Moving an 11-year-old from the town where she grew up to an entirely new place is hard. The kid who always had friends to play with was now alone, and the neighborhood kids weren’t knocking on our door with invites. Then we met Henry. He was teaching acting and playwriting to kids in a historic tavern in the middle of Gloucester, and he said, “Come on in, you’re welcome here.” Soon Dylan was acting again, writing with new friends and learning the history of Gloucester. Henry knew more about being an outsider than we realized:
I am more than Complex PTSD and depression.
When I was a child and heard Kermit the frog sing “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” I always felt validated because it spoke to the challenges of being different. For as long as I can remember I’ve always felt vastly different from most people around me. Misunderstood, and never quite fitting in. Still do. Not better or worse, nor more than or less than. Just… different.
When I was attending the American International School in Vienna, I remember my 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Phend, instructing us to write, in cursive, a paragraph revealing our greatest fear. Greatest fear? I was eight years old and I had never thought in those terms before. The only fear I could conjure was that of maybe out-living my children someday. Different.
I know now that that little boy had a premonition, and some 34 years later the fear would be resolved. On November 26, 2006, my beloved 11-year-old son Cameron David was diagnosed with a grade 3 anaplastic astrocytoma which took his life at age 13. I was 42… and now fearless.
What is it like to walk fearlessly in a fear-driven world? To me, it’s rather like losing an eye. I live with a gaping, painful wound that will never heal. I can pop in a glass eye and no one will ever know the difference unless they look very closely, but I am constantly aware that I look at the world from a completely different perspective than almost everyone else around me… unless they, too, have lost an eye. And they kind of get it. Like birth, every experience of death is unique in its way and one’s perspective is their own. Different.
And so I live with the disabilities stemming from not only the loss of my child, but from my own cancer survival and childhood traumas. Over the last decade I have developed life skills and coping mechanisms that help me adapt to a world that won’t adapt to me. I have an amazing service dog that helps me navigate the triggers. Singing is my spiritual practice. It allows me the opportunity to intimately engage with my universal human spirit, disappearing into a lyric, toning my way through the toughest times.
Through these tumultuous waters, I have been swept toward a deeper journey into my own biography that has me continuously spelunking the depths of the rabbit hole. I behold unexpected miracles and wonders that few others get to experience. Sometimes they are glorious, at other times very difficult and nightmarish.
I channel my grief into service through my art. As a theatre artist and folklorist, I am hyperaware of the magic of storytelling. I don’t experience joy anymore the way people do, but I derive great satisfaction in unlocking that magic in and for others.
We all carry our bags of stones. I strive to lighten the burdens of others a bit by helping them recognize and release the stones that no longer serve them, creating more harmony. Storytelling can do that. Music can do that. The triskelion on my right arm represents that for me. Harmony. In turn, being of service in this allows my burden to be lifted a bit, too. And in that place of sharing harmony and magic, perhaps we’re not so different after all.
“I am green. And it’ll do fine. It’s beautiful. And it’s what I want to be.”
To learn more about Henry-Cameron Allen and The Folklore Theatre Company go to his website here.
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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