#2: Tell me about your artistic practice: How did it begin? Where are you headed?

I began to blossom brightly shortly after inpatient.

I've wanted to be an artist since you ask a toddler, "What do you want to be when you grow up one day?" and she tells you "an artist." Within the past eight months, I've gone from disbelieving in that possibility to absolutely certain it is my career path shift.

I've also wanted to teach, talk, model and write since aging into that more articulate toddler. And though each of these careers, artist, writer, teacher, photography model and storyteller, is its own independent, difficult endeavor, it's what I've mastered around a niche becoming more widely discussed, and very rapidly: medical and mental health experiences.

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#3: The closer I get to Monday, the more anxious and agitated I feel.

As I sort, I am guilt-ridden from "indulging" in multiple doctors' care, coping or otherwise stewarding my body in a way that is sensible yet, to her, terribly illogical. It only occurs to me today that I have forgotten I deserve good things, health is among those good things, and no one better knows what serves good health except for my own body. I explain to no one else why basic manicures and pedicures provide my body more than basic protection against sickness. No one knowledgeable of my medical history judges my bones' poor density and vitamin deficiency.  Those who wonder will ask; those determined to instruct, tell.

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What do you do all day? Not a dumb question.

Continuing without a full-time job is nowhere near a luxury, nor is it fulfilling, in the sense of it feeling like an extravagant lifestyle or sort of quasi-early retirement. My recovery is a full-time job that, when rushed, quickly topples over and requires resetting again.

Inpatient is effective because it strips away responsibilities to allow clients to 100% focus on healing. Returning home to live independently is a culture shock for two reasons: (1) Clients suddenly orchestrate their own recovery work and (2) Clients re-engage with all self-care responsibilities: Employment, family, friend and romantic relationships, new debts and all the other pieces of adulthood. That’s the number one space for falling off the wagon.

Growing has nothing to do with laziness, incompetency or poorly applying what we’ve learned. It requires trial and error – mostly error. Recovery is high stakes because errors undo gains and the self-confidence it took to grow. Mental illness is an injury, and an injury is an injury is an injury. It’s learning to walk a new way, to whatever the extent possible, including managing the burdensome mindset of remembering needs are needs without fault. Our frailty is a universal humanity.

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Reprocessed Thinking: One year post inpatient

I wished many, unpleasant thoughts on my Memphis Teacher Residency coaches, professors and mentors when, each evening, I stopped to reflect on that day's teaching. Every day felt the exact same, so posts felt inauthentic and a waste of time. Now, I see the magic in their madness, because each day is not the same, self-reflection is an investment and, if I'm mindful enough, there are shifts in my life worth documenting.

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Context: Mom and me 4/4

Interacting with Mom in exposes me to caustic gamma rays.

Developing children are appropriately inappropriately skilled to recognize, verbalize and self-advocate against such conduct. So we children learn to adapt. We will explore expressions of our hurt until finding one, two, then a few, then many, then several that consistently allow Mom to identify my needs and respond. Let me explain. In response, Mom will either meet the need to demonstrate her great power or spur a new behavior so I can meet my own need, because my need is unreal and not another person’s problem. Embodying her shame became the foundation for every solution. I stood only at her mercy. I grew without adequate nutrition starved when adequate nutrition was accessible beat my brain into memorizing the right amount of information until the right moments to earn 93 over 100 isolated from needed medical care overdosed learning to use pain medication for weekly migraines threw up then went downstairs to feed my brother endured assault to protect her name. Sobbed in closet doors, wrote and weekly updated a will, feared kitchen knives,    slept-walked then woke by hallway stairs. Learned to be White begged the angels at night to send Elisha and His horses to sweep me into eternity. My life was a sick, daily broadcast called “Little Bird today.”

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Context: Mom and me 2/4

Mom and I fight about everything these days.
In
each     of     my     five     therapy     
years,     
every     
inpatient, 
outpatient, 
intensive outpatient, 
partial hospitalization, 
residential, 
emergency room practitioner, 
doctor, 
clinical specialist, 
therapist, 
recovery coach     and team member
issued the same warning:     “SEPARATE. SHE’S TOXIC.”

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Context: Mom and me 1/4

I get to the Target check-out line, and I panic.
I have two, five-dollar coupons, which will pay for my dinner, night snack and maybe breakfast tomorrow. The totals are under ten dollars, so I won’t have to use the sixty-eight cents I have left until… well… I don’t know.

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