Last month I disappeared for a while. In the middle of a week of trainings I came down with the flu, even though I had a flu shot last October. I wasn't surprised that I got sick. I always get sick this time of the year, at least since moving to Denver. So for the third year in a row, I became terribly ill during the early spring with the worst cough ever and the intense feeling that my life force and intelligence had been completely drained away. For three weeks I coughed so hard my brain would hurt, as if I was concussed, and I couldn't help imagining the brain damage I might suffer from it. I took the best care of myself, drinking 15 units of 8oz of fluids daily, I consumed bone broth, I used a humidifier and my diffuser with essential oils, I went to the doctor and got a prescription medication for my cough, and I slept for hours and hours. As my health began to improve, I thought about why I kept getting sick at this precise time for the past three years. I thought about what links I might make if this was a client's story. It was simple. I was grieving, or I AM grieving. It makes perfect sense to me. This time of year is when my grief is at it's most vulnerable because this is the time of year when everyone I am grieving for has died. Between Feb. 1st and the end of March is when they all passed away. Taking that into consideration and adding the fact that since moving I do not have the same kind of support system I used to have, well, the vulnerability just keeps adding up.
I always warn my grieving clients to watch out for illness. Grief can chip away at our immune systems and illness can make us feel more vulnerable and poke at our grief. Who hasn't felt inexplicably tearful during a nasty cold? Some of us may even start thinking about a lost loved one or a failed relationship with particular longing and sadness as we sit alone and isolated in our sick beds.
We try to protect our loved ones, coworkers, the general public, from our illnesses. That is, after all, the conscientious thing to do. But in protecting others, we can make ourself vulnerable to a different kind of illness, an illness of the heart and soul. So it is important to keep that in mind and do what you can to stay connected to the rest of your world. Text a friend to let them know how you are feeling, announce what you are binge watching on Netflix while you are on Facebook. Take artsy pictures of your sick little world and post them, showing others how you are taking care of yourself. I was lucky, I had my dog, Hank, to keep me grounded and stave off loneliness and total boredom while I was ill.
My point is, do not underestimate the power of grief and how it links with physical illness. Maybe you are grieving and finding yourself more sick more often. Maybe you experience more emotional pain while you are sick. Please be aware of what is happening for you and take care of yourself and reach out to others who you trust to help you through it.
It's deceptively simple to make a SoulCollage® card:
1. Get your materials (a 5x8 mat board, magazine pictures, scissors, and good quality glue)
2. Select a "thing" a single image that really grabs your attention
3. Start to cut out your thing
4. Select a "place" where your thing wants to live
5. Composition, figure out how you want to place your thing in it's place
6. Glue and trim
7. Process your card (I will demonstrate this later, stay tuned!)
Growing up I struggled with expressing myself. I was an introverted and angry child and due to my own anxiety I shut down emotionally for fear of becoming overwhelmed. People told me that I was hard to read and they would frequently ask me if I was feeling “happy or what?” I would have to think about my answer and since I did not seem to feel unhappy, I would say, “Of course I feel happy.” The reality was, I felt numb, dispassionate, blah. This wasn’t so bad on it’s own, a person can get through life and be just fine not really feeling anything, but my anxiety was a problem and when I did feel something, it was typically overwhelming anger and that was a problem for me. It made me feel out of control and like I was a bad person whenever it came out and I thought others judged me harshly because of it.
It wasn’t until my mother’s death that I thought I should do something about my emotions. I found it difficult to cry and grieve for my loss and that inability to express myself and release some of that grief caused more pervasive problems for me in my life from an inability to function at a job and difficulty making decisions. By realizing this I discovered that experiencing any feeling was a challenge for me. I either could not tolerate them or I could not even identify them within myself.
It took me years of work to learn how to cultivate my emotional growth. And it took even longer to talk about those feelings and express them in healthy ways. I learned that within each emotional state there is a spectrum of intensity to be experienced and opening myself to those experiences enriched my life and gave me strength through some of the most challenging times in my life.
Now, through my own emotional development, I have gained the ability to tap into my intuition, or “trust my gut” when confronted with the challenges of life and make informed decisions while feeling like I am fully living. Due to my own struggles in this area I have begun to want to work more with people around emotional development so they can feel the full spectrum of their emotions without fear of being overwhelmed by them.
So what is Emotional Development?
Emotional Development is identifying, understanding, connecting to, and working with your full spectrum of emotions. Our emotions are trying to tell us something about ourselves and how we experience our world.
What does Emotional Development affect?
What does Emotional Development look like?
Emotional Development helps those:
In the past week I have begun a personal challenge to get me into doing better self-care. This challenge I am calling "99 Days of Art" and it is exactly that, I am making art for 99 days over the course of nearly 16 weeks. I had to factor in taking time off for training days, conferences, and holidays that are coming up. The idea came to me after following some art therapist and artist friends on their art challenge journeys and wondering how they got into it. Then thoughts starting coming up for me like these, "Wow, I miss making art for just myself," and "It's been so nice making artwork lately, I really didn't do much before moving here," and "Why did I stop making art?" I realized over the past several years I had slowly stopped making art in my everyday life and it was not a good thing. I felt bereft, like something integral to my very being was missing. So I decided to create my own art making challenge in order to develop it into a practice, which would eventually become a habit, a meaningful habit that helps me feel grounded yet transcendent at the same time, but a habit none-the-less. I have been at it for 6 Days now focusing on utilizing my intuition rather than making something visually concrete and representational. Here are the products of my practice:
To follow my progress follow me on Instagram @nissajackman
I was so inspired and excited about my last piece that I made for the Violet Hive Art fundraiser, I had to make another one. I call this one, "Two Horizons" I hope you love it as much as I do!