We've all heard the phrase, "The Long Arm of the Law", right? Well, I thought it would be quite fitting to use this coined phrase when describing Multiple Sclerosis. MS doesn't just wreak havoc on your body, its damages can be felt emotionally and financially, not to mention the consequences on our relationships.
Let's first tackle what could happen emotionally. With MS comes feelings of hopelessness, sadness, self-loathing, and anger to just name a few. But the one feeling I never expected was grief. I pretty much felt like I was in mourning; I was mourning my former self. Sometimes I still feel that way. I was going through the five stages of grief which I thought only applied to the passing of a loved one. I believe I'm in the final stage - acceptance. Well, not entirely, I'm like 75% into it, but it's a work in progress. We're all just works in progress I guess.
Next up is finances. That's a doozy. It's hard enough living paycheck to paycheck let alone throwing MS into the mix. A lot of us can't work anymore due to our symptoms. It takes forever to get approved for disability and when you do it's barely enough to live off of. That constant worry and weight on our shoulders is enough to cause more flare ups. It also creates added stress on our loved ones which in turn creates more self-loathing. We see ourselves as more of a burden than anything else.
The last thing I'll touch on is the way MS affects our relationships. Sadly, sometimes relationships end because of MS, including marriages and friendships. I think it's probably due to all the previous complications I've already listed. All those things put such stress and pressure on our most treasured relationships. I've been lucky enough that my relationships have remained in tact but only because all parties involved worked hard at sustaining them. I'm not saying I'm better than anyone else, I'm simply saying that somehow, perhaps by sheer luck, we've been able to weather the storms. We've definitely had our share of fights and even months of complete separation. Yet it's constant work to keep those relationships strong and healthy. But even with pretty stable relationships the dynamics have certainly changed. Not so much on their part but on mine. I'm different, I'm not the same Lisa I used to be. I still feel alone sometimes and there are times I feel like an outsider. This feeling has diminished quite a bit but it still lingers.
I wish I had the answer to all these tentacle - like effects that MS has on our lives, or even better a cure for the disease itself. Alas, I do not. What I will do is post some links I've found to be helpful in my own life. I admit it can be disheartening when a lot of organizations say you don't qualify or there's so much red tape to cut through, but we have to keep pushing along. I mean crying and curling up in a corner isn't exactly the healthiest of options.
To stay connected to other people afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis:
Monetary Financial Aid:
Directory of Personal Therapists Specializing in Chronic Illnesses:
It's been quite a long time since my last blog post, over 7 months to be exact. I blame this on various factors: hectic work/life schedule, procrastination, laziness, distracted, bored, tired, and finally just the overall lack of creativity. But to be fair I was also doing several final edits on my book which should be out in July of this year so editing kind of sucked all the creative juices out of me. Speaking of which, this would be a good segway into my next topic.
When you think of a creative person images that come to mind are of someone who's whimsical, vivid, and carefree. This person seems to ooze unconventional ideas in the form of art, stories, and/music. He has the innate ability to transport you into their world even if it's for a brief moment. Now we've all heard the terms "tortured artist" and "writer's block." And we've also read about artists, authors, and poets who suffered emotional instabilities. But there's another dilemma that wreaks havoc on the creative mind that most artists don't want to admit to or even acknowledge. Maybe it's not admitted because it brings feelings of shame, guilt, or even a sense of betrayal to their craft. Maybe they think if they feel this way then they are not a true artist. This would be the feeling of being almost bored or uninterested in painting, writing, or creating music.
Any job can eventually feel mundane and monotonous. But this shouldn't apply to creativity? Or can it? Artists can absolutely feel constricted by their craft. It may even become lack-luster. Take for example the writer. When he isn't writing he's thinking about writing or wracked by guilt for not writing. This creates quite a conundrum. A writer should be passionate about his work. So naturally it's not a stretch to see how this can cause self-loathing in the writer. Creativity should be fun and spontaneous? Shouldn't it? So how can a writer or an artist suffocate under his own passion? I think the expectation of how a creative mind should exist IS the precise reason this happens.
Even perfectly loving marriages and those dream jobs can become repetitive. You would think being creative isn't a job because you're not required to do it. Well, you're not required to be married or maintain that dream job but you do because it's what you really want. You take the good with the bad. Nothing is always 100% exciting or 100% boring, so you stay in it for the long haul. Yet that stigma remains when it comes to creativity. I hope the creative community speaks up more about this so we don't become discouraged and give up on our works. Other wise, it could be a slow and agonizing death of the arts and all those creative geniuses.
Anyone who is a lover of literature can quote their favorite passages by heart from the books that have touched and moved them in one way or another. A book that drips with emotion is definitely a rare treasure. It can be soaked with sadness, aflame with madness, or pungent with fear. While these books tend to enthrall us, have you ever put much thought into the author's state of mind when he/she wrote it? If you are anything like me the obviously answer to that question would be....YES! And if you are even more like me, you research the author extensively as if you are trying to crawl inside of him/her. If a book is well written you can literally feel the pain, sadness, desperation, and/or solitude within each pen stroke. These are pieces that tend to be timeless and span generations.
This is why the classics are bestowed with the label "classics." Even though the terminology or slang differs from modern day speech, the core emotions or message it contains resonates through the years. It is not lost in translation but is comprehended by each and every new generation. Who among us does not immediately recognize the phrase "Never more", or "Call me Ishmael"? The loneliness felt when reading "The Raven", or the almost maniacal obsessions while sampling "Moby Dick" is something anyone can relate to. That is because emotion is the one thing that does not change context through out the years.
(Click on link to read further about a few famous authors who suffered mental illness)
One doesn't have to look too far to acknowledge just a few of the famous writers who have struggled with some type of mental illness. Mark Twain succumbed to bouts of depressions and we can be sure that his turbulent family drama played a factor in his struggle. Stephen King self-medicated with alcohol and drugs to cope with his unhappiness yet his most famous works, like "The Shining", were produced during those troubled times.
Sylvia Plath Ernest Hemingway
Sylvia Plath was tormented with suicidal depression, so much so she consented to shock therapy. These experiences are detailed in her only but much acclaimed novel, "The Bell Jar." Ernest Hemingway suffered from bipolar disorder, also known as maniac depression. He underwent shock therapy which he claimed affected his memory which is essential for a writer. I find that the most poignant and resonating pieces are the ones created during times of great turmoil. Let's be honest, books that are all rainbows and lollipops just don't cut it. We all are raptured by stories that encompass suffering where characters are plagued with conflicts, internally or externally. The most memorable characters in a book are the ones that we can relate to, that are human, and this comes from mostly internal conflict. Who doesn't love a character who struggles only to rise above it in the end in some way or another? Just like music we relate to stories that seem to capture issues we ourselves go through.
Current studies being conducted detail the correlations between creative people and mental illnesses.
(Click on link to see article from Stanford University)
Living in such dark, tormented, and maddening places seem to provide some of the most delicately beautiful works of art. Yes, it is a shame that the two seem to go hand in hand and in this day and age with all the medications out there to make everyone feel "normal", one tends to wonder if we will ever see such great works as we have in the past. In no means is this an excuse for someone who does have a mental illness not to seek help. It is just a interesting and somewhat proven theory that one can not help pay attention to. With all the downsides of having a mental illness ( I know since I have lived with depression since I was 18) it is kind of refreshing to see a positive in there. Does that positive outweigh all the negatives? For me, the answer is no. I have lived through some of my darkest times before I went on medication and never wish to return to that state again but I do wonder if the medicine does inhibit my creativity. Food for thought.
In my previous blog, "How to use Facebook Effectively for Marketing", I laid out a few tips to increase traffic to your Facebook page. Now, I wanted to share advice for gaining more followers and attention on Twitter. Twitter has the power to reach millions of people so let's focus on how one can harness its potential to increase your feed's popularity. This will come in handy especially when you're promoting your book, blog, articles, or website.
1. Adding an image to your tweets.
Including a picture with your tweet greatly expands what you can share to beyond the 140 character limit. Make sure to use images that catch the eye of the reader. Color actually influences a reader's attention. (For more on the color of images please refer to my previous blog, "How to use Facebook Effectively for Marketing)
Your Twitter presence should have the same look and feel as your other online presences. This aids people into identifying your brand and builds trust. Your Twitter name appears next to all of your tweets so it's important to have the correct name that corresponds to what you are trying to promote. Ex: Personal names are best for professional individuals where as your business name is best for promoting your company. Also, choose a profile pic and background image that reflects to what you are trying to market.
3. Finding balance.
You need to find the sweet spot between what your target audience wants to hear and things that will promote your product. The way to do this is by interacting with people on a general level and a professional level. Give them something that they can all relate to as human beings and also give them a way to see that your product will be useful in their lives. Too much focus on one and not the other will bore your followers so switch it up.
4. Selecting carefully.
Be selective of who you follow on Twitter. You want to follow people in your own profession and this does include competitors. By following others in your profession you can learn from their mistakes and try to offer something different. It can also teach you what works best. Find more professionals like yourself in your own area of residence this way you are in the know when it comes to what's going on in your area. As a writer this will let you become aware of local book events, community gatherings, and places that encourage your talent as a writer.
5. Hash tags #
Use hash tags whenever possible. Since you have limited characters to use try to put the # to target words in the actual tweet itself. This opens up your messages to other groups that might be inclined to follow you.
In conclusion, always send a reply message to everyone that favors, follows, and/or re-tweets your posts. Kindness and courtesy develops a friendlier interaction which leads to more attention. Finally, "Do unto others as you would have done unto you." Favor and re-tweet your followers and people you are following so they might return the favor.
I hope these little tidbits of wisdom help you gain more followers and vast exposure.