It's hard to find a starting point in my mental health journey. Only because it feels like forever. The more I learn, the more it seems like it’s always been there. You can ask what exactly “it” is, and the answer is that I am still learning. Mental health and how it feels in your body. How you wear it. How you heal it. It's this non-linear relationship. One you're in for the long run. And how it fulfills you and how it destroys you is all so personal. This is all that I've gathered up until this point.
I can trace it back to this one moment when I was ten years old. My family and I were in a movie theatre watching Corpse Bride. A scene became suddenly too overwhelming, and I stormed out of the theatre to catch my breath outside. I remember being so confused. Why was I so affected? How could watching something take control of my state like that? It took about a decade and some therapy to understand that I was triggered. By the volume. By the intensity. The younger me didn’t know yet that the volatile environment I was being raised in could store its trauma in my body. Make me afraid of volume. Of conflict. Could make me lose my breath like my family lost theirs after screaming out all of their rage.
I lived a colorful life growing up. Our family saw loss and victory. We met each other’s rock bottoms more times than we’d like, but still we moved on. I played with dolls in the closet. I tried anything to find my place in my skin. Then in my family. Then with the small city I grew up in, the only place I knew. then eventually the world I escaped to. I had this specially carved path that would bring me to my ultimate healer. dance.
I was 12 when I began. In a journey of its own, I found my forever family at 14. These people would walk me right to the entrance of my career. The best adventure I’ve known. Through my teenage years, my mental health was as discouraged as my chores or homework. But it was within the rush of my future that these issues would erupt. At 15 years old I had the amazing opportunity to travel with a dance convention known as “The Pulse” as an assistant. Making my dance training move into ultra-speed. Trying to keep up with the best as a beginner was a test, but one I would happily pass and graduate into the next level of my career. At 16 years old I was graciously welcomed into Brian Friedman’s home and family where I would be kindly and carefully cared for until I was 18 years old. I want all people to know that when I was 14 I knew nothing of dance. And I definitely didn’t know who this man was. And at 16 I was living in his guest home. It would become the most incredible opportunity to learn and to love who I could really be.
I was raised by my grandparents back at home. My parents were out of my life, and it was more depressing the older I got. Their addictive personalities were the main reasons. They both faced their own issues with their mental health. My father was extremely bipolar and spent most of my life in prison. My mother deals with severe depression and it made her distant. So distant that we met for the first time when I was nine years old. I met my mother. When I was nine years old. So getting to meet Brian and his husband Danny was this sort of predestined situation. I went from living with no father most of my life to then gaining two. And it was with these two men that I learned how to manage my life and most importantly my mental health.
Moving from home at 16 to Los Angeles is a huge risk. The city is fast-paced and wild. That paired with searching for a sustainable career was a very, very tough ride. Personal and professional heartbreaks initiated the turbulence in my mental health. My abandonment issues started to present themselves in my life. I started to project the pain I felt onto the people who may have not understood how to help. Because essentially that’s what I started to need. Help. The city swallowed me into an addictive tunnel. The love in my life was turning into an enemy. And the experience of growing up alone was starting to become unbearable.
At 18 years old, my mental health was so unmanaged that I started to feel suicidal. My very existence was becoming disappointing. Finding balance within a new career, a new home, and a new life was extremely tough for someone who was only ever exposed to loss, struggle, and anger. I can never discredit the amazing wisdom and care shared with me by the amazing people in my life. Let that be clear. But the experience is internal. You can see the beauty on the outside all while feeling turmoil in the inside. I first attempted suicide one really dark night in my life. It was all so sudden. Volcanic. I was safely removed from the situation and have been thankful since. It was those that truly cared for me who helped me recognize where I was. Heavily depressed. Heavily addicted. It was then that I slowly started to address this pain. It started with coming out to my family. I had the experience of living a carefree life where I could travel to places where no one knew me. So coming out was a chance to live fully and freely. No more lies or hiding. Then it was about moving on from people who were sources of projection. In my experiences I filled my voids from the absence of my parents and hiding my sexuality. I needed things from people that they were not able to give. That I had to learn to lose in order to gain. At 21 I started to see a therapist. This was the relationship that I needed. This was the partnership that would catapult me into growth. Therapy is something I would recommend passionately and very quickly to everyone. I have the privilege of access to therapy where I know some don’t. But I definitely support the commitment to personal truth by any means. Because it was with discovery and association that I could put together pieces and forgive. Forgiveness was my bridge. To loving my parents, all flaws included. To accepting my path as an honor and not an obstacle. My therapist helped me believe in my art as a message of hope and healing. It was in the act of communicating my mental health struggles that I could learn to communicate my potential as a dance artist. My appreciation for life. This journey circles and loops around and through many lessons. It’s ongoing. But it was by sharing with people that I had a chance. From what I gathered, it’s because of people. As causes. As cures. Do not search alone on this mental health journey. Connection is a kind part of humanity that you have to learn to accept and work with. It is because of connecting to myself, with the help of people, that I am still here. And still trying.
Mental health struggles create a very inward and lonely journey. You begin to build walls. From fear. From lack. But what I’ve learned is that I must rip open these wounds and expose them to those that may, that can, help me. Professionals. Loved ones. Professional loved ones. So that I can begin to understand and be understood. You carry this guilt around for feeling such pain, but really you have to learn it may very well not be your fault. and that lesson may not arrive alone. it's in others that it may appear. it’s in the grace and compassion of others that you can find healing. find yourself. sometimes when you open up to loving others, you learn to love yourself. I’ve had an incredible journey thus far. and even though I battled with the absence of my parents. Battled with the lovers that turned into enemies. And battled with failure or the thought of. It was with the love shared and love shown by people that I joined them. In loving me. And loving me for all of me. Including my mental health issues. Especially my mental health issues. It's a crazy world and a crazy time. And though we may face our obstacles connecting to people now. It's the gift that is humanity that we can help each other help ourselves. Community. No matter how big. how small. I implore you to find your tribe. To find yourself. So that you may have a peaceful journey forward.