Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Rediscovering My Artistic Spirit

One of the most basic of early childhood activities is coloring.  Like all kids, it was an activity that I loved.  I loved taking a page that was, for all intents and purposes, blank and making it colorful and pretty.  One of my earliest memories in my coloring exploration is from preschool.  I was coloring a bunch of grapes...one grape at a time.  I didn't want to go outside the lines and make it easier by coloring all of the grapes at once in a sweeping motion, like my teacher suggested.  I wanted to be like my mom, a woman who taught her daughter to see the beautiful potential in a blank piece of paper, and create something beautiful.
All through elementary school and high school I continued to draw, color, paint and absorbed everything I could from my teachers.  From these amazing teachers I learned how colors can not only transform a blank canvas or piece of paper, but it can spark powerful emotions.  I learned how negative space can be used to create anything your mind's eye can see.  Most importantly, I learned that the ability to see and create beauty is limited only by one's own mind.  
Through everything I have survived, I shut down a huge part of my artistic spirit. I lost sight of the beauty that is all around me.  I would see glimpses of it here and there, but I could never hold on to it for more than a few minutes.  I would look at my favorite painting, Van Gogh's Starry Night, and wish that I could climb into that painting and live in that village beneath the stars. I thought, there I would find my art and my spirit again. 
My dad taught me that art doesn't just apply to a canvas or paper, it can also be found through a camera lens.  As I go through slides of pictures he took, many before I was ever born, I get to see the beauty of the world through his eyes.  We used to joke with him that some of the pictures he took were of rocks in the deserts of the Middle East.  Yes, some of them are rocks, but, since he passed away they are the most precious and beautiful rocks I have ever seen.  I have found remarkable images in his slides, like pictures of the Wailing Wall in Israel and a picture of the Colosseum in Rome that is a spot on match of a picture I took some 40 years later. Knowing that we stood on the exact same spot in Italy, that I walked the same paths as my dad, is something I truly treasure. However, I have also found some horrifying images.  My dad’s clothes of the 1970s were really horrifying.  Some patterns were never meant to see the light of day. 
Even though he passed away he is still sharing his art with me, and I am learning everything I can from it.  It was in Rome, that I really fell in love with photography.  Although, the photography bug first bit me in the winter of 2009 when I got my first digital camera and found a snow function.  I took one picture at night of the snow falling against the backdrop of a porch light and I was hooked.  The snow function made it possible to capture the snowflakes as they fell, instead of one big blurry mess. It was beautiful to me.  Once I got to Rome and started taking pictures, I would review them each night and I was finding these lucky shots that I was taking.  Then lucky turned into me really trying to get the best possibly shot, taking my time and seeing what came of it.  I loved the results!
Since then, I have taken pictures as an unofficial photographer at my friend Jacque’s wedding, at my cousin’s bachelorette party and again at her wedding as an unofficial photographer.  I have done photographic studies of the dogwood and the daylilies in my front yard.  I was even hired to be the official photographer at a 40th high school reunion in November.  Snow pictures, though, will always be special to me.  There is something almost magical about the snow.  It brings out the little kid in me.  I love to dance in it, play in it and watch my dog run, dive and roll around in it. 
Photography has helped me find that artistic spirit again.  It has allowed me to create something beautiful again.  It has let me feel like the pre-school kid who wanted to color in each individual grape again.  It is that creative outlet that I have needed, craved and yearned for…and it feels wonderful!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Flashbacks, Panic Attacks and PTSD...Oh my!

The last month or so has been challenging to say the least.  I have been battling a few health issues and a few PTSD flashback /panic attack episodes, one of which was witnessed by my mom and it was pretty bad.  The episodes have come on quickly and, as in the case of the most recent one, without any warning.  One of the things that I am trying to do, either during an episode, or in the aftermath, is to write as much down as I can about it.  I am doing this in the hopes that I will be able to work with Bonita and gain a better understanding of the triggers, better ways to cope and fight back against PTSD.  Unfortunately, I have had some health issues that have been keeping me from getting to Bonita’s office for a while, but I look forward to getting back to work with her.
Tonight I got lucky and felt the symptoms coming on and was able to do something about them before it blew up into a full blown PTSD/panic attack episode.  No matter what else is going on, there is a constant thread that runs through my symptoms…my wrists tighten.  It feels like someone is trying to hold my wrists down.  That is my first sign of trouble.  What happens next is anyone’s guess.  I can never tell how quickly it will escalate, how long it will last, or how intense it will be when it reaches its peak.   Whenever I feel the tightening on my wrists rear its ugly head I feel like I’m left holding on and bracing for impact.  I can see how this feeling only increases my anxiety, which increase my stress, which increases my panic.  It is a vicious cycle.  In an effort to try and prevent this feeling of pressure on my wrists, I don’t wear a watch and I don’t wear bracelets.  I have to even be careful of the gloves I wear in the winter, making sure they aren’t too snug around my wrists. 
I would love to talk to someone, or hear from someone, who has fought or is fighting the battle against PTSD.  I feel like am in uncharted territory and I am desperate for a cartographer.   I am exhausted from a fight that seems endless and, at times, futile.  I am exhausted from having to fight this each and every single day.  I want to know for certain that it does get better and I will beat this bitch of a thing called PTSD.  I want to know that there will be a time in my life that I don’t have to worry about triggers. I am just so tired and I want my fucking life back! I want to live my life without fear.  

I just want to know how to fight this and win.  Can anyone help?