Research indicates expressive therapy can help heal PTSD. It can help a person recover from schizophrenia along with medication.

Art music writing yoga–anything expressive–can heal our pain according to a psychiatrist at the educational conference.

That’s how my memoir Left of the Dial differs from the other books in the field: it focuses on self-expression and creativity as the twin engines driving my recovery.

True occasional reviewers weren’t enamored of my focus on makeup and fashion. Yet I wanted to show how this contributed to my recovery along with music and books and writing–all creative arts.

On Saturday you could attend an art therapy session in the early evening at the conference. I chose turquoise construction paper and folded it in half and created an art card. On the back of the card in red bold letters spelled the word HOPE.

I’m an artist as well as a writer. A talent for art runs in my family. I have hanging in my living room a painting “Still Life With Pitcher and Fruit.” I’ve created an art gallery in my hallway.

The reviews of traditional art therapy as a modality have been mixed. Some research indicates it’s only helpful to those of us who like to do art. Yet in 2014 at the APA convention I met an MD who led her poster session on Art Making. I wrote about her findings at HealthCentral back then. She clearly demonstrated that making art had benefits for her patients.

I’m no longer employed at HealthCentral so I’m not going to link to the news articles I published there.

Yet from my own experience I can tell you: art, music, writing, dancing, reading books and engaging in cultural events did help me recover.

It’s something to possibly try out to see if it benefits a person. If it’s not something you like doing or want to pick up long-term: you can try another thing. Like sports. Or baking. Or singing.

As my father so famously told me and I recorded in Left of the Dial: “It doesn’t have to be writing. It can be ballet. You have to do something with your time.”

You can try out more than one thing to figure out what you love to do and want to do.

An author of a book claimed that watching TV was a pleasant activity for people. I abhor watching TV. I turn on the TV only to listen to the weather report before I go outside.

The moral of this story is: to each our own. You might love watching TV and not love painting or sketching.

The expression is: do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. Do what you love and your recovery will be enriched.


Telling Our Stories

The veteran in the video I link to at the bottom is quoted: “You served combat. Or not. You have a story. Tell it.”

Children are asked to sign a life-sized poster board thanking our veterans for serving our country. A bunch of us are conflicted when those brown-skinned children’s grandmothers’ houses in Syria are being bombed.

The two of us think we shouldn’t have started the failed endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yet joining the military is like taking a vow to become a priest: you might not be under oath yet it’s what you signed up for: serving our country.

We can argue that having blind allegiance regardless of the outcome (think: desecrating a Doctors Without Borders hospital) doesn’t solve anything. We can argue that the billions spent on these wars should’ve been spent on mental healthcare instead. We can argue that we could’ve taken the money spent on war and used it to fund the college education of kids who live in poverty.

Hold those thoughts.

I want to talk about veterans of all stripes now: those who pledged undying (and sometimes dying) loyalty to serve in our military. Those who’ve been through psychic wars. Soldiers fighting mental illness. Those of us battling discrimination because of our mental illness or because of our other perceived “difference.”

It might not be OK to lump all veterans together with our armed forces. Yet my point is that Joe Bruni is right: “You served combat. Or not. You have a story. Tell it.”

I dream a world where there’s no war of any kind. Where American soldiers are not sent into dubious battles programmed to kill. Where people with schizophrenia don’t have to do battle every day with their illness because they’ve gotten effective treatment as soon as they need it.

Where fighting for our rights as human beings is not necessary.

The message is: “Land of the Free Because of the Brave.”

In this regard: I raise a pint to every brave soul who has fought in a U.S. war. I raise a pint to every person who’s fighting some kind of battle in their lives.

We must never forget the lives of anyone who fights. Whether a person is fighting for our country or fighting for their rights or fighting for wellness inside of illness: we must never forget them and never abandon them.

Here’s the Tribute to Joe video on CNN: