Our last blog featured Mary Lou Gonzalez, a certified practitioner of my Creative Journal Expressive Arts Methods (CJEA), and a Pain Management Specialist at Buentello Wellness in McAllen, Texas, on the border of Mexico. I told the story of how Mary Lou has been using my CJEA methods on herself for healing from COVID-19.
Since Mary Lou was diagnosed with the virus and hospitalized on June 26th, the area where she lives – the Rio Grande Valley, south Texas, on the border near the Gulf of Mexico – has seen cases of COVID-19 spike. Hospitals are filled to over-flowing and patients have had to be flown out of the area or sent home to die. I had been watching news about “the Valley” closely because I have a deep connection to this region of the country. For 25 years I had led public workshops in the area hosted by Dr. Marsha Nelson, co-founder and training supervisor of CJEA. For ten years, we offered my training program intensives in Mission, Texas, where Mary Lou lives. Like Mary Lou, many professionals from the Rio Grande Valley have become certified CJEA practitioners. Dr. Nelson and her CJEA team brought Creative Journal methods to post 9-11 traumatized families, cancer patients, veterans, active military, medical professionals, law enforcement personnel, under-served children in summer camp, and students K - 12 in schools, including the Mission School District. We’ve done research into the benefits of the Creative Journal in the Edinburg Schools (K-6) in partnership with the University of Texas.
The Rio Grande Valley, about 98% Latinx, is known for being a deeply family-based culture, often with three or more generations living together or in close proximity. There is also a high level of poverty in the region, which usually comes with less access to medical care, health challenges, more crowded living conditions, and unemployment. COVID-19 was already hitting similar communities across the nation. The pandemic has raged through Mary Lou’s area, attacking all generations, including children of all ages.
Last week, Mary Lou called me with an update. She was still recovering at home and had seen a new physician (after her former doctor reported his services were no longer covered by her insurance). The new doctor, who was covered under her policy, had administered more tests. Much to everyone’s surprise, her tests showed no COVID-19, and no anti-bodies for the virus. It was as if she’d never had it. What is more, the doctor took her off of glucose balancing medication she had been on before the COVID-19 diagnosis, saying she never had diabetes so didn’t need these drugs. He lowered the dosage of her thyroid, which she’d been on for years. Mary Lou is 61, and the doctor reported that her lab tests indicated a level of health much younger than a person her age. Considering that she was hospitalized as recently as late June for both bacterial Bronchitis and COVID-19, and grieving the death of her 92 year old mother (who died while Mary Lou was in the hospital), the physician’s assessment of her general health is even more impressive and, quite frankly, miraculous.
Her new doctor wanted to know what she was doing. She told him about advice she’d been given at the hospital. She’d followed nutritional guidelines, was taking vitamins, and sleeping on her side or stomach for better breathing. She also told him about the other things she was doing: Creative Journaling, movement, meditation, affirmations, and prayer. The doctor told her: “Keep doing whatever you are doing. It is working!”
Mary Lou told me that she continues writing journal dialogues with her Inner Child, who speaks through her non-dominant hand. She lives alone and feels free to have spoken conversations out loud with her Inner Child, as well. Some of the messages from her Inner Child have been: Move from fear to love. Be more patient. Put yourself first. Say No to others.
Mary Lou reiterated that saying “No” to demands from family members has continued to be a big thing for her. She uses my Inner Family method for bringing in her Protective Parent (who sets boundaries on behalf of the Inner Child’s needs). This was especially important when Mary Lou was in the hospital and could not be part of burial arrangements for her mother. She had to say No in a situation where she would normally have jumped in and taken on lots of responsibilities. Instead, other family members had to step up and take over for her. She also had to assert herself when informed she could not rent an oxygen device upon release from the hospital. She needed oxygen when she went home on July 2. The only option was to purchase one. So she insisted on doing so, even though it was expensive. Her Protective Parent took a strong stand and got her what she needed.
Of course, Mary Lou is sheltering at home. She limits her phone conversation time if she finds it is draining her. She continues to limit exposure to bad news on media in order to preserve a positive outlook. The Protective Parent within also helps Mary Lou set limits on her Critical Parent, who will try to criticize her and blame her for any number of things. Knowing how to put up a protective shield, she tells it to: Be Quiet!
From Deepak Chopra recorded meditations on her phone, Mary Lou learns positive affirmations that keep her mind healthy. In this way, the Nurturing Parent Within is feeding her Inner Child with good food for thought. We agreed that nourishment and self-care is not limited to the body. It must include the spirit, mind and emotions as well. Keeping a positive mental attitude is critical when dealing with illness. Without healthy mind food, it is easy to slip into depression, stop eating, stop moving, and give up. Along those lines, she told me she had been told to keep eating and keep moving by medical professionals. And she knew from her CJEA training that she needed to attend to her emotional and mental life as well. Through all of this, and in the face of thousands struggling with COVID-19 in her area, Mary Lou told me she never thought she was going to die. Yes, when she returned home from the hospital, she did have anxiety, she cried, she had nightmares (common occurrence with COVID-19), but deep in her heart she knew she would make it.
Some of Mary Lou’s favorite resources have been drawing and moving to Bobby McFerrin’s Medicine Music, and music created by Gabrielle Roth for doing 5rhythms spontaneous movement (Initiation, Endless Wave). She also reads and contemplates a beautifully uplifting book of words and images I recommend to our CJEA community, Living Life in Full Bloom (by Elizabeth Murray).
Mary Lou uses my “Picture of Health” process (mapping and dialoging with body parts using both hands) and creates health mandala’s (both of which are featured in my book, Hello, This is Your Body Talking). She does Healthy Lifestyle collages (from my book Visioning: Ten Steps to Designing the Life of Your Dreams).
Mary Lou also recites the Rosary, prays for herself, others and the world, and expresses gratitude to God, the angels, and Our Lady of Fatima.
I reminded Mary Lou that the CJEA methods she is using grew out of my struggle in 1973 with a lupus-like illness that has no cure. We talked about the great gift that this bout with illness has given Mary Lou. A courageous and dedicated woman, Mary Lou has found deeper powers of healing from having to “walk the talk” while recovering from COVID-19. The end result is that she is finding more vibrant health through her daily practices of good nutrition, self-care, movement, art, journaling, meditation, and prayer.
Love to all. Be well and stay safe,
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