TO TABLE OF CONTENTS
Feed Your Soul Through The Power
of Creative Expression
By Mary Lynne Quinnan Zahler
I must be honest. Though at first glance I appear quite
healthy and fit, coping with CFIDS is a real day-to-day struggle.
Tiredness is only the worst part. That doesn’t take into account all the other
symptoms and challenges that people with CFIDS
(PWCs) also face — from pain and mental fogginess to lack of support and social
ignorance of the disease, to name just a few.
So how do I cope? One key for me is using creative expression,
especially creative journaling, to nourish my soul. I am a true believer in the
mind/body/spirit connection. Anything that helps one of the three will also
affect the others. So feeding my spirit or soul will also nourish my mind and
We are all creative beings, whether we realize it or not. Only
by pursuing creative outlets will you discover just how deep your well of
creativity really runs.
Although there are many activities that could technically fall
under “creative expression,” for me I am talking about creative expression
through art. Specifically I mean music, dance/movement, art, writing and drama.
Actively involving yourself in any of these arts on a regular basis can be
healthy and even healing for you, besides being plain fun.
Even though I personally love dance and movement, as a PWC I
am quite limited at times in this area. Even so, stretching, yoga, meditative
walking, or other types of “gentle” movement are still forms of creative
self-expression (and exercise!) that I can and do enjoy most of the time.
More often, I primarily focus on listening to music, writing
and art-making. Fortunately, these types of expressive arts activities can be
enjoyed and engaged in even while in bed.
So how to get started? Just remember: The number one rule is
that THERE ARE NO RULES! Anything goes! To truly find and develop our
creativity, we must be able to experiment, play, and goof up often in a
non-critical, relaxed atmosphere. You are only doing this for you.
Get some paper or a journal, pens, markers and/or other art
supplies and just begin. Start by just playing with your writing and art
materials. Playing is good. Background music that you like is also
Please note that it is typically helpful to date your art
and/or journal writing. You will be glad for this later.
Here are a few suggested activities to try. Try them all at
least once, although you may find favorites and decide to use certain ones over
and over again. Spend as much time or as little time on each activity as you
Make a list of things that you love or things that make you
happy. List the joys in your life. Try to come up with at least three or more
each day. Barbara Ann Kipfer published an
entire book like this, titled “14,000 Things to Be Happy About!” This activity
helps me notice and feel grateful for the good things that I do have in my
Write a poem. Oh, sure, you say! Well, just try an “alpha
poem” to start. Even I can do this one. Take the letters of your name or a
friend’s name (this makes a terrific gift) and line them up vertically. Then
write down a word or phrase to correspond to each letter. You can do this with a
name or with any favorite or meaningful word — like a color, a feeling, etc.
Here are a couple of examples:
Fun and laughter
Running with wind in hair
Do whatever you like
Or don’t do anything at all; it’s
Try scribble drawing. For just a few seconds, make a
spontaneous scribble on a blank page or piece of paper. Now go back to it and
find an image or picture within your scribble. To find the image, you can turn
the page upside-down or all around. What do you see? Embellish and enhance the
image you eventually find, by adding to it, coloring it, etc. Then write about
what this image might mean to you. This is a terrific way to access the creative
and/or subconscious sides of yourself.
If you love music, choose a song and really listen to it. Or
read the lyrics to a song that you like. Then write about how the words or music
affect you. Two beautiful songs to try this with are “Hero” as sung by
Mariah Carey and “The Greatest Love of All” as
performed by Whitney Houston. Write down all the thoughts and feelings that
spontaneously emerge in you as you listen.
How are you feeling today, right now? Write about it. You can
even try to draw it, or make a magazine-picture collage of it, right in your
journal or on a separate piece of paper. Remember, there is no wrong way —
whatever you choose to do is right for you. Writing about your feelings is a
very appropriate and healthy way to express them, even — especially — if they
aren’t all positive ones.
Write about or make a collage about what healing means to you.
This can be very insightful. But don’t sit around and think a lot about it first
— just do it. Write or choose your collage pictures quickly and spontaneously
and see what you come up with. Let it flow for the most interesting and
insightful results. I look at my most recent healing collage often; it helps
remind me of what I need to do to take care of myself. Daily.
Choose a metaphor as to how you feel with your illness, such
as “sick as a dog” or “caged like a bird.” Take time to draw this, dance it (if
able), or act it out, and then write about it.
Try doing a written dialogue with your illness and see what it
says to you. Then you can explore this further through drawing, painting,
collage making, photography, sculpture or any other art medium of your
Using your non-dominant hand, draw a picture of how you would
like your body to feel. Include using colors and shapes to symbolize vitality
and health. Then with you non-dominant hand, write about how it feels to be in
the body that you just imagined. When done, use you dominant hand to write
and/or draw and explore this further. Using the non-dominant hand can be helpful
when you feel stuck or when you just want to try something different.
Draw, paint or sculpt your “anger monster.” Then write about
how you can tame this monster. Try playing some calming music in the background
as you write.
Try doing some type of brief relaxation activity first, such
as listening to a short guided imagery audiotape, meditate, or do a progressive
muscle relaxation exercise.
Then draw or create one or more “symbols” of losses that you
have had in your life. Afterwards, write about these symbols either through
poetry or journaling.
Most of us will not let CFIDS
ruin our lives. But we do have to learn to cope with it on a daily basis. Using
the arts for self-expression and soul nourishment is one coping technique that I
have found works well for me. It is fun, creative and, above all, healthy.
Mary Lynne Quinnan Zahler has had
CFIDS since 1993. She lives in
Ohio with her
husband and their menagerie of pets. She is currently employed as the Wellness
Director at Family Services in
Ohio. She has a Master’s degree
in health education and exercise science and a Bachelor’s degree in psychology