I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve told myself that I’m going to write a blog entry… and then I half write one, or just simply never write one at all. I find excuses – that I’m too busy, that nobody might want to read it, that it doesn’t matter in the scheme of things – but what it really came down to was being afraid and maybe also being too tired.
When attempting to summarize my thesis to other people, I try to explain that the main point my thesis is that our society has a tendency to overdiagnose mental health conditions and place the blame on the individual when really some of these conditions are a result of social influence and reinforcement. I, in particular, wrote about women trauma survivors and the high rate in which they are diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder – but there are other disorders too that frequently get abused and debated… like Attention Deficit Disorder or Oppositional Defiance Disorder. The recent DSM-V (Diagnostic Statistical Manual, used by clinicians to diagnose individuals) has sparked a lot of controversy over changes they implement in their newest version, with the greatest critique being that they are updating so many of these diagnosis with such vague, sweeping generalizations that these diagnoses can begin to include a much larger population under what would otherwise be considered normal responses to trauma. There is a danger when a normal response to trauma can be so severely misinterpreted that it can land a person a mental health diagnosis – and one can imagine this would influence how one thinks of one’s self, interacts with the world, and how others receive this individual. It’s also an example of social conditioning.
In my case, similar to my thesis argument, I’ve hit repeated moments of social reinforcement surrounding what it means to be a woman and have a voice, be in a workplace and have a voice, and be in a friendship and have a voice, bringing up questions that revolve around the thought “What is the strength of a voice in these environments? What are the limits to where this voice can take us in these relationships? When is it even okay to have a voice in these situations?”
As evidenced in Texas with Senator Wendy Davis, who spent 11 hours attempting to filibuster the Senate in hopes to block a bill that would eliminate 90 percent of the abortion clinics in Texas, the overwhelming effort against her seemed to say: “Shut up and sit down.”
I’ve heard a lot of “shut up and sit down,” and it’s affected me mentally, physically, and emotionally. I think one of the ways it became really noticeable to me, aside from mysterious reluctance to write blog entries whereas I used to write everyday, was the fact that I stopped taking self-portraits (and made excuses for that too).
I had a photographer once say to me that he felt that was what made the difference between simply being a model or simply being a photographer and instead being an artist. Another friend I told this to scoffed at it – but I can’t help but believe there’s a slight bit of validity to it. Who am I to turn my lens at other people if I can’t turn it on myself? Who am I to let other people take photos of me if I can’t handle taking photos of myself?
After enough of “shut up, sit down,” being told of my limitations, being told I was “reactive,” etc. I stopped wanting to vocalize or display my emotions. Having grown up in a house where vulnerability was a flaw, I slowly began locking myself up – keeping any crises I had inside me until something external flared and I imploded, learning to keep friends out of my emotional ups and downs, decreasing the amount of time I spent writing and yes, no more self-portraits. The excuses came – I’m too busy, I’m too sick, I’m unattractive, nobody wants to see/hear/talk about my emotions, I don’t know how to use the equipment, if I’m not going to use this professionally why do it at all. So on and so forth. If you let enough time pass, you’d be amazed at how many excuses you end up coming up with. Granted, there was some perceived grounding truth in all these excuses, I let them overcome me and overwhelm me out of doing the things I very much used to enjoy. I grew up reveling in my emotions, especially because the display of them seemed forbidden.
Recently, I’ve been trying to crawl back out of this cave – accepting my disabilities for what they are but trying to work past them, develop positivity but still acknowledge and appreciate negativity for when its there, work towards healthier development of time constraints (and work less hours), and find more time for fun and self – both of which are vital. Before going outwards, moving inwards with hopes of restoring the artistic and expressive side of myself, so I can ultimately give more back to the communities around me.
What artistic sides have you been neglecting? What has been difficult for you to accept? What techniques have you used to move past it? Let me know, and I’ll let you know mine!
Peace and love,