Art Lov(H)er Open Presentation Series

Highlighting & preserving women in Art

The afterglow…

A huge thank you to everyone who came out last week for such a phenomenal evening. We appreciate you sharing your stories of victory with us. It was truly an inspiring night, serving as a reminder of how important it is to celebrate the little things in life. Sometimes we forget to give ourselves and each other a pat on the back for overcoming every day challenges. When something becomes so routine to life, we often think it’s not worth praising. However, if we have learned anything from the sudden death of For Brown Girls founder Karyn Washington, it’s exactly how important it is to give each other and ourselves the support that is needed to fight our individual and collective daemons everyday. If we do not take a minute each day (at least) to give ourselves a pat on the back for the small achievement of making it through another day, it can become easy to sink down the rabbit hole.
I know what it is to be depressed and in a place where you don’t think life is worth going on. After my first child was born, I suffered from horrible postpartum depression. I took a two-week maternity leave before returning to working full-time, sometimes as many as 75 hours in a week. For a year and a half I barely functioned. I try to talk to friends and family but none seemed to understand my feelings. After a while, talking to them about my problems became redundant and depressing. Friends stopped talking to me for fear of hearing more of the same woes. I remember reaching out to my partner at the time, trying to convey what was wrong to no avail. He would only internalize everything I was saying, and took it personally, causing arguments. To his credit, he was the only one that advised me to seek professional help, while he also made me feel ashamed for seeking it. Every time I thought I was coming to a break through, and share a part of my process, it only made things worse between us. So, I eventually stopped going and closed myself off to him. I threw myself into work, kept myself busy with side gigs, began drinking heavily. Days turned into years and eventually I had become numb to everything. Instead of seeking help again, I got a second job, pushed myself to earn more. I had connected our cramped living space with my mood. So in my mind, working more meant more money coming in, which would allow us to move to our own place again. That wasn’t the reality; It changed nothing. Nothing changed. It only got worse. Everything enraged me. I was defensive, unable to hold myself accountable to what I was demanding from my life and those in it. I’d keep working, hiding myself away all the time under the guise of providing stability for my family; which was steadily falling apart.Meanwhile, all I was doing was falling deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of depression, widening the gap between me and my loved ones. My partner and I would argue for hours on end. I stopped eating, barely slept. A steady stream of unfortunate events continued from there. And then for the second time in my life, I tried to kill myself.

I recognize now that it was postpartum depression fueled by a constant hormonal imbalance, that allowed me to go off the deep end. But the seeds of that depression had been planted long before. Until I met a women documenting the lives of queer women going through their Saturn’s Return, I hadn’t done any of the work necessary for the growth I have been able to achieve since then. I had no foundation or spiritual practice to keep myself renewed and focused on the big picture. I had no connection to any community to get the support I needed. My perspective of myself, the world, and my place in it was skewed by my accumulated knowledge from toxic relationships. Until I began unpacking these issues of internalized misogyny, racial and sexual oppression, I was allowing myself to be a victim of it. I allowed myself to do what most [black] women are taught to do in society: pretend. Dress up, play the part of a strong, independent woman. Miss “I don’t need anybody”. Miss “I got this”. Meanwhile, in carrying so much on our own, we often won’t admit how heavy the load is. And even if/when we feel the weight, our ego/pride won’t let us share it. Luckily I’ve learned from that mistake of foolish pride.

I now stand as a woman able to admit my faults, seek help when I need it , and am practicing healthy habits of loving and living life. I count this as a major victory in my life that my poetry and writing gave me an outlet to unpack my issues and make it through the darkness. The fact that my writings now encourage, empower and inspire others to fight and overcome. I am blessed. I could have been Karyn. I could be dead. Instead, I may have just saved a life. And that is always a victory.

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