Month: May 2020

Art Matters to You.

I’m posting twice in a week – there’s a phenomena.

We’re moving, actually in the middle of a move, right now. It’s been a really long, exhausting process during something like this pandemic and the restrictions everyone is going through. Weirdly enough, packing with five people always around doesn’t actually make it go any faster or more easily. Funny how that turned out!

No, in all seriousness, this moving process is going well. We have a corner by our garage that we’ve been putting out stuff for free and literally everyday, it empties! This brings my heart a lot of joy. At first, everyone in the house was bummed that we couldn’t have a moving sale, so I tentatively suggested this. Nobody was a huge fan at first. I think seeing people happily ‘discovering’ our free stuff corner made a huge difference because suddenly, everyone in the house has had tons to just get rid of throughout the the house. Which is good since the new house has only half the space.

Anyways, I had someone message me a super important question. How do we handle the pandemic when we have mental health issues? It’s been something I’ve been sorta meditating on for about a week and a half. I could list all the repeated ideas everyone is using – time to self, new hobbies, family movie/game time, etc. But I think I have a little bit different answer.

I say – carve out time for art of any kind, books, music, painting, etc. This can be part of carving out time for yourself or separately. Time where you no longer think about yourself or your situation – or perhaps you use both for inspiration. For me personally, I haven’t been writing as much, but I have been reading tons. I could carry on about why but here’s a cool quote:

“Words are the closest thing humans will ever experience to actual magic. Words have the power to transport us to Hogwarts, Narnia, and Westeros. Words can not only break a heart, but more importantly heal it. Words allow us to cultivate and spread both new and old ideas. In short, words allow us an endless opportunity to practice magic in our every day lives. “


I think having a few moments everyday to free your mind with words and art is crucial. It’s a big part of what is really missing in the human experience now. How often do people really sit down to read or draw? What about just sitting or lying down to enjoy some great music while they rest? It’s twofold in my book, the resting and the art of any kind – it must be something you enjoy and that gives reprieve from the world around us.

I think this is especially critical to mental wellness right now. We aren’t able to travel to find and appreciate the things that energize and reset our minds. But being at home shouldn’t mean shutting ourselves off from pleasures. In fact, a lot of the world’s greatest artists and writers lived in solitude to concentrate full time on producing and appreciating with their gifts. They usually only took breaks for meals and walks. The world is a lot more complicated and also a lot more interruptive now.

There’s a lot of research into the necessity for art as pleasure and well-being for those with critical mental health issues. I won’t delve into all of it, but here’s a quote:

‘Studies have shown that participating in music and art can alleviate pain, help people manage stress, promote wellness, enhance memory, improve communications, aide physical rehabilitation, and give people a way to express their feelings. ‘


So, the next part of my answer is this – everyone thinks they don’t have time for music and art, but they actually do. It’s a time management thing. It’s about taking even five to fifteen minutes everyday for it. You also don’t need to be the greatest artist or reader on the planet, you just have to enjoy what you choose. If you must multi-task – listen to your favorite music while making dinner or cleaning. Read right away in the morning, in between tasks, or before bed every night. Find time to sketch or paint, even if your kids need to be coloring or painting right beside you. It’s possible and it’s necessary for you.

I’m sure a lot of this sounds cliché, but here’s what I found in a totally non-scientific, purely observational way. When I was in the hospital after my suicide attempt, a lot of us felt a lot less depression and were able to do better in our group/solo counseling sessions when we made art, listened to music, or spent time reading. I can attribute a large part of my own recovery to art therapy sessions – which may sound weird, but it allowed me to redevelop patience, enjoy creativity, and provide myself a mental break from stressors.

So I advise art and music more than anything. Sure, we can eat well, we can exercise, and we can take our meds. But the brain and heart need creativity and pleasure just as much as they need those other things. This isn’t about functioning, it’s about living.


My Mom Is.

A person I don’t write about much is my mom. But it’s Mother’s Day and I feel a great amount of pride in her. My mom, Julie, is often a person who stays in the background rather than the forefront. She is quiet, silly, polite, and utterly devoted to this family. She has held positions of authority with humility, and she cooks for all five of us every single night. My mother is beautiful too, though she does not believe so. As a fellow Canceranian, the way she loves and cares is intense, focused, and never ending not matter what happens.

I admire her very much.

When I was about to turn 3, I had a pretty intense surgery on my brain and spinal cord. She stayed calm and collected despite feeling that she was somehow responsible for my being sick. She worked very hard and loved even harder. A thing that happened after my surgery was that I was temporarily paralyzed. Rather than give up on me, my father actually stayed home with me every day to bring back all my physical abilities. My mom worked extra shifts and stayed extra hours to keep her family afloat. She also did all the grocery shopping, all the cleaning and gardening, and still cuddled with me most every night. Even my father has admitted that she never complained.

She found ways to make it to all my school functions, my concerts, my dance performances, despite sometimes working around the clock. She even made dinner every night, too! She and my father took me on a lot of adventures, road tripping and camping all over the western half of the country. She found time to go on long walks with me and tried to talk with me meaningfully every day.

I admit that I was not the greatest teenager in the world. Especially to her. I was laser focused internally a lot of the times. I was also intensely focused on all my extra activities, working, and trying to stay above feeling down a lot. I didn’t realize then that I had depression or anxiety, and I took a lot of that out on my mom. She was patient and kind anyway.

When I was in my 20s, I competed in pageants for scholarships and as a big personal goal after my father died. A thing that was required during the pageant performance was that we were escorted by a parent during evening gown competitions. My mother was terrified, even though we shopped for beautiful dresses for her too. We practiced everyday up till the pageants. Finally the pageants came, and each time, she was beautiful and elegant. I was so grateful that she did something so hard for her, just for me.

After my father died, my mom and I decided to be two adults in respect of how we treated each other – not necessarily mother and daughter. We talked openly and usually several times a day. She supported and encouraged me through failed college majors, failed ridiculous relationships, a big move, and an elopement. She learned to not take my mood swings and worsening mental health personally.

When we all moved in together, our relationship was suddenly so difficult. We weren’t kind to each other and we were each going through a lot of terrible issues. My mom was struggling with grief. I was on the wrong medication for my mental health, and worse than I had ever been. I was ready to throw in the towel, but suddenly something changed and we learned how to be in a real relationship again. I am so grateful for this because, like everyone, I don’t really know how to live without my mom.

Sometimes, I don’t know she actually doesn’t fall over exhaustion. She spends her days of retirement zooming around, just like when she was working. She even had breast cancer a while back, and she healed from both the surgery and the cancer in record time. She’s about the only person I know that wakes up perky, alert, and basically singing

What a great woman, right? Happy Mother’s Day, mom. You’re among the best people ever and you do amazing stuff every single day. The kids and I love you. And Happy Mother’s Day to y’all too.


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