Pride Month

Rainbow

I’ve been pondering this post for a couple of months and decided to place it on the backburner. I couldn’t really think of a better day to write it out and I hope the words just come as I type.

I grew up in a rural setting in the middle of the Bible belt and, subsequently, tornado alley. While enduring more than my share of childhood trauma, I tended to make relationships low-priority for some time.

A nerd in every sense of the definition, kids brutally teased me in sixth grade for being a ‘lesbian’. Every evening, in the solitude of my bedroom I’d shove my face into Brown Bear and cry until I fell asleep.

Criticized for my “humiliating” sense of humor, tom-boy like nature, and tendency to gravitate toward Fortran and briefcases versus pom-poms and Prada, I managed to do a fantastic job of suppressing who I was…even to myself.

In fact, it wasn’t until I finally moved to an environment where I felt empowered and safe and learned to express myself through writing poetry, novels, and short stories that I began to discover the person I am.

I’ve spent the last several years exploring me, and I’ve learned a lot of things, not all that I need to share. It’s not been easy, but I’m lucky in that I have supportive people in my life who are willing to listen and talk.

We’re really good at folding little boxes, piecing them together, taping them up, and tying on large pink ribbons at the top, and I understand how truly difficult it is when one’s situation is too large or complex to fit into those meticulous, dark containers. I realize that if I could just pretend, if I could simply smile from ear to ear and play within the confines of what society deems appropriate life could be, would be simple.

I’d suffocate.

So, this year on Pride Day, I wish for empowerment; wherever you are in your journey, if you’re comfortable, afraid, lonely, depressed, excited, I hope that you can find a sense of worth and voice and know that you are loved.

If you truly have been shunned, abused, or made feel like less of a human, it is my hope that someone enters your path and offers you genuine support.

Love to all on this day, the first day of June,

Erin

Mental Illness is a Shit Show–Let’s Stop Romanticizing It

MentalIllness

Yesterday someone in one of my writing groups presented a question about creativity and its connection to mental illness. I read through some of the comments and was a little taken aback by the idea that being a brilliant artist while suffering mental illness equates to a certain level of beauty.

I’ll say before I write anything more that I am one person. I am a writer. I suffer from chronic migraines and mental illness. I’m not a psychologist and the following is just my opinion and personal observation:

Mental illness is a shit show, a mess hotter than asphalt in mid-July. There is nothing “beautiful” about pulling into a grocery store parking lot and nearly vomiting while experiencing the simultaneous sensation of being smothered by plastic wrap.

No one in the world says, “Wow! Look at the girl standing in the corner counting to steady her breathing before she has a complete breakdown because she feels as if the walls are going to close in on her and her vision is beginning to tunnel. Give me some of that with a side of the guy fidgeting in the long line because there’s too many people around him and he feels like they’re all staring at him, judging him because that’s what the voices in his head are whispering to him, so it must be true. That sounds mysterious and beautiful and I want to be a part of it!”

Nobody says that! Ever!!

This mindset that artists need to suffer in order to create “brilliant” or “beautiful” art as though it’s a first class yacht club that one can only be a part of if they find themselves in near-constant mental, emotional, or physical turmoil needs to stop. Mental illness is not a trend; it’s not an itinerary. It is a result of real situations that a person has experienced.

Those of us who have endured trauma and survived it or have these illnesses for other reasons are not exhibits for show on society’s gallery. We’re human beings who have turned to artistic expression and use our abilities and talents to heal, cope, process what we are going through, or to reach others and communicate our truths about how we suffer and how we process, heal, and move forward from those circumstances.

I can’t and will not speak for everyone, but I will say that if I could trade artistic talent for great mental health, I would do so without batting an eye. I don’t believe that artistic talent and trauma/mental illness are mutually inclusive. In other words, I believe that many artists such as myself are born with talents. For example, I play various instruments by ear, vocally I have perfect pitch, and I compose by ear. I can’t read music. The child/adulthood trauma I endured has nothing to do with those abilities other than I was able to turn to them when I needed to.
MentalIllness2

Throughout childhood, I looked to music, theatre arts, and reading as a mechanism for survival. I learned to appreciate art because it is healing. Even my group When She Walked Away, advocates healing from domestic violence through artistic expression.

I’ve never considered the process of healing to be “beautiful”. Even as a physical wound is healing it itches, burns, throbs, sometimes there’s puss or even blood. It scabs over and sometimes even the scab is irritating. This is the same for emotional and mental wounds; they’re worse because no one can see them. Healing requires tremendous bravery and willpower.

I won’t argue that many great works of literature, art, and music have not stemmed from talented artists who have suffered greatly from physical/mental illness and trauma. But, I believe that we can recognize that perhaps there is some connection (and perhaps not) without romanticizing what they’ve been through.

We can appreciate the works without believing that hardship or distress is required to produce them or that the end product warranted the trauma that the artist experienced. We can look to these paintings, illustrations, poems, books, and compositions for insight into mental health and we can certainly stop referring to the very real and daily battle that others struggle through as “beautiful”.

 

 

Dear ‘Just Get Over It’ People, Why Don’t You ‘Just Get Over It’?

PTSD Post

 

This morning I was up at four. I’m always up around three or four in the morning. Needless to say I’m guilty of scrolling through Facebook.

One of the aspects I enjoy the most is looking at my “On This Day” section and realizing just how much I have healed and how far I’ve come.

Today, I found a poster from a couple years ago about PTSD. I saved it, but the original link was from a Facebook Page named: PTSD Break the Silence , and I linked them because I don’t want to try to take any credit for this poster. Also, people should check them out because they share some great information!

Rereading this poster now, I have a few thoughts on this that I will share.

Note: I fear sounding harsh. It’s not my intention, but I have a great passion about PTSD and Domestic Violence.

I am probably going to be writing about domestic violence often this month, because May is my personal ‘Domestic Violence Awareness Month’. It’s the month I escaped seven years of domestic violence. It also marks the beginning of my lesson in establishing self-respect and boundaries with others in my life who had abused me either mentally, emotionally, or physically in the past.

Needless to say, I was an extremely damaged human–damaged to the point that I would stay up all night staring at the door and just waiting for my abuser to carry out each and every threat he had made all the times I had mentioned leaving, and damaged to the point that I couldn’t even sit through an entire statistics class without getting up to “use the restroom”– my excuse to try out the exit in the room so that if I were attacked in class, I would know where to go.

I plan on writing more about my healing journey in later posts, so I won’t go into too much detail on this one.

But, the one thing that wore me out more than my own mental and emotional anguish was that everyone around me was suddenly becoming an expert on mental illness. It was as though they went to bed and woke up with a doctorate in how to handle one’s own thoughts and healing processes.

Now, as the poster states, I believe it was all well-intended. Even so, there’s a lot of stigma that I feel necessitates erasure.

For example, “stop being a victim”. After my mother passed away, I felt frightened constantly. I felt as though my only protector had left me. In my mind, I was all alone. I felt belittled because I was constantly being called a “burden”, and I felt as though any emotions I had were worthless because anytime anyone would tell me how sorry they were for my loss, the comment was met with, “She’s too young to understand”.

I assure all three people who will read this post of one thing: I understood the loss of my own mother perfectly well.

Being raised as a victim, continuing victimhood into the teen years, and knowing no other way of life, it is extremely difficult to simply “stop being” one.

The first step for me was realizing that I was a victim. Being abused in marriage seemed, to me, like a continuation of childhood. It wasn’t until I began seeking outside sources that I even realized that, “hey, I might actually be in an abusive relationship and this is not right”.

Once I realized it, I had to process it and that took a while because I ended up reassessing my entire life to understand that the things people said to me and some of the ways I was treated ended up reshaping my entire life-script to something I never intended.

Then and only then could I get help from other sources. The most important thing was that I helped myself.

I left, and not only did I leave, later, after years of healing, I decided to flip that script. I chose to allow my experiences to empower me to bring my story to anyone who feel led to listen to it.

This sense of personal power didn’t come overnight. It wasn’t a switch I made a choice to flip.

It came from hard work, persistence, and great inner-courage.

I wish that the same people who make the comment, “Stop being a victim”. Would offer advice on how. Have you ever asked someone who said that to you how to simply “stop”? Try it sometime. Not one of them can give you a comprehensive answer.

I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in 2012. I believe that I’ve managed to heal it well. However, there are certain places I continue to avoid. I ask myself this, “is it absolutely necessary that I go here”?

If the answer is ‘no’, I decide it’s not a fight that serves my higher interest. Maybe I’m wrong, but I, like every survivor, am doing the best I can with the tools I have.

I also disagree that being abused in any way is a choice a person consciously makes.

Maybe you’re an atheist, or maybe you believe in entities like angels. That’s fine–not that you need my approval. But I believe angels exist. I think they come to earth–sometimes in human form; each time I give a few dollars to someone who’s homeless and they thank me. I thank them right back for that light in their eyes when they meet my own–it’s that spark that seems to warm my heart the rest of the day.

I also think that if angels can be here, on earth, in human form, so can demons. the Dalai Lama once said, “Nothing is as it seems”. One hundred percent truth, right there.

I remember when my abuser was going into a rage, his eyes would turn into these black, almost button-like disks. I could see deep red and black all around him. I truly wonder if he was human. Could it be that demons masquerade as people?

I would answer a resounding “yes”. If angels can, why can’t the demonic?

Scary thing. Right?

Maybe I’m wrong for “demonizing”. Perhaps that is “over the top”, but I just don’t believe that actions that are highly abusive should be qualified as human. I think that the word can be as literal or as metaphorical as one would like it to be.

So, this is all that this poster prompted me to ponder today.

I don’t believe that there’s a timeframe on personal healing. I also don’t think that those who are trying to heal are “negative people”. I see them as genuine–real life human beings having genuine, hurtful experiences and coping and moving forward the best they can.

And I would say to the people who think otherwise–those who continue to perpetuate misunderstandings no matter how well-intended, the ones who say “Why don’t you just get over it”?

I’d ask those people the same thing: Why don’t you?

Stop judging. If you can’t care about that situation–move on. Don’t speak on personal experiences you have not had.

If you are working to heal just know it is possible. You are so very allowed to work on yourself at your pace and in your own time–realize that for yourself…again, you certainly don’t need mine or anyone else’s permission.

You can do this! I promise!

Peace and Love,

Erin   patch stars

 

 

Star Medicine

StarSky

Confession: I try too hard.

Other Confession: I’m a wee bit taken aback that I began a blog post with “Confession”. But, I did. So…

Growing up in the rural area of southwest Missouri, I spent a lot of summers watching the evening begin with a few stars speckled throughout the sky like a rainy day connect-the-dot game.

As the cadence of crickets crescendoed–along with ravenous mosquitos–the sparkling dots in the sky thickened. With hardly any lights to drown them out, layer after layer, appeared.

The stars–

those glitter-drops of angelic magic beckoned to me–telling me secrets of peace and healing, promising me that everything, indeed, would someday work out to my highest good.

Often, I would lay in that empty lot next to my childhood home and ask the lighting bugs if they, too, were stars–tiny floating fairies or angels, coming to earth the promenade in the humid Midwestern night.

Those opalescent, brilliant hints of mystery were the source of healing, laughter, and positivity.

So, when I say I try too hard, I suppose it’s because sometimes–I won’t lie…most of the time I believe I don’t do enough. And it’s those times when I start to overdo it. I pay so much attention to others and trying to help them, that I neglect myself.

Essentially, I lose the balance between lending a hand and taking time to work on myself.

So what was the answer?

One night in meditation, I heard exactly what I needed to hear: The stars don’t try to be. They simply are.

In other words, stars don’t necessarily go out of their way. For eons, they have been beacons for healing, guidance, wisdom, and knowledge. They have inspired iconic paintings and caused words to stream like the embrace of eternal lovers.

And they have never, ever tried.

What I have learned from this on my journey is to simply shine from where I am. stop trying and just be. Just know that I am enough exactly the way I am–hell, who am I kidding? I am more than enough.

I am so much more than enough I am just a super-sparkly firework bowl of unicorn Lucky Charms, and that is spectacular!

Stop trying, just be.

After all, we are human beings…

Peace and Love Until Next Time.