Madness

NOTE: Due to the severe weather from TS Nicholas expected today for those of us on the Gulf Coast, some of you may not have access to the Internet and, thus, this blog post. Nevertheless, I wanted to post this special blog today, Tuesday, the day some twenty years ago that “9/11” took place. Once Nicholas passes and some normalcy (and power) is restored, I hope you’ll take a moment to read this latest entry into Joe’s Journey.

This post is a remembrance of an essay I wrote 20 years ago right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I had so many thoughts and feelings then that I had to “write it out of me” or at least try to capture what I felt at the time.

Madness. The word itself hardly seems to even come close to describe what has happened to America. What may appear to be a disease by some is for others a way of life.

The English language does not contain enough descriptive phrases to do justice to what took place this past Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Some have equated the terror to what Japan did in their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Others feel that Japan’s attack does not even come close to the horror wreaked upon the American psyche in this the 21st Century.

Utter madness.

Like many Americans last week, I gazed into television screens almost everywhere I went. I looked upon horror and destruction in stunned amazement. I was numb. I am numb. I can not believe what I have heard, seen and still read about. It is absolutely unconscionable to me that other human beings would perform this type of horror. It also scares the hell out of me that these kind of people do, in fact, perform these acts of terror and not think anything of it.

A lovely, calm morning in autumn with beautiful blue sky all around serves as a backdrop to one of the most picturesque skylines in all the world. The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center standing tall. Standing proud.

Unbelievably, our world is rocked beyond comprehension when an unannounced commercial airliner slams into the side of the North Tower. This, we find out later, is no accident. If this was not enough to test New York’s mental mettle, let alone America’s, a second commercial airliner flies into the South Tower of the Trade Center.

Flames spew. Balls of fire erupt. Twin towers ablaze with smoke. My God, this is real. This is not Hollywood. Yet, it is so surreal to me.

Time and again I see in utter amazement the different angles of the planes flying into the buildings and erupting in flames. Lives lost. God help us all.

Why am I writing this? I guess it’s medicinal in some respect. I feel like most Americans a need to try and put this horror into some kind of perspective. But how can one think in rational terms about totally irrational acts? Simple: one can’t.

Is this a wake up call for America? In many ways it is. Terrorism, unfortunately, will probably always be with us in some form of perverted fashion. Wherever there is a disturbed mind to attract money and followers to perform unspeakable acts against mankind, there will be terror in our lands.

Firefighters make their way through the rubble after two hijacked airliners were crashed into the World Trade Center, bringing down the twin 110-storey towers in New York Tuesday, September 11, 2001 [Shawn Baldwin/AP Photo]

Society must deal with horror and terrorists. We must so that order and normalcy will be restored. However, society itself must change. How? The jury may be out on that for some time.

As terrified a sight as the Twin Towers engulfed in flames, what would we feel or think if Lady Liberty would have been hit and destroyed? Our symbol of Freedom, herself.

What if?

They hit the Pentagon. They may have been headed to the White House and Capitol. What about Air Force One? A flying target of power.

Thoughts and questions like these and others are crossing minds at warp speed everyday. At least mine. As often as I see television reports on the tragedy and read newspaper accounts of it all, I still find everything somewhat of a blur. It’s still almost incomprehensible to me that this type of terror can be inflicted on the most powerful and resourceful nation this world has known.

As one day turns into two and then into five, one can hardly get a grip on what is happening with recovery efforts in New York, the Pentagon, and outside Pittsburgh without being distracted about what else may be going on with other so-called cells of terrorists.

I hear that people are not flying at all now or far fewer folks want to fly the friendly skies because of uncertainty about the friendliness of those skies. We’re still frightened. Hell, we’re still numb and unnerved. We used to take for granted so many things when it comes to travel. Now, everything has changed. The rules are being rewritten as we speak. The price we must pay for Freedom and Liberty – again?

In this country, we pride ourselves on democracy and freedom of choice. Other nations not enjoying this way of life are jealous and bitter that they don’t have the type of life that America boasts. I fear that society will always have extremists among us, and people who are not in a right frame of mind.

Every so often, it seems, these people and their misguided mindset collide with society’s norms and tragedy strikes. Terror and evil play as if there is no tomorrow. For them, tomorrow will dawn with other “brethren” ready to continue the fight. We dawn with tomorrow as well, but to bury our dead and grieve and mourn.

The fight will continue. Our cause, humanity, is just. We will not rest. We can not. Our future generations depend on us as we have depended on our forefathers in paving justice and some form of normalcy in which to live and enjoy what God has wrought.

The planes. The planes.

Twin Towers.

Lives lost.

Madness. Mankind grieves.

The horror. The horror.

Tomorrow?

Tomorrow!

©2001, J. Fournet

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Ideasnmoreblog, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.

The Onslaught of Fall

Labor Day is now behind us. So is the unofficial end of Summer. Don’t go by the temperature; it’s still hot as Hell here in Houston and other parts of the country. But school has started back up and, most telling of all, football is back . . . with crowds!

It’s now only four months until the end of this year. WOW! Cooler weather will soon befall us (pun intended) and before we know it Santa will be paying us a visit. Yeah, I know, I’m getting ahead of myself. Sorta like all the upcoming holiday advertising.

Our mindset tends to be different this time of year. Most of us have been cooped up for so long we look for almost any excuse to get out and enjoy ourselves. This past weekend’s football games were an example with the fans. However, COVID is still with us as is its variant, Delta. Booster shots are next up for folks who have been vaccinated. Those of you who have not yet been vaxed, what are you waiting on?

Generally, I think most of us are heading into the Fall with a cautious note of optimism. We’re still not sure what lies ahead and we’re not overly joyous about it. I have several issues with which I hope to reconcile but the only way I can deal with them is to take each day as it comes. That’s difficult for me to do. It is said that worry is a waste of energy. Maybe, and I’ve probably wasted plenty of energy over the years. It’s a human frailty we all share even when we don’t want to admit it.

Our cautious notes of optimism are tinged with harsh notes of reality. From several states’ legislatures making it more difficult for people to cast their votes to these same ruling bodies about to pass legislation which may lead to dismantling Roe v Wade to whether or not to abide by mask mandates. All of these issues carry with them a ton of emotions and with such emotion, more often than not, comes a lack of common sense.

The Fall season brings with it cooler temperatures (eventually). Let us hope cooler heads will also prevail (eventually). Meanwhile, college football continues into week #2 and the NFL begins a new season this Thursday night. Let’s relax, but be diligent and patient, take life one day at a time, and enjoy it while we can. The alternative, you see, is . . . well, we don’t want to go there!

Watching Ida’s Path, Remembering Katrina

By the time this blog post is published, Hurricane Ida will be traversing across Tennessee and Kentucky, bourbon country. It will have no doubt left a path of destruction across Southeast Louisiana, particularly New Orleans and Baton Rouge, not to mention the lower coastal towns.

Why am I writing about this? Simple – it’s pretty much what’s been on my mind these past few days. New Orleans is one of my favorite cities and Baton Rouge is my second home while I attended LSU. Ida made landfall on Sunday, exactly 16 years following Katrina, which devastated the New Orleans area. I remember watching the progress of Katrina on television from my home in Houston, feeling heartbroken at what I saw.

New Orleans Katrina Memorial, built in the shape of a hurricane. photo: Marco

This time, watching television reports of people evacuating on I10 West heading our of that part of Louisiana, and seeing bumper to bumper cars in a very long line crawling along, brought back memories of our evacuation from Houston to Dallas before Hurricane Rita. What a horrific mess. It took us 23 hours of driving to make Dallas, normally a four hour trip.

Though it may be weeks if not months before we know the extent of all the damage, it’s already suspected that Ida is the worst hurricane to hit these parts in the history of the state; that’s right, worse than Katrina! Adding insult to injury, due to a “catastrophic failure of transmission,” the entire city of NOLA is without power as is the majority of Orleans and Plaquemines Parishes.

Having wind speeds up to 150 mph, the storm was so strong it actually temporarily stopped the flow of the Mississippi River near the city and caused it to reverse flow — something the US Geological Survey says is “extremely uncommon.”

A man passes a section of roof blown off a building in New Orleans’ French Quarter by Hurricane Ida’s winds.

Now begins the long and super arduous task of clearing out and cleaning up, not to mention trying to return to some semblance of “semi-normalcy.” This will undoubtedly take weeks, months and probably years. Keeping this in mind, please consider donating to the Red Cross or any other way you can. It will be most appreciated!

Remembering Memories

We all remember someone close to us who died. Remembering is one thing; honoring that memory is something else. It’s rare when those memories come back to back as in a day apart. That’s what just happened to me this past week, Friday and Saturday to be precise.

Last Friday marked the 43rd anniversary of my father’s death. The next day, Saturday, marked the 16th month-o-versary of my wife’s death. Now I realize that some of you may be thinking “why on Earth are you keeping track?” Well, I’m funny about certain things. As time goes on, I’ll probably only keep track of the anniversary of my wife’s death, in addition to our wedding anniversary. But for now, I’m well aware of what the third Saturday of the month signifies.

“It’s not healthy to do that.” Or “that’s morbid!” Perhaps, but so what. It’s my choice as it is yours. That’s why, in part, I’m writing down my thoughts about my remembering. It helps me let it out.

I talk with Pam everyday. During the time of death of my Dad, I set aside an hour every year and have a conversation with him. I also set out two glasses of bourbon, one in his memory and the other for me, to commemorate the anniversary. He liked Jim Beam, I’m a Jack Daniels guy. Weird? Perhaps, but, again, I say “so what?” It’s my way of remembering the memories.

As I’ve written in some of my stories, I keep Pam’s ashes in a red Chinese urn that sits on a bookshelf overlooking my desk area. She watches over me all during the day and at night. There’s even a lantern next to her that automatically goes on at night to illuminate the urn. Alright, you might say, that’s just morbid. Maybe so, but it’s my way of honoring her memory right now.

I’m sure you have different ways of honoring and commemorating your loved ones’ memories. We all do. When those recollections come back to back, as mine just did, the memories become ever sharper. Don’t be afraid to celebrate your memories, no matter what other people may think or no matter how “weird” they may seem.

So, cheers, Dad! And Pam, I’ll leave the light on for you!

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Ideasnmoreblog, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.

Bozell at 100: Recollections From My Time With the Agency

Joe’s Journey reminisces this week by going back in time to a stop over at, then, Bozell & Jacobs in Houston. It was 1987 when I moved to H Town to take over as regional manager of the Bozell office for the Chrysler Plymouth account. I was part of a worldwide agency dealing with one of our largest accounts. That feels like a lifetime ago in Earth years. Though surviving numerous changes in structure and culture, Bozell is celebrating 100 years in the advertising business. A recent article by the agency’s CMO and owner, Jackie Miller, brought back a lot of memories.

When I first arrived in Houston, the agency was then known as Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhart upon merging with the former Chrysler agency Kenyon & Eckhart or K&E as it was known. That was eventually shortened to BJK&E. Good thing since it took a half day just to answer the phone! It was a short while after that we became Bozell Worldwide, a global network that ranked eighth in size.

After I left the agency in ’92, everybody, it seemed, was merging with everybody else and Bozell was no different. The agency rolled all its offices into a merger with Foote, Cone & Belding or FCB; all except for Bozell’s Omaha office, where it all began. They have remained independent, serving regional and national clients.

But the land of steak is where Leo Bozell and Morris Jacobs started the firm that would eventually become Bozell Worldwide, as previously noted. We had Jeep, Chrysler, Merrill Lynch, American Airlines and did the original “milk mustache” campaign for “Got Milk?” In 1995 Bozell blended its milk mustache with the “Got Milk?” tagline created by San Francisco firm Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is bozel-jacobs.jpg
Leo Bozell and Morris Jacobs

As Jackie points out in her article, Leo and Morris couldn’t afford a phone their first year. They also worked full-time at other employers until they could officially form a business. Fast-forward to the end of Mr. Jacob’s career and he’s looking at scrapbooks with thank-you notes from celebrities of his day and presidents Truman and Eisenhower. All because of hustle. The degree that you wield it is up to you, but you’ll need to have it at the ready every single day.

I had it a little better. At least I had a phone, and two lines. We could always tell a wrong number when one called in since they would ask for either Mr. Bozell or Mr. Jacobs. We’d always tell them they were out to lunch or in a meeting. Yes, managing a field service office for all of South Texas was challenging since there was just me and an assistant. Of course, we had the entire Bozell network to call upon for resources.

In those days, every city where a Chrysler zone office was located also had a Bozell office. In my case, we were located in the same building, just two floors up from me. Even though we were located in Texas, we were considered a branch of the Detroit office of Bozell since Chrysler was headquartered there. All of our broadcast media buying was done out of our Dallas office, our Regional Buying Office or RBO as it was monikered. So we were fairly spread out when it came to servicing Chyrsler.

In her article, Jackie relates that Bozell is old enough to count TV as a disruptive technology. Other formats have peaked and declined and there’s no doubt this process will continue. In our long view she says, brands usually respond to new media in three different ways. The first is to have a presence. It feels safe, but a lot of companies will do the same.

The second is to embrace doing something different only when risk becomes a must-have. Catching up is always a good thing, but it’s a lot of work. The third is to embrace everything a new channel can be and establish yourself as a leader. This requires a little boldness, but the hindsight needed for your next big challenge has already been created. 

In Houston, we relied primarily on print and television for our C-P dealers and their associations. Considering we had three primary metropolitan areas to cover – Houston, San Antonio, Rio Grande Valley – our creative had to be on target to appropriately represent those markets. I spent a lot of time going back and forth between Detroit and South Texas to accomplish just that.

When I look back on my time with Bozell, it is with mixed feelings. I appreciated the opportunity afforded me but the agency world was changing even then. Nowadays, it’s almost unrecognizable. I’ve lost track of practically everyone with whom I kept in contact. Lots of my peers have no doubt either retired, passed away or gotten into another line of business. Both the advertising and automobile industry have dramatically changed. Some aspects of both have been reorganized out of existence.

One hundred years ago, the “ad biz” was a totally new and upcoming industry. One hundred years from now, it will have no doubt evolved yet again. Will Bozell be around by then? I wouldn’t doubt it. As Jackie says, in practice, agencies hone skills, open doors, provide insight, bring people together and improve outcomes. Will my journey be taking me on the same path? With a little luck, good genes and who knows what else, maybe it will.

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Ideasnmoreblog, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.

That Was the Week that Was!

I guess every now and then you have a week that you’d like to forget. That was last week in my journey. It definitely had one too many potholes in it for my liking. Mind you, the good had some bad mixed in but the overall feeling was I was glad I made it to the weekend.

Lessee, I talked (finally) with a psychiatrist, met with a banker to close Pam’s account, then had a visit with a physical therapist that went well until it didn’t. Then there was the weekend, thank God!

Just a typical week in the pseudo asylum!

Now, I realize there are those of you out there who can’t really empathize with me and there are those who probably agree that your week was equal or worse than mine. Either way, it’s somewhat helpful for me to write my frustrations out, albeit not all of them because I want to keep my laptop fully functional.

While my memory is a blur as to what order things happened, the results remain the same. When I finally had a video visit with a psychiatrist, which went well, the time it has taken to get a prescription filled is absurd. It’s now into days! I say “finally” because her company/clinic cancelled the first two visits because of internal screw ups.

The positive day last week was when I went to the bank to close out my deceased wife’s account, expecting anything but a smooth transaction. I was pleasantly surprised when this nice bank officer took care of everything and closed it out while transferring the remaining amount into my account. That was surprising to me because of a variety of complications, including Social Security, dating back to last year. Evidently, if you wait long enough, certain things become moot and things work out!

Then came the physical therapist visit. What a way to end the week! It started off nicely enough. Seems they won’t do physical therapy if your blood pressure is above what they think it should be. I happen to have high blood pressure and am taking medication for it. This time I had a very irregular low heart rate registered on their machines and so the next thing I know, they send in the marines to check things over.

In a matter of moments, after the therapist called for assistance and another opinion, three nurses and a lady doctor came rushing into a very small therapist room to see if I was still alive (I guess). They seemed surprised to see I was okay despite what the machine read. Being alright before they came rushing in, I rather quickly became upset and annoyed especially since the lady doctor hovered over me checking my heart rate and pulse.

She also practically insisted I immediately get my cardiologist on the phone to let him know what was going on. It didn’t seem to matter that I had just seen him recently. My telling them I would check things out with him but I was okay and that they should leave was the only way I could get them out of the room.

I’ve never had that type of scenario happen before. Needless to say, my blood pressure was sky high at this point. Even the physical therapist apologized for the manner in which they behaved. Why four people decided they all needed to be in the room is beyond me. It was overkill, to say the least.

Then I drove myself home, all the while trying to calm down. I get that doctors need to make sure all is okay with their patients but some still need to work on their “bedside manner.” I’ve subsequently taken my blood pressure several times with a new device and all is fine, especially my heart rate. My BP is still a little high but that’s normal for me.

Can’t say for sure I know what this new week has in store but I need to just take it one day at a time. I suggest you guys try the same. Best advice, hard to do. Let’s do it anyway, okay?!

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Ideasnmoreblog, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.

Feeling Moody? You’re in Good Company.

We all feel moody from time to time. I know I do. When that happens, I feel mixed emotions. Some both help and hinder my creative outputs. Sometimes certain medication helps me while at other times, just pushing myself to get to work helps get me out of my “destructive” mood and into a more positive frame of mind by submersing myself into my work.

Mood disorders often impact creative expression. About one percent of the general population suffer from manic-depression (bipolar disorder) and five percent from major depression during their lifetime. As many as a quarter of American women have a history of depression. 

According to an Allhealth site article, “The risk of depression among teen girls is high, and this risk lasts into early adulthood, US researchers report. A study of young women living in Los Angeles found that 47% had at least one episode of major depression within 5 years after high school graduation.”

Kay Redfield Jamison, professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and herself a person with bipolar depression, notes in her book “Touched with Fire..” that the majority of people suffering from mood disorder do not possess extraordinary imagination, and most accomplished artists do not suffer from recurring mood swings.

She writes, “To assume, then, that such diseases usually promote artistic talent wrongly reinforces simplistic notions of the ‘mad genius.’ 

“Worse yet, such a generalization trivializes a very serious medical condition and, to some degree, discredits individuality in the arts as well… All the same, recent studies indicate that a high number of established artists – far more than could be expected by chance – meet the diagnostic criteria for manic-depression or major depression… 

“In fact, it seems that these diseases can sometimes enhance or otherwise contribute to creativity in some people… Biographical studies of earlier generations of artists and writers also show consistently high rates of suicide, depression and manic-depression.” 

Gee, how wonderful! Though I have not experienced bouts of suicidal thought, I have experienced, and still do, bouts of depression and anxiety. But I don’t think that it’s because I’m a writer or creative person. Perhaps, though I am more susceptible to depression because of what I do.

That’s one of the reasons why I write what I write on this blog and share what I share from other blogs and sources. I realize that a lot of what is written affects a variety of people, especially those in creative fields.

The development of mood disorders may start early in life. Author and consultant C. Diane Ealy, Ph.D., in her book “The Woman’s Book of Creativity” writes “Many studies have shown us that a young girl’s ideas are frequently discounted by her peers and teachers. In response, she stifles her creativity… The adult who isn’t expressing her creativity is falling short of her potential. {Note: I would add that in my opinion that’s true of men, too.}

“Repressed creativity can express itself in unhealthy relationships, overwhelming stress, severe neurotic or even psychotic behavior, and addictive behaviors such as alcoholism. But perhaps the most insidious and common manifestation of repressed creativity in women is depression.” 

Consultant, writer and educator Annemarie Roeper affirms that “giftedness can be both a positive and a negative force. It is a burden when it has no channel for expression and it is not understood… Unsupportive environments can lead to depression, to the suppression of one’s abilities, even to feelings of desperation that could become self-destructive.”(Advanced Development Journal, 1991) 

Mary Rocamora, who counsels gifted people and heads a Los Angeles school that attracts gifted and talented adults, says those “who are passionately engaged with their talent but are constantly separated from the creative experience by relentless self-criticism, self-doubt, and feelings of inferiority often suffer from depression and the periodic shutting down of their spontaneous creative impulses. 

“The drive to express their inner creativity is heightened in many gifted individuals, and when the drive to create meets the wall of shame, it implodes into numbness, rage, depression, and hopelessness.” 

She also notes that it is well known among researchers of the gifted, talented and creative that these individuals “exhibit greater intensity and increased levels of emotional, imaginational, intellectual, sensual and psychomotor excitability, and that this is a normal pattern of development.” Dr. Linda Silverman, Director of the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development, has also cautioned that this higher level of excitability and intensity may be misdiagnosed as manic depression.

According to the online listing “Famous People Who Have Suffered from Depression or Manic-Depression,” people in the arts who have declared publicly they are bipolar or unipolar include Tim Burton, Francis Ford Coppola, Sheryl Crow; Ellen DeGeneres; Charles Dickens, Patty Duke; Connie Francis; Mariette Hartley; Margot Kidder; Kristy

Continue reading

Ever See a Depressed Rabbit?

It’s not a pretty sight. Cute little bunny hip-hopping almost in slo-mo. He doesn’t even bother to check his watch fob to see if he’s running late. He doesn’t care. It’s true, though; creativity can be inspired by dark or depressed feelings.

“I’m late, I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say ‘hello, goodbye,’ I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!”

Furthermore, there’s not a week that goes by that I don’t read or see some article concerning stress and how it relates to creativity. Stress and worry can even fuel creativity, as is pointed out in this article via Design.org and Ward Andrews. How can one take advantage of it, short of going down the depressed rabbit hole?

I agree with the article in that it’s not okay for us to feel stressed and worried all the time. Chronic stress can have many negative effects, like:

  • Heart problems
  • Raised risk for heart attack or stroke
  • High cholesterol
  • Increased risk of diabetes

My late wife suffered a stroke some years ago and was also diagnosed with high cholesterol and diabetes at the time. Leading up to that she had experienced stress that was off the charts, particularly compounded by problems and issues at work along with dealing with my cancer diagnosis. No wonder she had a stroke!

We all go through periods of high stress and worry. Many of us worry so much that it turns into an anxiety disorder. I suffer with this as well and cope with it on a daily basis. How do we handle those negative feelings in a way that can fuel our creativity?

One way is through psychotherapy and another is with various medicines. I’m currently utilizing both but I’m also talking with a psychiatrist about my current slate of meds. I don’t like taking a lot of pills, especially if all they do is calm me down to where I feel like a walking zombie, er, rabbit.

The article points out that the pressure that accompanies stress and worry can put our brains into problem-solving mode. As the worry and stress kick in, our brain starts to look for ways to get us into a more positive environment. This more positive environment comes with a calming effect; at least with me, it does. I can’t think when I’m rattled. In a sense, stress and worry can spark creative thinking and brainstorming.

Negative emotions are part of us. Don’t try to hide or bury them from our consciousness. As best you can, try to harness some creative energy into writing anything that’s on your mind, that will help you further explore these negative feelings and emotions.

Some folks do this on a daily basis whether or not they are conflicted with negative emotions. They keep a daily journal and write down for a period of uninterrupted time, whatever they’re thinking about. It’s especially beneficial to discuss your writings and feeling with a counselor.

When we’re feeling stressed one of the best ways to counteract stress is to start doing something. The article reaffirms that the best solutions involve movement. Movement allows our body to become more present, realizing the reality around us.

Continue reading

A Loooooong Day in the Life of a CLL Patient (but a good one) at MD Anderson

To those who have ever gone to a doctor’s office or a hospital for a check up or follow up visit and done so on your own, I think you’ll appreciate this post. If not, consider yourself lucky. Trust me, it’s no fun!

Especially when you leave an hour early to get to the first appointment at 8 am. Oh, did I mention that the visit is in the world renown Texas Medical Center, a city unto itself. Early morning timing is bad enough but when you know you’ll be there all **expletive deleted** day, one’s thoughts are anything but positive and constructive.

Skyline of Texas Medical Center, Houston, Texas

This was the situation last Tuesday. I was to have a procedure done on my lower back to reduce the pain I suffered back in 2014 when helping Pam up from her fall, when she suffered her stroke. Then lab work and on to the zoo for a PET/CAT scan. They wanted to see if there had been any change in a spot of CLL that had previously shown up in a lymph node near my spine. Afterwards, I’d wind up the day with Dr. Iyer to discuss where we stand after all this.

Fortunately, there was time enough for lunch before I saw Iyer mid-afternoon. I could at least reacquaint my body with the prone position instead of the all-too vertical profile to which it had become accustomed. Even with the shuttle carts that go back and forth along the Sky Bridge on Level 3, there is still a helluva lot of walking required throughout MDA. There is no quick way to get anywhere. Alas, that’s true for all hospitals in the TMC.

WHEW! GASP! SIGH!

Suffice it to say that by the time I was seeing Dr. Iyer in late afternoon, I was wiped. I was more than just a little bit nervous about whether or not I’d have to go through a clinical trial-induced T-Cell therapy procedure encompassing a month long post-operative session, which I was not equipped to do. Lots going on in my mind, which was weighing heavy on my ability to remain alert.

Me and Dr. Iyer a few years ago at the Light the Night Walk in Houston

I was, as they say, running on fumes at this point in the day. When I finally got to hear the results of the scan from Iyer and was dismissed for the day, the time was nearing 6 pm. Those of you wondering how I fared will be glad to hear the cancer (CLL – Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia) has not spread and, if anything, has gotten smaller (it wasn’t that large to begin with).

All this after being in complete remission for several years and still on daily chemo tabs (Venetoclax). This therapy will continue for the foreseeable future.

It also means that for now at least I don’t have to plan on the CAR T-cell therapy clinical trial I was figuring to do.

Note to self: Never schedule this much activity in a single day. It’s just too much, mentally and physically.

Normally, I wouldn’t have had the back procedure done that day at all but I wanted to get it out of the way due to my discomfort level. Evidently, first thing that morning was the only time they could do it.

So now what? I’ve spent the last few days taking it easy, not walking but working on some writing projects for future blogs and stories. And, thinking of what lay ahead for the next month and a half, as a precursor to the last months of this year.

The procedure on my back worked, as I knew it would. The only misgiving is that it won’t last beyond a couple weeks. There is another procedure involved with “burning the lower back nerves,” which I may go for depending on what the docs think. I’ll know more early next month.

I also have a follow up appointment with my cardiologist this week to make sure that blood pressure and that big red thing in my chest are acting accordingly.

Why am I telling you all this since it’s really none of your business and I’m sure that some of you out there in the blogosphere couldn’t care less. Well, it’s like this. Some of you may be going through the exact same thing this time in your life and I’m telling you “you gotta do what you gotta do.” Hopefully, you’re some place where the medical care is terrific and the doctors are superb. If not, make your way to Houston!

Also, I feel a need to share what’s going on with me and how I feel about it. I can no longer share it with Pam, and my immediate family has dwindled to practically nothing. You’re part of my extended family. Lucky you!

As I continue in my transition of life without Pam, I hope to prepare to settle several large and troubling projects still to be done. However, one bright spot is that I’m not due for a return engagement to the Med Center for another three months. Maybe by then I’ll have arranged to have my own golf cart!

Depression: Does it help creativity or suppress it? Another perspective.

We seem to have journeyed down this road before and it probably won’t be the last time you take this trek with me. Depression affects many people. How creative people relate to mood challenges can have a deep impact on our lives and creative work. Some people think there is value in depression, not just pain and disruption. It’s maintaining a good balance between mind and soul that’s the key.

Perspective is vital to have so as to keep an honest and forthright reporting of one’s mental capacity or the mental discrepency of one’s environment.

Author Douglas Eby provides information and inspiration for exploring one’s creativity and personal development. It is with his insight and my own take on the blending of creativity with depression that this article is presented.

Actor Anne Hathaway suffered from anxiety and depression as a teen, and has an interesting perspective on being a “different person” at the time:

“I said to Mom, ‘Do you remember that girl? She has now gone, gone to sleep.
“She has said her piece and is gone.’ But then I thought, I so remember her, only she is no longer part of me.” …
“I am so sorry she was hurting for so long. It’s all so negatively narcissistic to be so consumed with self.”

Thinking of depression as “consumed with self” is a provocative idea, claims Eby. He also feels there’s some validity to it. I don’t doubt that some folks would agree that when depressed, they also feel self-absorbed. In my own experience, I’m trying desperately to maintain a balance between my reality and the world outside the window. When depressed, I really don’t care about the world outside. I’m trying to cope with me. Here. Now.

Psychotherapist Mihaela Ivan Holtz works with creative people in TV/Film, performing and fine arts. She also writes about the emotional and creative pleasures and challenges of their inner lives on her site Creative Minds Psychotherapy.

An excerpt from her site:

. . .depression . . .comes and goes, and it never really goes away. At times, your art is your haven where “the blues” can’t really touch you. At other times, even your creative energy is taken away when the depression invades you in its darkest shades.

Can you find a way to feel alive and inspired for more than the moments when you’re expressing your craft and finding your flow in your art? You want to wake in the morning without being held back by the blues that keep you hostage in a . . . disconnected world.

Depression can also be brought on by a failure of individuation. You don’t truly know who you are or what you want.  What are your dreams and aspirations?  What makes you tick, what makes you hide?  What makes you spark, what makes you cringe?  If you live like this for too long, eventually you cease to exist on an emotional level. 

The lack of authentic and fulfilling relationships can cause depression too.  All people need genuine connection to feel alive. You need to be inspired, motivated, and validated and cannot thrive when you’re starved of joyful connections.

As an artist, you found your art in order to connect and express your life energy.  But, when you’re away from your art, you’re often lost.  It’s seems harder to connect with that life energy if you’re “just you.” When you’re fully in your art, you can be an expression of everything you’ve ever craved or needed. You can be all that you ever imagined: the survivor, the hero, the fighter with the brave heart who’ll never give up. 

Depression can slow or even prevent our creative work.

Indeed! I don’t need to know why I’m depressed or how it’s caused. I just know that at times or on certain days I am. I just have to work through it. As I’ve stated in previous posts, I probably need to go back on medication to aid with the chemical imbalance in my brain. Until then, positive thinking and doing tasks I like and that relax me seem to be my most viable options.

“I sit down religiously every morning. In the course of a working day of eight hours, I write three sentences, which I erase before leaving the table in despair. The effort I put out should give birth to Masterpieces . . . and it brings forth a ridiculous mouse now and then.” — novelist Joseph Conrad, 1857-1924, from an essay by Stephanie Stone Horton.

Fortunately, I’m not quite that bad but I do encounter times when what I thought I’d work on is not to be. I then try to switch to another topic or project and get something positive begun. Anything positive.

In her 2010 paper, Horton, at the time a PhD candidate, wrote: “In a 2008 study of 26,685 undergraduates, nearly 25 percent reported depressive symptoms affecting academic performance. Depression can cause severe writing blocks; depressed brains show a pronounced slowing of frontal and temporal lobe activity. Mania can spark intense creativity, but also can escalate to a functional breakdown.”

A New York Times article by Jonah LehrerDepression’s Upside – revealed that Charles Darwin “despaired of the weakness of mind that ran in his family; his depression left him ‘not able to do anything one day out of three.’”

“Why are these disorders still around, and why are they associated with creativity?” asks Horton. “For Lehrer, depression is intertwined with an obsessive cognitive style that makes people more likely to produce successful works of art; ruminative depressives in some ways have a firmer grip on reality, a deeper vision.”Their Lives A Storm Whereon They Ride”: The Affective Disorders and College Composition, Stephanie Stone Horton.

The relationship between mood disorders and creativity is a complex topic. This post can not answer all questions raised but, rather, offer some possible explanation. Claudia Slegers, PhD from La Trobe University in sociology, posits: “Does some fine madness yield great artists, writers, and scientists? The evidence is growing for a significant link between bipolar disorder and creative temperament and achievement.”


However, Dr. Judith Schlesinger‘s book, “The Insanity Hoax: Exploding the Myth of the Mad Genius,” makes the case that the incidence of bipolar is not any more prevalent among creative artists than it is among the general population. Dr. Schlesinger further states: “The fact is that, despite the efforts of numerous investigators and decades of confident pronouncements by a few, there’s still no concrete, empirical proof that highly creative people are any more likely to be mood-disordered than any other group.”

So, to the question in our headline, “Depression: Does it help creativity or suppress it?,” the answer I would suggest is . . . yes! Based on personal experience, depression, at times, has both helped my creativity by giving me a different perspective, and it has also suppressed it. When I am depressed, time is afforded me to think, even though it may be more time than I want or need. But out of that comes another view on what I’m trying to do.

Okay, what do you think? What’s your take on all this? Does depression help you, hurt you or you really don’t care? It’s alright if you don’t care because I, too, during bouts with depression don’t give a damn either.