You probably don’t think of yourself as an artist, but no doubt about it, you are creative in your own way. Most of us don’t think to turn to our creativity for healing, but that’s exactly what Nerissa Balland did for herself and what she does for others helping them heal through art therapy.
This month I’m focusing on creativity as a path to healing. This is part two. Earlier this month I focused on writing because people love a good story. And we also love art, even if we don’t see it as such. You may not think of yourself as Picasso, but you are mesmerized by color, that is your nature.
Cancer, and more….
Nerissa was exposed to cancer as a young girl when her grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. This left a big impression on her, as well as a fear of one-day getting cancer herself.
In true cancer fashion, it comes when you least expect it.
And so it did for Nerissa while pregnant with her second child on the heels of a move to a new city and new job. Nerissa chose to tell very few people as she didn’t want to be judged in her various groups for “having cancer”.
On choosing the right medical team.
One thing I always advocate is finding the right medical team to partner with on the road to healing. The first doctor you see may not be the right fit, and that’s okay. Keep looking and getting second and third and… fifth opinions until you find a doctor you feel comfortable with and one whose philosophy of care aligns with yours.
When the first oncologist told Nerissa to end her five and a half month pregnancy or they couldn’t help her, she decided to get a second opinion… and keep her second child.
I will never get tired of saying that you should be your own best advocate because no one knows you like you.
Going back to her roots.
For Nerissa, her cancer diagnosis was an opportunity to return to what she loved most about art – creating it! But first, she would have to examine what got her to this moment in the first place.
“The areas I was avoiding and the negativity that I brought or thought about myself, that I didn’t address, caused or created it to be worse.”Nerissa Balland
You cannot heal through social media, or any other form of distraction or avoidance of the truth. The way to healing is through examining your life. Then you can begin to heal through art, writing, or any other creative expression that you choose.
Rekindling your passion.
Limiting stress, practicing stress reduction, and using art as a mode of healing helped Nerissa get through the treatments and surgeries. But getting back to her passion of creating art brought up unexpected feelings.
Nerissa began to struggle with how she valued herself – not as a human being, but what she could do. Her value was tied into her job, her ability to produce. Her art became a job instead of a mode of healing.
Her practical advice is to take the pressure off and “use art as a means of expression and a way to start healing”.
The “gifts” cancer leaves behind.
It’s okay to feel angry sometimes for all the things cancer has taken from you, but don’t stay in that angry neighborhood for too long. Cancer can be a teacher. For Nerissa, it taught her that cancer wasn’t necessarily an end, sometimes it’s a new beginning.
“Cancer is not bad, I know this to be absolutely true because it strengthened my relationship with my husband, it made me understand the true meaning of gratitude (and be able to exercise that), and it made me a better parent, it made me more present.”Nerissa Balland
About Nerissa Balland
Nerissa Balland is an artist, arts-in-health practitioner, 2x cancer survivor, coach, and mother. She helps adults and children bounce-back from physical and emotional adversity. Nerissa has combined her love and knowledge of creativity, therapeutic art, coaching, and neuroscience to reduce health issues caused by stress. She works with people from multi-generational diverse ethnic backgrounds with varied socio and economic factors.
Extensively trained at Pratt Institute, Nerissa received a Master of Fine Arts in painting and has numerous certifications in Therapeutic Arts, Neurolinguistics, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy. Currently, Nerissa works as a visual artist in South Florida with exhibitions that span — from Miami Art Week to faith-based institutions, universities, and hospitals.
When she isn’t producing art, she develops and facilitates art wellness workshops.
Highlights from this episode include:
- 2:16 Nerissa’s exposure to her grandmother’s cancer experience.
- 5:09 A budding artist…during 9/11.
- 7:25 Nerissa’s personal cancer story.
- 15:56 When the BEST isn’t.
- 17:15 Be your own advocate.
- 18:31 Be confident in your medical team.
- 24:23 Rekindling the passion for art.
- 26:45 Dealing with imposter syndrome.
- 29:41 Addressing your limiting beliefs.
- 31:13 How do you value yourself?
- 33:52 Turning art into purpose.
- 38:49 Healing by making peace with the past.
- 42:32 Change your perspective, change your life.
- 48:00 What “gifts” did cancer give you?
- 55:08 Identifying as someone who has had and survived cancer.
- 58:49 The contribution of self-care.
- Links Mentioned in this podcast:
Links mentioned in this episode:
A new episode is released every second and fourth Thursday of each month.
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