Slowing down was not even a consideration as I carried on the family mantra: work hard, play harder fulfilling multiple jobs, taking as many courses as possible per semester, graduating with honors, and partying nearly nightly right up until my graduation ceremony, which I missed because I was out blowing coc, selling art, and getting pulled over on a one way going the wrong way. Yes, I know- it IS a miracle I’m alive, and I know I am somewhat crazy for sharing this $h*t,
Okay, so the good news: I no longer drink. My body is still recovering from all the hell I’ve put it through, so I can’t even tolerate it. It is no surprise I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease a few years ago while working my last full time gig. I actually stopped abusing alcohol years ago so no silly buzz for me, but the even better news is I haven’t touched a drug in nearly a decade. I’m in a healthy, committed relationship which has never involved drugs, infidelity, and/or physical violence, which I’m sorry to say has most often not been the case. I have learned to respect myself enough not to tolerate such abuse and I care for my body with food, exercise, and rest rather than fill it with garbage or starve and berate it for being human. I can let myself feel pain when it arises as I continue to dislodge the toxic belief that there is something wrong with me for wanting to love and be loved for who I am by a family that often couldn’t match such needs due to their own generational traumas. And now, right at twenty years after walking into that library and picking up my first text on mental illness as a scared and lonely teen, I am honored to say that as an Art Therapist I have used my past experience to empathize and assist other families, children, adolescents, and adults navigate their own histories using the creative process and reconcile emotional pain. I’ve worked in a variety of settings over the past seven years helping others learn to care for their mind, body, and spirit. I’ve been able to practice both nationally and internationally to research and publish the efficacy of Art Therapy. I completed the required clinical hours for certification a few years ago and started building a private practice that has allowed me to specialize in supporting other women and helping professionals heal their own wounds in order to increase their level of self care, prevent burnout/ compassion fatigue, and become more effective clinicians. My pain and experience have not been in vain! In the words of Kenji Miyazawa, “We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” I know my journey is no better and no worse than anyone else. We must all navigate our own path, but just like you, the more I embrace being who I really am the better I feel in body, mind, and spirit. ‘That beautiful, genius part’ who is full of love for myself and the world knows that ‘somewhere deep down’ it is my honor to help others move past anxiety, depression, self-hate, and diagnosis to find this same magnificent love!
If you or someone you know has struggled with the label of mental illness please know there is hope and help beyond the pain. Please leave me a comment. I would love to hear your journey or how you have been affected by such classification. “Just because something’s always been done that way, doesn’t mean it should continue to be done that way!”