I met Rebecca and her husband, John, at Ocean Alliance at the Paint Factory here in Gloucester on a volunteer weekend of painting the new offices. I walked upstairs to find a smiling couple happily rolling paint on to the new sheetrock walls and ceiling. Rebecca and I realized that she had sold me the first handful of colored pencils at the local art store that marked the rebirth of my art career. An accomplished artist herself, Rebecca has shown me that the art world is not the scary intimidating place I thought, but a place of collaboration, support and wonder. It is also a tool of mental health recovery:
I AM MORE than my anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.
Like a shadow that follows one closely, so has my anxiety been my silent traveling partner throughout my life. Growing up in a very nurturing and supportive family, I had a happy, vibrant, silly, curious, and loving spirit. My physical appearance, due to a large birthmark on my left cheek, caused me to standout from the crowd and be a regular target for pointed fingers, whispers, and verbal teasing. This often perplexed me, as my parents always told me my mark was beautiful and made me unique. For medical reasons, I had to have the birthmark removed at age 13, but the bullying I had experienced instilled in me a strong sense of empathy that I would carry throughout my life. I continue to this day to champion the fight against bullying and intolerance.
In my freshman year of college, an even more dark and sinister shadow appeared in the form of depression and brought me to my knees when I became a victim of sexual assault. This trio of anxiety, severe panic attacks, and depression consumed me, but with my incredible support system, I was able to embrace my fears and gain the tools necessary to deal with my mental pain–then, and every time it crept into my life thereafter. I also came to realize and embody the power that women possess, but is often suppressed in our patriarchal society.
For me, Agony and Ecstasy seem to have always traveled hand-in-hand in a bizarre symbiotic relationship, but over the years I have grown stronger in my resolve to let the latter lead me. It is not always easy, as the shadow of anxiety and depression is always there, but I will not let that be my identity.
What does define me is THIS:
I am loving, kind, accepting, and a fiercely loyal friend. I am silly, fun-loving, and a bit irreverent. I am genuine and authentic. I will listen intently and give with all of my heart. I will go to battle in the face of injustice.
I am a multi-media artist, an avid beachcomb enthusiast, and an environmentalist; my passion for the ocean in particular drives my desire to inspire action towards protection and conservation of our blue planet. And oh, by the way, I love, love, LOVE to dance.
I am honored to be a part of the I Am More project. By sharing my story, I hope to aid in breaking down the stigma of mental illness and encourage others to seek help without fear. By living out in the light, one can discover the comfort in knowing there are others who are there to provide support, acceptance, and love.
If you would like to share how you are more than your depression, grief, bipolar disorder, addiction, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorder or OCD please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a Writing Guide.
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