art

the rumpus: voices on addiction

And for a month all goes smoothly; she goes to meetings, sometimes three in a day. She seems well, better than well. She helps in the house; she cooks the best beef stew you’ve ever eaten; you and she laugh your asses off together. And then one day she drinks, and the anger comes and the screaming starts and doesn’t let up for two days. The third morning she disappears before anyone is up; her suitcase is gone, she is gone, and you have no idea where she is or how she got there. She does not answer her phone. Days go by. No word at all. Where is she? The house is quiet now, sane, and you would feel relief if you weren’t frantic with worry. You don’t know if she’s eating, where she is getting food. You don’t know where her money comes from.

-Abigail Thomas

I illustrated three companion pieces to this short, powerful flash essay on loving someone with substance use disorder, by Abigail Thomas. Go look and read.

announcements · art · featured work

the rumpus illustrations: habitat

I recently started illustrating for one of my favorite lit mags of all time, The Rumpus. These couple of pieces went up in June, and are companions to Christy Stillwell’s Habitat, a piece of original fiction that discusses abortion and the power of choice. It’s wonderfully written and I was honored to illustrate it!

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art · fused creative

Protecting Our Artists at Fused Creative

This week, I finished something that I’ve been talking about for months: a formal introduction packet for all incoming Fused Creative artists and volunteers, which includes our community guidelines and harassment policy.

We are working our assess off to be truly inclusive, and to elevate the voices and perspectives of local artists. We are creating a community, which means having clear guidelines and an unequivocal stance on how we expect people who engage within that community to behave.

In particular, we outlined these policies formally to make it clear:

We will not tolerate discrimination of any kind–no transphobia, no racism, no misogyny. No harassment. Period. There is no neutral here.

The organization is so young, and our small staff works entirely on a volunteer basis. I know from my experience working with a variety of small to mid sized companies that it’s easy for stuff like this to get overlooked in the inception of an organization; it’s often not deeply considered until there is an official Problem. Even then, you see organizations of all kind scramble once a problem arises, and by then, folks have already been hurt and/or alienated.

We know that we can’t afford to wait that long; to do so would be a disservice to our values, our goals, and the artists, volunteers, and supporters who have already invested so much in us in these early stages.

We aim to protect our marginalized community members, because we want them to flourish. We can’t make the world or specific individuals less shitty, but we can make sure our organization will do everything in our power to create a space where our community feels supported and protected.

We may be a baby non-profit, but we’re aiming to handle this like bosses.

And on that note, learn more about Fused Creative and join our community of artists:

We’re doing dope things and you absolutely don’t want to miss out.

essays · history · mental health · prose

THE SNAKES AND THE DOGS

Ah, yes. Another day on the internet, where a clickbaity hot piece-o-garbage has us all running to our thinkpiece machines to churn out an adequate response! WHAT A GLORIOUS DAY!

Recently, essayist and seemingly professional troll Amanda Lauren published an article entitled, “My Former Friend’s Death Was a Blessing,” on xoJane, which detailed her relationship to a former friend–or rather, detailed said former friend’s social media activity after their fall out, and that friend’s unexpected death.

Lauren’s perspective was that her former friend’s mental health issues made her death an ultimately good thing:

I felt like Leah’s death was inevitable. Every box for being a danger to yourself or someone else was checked. A few weeks later I got another Facebook message from a different friend, saying that Leah passed away. She supposedly hit her head and drowned in a bathtub. Sadly, I really believe knowing who Leah used to be, that she would have wanted to die that way. Big and dramatic with an obit in the New York Times. Her better self would have been strangely proud. She would have laughed. Then again, it doesn’t really matter how Leah died. She might have drowned, but schizoaffective disorder was the hand that kept her head below water.

It sounds horrible to say, but her death wasn’t a tragedy, her life was. Her sister died when she was in college. Schizoaffective disorder robbed her of reaching her potential. There were some other things along the way. She was alone and terribly unhappy when died. Leah with the big heart didn’t deserve that. Judging Facebook pages, we all compare ourselves to other people, what they have, what they don’t, and their accomplishments. This girl had nothing to live for.

Naturally, the piece (and lack of empathy or perspective within it) inspired a new fashioned internet shitstorm, leading to the initial byline being deleted, and then eventually the article being replaced by an apology from xoJane founding editor Jane Pratt.

Lauren is not unfamiliar with being the cause of angry internet flurries; she has written a variety of other controversial and downright vapid pieces that have drawn a lot of attention to her. In an interview with Gawker about her most recent bid for Most Disliked Confessional Writer, she stated that her article was an attempt to draw attention to mental health issues and the lack of support for those who have them. Seems like a clumsy attempt at backpedaling to me, but what do I know about what lives in her head?

When I read Lauren’s article, it reminded me of a conversation I had not too long ago, during the second worst mental health crisis of my life. Someone I had considered a close friend outrightly accused me of lying about the state of distress I was in, amongst a slew of other insults about how selfish and “narcissistic” I was for trying to seek a space to calm down before having further conversation with her about it. During that time, I was having crippling panic attacks every day, seeing several doctors, and frantically trying to receive care to bring myself back down to a calm state.

See, I have Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). It looks a lot like PTSD, but with other long term side effects. PTSD is caused by a singular traumatic event, and CPTSD is usually the result of sustained, long-term trauma, and/or a series of traumatic events, which means the impact of it looks slightly different over time. Rather than a singular source, it has multiple, and creates a higher level of activation that expresses itself as anxiety and hypervigilance. CPTSD is most well-known amongst veterans who have been in long-term, sustained combat, but they aren’t the only ones who are capable of falling prey to it.

As one of my doctors described it, I exist in a state of “hyperactivation.” Her analogy for it: If she was in a room, and a snake entered, she would become activated. That would be a present threat, and her body and mind would respond accordingly. If something else happened, even something small, that caused stress, the combination of things would cause her to respond even more intensely than she might if the snake wasn’t with her in that room.

For me, the snake is always in the room.

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journal · prose

THE GHOSTS OF JAGUAR SHARKS PAST

Acceptance is a small, quiet room.
-Cheryl Strayed


When I arrived at the building, I was ten minutes late, and the short winter days had already caused darkness to fall in the early evening. The rain came down upon the red-brick building, and I let myself in the unlocked front door. I walked down the long, thin corridor, passed the mailboxes, and into the back of the building, only to realize that I had missed the stairs, obscured by a heavy firedoor right by the entrance.

There was a couple already looking at the apartment, and although in another circumstance I might find them charming, pleasant–potential friends–they had become The Competition for this four hundred square foot space that I was determined to call my own. I succeeded at securing the apartment by throwing the application fee, in cash, across the property manager’s desk, and telling him, “You’ve taken my money. It’s mine now,” while laughing. He’s not sure what to do with me (I’m rude), but he does what I say. Four days later, the place is officially mine.

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