Mental health disorders are difficult. They are journeys with long paths, paths that curve in many directions. The greatest gifts my journey brought me were true loved ones, strength, my voice, and the honor of working beside Veterans (they take me under their wings and treat me like one of their own). So now I give you the opportunity to speak up. Speak loudly and without shame.
It’s the first word that seems to come to mind when we are feeling that things are occurring too much, too fast, and / or too confusing to absorb and manage. We just simply say, we’re “stressed out”, “under stress”, or “too stressed” to handle it. When we are feeling such immense stress, we generally, and ultimately, don’t take the time to slow down to truly identify all that is happening in our minds, our bodies, and our spirit at those moments.
I saw the struggle she was going through and hoped, as her friend, that this would help her express the emotions she was feeling. After I finished choreographing my piece she told me, “This really helped me see through my uncles eyes.” I also believed Belleza’s personal connection with my piece would help her express my aunt’s emotions more sincerely through my choreography.
I feel that at my core, I’m a pretty positive guy. I don’t play the victim to my illness or my circumstances. I’m resilient and can handle anything. Maybe my life is predestined to be one of constant struggle. I don’t know. I do know I’m more than exhausted from being irrationally positive all the time. It’s draining and I can’t do it anymore.
Of course, the first thing that comes into play is the stigma. The number of times I’ve heard someone say, “I’m so OCD!” the pop culture meme for explaining away control issues. At this point I’m aware of how social stigma functions, so I won’t be letting it get me down. Still, it’s out there in spades, pushing the self-stigma triggers ever more so, prompting mindful response over knee-jerk reaction. Dealing with another diagnosis is challenging enough without letting stigma derail my quality of life.
We now are seeing this open conversation take place about sexual assault. We are seeing things like #metoo. More people are talking. This is important. I will tell you one way I flourished among the chaos. You see for sixteen years I struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, but then one day I entered a phase of post-traumatic enlightenment. All those years of pain and darkness opened at first to a small glimmer and then a bright light.
The staff on our wing had their work cut out for them, with twenty-four patients to attend to. Community therapy concentrated on setting and achieving goals. Occupational therapy focused on creatively integrating right- and left-brained processes. Twenty-four individual viewpoints on life; twenty-four souls needing to communicate, each in their own unique way. A microcosm of the very world we longed to be a part of, treating one another with respect when someone went off the rails, supporting one another when life’s lessons got too hard to shoulder alone.
“I focus on creating now, instead of destroying myself. My stitching gives me a reason to keep going, to keep fighting. I have to finish so many portraits,” she says of the benefits the stitching process provides for her mental health. “I start something to bring comfort to someone else and it ends up bringing comfort to myself. It’s like a circle. By helping others I’m helping myself.”“I focus on creating now, instead of destroying myself. My stitching gives me a reason to keep going, to keep fighting. I have to finish so many portraits,” she says of the benefits the stitching process provides for her mental health. “I start something to bring comfort to someone else and it ends up bringing comfort to myself. It’s like a circle. By helping others I’m helping myself.”