Mental Health Advocacy

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IF YOU BRING FORTH THAT WHICH IS WITHIN YOU,
THEN THAT WHICH IS WITHIN YOU
WILL BE YOUR SALVATION.
IF YOU DO NOT BRING FORTH
THAT WHICH IS WITHIN YOU
THEN THAT WHICH IS WITHIN YOU
WILL DESTROY YOU. –the gnostic gospels.

My feelings on mental health advocacy have grown directly out of my own life experiences. The tattoos on my arms encapsulate the new laws I was led to create in the perceived ruin– HOW TO LIVE YOUR LEGEND? A PRAYER TO SEE AND BE SEEN.

I began wrestling with the realities when I was a young teenager, and then watching my closest family member suffer right before my eyes for over a decade. From 2015 to 2018, even overlapping into 2019 as I write this– I have had the darkest and most challenging of my own harrowing journeys, including a formal diagnosis of Bipolar II & anxiety disorder, offers to go on disability or be hospitalized, and many, many brushes with the possibility of ending my life.

I speak this story candidly because I wish to offer what has helped heal my life– in hopes that it can help someone else. I began coping mechanisms with what I knew– burying my sorrow or mania in all-consuming love and relationships, but also always, always writing and curating.

For me it was about UNRAVELING– and accepting the absolute necessity of daring and dangerous self-exploration. I first had to untangle my traumas and traumas responses, addictions, and patterns, which included identifying the stories that are given to us or which we take on over time, that are not truly ours– narratives from society, tradition, family, relationships, past selves.

This process, of course, is mind-bendingly excruciating at times. To contend with the truth of yourself– while you are being taught to fear your mind and emotions, to fear that at any moment you could hurt yourself or take your own life– is truly the work of LEGEND, a hero story, the hero’s journey.

This is what I offer– going forward, in my work. A willingness to share and help others discover the inner soul quest that can lead to authentically saving your own life– because you CAN, at any moment, should you choose to do so. It is an alternative path that many have blazed before you, but that you can only claim by yourself, for yourself.

Below are some excerpts of my multidisciplinary work in this vein, both art and organizing— it is my life’s work, my heartwork, to continue connecting, advocating, helping– one story and one person at a time, widening the circles, spreading the legend, and facilitating safe and generative spaces for vulnerability and conversation.

“How my experience with mental illness helped me trust my darkness” – personal essay published November 2018 on Rebelle Society [read it here]

A three dimensional grappling with spiritual awakening, mental illness, and the journey back to the soul – “PROVENANCE,” an alchemical theatre work infusing poetry/prose, ritual, music and movement, December 2018 [watch the video here]

“blue sky” – the first time I named this journey, written 2016 and subsequently published 2018 in my third book “WILDLIGHT” [read it here]

“HOW WE CREATE & HOW WE COPE: intersections of art & mental health/mental illness” curated shows – In the throes of realizing I truly needed help but also needed to do something- I decided to create an event putting a face to mental health afflictions and focusing particularly on the experience of the artist. In 2017 Queens Council on the Arts hosted the sold-out debut, and in 2018 it was expanded as a part of LaGuardia Performing Arts Center’s Rough Draft Festival.

my third book, “WILDLIGHT” which captured in poetry, prose & shamanic story the rawest truth of my journey from 2015-2018 [more info here]

in 2019 – HOW DO I FEEL ABOUT ALL OF THIS? WHAT DRIVES ME FORWARD?
A MANIFESTO // excerpt from my forthcoming “THE BOOK OF LEGEND”:

there is something in our souls, and hearts— calling us forward.

something, even small, even faint— that leans towards the promise of a legendary journey. that opens to it— that can feel that wind from somewhere far away, infused with the smell of salty sea or dank earth or arid desert. there is something that whispers to us, somehow— this is not ‘just your imagination.’

it is why these tales, quests, myths— peopled with heroes, talismans, initiations, guides, helpers, battles, fantastical creatures— wake something up in our memory. why archetypes work. why joseph campbell’s brilliant ‘hero’s journey’ fits into everything. why we feel so nostalgic watching movies from our childhood that inspired us so vividly to understand— we can be the hero, too.

but what happens to these worlds as we get older? would you believe that there are doorways to them that surround you, even right now— that there are doorways, especially, in the darkest and most painful corners of your experience? for me, in particular— that came in the form of mental illness. a feeling i first characterized in my own writing as ‘the nothing’— after the obliterating emptiness that destroyed the mystical world of fantasia in ‘the neverending story.’

i write today because i am still alive. i write today from inside, outside, and on the other side of the underworld. i write because, in legend— the hero always returns with the story. and in the hero’s journey, in fact— this is the very purpose. i write today because legend saved my life in a way that nothing else could— not a diagnosis, not modern medicine, not the concern of loved ones or colleagues, not any traditional path that i was prescribed.

what if we recognized the necessary danger in a quest for the inmost self? what if we called to mind the heroes we cherished in our childhood stories— they knew the journeys were treacherous. but they went anyway. they accepted their quests because they knew— this was the only way.

what if we applied this to radical self-exploration, especially in the context of mental health and mental illness? what could be revealed to us, inside ourselves, all along?

what actually makes us different from the legendary heroes on the pages of these stories…?

there is no difference.

i began to realize through my own intensities and agonies of internal wracking— that we are not given adequate invitation— hope— permission— to choose. but not only to choose— to create an entirely different paradigm, for one’s own self. one that you set off towards alone, but with scores of invisible help and endless aid.

i began to realize that the systems in place gravely undermine your sense of self-trust— and depending on what you believe— are quite possibly, purposely designed that way.

in my own mental illness diagnosis i realized the markers of the evaluations pointing to my condition— were also what fueled my breakthroughs. even— delusions of grandeur, grandiosity itself, a signifier— if described in another way, yes, the same as what i have tattooed on my own arm?— LIVE YOUR LEGEND.

i beg to ask the question— how can we trust our own compass, our innermost guides and stories— if the system is telling us we are broken? that we are a danger to ourselves, that our perception in these altered states which have shattered our safety and normalcy— is not to be trusted? who is walking with us— telling us to dare inside the danger? urging us— when ALL else cries unequivocally against it— to TRUST? to TRUST? to TRUST?

there are things we need to do— things we need to come up against— and this may very well include nearly losing one’s own life. there is a chance here, though— for something otherwise. not for a miracle but what is absolutely, entirely— real.

when my pain became too great— and my modes for coping comforted me less and less— be it writing about it in more literal terms; getting lost in love, sex, and relationships; talking about it and analyzing it, traditionally.. these stories came to me. i did not ask for them but in many ways i did. i let them write themselves— and the more i trusted them, they bled off the pages and into the actual world. i cannot see the places and characters that people them with my literal eyes— but i perceive them as clearly as i would perceive you. in my mind’s eye, in my heart, in my field of reality that is now multidimensional and unconfined to this single plane.

the stories are not just things i choose to write— now i am living them, experiencing them, inside them. it is reality that i define— and that no one defines for me. and the more i feel into it, explore it, believe it, trust it— the more i see the truth of where stories, where meaning itself, emanated from— in the first place. this is the place of legend. this is the hero’s journey, in real time. this is the odyssey, the great quest, the incredible journey— it is in your life, right here, right now.

i do not come to make a map for you, to plot the course for you— you and only you alone can do this. my guides will not be your guides, my legend will not be your legend. but it is my hope in sharing where i have been, what i have been through— that a potentiality for yours will burst open or begin to blossom.

if it is a choice between— having solely the options you are being presented with— and alternatively, the options that you and only you can write, create, and describe— what do you wish for? power stripped or power reclaimed? darkness traversed or darkness feared? a broken mind that needs to be fixed— or a teeming landscape of lesson and legend that you can bravely quest and explore?

this is not for the faint of heart. this is not easy. this is not clean. this is not without struggle. without blood. without nearing the edges of existence, the edges of death.

but in my heart, and in my opinion— if we all heave a last breath anyway, and either way— why not fill your living lungs with the breath of adventure, and leave a story behind along the way?

why not begin a quest to exalt and reclaim and rediscover the most wonder-full and worthy hero there is… yourself?

“two wolves” and the stories that began “THE BOOK OF LEGEND” in 2016, unbeknownst to me at the time… [read them here]

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Please contact me if you would like to pursue any kind of conversation or work within these contexts– I’d love to hear from you.