(Do-It-My)Self Therapy: My Foray into Art Journaling

I am a do-it-yourselfer. If you’ve by any chance read my blog post, My No-Medication Journey to Emotional Health and Well-Being, you are aware that this doing-it-myself thing extends to all things, even things as crucial as my entire existence. Maybe it’s good, maybe it’s not. I’ve certainly been scolded for being too self-sufficient but that statement always struck me with confusion. Why wouldn’t I want to be self-sufficient? On the other hand, I guess I do get it: I don’t give other people a chance to help me, help can be good, we all need support, and so on. Hey, I’ve gotten help plenty of times. I mean PLENTY of times. Some of it was good, some of it was not so good. Regardless, I still developed this intense desire to figure it out by myself, whatever “it” is.

I’m also a researcher. I mean a personal researcher, not a professional one. I research EVERYTHING that crosses my mind (and yes, my mind is full and often tired but I can’t help it). I spend a lot of my life learning. I dare say I learn new things EVERY day. This, I have to admit, is something that I like about myself. Perhaps it started early in life. My mother told me many times, “Read well. No one is going to tell you your rights.” So, from a very small child, I have been reading, avidly. At times this has meant books. Sometimes it means news articles. Sometimes it means the small print on the back of a package of some product or other. Over time I adopted the (probably rather snooty) attitude that I once read on a poster: “Those who won’t read have no advantage over those who can’t.”

So what is the connection? It’s simple, really: if I spend so much time learning about something, why would I then turn to someone else to do it for me or to tell me all about what I’ve already researched for myself? This isn’t to suggest there is nothing to learn from others; to believe that would be just ignorance. I learned to READ from someone else, right? But for me, I take at least 90% responsibility for every, single aspect of how my life goes. The other 10% is reserved for those things I absolutely cannot accomplish by myself. There have been plenty of times when my mental health has fallen within that 10%. But, at this point in my life, that isn’t my issue. (Plumbing and electricity and washing my own car, on the other hand …)

As a person who has dealt with anxiety and depression since at least the age of 9, a great deal of my every day/every year life has been about finding ways to cope and feel better. I think it’s safe to say I’ve tried all the things (see the article referenced above). Here I am, half a century later, and I feel good, I feel healthy, I feel happy and successful (according to my definitions of those intangibles). But, as you all know, I will ALWAYS have to deal with managing my anxiety and depression. It’s part of the fiber of my being. Therefore, when I come across something that has a good chance of helping me to continue my lifelong emotional and mental management program, I’m inclined to give it a chance.

Because I’ve always been a bit of a maker (all sorts of things; I can’t specify), I’m always coming across articles and ideas about art. Recently, I came across some articles about art therapy journals. I was very quickly intrigued by the idea: daily journaling using any sort of media to express my thoughts, emotions, ideas. What intrigues me is that the process, by definition, is very hands-on, much more so than just writing on a page. In just a few days, I’ve found myself taking pictures with more thoughtfulness and then printing them out with the idea of perhaps turning them into something greater or at least different; using my fabric scraps to make pages; cutting out meaningful words and phrases from screenshots or off packages; painting with those tiny little containers I got who-knows-when ago from Walmart; using paste with reckless abandon; and returning to my once-abandoned study of art fundamentals (I’m still a beginner).

To say this is therapeutic would be an understatement. A more accurate word would be “meditative.” I wish I could really explain it in a way that would make everyone understand but I think it might just be too personal. Oddly, while I’m busy figuring things out, making decisions and bringing something into being from nothing, my mind is never actually BUSY. On the contrary, my mind goes quiet. I hear the wind chimes tinkling outside. I feel the house creak. I’m aware that my heartbeat has slowed. It’s as though all this work is going on in the foreground but I, myself, am lounging with my feet up in the background. It’s weird, to be honest; weird and restful and soothing and satisfying.

Right now, in the midst of this pandemic, having no idea when it will end, I’m free to throw myself into this and I’m doing so with the express purpose of making it a daily ritual. Even if I only get to do 5 minutes, I will do it. It’s like the cup(s) of tea I have everyday; I wouldn’t be the same without it.

Another aspect of art journaling that instantly appealed to me, as I noted when I saw images of other people’s journals, is there are literally hundreds of ways to approach creating one. As you can see in the photo, I chose to go super-simple and use a binder notebook. I didn’t see any images of anyone else doing that, something so super-simple, but I already had ideas about what I wanted to start putting in it so I decorated this binder and got started on my initial contents. But if you search for images of art journals on Google, you will be amazed at the things people have come up with. (People are so creative!) The main point is that an art journal is intensely personal and will, by extension, be unique to you and your aesthetic, both on the inside and the outside. If you search YouTube, you will find lots and lots of videos on methods, ideas, and materials. Here are the results of a Google search for “how to create an art journal.”

Art Therapy Journal on Porch
My super-simple, fledgling art journal waiting for me to join it on the porch.

If you have been craving something to do during this time of quarantine, if you have been looking for a way to reinvent yourself, if you have been struggling with emotions or problems you just can’t work through, if you have been simply seeking to add to your current skills and/or hobbies, if you need calming from all the anxiety of these days, if you’re looking for ways to use up some of the stuff you have lying around (pictures, cards, fabric scraps, jewelry findings), if you want to make a statement, then I urge you to give art journaling a try. You make your own rules; in other words, you cannot fail. You don’t have to be an artist!

Find a place to work that will give you a bit of solitude (even if it’s in the bathroom). My plan today is to get outside on the porch and enjoy the sun while I create. Most of us have been given the gift of at least a little more time. Try your hand and your heart at making an art therapy journal. You might be stunned at what you find in there even as you build it.

Bella’s Babbles: Pieces of Art

 

IMG_1389It dawned on me today as I was looking at pictures in my phone, that we are pieces of art in process of being made into masterpieces.

Yup, that’s it, simply put, we are being made into pieces of beauty through all that we are going through, by what we go through, one day at a time.

I was looking at pictures I sent to a friend of a dream catcher that I was creating.  I sent her pictures of the work in progress.  The first few pictures, goodness I was so incredibly proud of when I first sent them, I was so excited to have started on the project and to have started making progress and to see my idea come to fruition.  However, now that I look back at my meager beginnings, I turn my nose up in disgust and when I look at what I had created I think that is, well, kind of ugly, juvenile, not attractive, blah!

IMG_1399I forget the pride that I felt, the excitement that was filling my bones, the peace and comfort that filled me sitting in my craft room, being in my element, in my special space, listening to classical and meditation music and wrapped in the aroma of my cactus blossom Bath and Body Works candle.  How relaxing the atmosphere was and how wonderful it was to be in my very special place.

When I look at the finished product, I am thrilled with what I created.  I beam with pride; I get excitement that launches down to my toes and circles back up to the top of my head.  I see what was a hoop, some yarn, a few feathers and miscellaneous beads and what I transformed these odd pieces into.  I see what an hour of concentrated time and creatively charged energy created and I feel like a Care Bear beaming from my belly.

In no way is my crafting going to end up in an art show or a museum or make it somewhere other than my family’s walls of their homes, but I am proud of what I can create.  And the outlet that I have to express what lies within me, what I can release.

Much like in life, sometimes we look back at the beginning and we don’t like where we started, and we think it’s just yuck.  We can feel embarrassed and wish that we had a different start.  But when we see the finished product, we realize that had we not had the start that we did (that ugly start, the one that we did not like) we wouldn’t have the finished product that we are so in love with and fills us with such pride.

Sprinkles and Cupcakes,

Bella

www.bellasbabbles.com

Bella’s Babbles: Sunday Edition

No photo description available.

I’ve been up since 430 AM, it’s the new witching hour for me.  Even my cats look at me like I have lost my mind.  Sure they are ecstatic that someone is up and willing to give them more food, but after 15 minutes or so, the fan fare has worn off and they wander away and I am left alone.

But now, yes there is a but, I have a fancy dancy, office/craft room, that I can retreat to, that is cozy and welcoming, and it is the perfect balance of organized chaos that makes me feel perfectly at home.  Plus, it is ultimately welcoming at 430 AM.

Today’s plan WAS to try and go back to bed on the couch, but much to my surprise there was a child already on the couch, so then I figured it was divine intervention that I would stay awake.  Plus there were things to tell my mama who lives back east and art projects to finish.  Plus I had a sneaky suspicion that a friend of mine would also be up and I would be able to chat with her for a bit as well.

So, that’s exactly what happened.  Coffee was made, art projects were finished.  Friends and Mama’s were talked to.  Orders were placed for give back projects for Non-Profit Organizations and cats wandered away and put themselves back to bed.

Art

Image may contain: flower and plant

Yesterday my family saw a movie.  Some superhero, spiders, webs, swinging from buildings movie.  I chose to stay home.  I am not a movie person, and especially not a movie theater person person.  Too loud, too many people, when was the last time they wiped down the seats wondering type of person.  So I moseyed off to Michaels and I found that they were having a sale on the quality canvases, buy one, get TWO free, and I was like hot damn skippy with a macaroni in my cap, yankee doodle spank my mama on her hat.  I was thrilled.  I purchased three assorted sizes and I came home to start my project.  It would be a combination of a rendition of Starry Night by Van Gogh with paper butterflies glued in to make it a 3D multimedia piece.  It came to me, like a light bolt out of the sky, while I was drinking coffee earlier that morning and I HAD to create it.  This would probably be one of my more challenging pieces, but it was so clear in my head as to how it would turn out, I had to try.  I was intimidated and I was scared.

I lit my Cactus Blossom Candle, I played my classical studying music (Debussy being my favorite, love those deep minor chords, they have always taken me to my most creative places), and I started.  I had my Starry Night print in front of me for inspiration and I went one stroke at a time.

Hours passed.  And with each brush stroke I gave myself permission to let little pieces of the anxiety that has been crippling me go.  I let the music soothe my heart, my soul, my body and my mind.  I allowed my body and mind to be present.  I allowed me to take in being in my new craft room and soaking in the gift that was the craft room and how much love was given to me in this very room.  A room that was given to me so I could heal through me art.

Before I knew it, I was done.  And I wept.  I looked down at my piece and I was thrilled with the product, the creation, the dare I say, the masterpiece that I had created.  It was exactly, identical, to what I had seen in my mind, and I had created it onto canvas using several types of media.  The tears were of happiness, of joy, relief, of sadness.  Hope for the future.

This weekend I needed to spend time resting.  Those were doctor orders.  I have another busy week ahead of me, many doctor appointments, a busy work week, family obligations.  But, my soul, my soul, it is well, it is well with me soul.

Cupcakes with Sprinkles,

~Bella

www.bellasbabbles.com

Tony’s Interview Feature

Here is another interview, this time Tony. Please read and also look for the other interviews that will go live this month of April.

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Tony’s Interview Feature

If there is one thing that I have learned while writing interview features on my blog is that in every walk of life for someone dealing with a mental illness, the story is different. Our stories are what define us, and hopefully, make us better people in the end.

I always imagined telling the story of someone much like myself, and in truth, I have a real affinity for stories. It was amazing the number of people willing to have me share their story.

When I first met Tony, it was on my blog, and over the course of just a short time, he shared pieces of his experience within my blog posts. When the opportunity came to share the major parts of his story, Tony jumped at the chance to be featured on The Bipolar Writer. Here is the story of one human being and his journey from his orgins to today—Tony from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

How does one deal daily with the struggle of a mental illness? Tony’s explains his daily experience in this way, “Having depression is like having a fog, of varying colors, consistencies, smells that kind of sharp itself, hovers, reveals and conceals different things at different times.”

lonely crowd in the shadows.jpg

It is always easier to capture how a person feels in their own words, and in the interview with Tony, he uses his creative side to describe the daily struggle with depression.

When talking further about depression Tony had this to say, “Sometimes, heavy as a lead blanket, sinking to the ocean floor. Other times sparse, allowing more breathable air, less stifling. Sometimes it’s grey, other times it is pink. But the fog is there, it just looks and feels different at times.”

The “fog” that Tony describes is commonly thought of how depression feels, and it can mean the difference between a good day and bad one. For Tony, the fog means simple daily tasks taking up most of this morning with time stretching out like a wad of gum, seconds cutting like blades, and every moment weighted down by the depression.

Tony can trace his diagnosis to his childhood days. When he was very young, Tony was diagnosed dysthymia (mild depression) with severe depressive episodes in which he describes as, “Kind of like cloudy, with a chance of storms.”

It was much later and recent when he received the diagnosis of Bipolar Two and avoidant personality disorder.

An avoidant personality disorder is described as a psychiatric condition characterized by a lifelong pattern of extreme social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and sensitivity to rejection. But for Tony, this diagnosis means so much more, “It’s a tendency to retreat than to face things (problems) face on.” This is common with someone with a mental illness, but for Tony, his avoidance is rooted in the history that is can only be told in his own words.

“I don’t really remember having a mental illness or not having a mental illness.”

It is easier to walk in another person with a mental illness’ shoes if you know his story, and Tony’s story is one of amazing perseverance in the face of turmoil. Tony was adopted at birth by a devoted family with loving parents, but he describes their personalities as much different than his own. “My adopted father was a hard-working gregarious man who severe Bipolar disorder who had to go off work permanently while I was still young,” Tony recalls.

Tony’s mother, who was also a nurse, spent most of her free time with her husband’s issues leaving little time for Tony and his sister. “She too was loving and kind, but distant as well.” It was most likely this isolation that led Tony to begin to show signs of his avoidant personality disorder and it didn’t help that he was diagnosed so young with mild depression.

Tony was identified at a very young age as a gifted child and got through his elementary school days well enough, and weathered most of the storms at home. But, Tony began to use food as a coping mechanism and began to gain weight all the way to the beginning of his high school days. At this point in Tony’s life, we see how turmoil can lead someone down disastrous behaviors with depression as the copilot.

Tony remembers his early days and describes himself as having crooked teeth and a lazy eye, which led to severe bullying in teen years, “By the time high school hit, I was already 300lbs, and was bullied on a daily basis. I started having the shit kicked out of me. I hated school so much I would set my alarm to 2 am and hit snooze for the next four hours until it was time to get up so that I could fall asleep and wake that many times knowing I didn’t have to get up and face the day.”

With the daily torment of his peers and need to find a way to cope with the darkest depths of his depression, Tony chose to use hallucinogens dropping acid or eating mushrooms just to get through the moments of his school life. It only made things worse for that he was labeled a stoner and had little support from his teachers who cared little about the struggling teen.

“I dropped out, I isolated, I sat in my bedrooms for weeks on end, not showering, doing anything, barely surviving. I was depressed. I was allowed and encouraged to be depressed by an ill parent.” It can be tough living with a parent that mirrors your own issues, and these types of relationships, when reflected on later in life, this can feel destructive. 

It was tough going for Tony for most of his childhood and his teenage years. But as a human being, our journey is one that teaches us perseverance, and though it may seem as if this life is not worth living in the struggles of a mental illness, there is always a time when things feel okay. As if life is showing you a little light in the darkest places.

Tony eventually found that he could be functional after losing the majority of the weight he gained over the years. Tony found a few years of “normalcy” that often comes with the end of a depression cycle. In this period of time Tony made the decision to go back to school where he received his college diploma in Social Service Work. As most stories with a mental illness go, this short period of normalcy was quickly followed by a glut of personal tragedies in his adult life.

Everyone experiences personal tragedies in their life, but for someone prone to severe depression it will often sink the sufferer deeper into depression as a response. The shorter the period of time and succession of tragedies can often leave a mental illness to suffer little time to compartmentalize these events.

“I experienced in a short period of time my dad’s brief fight with cancer, my sister’s own discovery of her own battle with cancer, the ending of my marriage, which was followed with the birth of a daughter who was born at 1lb 3oz at 25 weeks with bleeding on her brain and a hole in her heart.”

anthony.jpg

Even the strongest of us in the mental health community can only hold on for so long. It is no surprise given the succession of tragedies in Tony’s life that he had a psychotic break and was hospitalized for twenty-one days. Tony recalls that experience well, “It was frightening, but I felt safe, and I away from all the shit of the world for a short period, and I didn’t have anything to do but get better.” It was in this experience that Tony started writing and doing collage art.

In Tony’s experience, it is often tough to get through a single day with his mental illness. When he is symptomatic he uses routines that help him complete tasks in a ritualistic way. It helps that Tony gets through a day alive, but on the worst days, he only accomplishes a fraction of what he had planned. To combat the bad days, he focuses on his limitations, trying not to get too ahead of himself, and try hard not to take the bad too seriously. These types of behaviors come from years of dealing with the darkness and finding wisdom.

That wisdom showed when Tony was asked about if he ever had suicidal thoughts, “Yes, I have several times. Once I got close enough to downing a bottle of pills that I knew enough to drag myself to the ward. When you can’t trust yourself with your pills, you know you’re in trouble.”

Writing can be the most therapeutic part of the life of someone with a mental illness. I know in my own experiences that is true, and Tony has found his place in his own blog and writing. In talking about his story with me it has helped Tony to process the past and to look to be grounded in the present.

“My blog and being creative in general have meant the world to me. I am not someone who talks about things. I sit on them” he recalls. Tony believes that seeking help is an important part of his recovery, but engaging others through creative expression is an amazing experience that he cherishes.

art stacks

In Tony’s life, he often finds solace and happiness in the little things in his life that make it easier to deal with his mental illness. Tony has his kids, nature, art, music, friends, and family that are his support system in his darkest times.

Every one of the human beings in the mental illness community wants their story to be one of many that make a difference or end the stigma that surrounds all of us. “At some point in our lives,” he explains, “I am pretty sure we could all meet the requirements for a mental disorder diagnosis. It’s okay. If we are honest and brave enough to be vulnerable and tell people what we are feeling, it’s a start.”

Tony believes that we all have a vulnerability that keeps us from seeking help, but if we are willing to be open-minded and willing to accept that we have a mental illness it could mean getting the right help. Tony believes that it’s not about weakness, laziness, or morals. It is about your health and illness.

Tony wants to tell the world his story, the ups, the downs, his love for his poetry and his art; to be featured on The Bipolar Writer in Tony’s eyes is a vital part of his healing process. Tony’s is one of the many, but there is no doubt that his story has to be told.

art were watching

Here are some links to written poetry Tony wanted to share:

https://handsinthegarden.wordpress.com/2017/12/16/sleepless-the-fever/

https://handsinthegarden.wordpress.com/2017/12/18/the-lonely-crowd-worded/

If you would like to know more about Tony and his journey you can visit him on his blog. “My Hand in the Garden” @ https://handsinthegarden.wordpress.com/

Written by: James Edgar Skye

Interviewee: Anthony “Tony” Gorman

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All art pieces on this article are done by Tony

Other Features written by J.E. Skye

Morgan’s Interview Feature

Morgan’s Interview Feature

Starting this month I will be reposting each of my interviews of the “Interview Feature” series. This was something I started in 2017, and while I have not the time at the moment to write new ones, I am planning on writing a book with many interviews in the future if I can get my Patreon account. With that said, here is the first one I ever wrote.

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Morgan’s Interview Feature

Since the inception of my blog The Bipolar Writer it has been my goal to write the stories of others like myself. I have written my own story in my memoir (also entitled The Bipolar Writer) and sharing my experiences on my blog. Every human experience in having to live with a mental illness is unique to that human being and the suffering from it is also unique. It is why I believe it is imperative that I share other’s stories, so here is the story of one brave mental illness sufferer—Morgan who lives in Australia.

The daily struggle of waking up every day to a mental illness can be a struggle and for Morgan, it is no different. Morgan has always felt that her daily mental illness struggle is a hard one, and had this to say, “My mental illness has always been very affected by what’s going on around me, some days it much worse than others.”

We all have that story of when we went from the unknown to the known with our diagnosis. Surrounded by the people Morgan loved on her twenty-first birthday, it became clear to her that in that moment she could barely acknowledge the event and a feeling of numbness. Only broken by the speech of her godparents and seeing the face of a filmmaking mentor, seemed to register to Morgan that day. “I was very lucky that afterward a very close friend, who suffered from anxiety herself, stayed behind and I decided to tell her how I felt,” she recalls.

Sometimes it takes just one person to listen before you realize you need help.

It was here that Morgan, after talking with her friend who recommended that she seek help, that she made the decision we all face. Two weeks later she was diagnosed with severe generalized anxiety and moderate to severe depression.

We all have a history, a time before our diagnosis where we had little to no understanding of what was going on in our lives, and Morgan remembers many times since she was a child that anxiety was a constant and silent companion. Morgan describes her early experiences as just a part of her personality growing up, a common thought during the early stages of anxiety. Like most things with a mental illness, her anxiety grew over time.

AnxietyasPartofPersonality

Morgan remembers that her anxiety was always there with her since she was a child, and at times she felt more anxious than other times, but the feeling never left her. Morgan recalls her memories with anxiety in an interesting way, but not uncommon, “I have no memory of not having anxiety, which is not surprising seeing as many people on my mother’s side of the family suffer from it.”

Anxiety is often the silent partner for the sufferer, and you hardly know it’s there until it makes it presence known. Identifying other family members when looking back your history of the causes of anxiety in their own life is common, and it no surprise that Morgan can link anxiety through her experiences with her family.

Death is an important part of our lives, and the inevitable part of life is that you will lose someone close to you, for someone with a mental illness this can be devastating. It was this way in Morgan’s life, and it was important enough that she brought it up in her interview with me, “My anxiety definitely became much worse after the death of my father and the suicide of someone I had grown up with within two months of each other when I was nineteen.”

The feelings associated with death in the mind of someone who is devastated with anxiety, depression, and grief can make a person with mental illness turn to the only thing they truly know when it comes to emotions—deeper feelings into the depths of depression—of feeling lost and alone.

“I experienced my first panic attack after their deaths, and I would go on to experience both moderate and severe ones in the years that followed,” Morgan explains.

For Morgan, depression was a much different beast, but still important. Looking back, Morgan can trace her first feelings of prolonged depressive moods to age ten or eleven, when her family issues started to affect her life. Her father was in early stages of vascular dementia which caused Morgan’s father to get easily frustrated with his family. At the age Morgan was at, having to go through puberty while dealing with depression, made it hard for Morgan’s childhood to be a normal one.

Depression would become a factor along with physical pain that affected her in school work over the course of her young and teenage life.

There are so many triggers in one’s life that can start a depressive episode, and Morgan recalls several in her life. One constant problem in Morgan’s life is that her physical problems have always triggered depression episodes. “During puberty, I began to experience severe stomach pain and nausea on and off, within a year lightheadedness and fatigue became frequent symptoms,” Morgan remembers growing up.

It was the beginning of what would become a trend in Morgan’s life with her physical problems causing depression that, in turn, affected her schooling. With her depression came plummeting school work and effectiveness in school over the years as a teen. It culminated for Morgan in her final year where once again her unknown mental illness issues made things impossible, “Even though I had amazing teachers, my prestigious school could only compromise so much, and halfway through my final year, I was told I wasn’t able to graduate.”

DepressionandPain

How can anyone, let alone someone who is dealing with the dark places depression can take you to, deal with this kind of heartbreak? Morgan remembers what it felt like, “I can remember thinking about ways to die most days.”

This feeling of wanting to die when faced with such emotional pain is common among those within the mental health community. It is easy to empathize with Morgan because at one point many of us have had to deal with this feeling. Some, like myself, have given into suicidal idealizations. For Morgan, even with her growing mental illness problems, she had to choose and she chose to work on her physical health.

People can also be major triggers of depression in the life of someone with a mental illness, and often they leave the deepest of emotional scars on our lives. When Morgan’s parents first sent her to group therapy as a young impressionable teen, it was far from the normal. Morgan describes the group therapy that parents put her into as an alternative and “hippy” where other kids that had been through the program would come back to help. The problem? Most of the kids were still dealing with their own problems and still in need of help. It is here that Morgan first met an older boy who changed her—and not for the better.

Morgan recalls this relationship as unstable and one she couldn’t live without at the time.

“I developed a very strong crush on one of the older boys who were there to help, and he quickly realized how he could use my emotional feelings to manipulate me.”

Over the next four years of her teenage life, she stayed in touch with this boy, and she recalls that during this period of her life, her depression mood swings went from occasional to a constant menace. Morgan remembers the negative thoughts that this boy brought to her life, “One of my strongest memories of him now is the text messages telling me how much pain I was causing others by being in their lives, and how I was worthless.” For Morgan, this was a daily occurrence and a recognizable one for many dealing with a mental illness.

Dark Shadows Sweater Evening Hoodie People Night

This boy confirmed every fear and anxious thought that Morgan ever had about herself, but the connection had always been there for Morgan, and cutting off this person from her life was filled with difficulties. As humans with a mental illness, we often attach ourselves to situations where it only serves to further our negative thoughts. We feel as if we are not good enough for the world, so these relationships, no matter how destructive, can lead to deeper attachments.

Eventually, on her sixteenth birthday, Morgan finally cut off all contact and ended a relationship filled with emotional cuts that stayed with her for many years.

Not all people that come into the lives of someone with a mental illness are negative influences. In her journey, Morgan has found two people at school that became saviors in her life and they are still a positive influence. In her late teen years, Morgan found the strength to fight her ups and downs with depression with filmmaking and found solace in her friend Alice who became her rock after her father’s death. When Morgan finally sought help it became clear that her past was affecting her future, and since has grown with her experiences.

“I’d known since I was twelve that I had some form of depression, after all, most of my symptoms matched the ones I’d heard of in group therapy, but getting my official diagnosis of anxiety was life-changing.”

These days Morgan gets through her daily struggles with the help of important medications like anti-depressants and breathing exercises that she learned in cognitive behavioral therapy to help cope with anxiety. Morgan also credits a strong support system of family and quality friends who not only know what is wrong with her but offer help in her those times of great need, supporting her along her journey.

When Morgan has a panic attack, she has learned to tell herself, “Everything will be okay in the end, if it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.”

In Morgan’s life, she has found solace in the things that make her life worth living. Close personal friends that are always there for her. Morgan’s boyfriend of eighteen months has seen the worst of her diagnosis and is still is a constant patient and supportive influence every day. Throughout her life, she has been lucky to have her parents that always encouraged her creativity and dreams. It was Morgan’s mother who fostered her creativity, “My mother passed on her love of art and cafes, and we still share wonderful deep emotional conversations together, which are the main ways I process life.”

Of course, Morgan has her cat, Alistair (a Dragon Age reference perhaps) who is always a wonderful distraction from the rest of the world.

In every journey of a human being going through a mental illness you can find real wisdom in the struggle, and Morgan wants her story to be one of many that will help with the goals she sets out to tell her story here on The Bipolar Writer blog, “One of my biggest goals is to reduce the stigma around taking medication. I chose not to take medication for a long time, and it’s one of my biggest regrets I have in life.”

Morgan also believes that the stigma that comes with having a mental illness keeps teens and young adults from seeking help. Morgan recalls when she first started to realize that she was dealing with depression, she saw daily shirts that said, “Cheer Up Emo Kid” which were quite popular in Australia. These types of stereotypes in Morgan’s mind further the stigma that just smiling should be enough to cure you. No one human being chooses to have a mental illness and it can be scary to even think about getting help, but Morgan believes she can change this by telling her story.

“If I could choose this life, I thought, why the hell would you think I would choose this? It is very important to realize your mental illness is not your fault, but you can do something about it.”

In this mental illness life, there is always someone to talk to, a professional or a friend that you can trust. If Morgan could change one other thing about the stigma that comes with a mental illness it would be this, “It’s important to know that there is help out there, even if you aren’t well enough to seek it out in this moment.”

Many of human beings that will be featured on The Bipolar Writer blog cite their creating content on their blogs as one of the biggest thing that makes life worth living. Morgan calls her blog a place of solace that helps keep her steady,

“My blog keeps me from going insane by giving me a little goal to achieve every day, whether it’s replying to comments, writing a new blog post, or promoting on social media.”

Creativity

Morgan is a filmmaker and writer who was diagnosed with endometriosis at seventeen and depression and generalized anxiety at twenty-one. She uses her creativity as an essential part of her healing process.

You can find Morgan’s blog at:

www.fistfulofglittersite.wordpress.com

Written by J.E. Skye

Become a Patron!https://c6.patreon.com/becomePatronButton.bundle.js

Interviewee: Morgan

Letter to myself

Hello and welcome to this blog. I want to give a little warning, in this blog I will share a poem I have made about a letter to myself of my past. And this could trigger anxiety, depression, and suicide for those who are easily triggered. This poem is about my past and things I have personally been gone through and for that I hope you guys can respect that. I would love to hear your thoughts/story/emotions about this topic. And I want to make one thing very clear. No matter who you are and what you have gone through you are worth fighting for and be the best and most beautiful version of yourself. Because beauty shines from inside out.

Now please enjoy the poem. For more blogs made by me: prettyrose177


Dear me

Dear me,
Life is not easy, nor will ever be.
You are a fighter and a survivor.
And worthy of love
and to revive her.

Dear me,
Sticks and stones can’t and will not break your bones.
Life will get you down,
They will get you down.
They will call you names like ugly and fat.
Just your life is so much more than that.

Dear me,
They might break you.
They might haunt your dreams.
And they will go to extremes.
Just don’t give up.
You are worthy of love.

Dear me,
Don’t let the anxiety killing me.
Dear me,
Don’t let them control me.

Dear me,
You can save a life
Just throw away that knife.
A knife of pain and suffering
And all the illness it will bring.

Dear me,
I will fight for you,
I will love you,
I will take care of you.
Just don’t give up hope.

Dear me,
Let your light shine.
Let them see,
Who you are and mend to be.

Dear me,
Show them they won’t control you
Show them you are stronger than ever before.
And that you have a lot more strength in store.

Dear me,
You are loved.
Dear me,
Your angels watch from above.

Inside and Out

Over the course of the last month, I have had the honor to do a freelance project called Inside and Out with a local writer named Terry Fisher. In the book, the author writes a variety of odes and musings from her own life. The author took a chance on me and gave me everything she had with the hopes that I could write every ode and musings from start to finish. I had to set up the entire book including inside cover pages, breaking down the table of contents for the odes, rewriting each ode in her desired front, formatting to the specifications of her publisher, and to design certain pages with pictures.

It has been an amazing experience to learn about another writer through 70 or so odes that Terry Fisher has written over the course of her life. The book will be published with the next month or two and I will link on this page where to buy the book when the time comes. For now when the author chooses I will be posting different odes from Inside and Out.

I will, of course, create different blog posts for each ode the author would like me to post on here. I have listed the first ode here:

 Book Review: Inside and Out

Ode to Depression

Ode to Sammie

Ode to John Belnap CRNA

Odes from Inside & Out by Terry Fisher

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Tony’s Interview Feature

If there is one thing that I have learned while writing interview features on my blog is that in every walk of life for someone dealing with a mental illness, the story is different. Our stories are what define us, and hopefully, make us better people in the end.

I always imagined telling the story of someone much like myself, and in truth, I have a real affinity for stories. It was amazing the number of people willing to have me share their story.

When I first met Tony, it was on my blog, and over the course of just a short time, he shared pieces of his experience within my blog posts. When the opportunity came to share the major parts of his story, Tony jumped at the chance to be featured on The Bipolar Writer. Here is the story of one human being and his journey from his orgins to today—Tony from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

How does one deal daily with the struggle of a mental illness? Tony’s explains his daily experience in this way, “Having depression is like having a fog, of varying colors, consistencies, smells that kind of sharp itself, hovers, reveals and conceals different things at different times.”

lonely crowd in the shadows.jpg

It is always easier to capture how a person feels in their own words, and in the interview with Tony, he uses his creative side to describe the daily struggle with depression.

When talking further about depression Tony had this to say, “Sometimes, heavy as a lead blanket, sinking to the ocean floor. Other times sparse, allowing more breathable air, less stifling. Sometimes it’s grey, other times its pink. But the fog is there, it just looks and feels different at times.”

The “fog” that Tony describes is commonly thought of how depression feels, and it can mean the difference between a good day and bad one. For Tony, the fog means simple daily tasks taking up most of this morning with time stretching out like a wad of gum, seconds cutting like blades, and every moment weighted down by the depression.

Tony can trace his diagnosis to his childhood days. When he was very young, Tony was diagnosed dysthymia (mild depression) with severe depressive episodes in which he describes as, “Kind of like cloudy, with a chance of storms.”

It was much later and recent when he received the diagnosis of Bipolar Two and avoidant personality disorder.

An avoidant personality disorder is described as a psychiatric condition characterized by a lifelong pattern of extreme social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and sensitivity to rejection. But for Tony, this diagnosis means so much more, “It’s a tendency to retreat than to face things (problems) face on.” This is common with someone with a mental illness, but for Tony, his avoidance is rooted in the history that is can only be told in his own words.

“I don’t really remember having a mental illness or not having a mental illness.”

It is easier to walk in another person with a mental illness’ shoes if you know his story, and Tony’s story is one of amazing perseverance in the face of turmoil. Tony was adopted at birth by a devoted family with loving parents, but he describes their personalities as much different than his own. “My adopted father was a hard-working gregarious man who severe Bipolar disorder who had to go off work permanently while I was still young,” Tony recalls.

Tony’s mother, who was also a nurse, spent most of her free time with her husband’s issues leaving little time for Tony and his sister. “She too was loving and kind, but distant as well.” It was most likely this isolation that led Tony to begin to show signs of his avoidant personality disorder and it didn’t help that he was diagnosed so young with mild depression.

Tony was identified at a very young age as a gifted child and got through his elementary school days well enough, and weathered most of the storms at home. But, Tony began to use food as a coping mechanism and began to gain weight all the way to the beginning of his high school days. At this point in Tony’s life, we see how turmoil can lead someone down disastrous behaviors with depression as the copilot.

Tony remembers his early days and describes himself as having crooked teeth and a lazy eye, which led to severe bullying in teen years, “By the time high school hit, I was already 300lbs, and was bullied on a daily basis. I started having the shit kicked out of me. I hated school so much I would set my alarm to 2 am and hit snooze for the next four hours until it was time to get up so that I could fall asleep and wake that many times knowing I didn’t have to get up and face the day.”

With the daily torment of his peers and need to find a way to cope with the darkest depths of his depression, Tony chose to use hallucinogens dropping acid or eating mushrooms just to get through the moments of his school life. It only made things worse for that he was labeled a stoner and had little support from his teachers who cared little about the struggling teen.

“I dropped out, I isolated, I sat in my bedrooms for weeks on end, not showering, doing anything, barely surviving. I was depressed. I was allowed and encouraged to be depressed by an ill parent.” It can be tough living with a parent that mirrors your own issues, and these types of relationships, when reflected on later in life, this can feel destructive. 

It was tough going for Tony for most of his childhood and his teenage years. But as a human being, our journey is one that teaches us perseverance, and though it may seem as if this life is not worth living in the struggles of a mental illness, there is always a time when things feel okay. As if life is showing you a little light in the darkest places.

Tony eventually found that he could be functional after losing the majority of the weight he gained over the years. Tony found a few years of “normalcy” that often comes with the end of a depression cycle. In this period of time Tony made the decision to go back to school where he received his college diploma in Social Service Work. As most stories with a mental illness go, this short period of normalcy was quickly followed by a glut of personal tragedies in his adult life.

Everyone experiences personal tragedies in their life, but for someone prone to severe depression it will often sink the sufferer deeper into depression as a response. The shorter the period of time and succession of tragedies can often leave a mental illness to suffer little time to compartmentalize these events.

“I experienced in a short period of time my dad’s brief fight with cancer, my sister’s own discovery of her own battle with cancer, the ending of my marriage, which was followed with the birth of a daughter who was born at 1lb 3oz at 25 weeks with bleeding on her brain and a hole in her heart.”

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Even the strongest of us in the mental health community can only hold on for so long. It is no surprise given the succession of tragedies in Tony’s life that he had a psychotic break and was hospitalized for twenty-one days. Tony recalls that experience well, “It was frightening, but I felt safe, and I away from all the shit of the world for a short period, and I didn’t have anything to do but get better.” It was in this experience that Tony started writing and doing collage art.

In Tony’s experience, it is often tough to get through a single day with his mental illness. When he is symptomatic he uses routines that help him complete tasks in a ritualistic way. It helps that Tony gets through a day alive, but on the worst days, he only accomplishes a fraction of what he had planned. To combat the bad days, he focuses on his limitations, trying not to get too ahead of himself, and try hard not to take the bad too seriously. These types of behaviors come from years of dealing with the darkness and finding wisdom.

That wisdom showed when Tony was asked about if he ever had suicidal thoughts, “Yes, I have several times. Once I got close enough to downing a bottle of pills that I knew enough to drag myself to the ward. When you can’t trust yourself with your pills, you know you’re in trouble.”

Writing can be the most therapeutic part of the life of someone with a mental illness. I know in my own experiences that is true, and Tony has found his place in his own blog and writing. In talking about his story with me it has helped Tony to process the past and to look to be grounded in the present.

“My blog and being creative in general have meant the world to me. I am not someone who talks about things. I sit on them” he recalls. Tony believes that seeking help is an important part of his recovery, but engaging others through creative expression is an amazing experience that he cherishes.

art stacks

In Tony’s life, he often finds solace and happiness in the little things in his life that make it easier to deal with his mental illness. Tony has his kids, nature, art, music, friends, and family that are his support system in his darkest times.

Every one of the human beings in the mental illness community wants their story to be one of many that make a difference or end the stigma that surrounds all of us. “At some point in our lives,” he explains, “I am pretty sure we could all meet the requirements for a mental disorder diagnosis. It’s okay. If we are honest and brave enough to be vulnerable and tell people what we are feeling, it’s a start.”

Tony believes that we all have a vulnerability that keeps us from seeking help, but if we are willing to be open-minded and willing to accept that we have a mental illness it could mean getting the right help. Tony believes that it’s not about weakness, laziness, or morals. It is about your health and illness.

Tony wants to tell the world his story, the ups, the downs, his love for his poetry and his art; to be featured on The Bipolar Writer in Tony’s eyes is a vital part of his healing process. Tony’s is one of the many, but there is no doubt that his story has to be told.

art were watching

Here are some links to written poetry Tony wanted to share:

https://handsinthegarden.wordpress.com/2017/12/16/sleepless-the-fever/

https://handsinthegarden.wordpress.com/2017/12/18/the-lonely-crowd-worded/

If you would like to know more about Tony and his journey you can visit him on his blog. “My Hand in the Garden” @ https://handsinthegarden.wordpress.com/

Written by: James Edgar Skye

Interviewee: Anthony “Tony” Gorman

All art pieces on this article are done by Tony

Other Features written by J.E. Skye

Morgan’s Interview Feature

 

 

 

 

 

Morgan’s Interview Feature

Since the inception of my blog The Bipolar Writer it has been my goal to write the stories of others like myself. I have written my own story in my memoir (also entitled The Bipolar Writer) and sharing my experiences on my blog. Every human experience in having to live with a mental illness is unique to that human being and the suffering from it is also unique. It is why I believe it is imperative that I share other’s stories, so here is the story of one brave mental illness sufferer—Morgan who lives in Australia.

The daily struggle of waking up every day to a mental illness can be a struggle and for Morgan, it is no different. Morgan has always felt that her daily mental illness struggle is a hard one, and had this to say, “My mental illness has always been very affected by what’s going on around me, some days it much worse than others.”

We all have that story of when we went from the unknown to the known with our diagnosis. Surrounded by the people Morgan loved on her twenty-first birthday, it became clear to her that in that moment she could barely acknowledge the event and a feeling of numbness. Only broken by the speech of her godparents and seeing the face of a filmmaking mentor, seemed to register to Morgan that day. “I was very lucky that afterward a very close friend, who suffered from anxiety herself, stayed behind and I decided to tell her how I felt,” she recalls.

Sometimes it takes just one person to listen before you realize you need help.

It was here that Morgan, after talking with her friend who recommended that she seek help, that she made the decision we all face. Two weeks later she was diagnosed with severe generalized anxiety and moderate to severe depression.

We all have a history, a time before our diagnosis where we had little to no understanding of what was going on in our lives, and Morgan remembers many times since she was a child that anxiety was a constant and silent companion. Morgan describes her early experiences as just a part of her personality growing up, a common thought during the early stages of anxiety. Like most things with a mental illness, her anxiety grew over time.

AnxietyasPartofPersonality

Morgan remembers that her anxiety was always there with her since she was a child, and at times she felt more anxious than other times, but the feeling never left her. Morgan recalls her memories with anxiety in an interesting way, but not uncommon, “I have no memory of not having anxiety, which is not surprising seeing as many people on my mother’s side of the family suffer from it.”

Anxiety is often the silent partner for the sufferer, and you hardly know it’s there until it makes it presence known. Identifying other family members when looking back your history of the causes of anxiety in their own life is common, and it no surprise that Morgan can link anxiety through her experiences with her family.

Death is an important part of our lives, and the inevitable part of life is that you will lose someone close to you, for someone with a mental illness this can be devastating. It was this way in Morgan’s life, and it was important enough that she brought it up in her interview with me, “My anxiety definitely became much worse after the death of my father and the suicide of someone I had grown up with within two months of each other when I was nineteen.”

The feelings associated with death in the mind of someone who is devastated with anxiety, depression, and grief can make a person with mental illness turn to the only thing they truly know when it comes to emotions—deeper feelings into the depths of depression—of feeling lost and alone.

“I experienced my first panic attack after their deaths, and I would go on to experience both moderate and severe ones in the years that followed,” Morgan explains.

For Morgan, depression was a much different beast, but still important. Looking back, Morgan can trace her first feelings of prolonged depressive moods to age ten or eleven, when her family issues started to affect her life. Her father was in early stages of vascular dementia which caused Morgan’s father to get easily frustrated with his family. At the age Morgan was at, having to go through puberty while dealing with depression, made it hard for Morgan’s childhood to be a normal one.

Depression would become a factor along with physical pain that affected her in school work over the course of her young and teenage life.

There are so many triggers in one’s life that can start a depressive episode, and Morgan recalls several in her life. One constant problem in Morgan’s life is that her physical problems have always triggered depression episodes. “During puberty, I began to experience severe stomach pain and nausea on and off, within a year lightheadedness and fatigue became frequent symptoms,” Morgan remembers growing up.

It was the beginning of what would become a trend in Morgan’s life with her physical problems causing depression that, in turn, affected her schooling. With her depression came plummeting school work and effectiveness in school over the years as a teen. It culminated for Morgan in her final year where once again her unknown mental illness issues made things impossible, “Even though I had amazing teachers, my prestigious school could only compromise so much, and halfway through my final year, I was told I wasn’t able to graduate.”

DepressionandPain

How can anyone, let alone someone who is dealing with the dark places depression can take you to, deal with this kind of heartbreak? Morgan remembers what it felt like, “I can remember thinking about ways to die most days.”

This feeling of wanting to die when faced with such emotional pain is common among those within the mental health community. It is easy to empathize with Morgan because at one point many of us have had to deal with this feeling. Some, like myself, have given into suicidal idealizations. For Morgan, even with her growing mental illness problems, she had to choose and she chose to work on her physical health.

People can also be major triggers of depression in the life of someone with a mental illness, and often they leave the deepest of emotional scars on our lives. When Morgan’s parents first sent her to group therapy as a young impressionable teen, it was far from the normal. Morgan describes the group therapy that parents put her into as an alternative and “hippy” where other kids that had been through the program would come back to help. The problem? Most of the kids were still dealing with their own problems and still in need of help. It is here that Morgan first met an older boy who changed her—and not for the better.

Morgan recalls this relationship as unstable and one she couldn’t live without at the time.

“I developed a very strong crush on one of the older boys who were there to help, and he quickly realized how he could use my emotional feelings to manipulate me.”

Over the next four years of her teenage life, she stayed in touch with this boy, and she recalls that during this period of her life, her depression mood swings went from occasional to a constant menace. Morgan remembers the negative thoughts that this boy brought to her life, “One of my strongest memories of him now is the text messages telling me how much pain I was causing others by being in their lives, and how I was worthless.” For Morgan, this was a daily occurrence and a recognizable one for many dealing with a mental illness.

Dark Shadows Sweater Evening Hoodie People Night

This boy confirmed every fear and anxious thought that Morgan ever had about herself, but the connection had always been there for Morgan, and cutting off this person from her life was filled with difficulties. As humans with a mental illness, we often attach ourselves to situations where it only serves to further our negative thoughts. We feel as if we are not good enough for the world, so these relationships, no matter how destructive, can lead to deeper attachments.

Eventually, on her sixteenth birthday, Morgan finally cut off all contact and ended a relationship filled with emotional cuts that stayed with her for many years.

Not all people that come into the lives of someone with a mental illness are negative influences. In her journey, Morgan has found two people at school that became saviors in her life and they are still a positive influence. In her late teen years, Morgan found the strength to fight her ups and downs with depression with filmmaking and found solace in her friend Alice who became her rock after her father’s death. When Morgan finally sought help it became clear that her past was affecting her future, and since has grown with her experiences.

“I’d known since I was twelve that I had some form of depression, after all, most of my symptoms matched the ones I’d heard of in group therapy, but getting my official diagnosis of anxiety was life-changing.”

These days Morgan gets through her daily struggles with the help of important medications like anti-depressants and breathing exercises that she learned in cognitive behavioral therapy to help cope with anxiety. Morgan also credits a strong support system of family and quality friends who not only know what is wrong with her but offer help in her those times of great need, supporting her along her journey.

When Morgan has a panic attack, she has learned to tell herself, “Everything will be okay in the end, if it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.”

In Morgan’s life, she has found solace in the things that make her life worth living. Close personal friends that are always there for her. Morgan’s boyfriend of eighteen months has seen the worst of her diagnosis and is still is a constant patient and supportive influence every day. Throughout her life, she has been lucky to have her parents that always encouraged her creativity and dreams. It was Morgan’s mother who fostered her creativity, “My mother passed on her love of art and cafes, and we still share wonderful deep emotional conversations together, which are the main ways I process life.”

Of course, Morgan has her cat, Alistair (a Dragon Age reference perhaps) who is always a wonderful distraction from the rest of the world.

In every journey of a human being going through a mental illness you can find real wisdom in the struggle, and Morgan wants her story to be one of many that will help with the goals she sets out to tell her story here on The Bipolar Writer blog, “One of my biggest goals is to reduce the stigma around taking medication. I chose not to take medication for a long time, and it’s one of my biggest regrets I have in life.”

Morgan also believes that the stigma that comes with having a mental illness keeps teens and young adults from seeking help. Morgan recalls when she first started to realize that she was dealing with depression, she saw daily shirts that said, “Cheer Up Emo Kid” which were quite popular in Australia. These types of stereotypes in Morgan’s mind further the stigma that just smiling should be enough to cure you. No one human being chooses to have a mental illness and it can be scary to even think about getting help, but Morgan believes she can change this by telling her story.

“If I could choose this life, I thought, why the hell would you think I would choose this? It is very important to realize your mental illness is not your fault, but you can do something about it.”

In this mental illness life, there is always someone to talk to, a professional or a friend that you can trust. If Morgan could change one other thing about the stigma that comes with a mental illness it would be this, “It’s important to know that there is help out there, even if you aren’t well enough to seek it out in this moment.”

Many of human beings that will be featured on The Bipolar Writer blog cite their creating content on their blogs as one of the biggest thing that makes life worth living. Morgan calls her blog a place of solace that helps keep her steady,

“My blog keeps me from going insane by giving me a little goal to achieve every day, whether it’s replying to comments, writing a new blog post, or promoting on social media.”

Creativity

Morgan is a filmmaker and writer who was diagnosed with endometriosis at seventeen and depression and generalized anxiety at twenty-one. She uses her creativity as an essential part of her healing process.

You can find Morgan’s blog at:

www.fistfulofglittersite.wordpress.com

Written by J.E. Skye

Interviewee: Morgan

Ode to John Belnap CRNA

This as another ode from Inside and Out, written by Terry Fisher a local writer I have been working with since January. I was my honor to transcribe, edit, and format to the specifications of the author’s publisher. The book is nearing its publication, but I wanted to give the author more time on my blog. So I offered to show some of the odes here on The Bipolar Writer blog. Here are some of the links dedicated to this author and the work I did including the complete works published on this blog.

Reflecting on my Big Freelance Project

Inside and Out

Ode to John Belnap CRNA
12-9-1969 – 7-4-2016

Let me tell you this, John Belnap’s life was not all done.
Taken cruelly when he was trying to have some well-deserved fun.
He worked so hard at his job in Oregon—
Then moonlighted to us when he was done.

He drove hours and hours all the way here—
Learning Spanish on the way, what a dear!
Who does that? Listening to boring tapes for hours on end—
It helped us so much— never had to find a translator with time to lend.

I talked a lot to this man, you see—
And he never ceased to amaze me.
Generous to a fault— never judged a struggling man—
We called it the Belnap Foundation that he ran.

Always familiar in his red, white, and blue OR cap—
He was never caught taking a nap.
I wondered if he had hair beneath that hat.
Good to the core, but not just that—

An honor to work with— that’s for sure.
And calm and capable in a crisis blur.
Cared about his patients beyond belief—
He was the God of patient relief.

For sure you could rely on him to say “of course,”
“Comfort is why I am here to help you” he’d endorse.
Once a month he was there only—
Not enough time to know this man more-ly.

And now no chance to get the opportunity—
To keep and love him in our community.
We love you, John, that’s for sure—
A burden we must carry and endure.

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