate rumination is a process by which an individual turns inward and engages in reflection along with contemplation about various problem-solving possibilities.

CREATIVE THERAPY AND DELIBERATE RUMINATION

Given the links between trauma and creativity that are being uncovered, creative therapies such as art therapy or expressive writing, coupled with supported deliberate rumination practice, could be beneficial in the recovery process for individuals wishing to deal with the aftermath of traumatic, life-altering events and/or full-blown PTSD.

 

For me, I’m just at the beginning of a very long and arduous road to healing. I suspect my “expressive writing” will be my partner along the way. Alas, many a tumultuous memory will also be along on my journey. Haunting and benign thoughts, joyful and sad mark my trek amidst the many mile markers that lie ahead.

 

Blog post based in part on resources and information provided by the following references and by Douglas Mitchell, MFTI, therapist in San Francisco, California.

  1. Miller II, Robert James, and Johnson, David Read. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Vol. 4(1), Jan 2012, 112-116. doi: 10.1037/a0021580. Retrieved 3/21/14 from: http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/tra/4/1/112/
  2. Thompson, Paula. The Traumatized Imagination: Creativity, Trauma, and the Neurobiology of the Resilient Spirit. Retrieved 3/21/14 from: http://www.healingresources.info/article_thomson1.htm
  3. Forgeard, Marie J. C. Perceiving Benefits after Adversity: The Relationship Between Self-Reported Posttraumatic Growth and Creativity. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. Vol. 7(3), Aug 2013, 245-264. doi: 10.1037/a0031223. Abstract retrieved on 3/21/14.

 

Read more of Joe’s Journey here.

What of Trauma? Can It Really Help Develop Creativity? Part 1.

Seeing her just lying there, face at an angle caressing her pillow. Her right arm lay down the side of the bed, very still. No breath, no movement even after I called her name several times. There was no pulse. Her hands were chilled. She lay lifeless. I, too, was frozen, stunned.

I was unwittingly looking at what death had just deposited at my bedside. The love of my life, my sweetheart had been taken from me. No more pain and suffering. Now she could finally rest. Still, I felt scared and alarmed that there was nothing more I could do. She was gone and I was left to make sense of it all. Whether or not I wanted it, the shock and grief of realizing my wife had just passed over into the world of eternity had taken hold of me by the throat and was not going to let go anytime soon.

Several days afterwards I still have those same feelings of disbelief, of sadness, of grief. I can’t shake them. I still see her laying there, motionless as if she is simply sleeping like she used to do. Oh, my God, what am I going to do without her?

*********************

This is more than a blog post about trauma and creativity. My journey has taken a detour down a dark road, leading I don’t know where. My wife and I have been through so much these past ten years or so. We were both tired and run down, both physically and mentally. Now this.

Can this kind of trauma, which often leads to PTSD, have any positive impact on creative imagination and expression? Interesting thought, one that as of this writing, I find myself not caring too much about because I must be too early in the grief process. Yet, this same thought scares me since a good chunk of my life revolves around creativity and imagination.

In addition to all the destructive consequences that may follow traumatic experience, some people say it also has power to encourage creative expression. I’d like to share with you some of the information on this that I’ve learned.

In her provocatively titled post Does Trauma Increase Creativity?, Laura K Kerr, a Mental Health Scholar and psychotherapist with interests in trauma studies and depth psychology, reports on a study that, she notes, “suggests there may be a connection between creativity and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“Research conducted by Robert Miller and David Johnson revealed PTSD correlates with a greater capacity for symbolic representation, which is necessary for artistic as well as scientific endeavors.”

She explains, “The study compared 56 Vietnam combat veterans with 14 veterans who lacked combat exposure. Originally, Miller and Johnson thought their research would show PTSD diminished a person’s competence with manipulating symbolic material.

When participants of the study were asked to portray and act out an imaginal scene, the researchers said, “The PTSD group when compared to the non-PTSD group were better able to represent the boundary between reality and the role-playing, to immerse themselves in the scene, to enact identifiable characters consistent with their setting, and produce complex and interactive scenes that told a coherent story.”

Kerr adds, “Given that PTSD is also characterized by flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive imagery—all symbolic representations of actual events—the results of the study seem supported by what is known about the experience of PTSD: it increases the psyche’s likelihood of generating and interacting with symbolic representations.”

In another post, she writes, “Trauma births its own world, one that exists beside the regular, expressed order of things where life stories are normalized, validated, even valorized. In trauma’s otherworldly realm—the imaginal landscape of our minds—travel the fragmented narratives of what transpired, but also of what failed to come about: escape from harm, facing down abusers, regaining a sense of safety.

“Here we find the birthplace of grief, but also creativity, the origins of trauma stories, yet also their erasure, all vying for connection with what can no longer be—or become—now that trauma has claimed its space.”

Charles Durning, WWII veteran and award-winning actor, commented that acting helped release at least some of the horror he suffered.

English: American actor Charles Durning on May...He is quoted in a New York Times article: “There are many secrets in us, in the depths of our souls, that we don’t want anyone to know about. There’s terror and repulsion in us, the terrible spot that we don’t talk about. That place that no one knows about — horrifying things we keep secret.

Actor Meg Ryan has expressed a perspective that many creative people probably share: “I don’t think you want to cultivate dramatic and traumatic experiences in your life in order to be an artist. I think that’s all wrong. But you can use them… there’s a redemptive power in your life when you go through hardships.”

 

 

Part 2 to Come

 

Read more about Joe’s Journey here.

 

 

Calming Anxiety and Fear: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

There seem to be countless blog posts and online webinars these days talking about the Coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic. Frankly, some are better than others. This is one of them. Presented by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Calming Anxiety and Fear: Coronavirus (COVID-19) is well worth your time to listen and be educated.

The link below will take you to the web page where all the materials will be at your fingertips to hear and see the latest.

The COVID-19 pandemic is unsettling. Cancer survivors and their loved ones may feel particularly vulnerable today.

Join this program as we talk about caring for yourself today: fine-tuning self-awareness, seeking control during times of stress and other strategies to navigate the road ahead.

Julie Larson

Julie Larson, LCSW
Psychotherapist & Speaker-Educator

Take a listen to the webinar and follow along with the notes.

Support for this program is provided by AbbVie Inc. and the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation.

If you liked this post, check out these others here.

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