I have struggled with anxiety most of my life. I remember being ten years old and living as the only kid in a home with my parents. My siblings were older and had left the house. I think they (parents) did their best to support me and I did get counseling, but never thought that I needed it, so it didn't work for me. I always thought I could handle everything on my own, until as an adult of 30, I realized I could benefit from some support. I enrolled in inpatient services and stayed the first time for two or three months, then went back for a couple weeks at a time off an off over the next two years.
I now attend groups at HOPE and have found a way of managing my symptoms through medication. The groups keep me from isolating which for a time was just contributing to my anxiety. And I have art. When I first got treatment, I discovered art during my inpatient stay and it was like turning on a faucet—I started painting and I couldn’t stop. Today I use acrylic on canvas. It is one way I deal with the anxiety and I really enjoy painting. The work pictured here is of my grandfather's cabin in New Mexico where I lived for a period of time as a teenager. When my grandfather died, the house was torn down and the property sold. I loved being there and remember everything about the place even though it's been a long time.
I believe that what keeps people from getting support is the stigma around mental illness. People look at you differently when you tell them you have a SMI diagnosis. I think the only way forward is to face the stigma head-on and stop worrying about what other people think. I am a different person today than I was 3 years ago. I am no longer homeless or using and committing crimes. I am sober and have housing. I am working my recovery and my artwork is a big part of that, so I know it's important to have a passion. And to stay focused on your own life and the recovery path.