It was about 21 years ago on a gray day like today; when in the middle of a 9-5 workday I cracked. I had started my week, once again experiencing something I didn't know I suffered from all my life. It was called depression. This day was different though. It all felt so heavy and dark and out of nowhere I cracked and was flooded with the most horrific intrusive thoughts and memories. At the time I was an aspiring actor/musician. I had a one act play in a show in Lincoln Center, had been offered a role in a stage play and was collaborating with a producer in making music and writing songs for bands. But my mind seemed to have other plans. It pulled the floor from under me, threw me into what felt like a dark emotional abyss and began to show me things I didn't understand, accepted or believed could have happened to me as a child. I walked away from it all without notice or an explanation to anybody. I continued to work pretending I was okay and heading right back home to hide from the world though I could not hide from the demons that had suddenly appeared as the worst imaginary friends. My culture, belief system and upbringing kept me from seeking help for two years. I remember walking out of waiting rooms after making appointments to see therapists. But in the middle of this darkness I decided to pick up a drawing pad and watercolors. Since the beginning of my career as a professional artist I was careful not to talk about any of this, because I did not want to use art as a crutch nor fit some mold or stereotype. As I got good, I also wanted to follow the path and prove myself as a legitimate artist. I often say I'm an artist despite my neurosis and not because of it.
However, I do believe it was the catalyst to discover that I was born to make art. Creativity finds a way even when you hide under a rock. Art and reading about other artists’ lives led me to therapy. Through counseling I was able to learn about myself, my life and most importantly, get to the root of my anger and the self destructive tendencies that plagued me since I was a child. It helped me understand that I wasn't a soft crybaby, but that people didn't recognize that I suffered from depression and had been a victim of abuse since an early age. That guy that cracked back '97, would have never imagined getting out of that dark hole nor the life and people that surround him today. Life didn't always get easier, there have been many tests since. I still experience great emotional lows and a get flooded with bad memories. But taking action in healing brings more healing and strength. In the toughest moments, having access and the perspective of a mental health professional has been crucial in my experience. It taught me compassion for myself and others, including members of my family who I’m convinced struggled in the same way and never got help. It also gave me license to explore and work on anything I feel through my art. I think I'm sharing this openly today, because it's the one step in my healing journey that I have not taken. It feels both scary and like a pat on the back for how hard I work at it each day.
So if you're out there and feel that you need to talk to someone, don't be afraid. If think it’s mild and you can manage it, believe me, it will grow and hurt you. There's no shame in seeking help and treatment. The most powerful step you can ever take is admitting you can't do it alone. And you don't have to.
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