Hi friends. I know it's been a while and I want to apologize. These first few months of the year have been quite the stress tornado. I'm doing my best to cope and avoid a mental breakdown - which is something I'm always fearful of. I've been doing my best to listen to my brain and my body and saying no when I feel I just can't take on anymore and my tank is empty. While I'm so passionate about this blog and the message and platform I'm trying to create, it's had to take a back seat so I can focus on my basic needs - like sleeping and eating more than just soup. I've also been doing my best to continue working on, fueling, and appreciating the few amazing friendships/relationships I have in my life. There have been evenings and nights I've deliberately stopped working for the day (which sounds "dumb", as most people do stop working in the evening, but that's really hard for me) so I can actually live a life I enjoy and create memories with the people I care so much about. I'm known to be neglectful, not intentionally, but rather because I've always put work first. But over the last few weeks, I've put work aside to focus on things that I think really matter at the end of the day, and the people who will be there for me when that work changes or goes away.
One of the things I did was go and see Post Secret: The Show with an old friend from high school. (For those of you that don't know, Post Secret was kind of an art experiment that I remember was getting popular when I was like a sophomore/junior in high school. People would send in anonymous secrets on a postcard to this guy and he would use these secrets to create meaningful art installations. It started out as a small community and now people send in secrets from all over the globe. The cards have been used in more installations and I believe have made up 8 books total so far. Every Sunday a list of them get posted to the Post Secret website. I highly recommend checking it out.) She and I had lost touch once graduating and going our separate college ways, but we were always on each others radars. When we graduated college and came back to Pittsburgh, our social media friendship started to pick back up. She had started a blog of her own and I was going through my own shit. We both suffer from depression and anxiety and were able to bond over the ways our brains were working. We'd send each other brief messages and tag each other in things we thought the other would relate to or things they might enjoy. And honestly it was just really wonderful to have someone in my corner who understood and could validate the things I was going through. And it was even better to have an actual friend.
Off the bat, if you go check out that Post Secret show link, and see the show is coming to a town near you, I so highly suggest you go. Whether you are struggling with mental illness issues, regular issues, or whatever, I think every single person could benefit from experiencing this show. It was truly an emotional roller coaster. We laughed. We cried. Audience members would shout out in support and empowerment of other audience members. It was absolutely incredible. And sitting there in the audience, with people who were just like me, I was truly reminded of the three things I'm holding so dear now:
1. You are never alone. 2. You are loved. 3. It does get better.
That night meant and continues to mean the world to me. I've been doing my best to recover and shift into a more "normal" life again. I'm not seeing a therapist right now. I'm no longer taking "happy pills", but I do keep them in my bag for emergency purposes. I journal and blog and cope through the skills I was taught. I'm doing my best to be as happy and full-functioning as I can be, but as you know, there are days I'm still struggling. It's no where near as bad as it used to be, but these struggles still aren't easy. And I think in a way, I've been kind of suppressing the things I've been going/went through. I've been writing these blogs, finding some closure, and then kind of forget about them. Which is kind of really weird for me, as these were things I would nitpick and harp on for weeks, months, and years on end. And I think I've been getting a little caught up in this whole recovery, happy-go-lucky, evolved new person I'm trying to be. Which is why I think seeing that show, with that particular friend, was everything I didn't realize I needed and kind of re-grounded me on this journey.
I mention all this as I'm launching another collaboration series this month that I'm calling Healing Expressionism. As I've been saying, 2018 is my year of continual healing. Healing my brain and heart from the things I've experienced and the self-hate spirals I was going down for years. Healing my body from the abuse I used to put it through. Healing my relationship with my family. Healing my relationships with friends. Most importantly, healing my relationship with myself. Healing and coping in ways that are positive rather than destructive. Finding new ways to heal, new ways to continue setting my soul free, new ways of continually lighting this new fire within me.
One of the things I'm truly passionate about in this life is dance. It is something that has always been there for me. It's been my escape. It's been my light. It's been the one thing I actually have some amount of confidence in. And I know I never was, nor am now, the best by any means (I swear some of the 10 year olds out there are more incredible now than I ever could be), so I don't want that confidence to be misunderstood as arrogance. But it's what makes me the most happy. Performing has given me experiences I'll never forget. I've danced at theme parks, retirement homes, churches, and schools. I've danced in local shows on small stages and with a company on one of the most beautiful theaters I've ever experienced. I've danced for a crowd of 5 in the mall and in front of hundreds of people at huge art events. Dance has been there to help get through the heartbreak and struggles of my life and it's also been there to celebrate the highs. The feeling of performing, for me, is indescribable and is something I truly cherish. The studio and the stage are some of the only places I genuinely feel free. And until this point in my life, they were the only places I actually felt like my true self.
Dance is part of my identity and I honestly don't know who or where I would be without it. I know dance gets a bad rap for creating a world of perfectionism and thin, lean bodies, but for those of you in this world, you know it is so much more than that. One of the reasons I'm teaching now, other than the fact that I love it, is to show my kids that they too have this safe place. They have a world where they can be anyone they want to be. This world that can show them empathy and safety when their real lives feel messy and chaotic. I want them to know that they are always validated in my classes. I want them to feel free. I want them to feel valued. I want them to feel loved. This is the place where I want them to feel unencumbered to express themselves, whatever that means to them. Whatever they are feeling, struggling with, excited about, whatever, I want them to feel safe to share them. I want to help them find the confidence in themselves to overcome their obstacles and to continue celebrating what makes them so unique.
And that's kind of where this collaboration is coming in. I know how dance has changed and shaped my life. I've used it as a tool and I'm pretty sure without it, my life would have taken a very different path. But that is just my experience. I know there are others coping in different ways. And I want to celebrate that. As a way of promoting this healing and that light, I've asked a number of friends and acquaintances I've met throughout the years to share the ways they are healing through their own art with you. Each of these people has inspired me on my journey in some way or another. Some of these friends are actual artists and some are normal people with normal jobs who use art to help them process the struggles they are going through. Some do suffer from mental illness and others are coping with other kinds of struggles. They are some of the most incredible people I have ever met and I hope their stories and their art can inspire you the way they have me.
This collaboration has been in process for what feels like months before that Post Secret show. And I knew I wasn't going to be launching until now-ish. But the show reminded me why I think this project is important. As part of the show, a plethora of real postcards that people had sent in over the years were projected onto a big screen. Cards that filled me with hope. Cards that made my heart sink. Cards that made me laugh. Cards that made me start bawling. No matter the artistic talent of the secret holder, each of those cards spoke not just to me, but to an entire theater full of people. I know how liberating the sharing of these secrets is because that's what the beginning of this blog was for me - sharing and spilling my darkest secrets to the entire internet to read. And I know that sharing them in an artistic way can actually make the process a tiny bit easier. I am continually inspired by those who choose to share their demons and who choose to share them through positive outlets.
I hope you enjoy this series, and even if some connection gets lost in the story-telling translation (because lets face it, that does sometimes happen), I hope you can find joy and interest in the art these wonderful people are creating and sharing with the world.
The shots from this video were ironically taken at one of the lowest points of my depression, only a few months before my breakdown. Filming this project was one of the only sources of light at the time and I tear up now watching it and seeing glimmers of pure happiness in my eyes. I've recut and edited some of the clips (filmed by Evermark Studios) and paired it with the song "I Found" by Amber Run. I found this song on a mental illness playlist on Spotify and I've been wanting to do something with it since. This small video isn't anything incredible, but it makes me really happy, and reminds me of the progress I've made since that breakdown. And that we are all worthy of love, and the person who can love us most has been right here the whole time. Ourselves.
And as always, I love you all. Thank you for your support and patience with me as I continue to figure this all out.