Reframed: The Series of Hope & Bravery

My big exciting news that I mentioned in yesterday’s post has to do with my Reframed photo series (found here).

While I can’t say what the news is specifically (yet), I will tell you that the series is expanding! I have around 20 new models- many strangers- who have agreed to share the most vulnerable parts of themselves with me and my camera. It has been so inspiring.

I’m meeting so many people who have been brave enough to share their story with me; I can’t wait to share them with all of you. This has been an incredibly moving process, and I can’t believe that my small project may make such a large impact on others.

I want to thank those who have, and who will, participate in this project with me. I applaud your bravery for coming forward and making a difference in the world. This series is doing huge things when it comes to breaking down the stigma of mental health, and I am so happy you are a part of it.

Seasonal Depression…or is it?

I don’t remember the last time I felt like myself.

Great way to start off a blog post, right? Well, it’s true. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about seasonal depression; I thought it was something I’d face upon returning to a city that actually experiences changing seasons. And, while I have been struggling with depression, it certainly isn’t seasonal.

My previous therapist said to look at depressive episodes like I would a cold. They last for a period of time, usually a couple weeks, and then they end and I go back to my regularly scheduled life. Well, I don’t remember the last time I felt particularly motivated to do anything. It took me landing in the hospital to realize how little I was taking care of myself.

Of course, some of that was due to the fact that I wasn’t taking my medication as prescribed (meds are no joke, friends, don’t mess around with them) and therefore was messing with the chemistry of my brain.

Every day I struggle to get out of bed, and every day I have to fight myself to get through the day, at one point or another. I was reading the graphic memoir “Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me” about a young woman dealing with her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, when I realized I was actually jealous of the author. Because with her, at least she experienced episodes of mania, where she was productive. Granted, I don’t really wish I had bipolar disorder, but the days when I start crying on a hike I forced myself to go on, or when I wish I could stay in bed all day, I miss feeling “normal.” I don’t even remember what “normal” is nowadays. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have trouble showering every day, or when I didn’t have any issues taking medication. Now even taking Advil feels like I’m climbing Mount Everest. I wish my depression was seasonal. Because then I could at least foresee an end to all of this.

That’s not to say that I haven’t had any wins lately. I’m fast approaching 10 weeks with no self harm, and I’m using skills every day that I’ve learned in various treatment centers to push past the depression and continue to fight for my happiness and my life. I’m proud of myself. I even think soon I will reward myself with the semicolon tattoo, because I’m still here; my story is not over.

Feeling Depressed on World Suicide Prevention Day

Hello readers,

I know it’s been a while since I’ve published on the blog. I’ve been getting settled in LA, started a new job, and moved in to a new apartment. Life has been a whirlwind. On top of that, I’ve been dealing with some major depression lately. I felt it was appropriate to talk about on World Suicide Prevention Day.

It was my birthday a few days ago, one that I’ve been looking forward to for a while. I’m officially in my mid-twenties, and I had wild ideas in my head of what this birthday would look like. However, when the day rolled around, I found myself unable to get out of bed other than to eat the breakfast my partner got for me. I had wanted to go to the beach, go out to eat, see friends, and take photos with my new camera…none of which I was able to do. I felt helpless. Worthless. Alone. Despite having someone by my side all day.

Fortunately, my having to go to work that night forced me to get out of bed and use my coping skills, and I ended up having a great evening; I was able to attend and enjoy my friends’ band’s tour kickoff with some of my good friends.

However, the next day I was right back in bed. I’ve slept more than I have in months, getting 12 hours of sleep a night and then taking multiple naps during the day because I can’t find anything better to do. I’m fighting every cell in my body to use the skills I’ve learned in my last couple treatment centers; my parents paid a lot of money for me to have access to these skills, and when I have to fight to use them, I feel like I’m letting them down. Which, of course, adds to the depression.

I’m not saying all of this to gain your pity. I’m doing this to out myself. Remember Sasha? She’s the one that’s been driving the bus lately, and I can’t seem to get her to stop. The only way I seem to know how is to expose her. That’s what I’ve learned about Sasha; she hates the spotlight, the shadows fuel her.

I’ve been in the hospital twice for having suicidal thoughts, both of which were fairly recent. I keep my hospital wristbands visible in my car so that I may be reminded of how glad I am that I am still alive. Even on my worst day, seeing my name on those two bands is a great reminder that I have survived worse, and that I will make it through today. (I plan on doing a separate post, or maybe even a podcast episode, on destigmatizing going to the hospital for suicidal thoughts. There is no shame in doing it.)

I am so endlessly grateful to my friends and family who have reached out to me lately to check in and see how I’m doing. You don’t know how much that means to me, even if I can’t fully express it in the moment. So keep reaching out to your loved ones. Continue making yourself available to your Facebook friends, your followers, even to strangers. That is the biggest piece of advice I can give today. Please don’t stay silent. Don’t assume your friends are doing ok. I’d like to think I can mask my depression pretty well, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has that capability. Depression is a terrible illness that is good at sneaking up on you and staying hidden in the shadows. When you reach out, you help shine a light on that depression.

Everyone has the power of helping someone feel a little less alone. Don’t forget that.

 

To those who, like me, are struggling today: I see you. You are not weak for having a mental illness. You are not weak for struggling. You are strong. You are brave. You are not alone, even though it may be the way you feel.

I take comfort in the fact that, while I feel incredibly lonely, I somehow know that I am not the only one who feels that way. Even in loneliness, there is community.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

ANNOUNCEMENTS & EXPOSURES!

Hello beautiful people!

Today was a very big day for me! A lot of people saw I made multiple Instagram Live videos to share some exciting announcements that I’ve got for y’all! I figured folks who don’t have Instagram would want to hear the news, too, so here you go!

First of all, drumroll…

I’m starting a podcast!

Yes, you read that correctly! I’m putting myself out there and am starting a podcast that will also be titled Putting Down the Rope. I plan on branching off of this blog and diving more into mental health and its relationship to art. I will be interviewing guests, accepting stories from folks who would prefer to remain anonymous (and I will read the stories on the podcast), and featuring music/poetry/writing/art in any auditory medium (and will even link to visual art in the description of the podcast).

If you would like to be involved, PLEASE send me an email at PuttingDownTheRope@gmail.com. I will always be available to chat, bounce ideas around, and hear your story. This podcast is about you as much as it is about me.

Now, second of all…

I am raising money to fund my new project that merges mental health awareness with art! You can see the inspiration for my project here.

Basically, I want to show others that art can be used as a coping skill for things like self harm, poor body image, recovery from eating disorders or addictions, and beyond. The concept is that my subjects paint their bodies on parts of themselves they find the most vulnerable, or parts of themselves they struggle with. For me, it was self-harm. I knew using paint would be a more effective skill than actually self harming, and it actually had a better result in the long run.

My overall goal is to show others that they are seen, they are beautiful– because I think folks with mental illnesses often get overlooked or don’t think they’re special or beautiful– and above all, they are not alone. 

The problem is, I currently don’t have the key ingredient to this project: a camera!

So, I started a GoFundMe! My anxiety was very much telling me not to publish that, but here it is. I need help to make this dream a reality. I plan on buying a super cheap DSLR and the lens my friend recommended for portraits. I believe wholeheartedly in this project, and I think it will take off.

I would so appreciate any donation you can give. You can find the link at https://www.gofundme.com/cameraphoto-series.

Thirdly…

I made today’s Instagram live videos an added exposure and I played a song I recorded on live video. Un-flippin’-real.

Those who know me are very aware that I hate singing in public, or in front of anyone, really. Yet, today, I did the thing I have been most terrified of for a many, many years now. And it feels awesome. Just had to share that with the blog. 🙂 #WarriorPrincess

Lastly…

I’ve had some major mental health setbacks lately. And here I am, coming back swinging. I am so excited about life and what life has to offer, and I want to inspire others to find that spark, that zest for life, too!

I’m telling you, when you put down that rope, the world opens up. I can’t wait to share all that will follow.

Endless love to all!

K

Being a Multipotentialite: The Intimidation Factor

Recently, I came across a TEDx Talk called “Why Some of us Don’t Have One True Calling.” In it, Emilie Wapnick discusses the notion that there are individuals out there who bounce from one interest to another, and why doing that is not necessarily a bad thing.

She calls them “multipotentialites,” aka people with many interests and creative pursuits. I fall under the multipotentialite category. In fact, I am specifically a “mixed-style multipotentialite,” meaning I fall more into the right-brain side, and am happiest when I have a few different projects on my plate, but I get overwhelmed when I have too much variety. Sometimes I go through periods where I am working on many different projects, and others where I am deeply invested in one single thing.

I enjoy being a multipotentialite, even though some people don’t fully understand it. Some think I’m just being indecisive, or that I’m impressionable. Emilie taught me that being a multipod actually means I have superpowers that others don’t have. Some of those include the ability to wear many hats, fast skill acquisition, and idea synthesis. My love of many different things has provided me with an exploratory mind; one that I have used to my advantage when applying for jobs or getting projects done at work.

Now, I get to the tough part. There are many things that interest me, and there are things that I want to learn how to do, such as playing the bass, writing poetry, or doing portrait photography. I also am an activist who wants to get involved (usually in some creative way) in many different issues; mental health awareness, anti-rape and sexual assault advocacy, domestic violence prevention, ending human trafficking, eating disorder education, and more.

The reason all of these things is so tough to have rolling around in my head, is because my social anxiety tells me that I shouldn’t try new things because I won’t be good at them and I’ll just embarrass myself. I get intimidated because there are always people who will be better at playing the bass, have more poetry books published, know more about the efforts to end human trafficking, etc. etc. and I wonder why I should try if I’m only going to make a fool of myself?

My anxiety challenges the multipod in me. I have the desire to explore so much of what the world has to offer, and yet I feel hindered in doing so.

My depression also limits me as a multipotentialite. I have a very difficult time focusing, my memory is not very good, and it’s hard for me to stay motivated on the projects that excite me. And, of course, depression’s number one symptom is the lack of enjoyment in things you once enjoyed. So, when I have a number of projects that I had started that suddenly become uninteresting to me, it drags my motivation down further.

I hesitated writing this for a long time. I didn’t want to out myself as an unproductive multipotentialite. But I wouldn’t be staying true to the blog if I didn’t write about my experience with my mental health and how it affects me day-to-day.

I am still exploring how to fight this depression and anxiety, through various therapy modalities and medications. My meds were helping for a time, but now I’m back in the funk I have been in all my life. Unmotivated, unwilling, hopeless.

However, I am not completely without hope! I have been exploring Emilie’s website, Puttylike, and I’m seeing a new psychiatrist soon who will hopefully get me on meds that will make me feel like more of a functioning human. I want to be the full-blown multipotentialite that I know is lying dormant inside of me. I want to be the most productive bass-playing, photograph-taking, poetic activist that ever was! I know I can get there. I just can’t allow myself to get discouraged by the journey my anxiety and depression take me on every once in a while.

Demi Lovato: Not Just Another Overdose

I just learned of Demi Lovato’s overdose.

For those who are unaware, this is very personal and upsetting news to hear; not long ago, I almost lost a friend to an overdose. I saw the immediate effects of substance abuse when I was with them in the hospital. I watched them have seizure after seizure until they had to be so heavily medicated they couldn’t breathe on their own. Witnessing that is one of the scariest things that has ever happened to me. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for their family.

I first heard of Demi’s overdose as the punchline of a joke. I thought it was fake, just someone trying to be funny in poor taste. But then I saw stories of her in magazines and knew it had to be true. My heart broke for her and her friends and family.

I just want to say, mental illness is no joke. I’m sure most of you reading this post have been affected at one point or another by substances, and maybe you don’t understand addiction. I can tell you that my friend did not want to die. But the substances made them think they did. Overdosing is not a joke. I’m actually surprised I just typed that sentence out…

If you are struggling with an addiction, please know there is no shame in reaching out. I know it’s hard. My eating disorder was an addiction in and of itself, and it took me a long time to admit that I wasn’t just going to get better on my own. My disorder prevented me from living the best life I could. I know in the moment it doesn’t feel like there’s hope for recovery, but I promise you there is. My friend is living proof.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 24-hour treatment referral hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit Findtreatment.samhsa.gov for free and confidential help. In the case of a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

Lowering the Bar

When you have depression, suddenly the world shifts. You have the burning desire to sleep all day, your passions become an afterthought, and small tasks seem unattainable. The number of times I have had to explain to my dentist that I don’t brush my teeth as often as I should because of my depression fills me with shame. Or when I start crying when I get the urge to pee because that means getting out of bed. When I’m at the bottom of a depressive well, the amount of guilt, shame, sadness, and exhaustion cover me so I can’t even see the light at the top. And I’m at the bottom of that well right now.

One of the adjustments I have had to make lately is adjusting the standards I set for myself. I now get rewarded for the smallest things. Things that I’m sure most people have no problem doing every day. I now get congratulated and celebrated when I do something simple, like put a dirty dish in the dishwasher, or take a shower. I have to force myself to go hang out with my friends, or reach out for help when I feel overwhelmed.

Today, I was congratulated for making social plans. At first, I was disheartened. All I did was reply “Sure” to a text from a friend who asked to hang out. Why does that earn celebration? I once read a memoir about a woman with bipolar disorder, and she writes something similar about receiving praise for moving from her bed to the couch.

The thing is, I can’t look at things the way I do when I’m not depressed. Because those are completely different circumstances. When you feel it’s impossible to get out of bed, or keep your eyes open, it is a major celebration when you do those things. Because, in your depressed mind, you have just accomplished the impossible. Which means, you can do anything. It will be hard as hell, sure. And it is doable. That is what I’m holding onto while I’m stuck looking up from the bottom of this hole I’ve found myself in. It’s going to be work. I’m going to have urges to act on maladaptive behaviors. I’m going to want to sleep all day. And I know that I can say no. I can get up and go to work, or see my friends, or buy groceries.

Just because I have to lower the bar now, doesn’t mean it’s forever.