I picked up painting again as a therapeutic outlet during my recovery from a devastating car accident in 2013. I broke many bones, nearly lost my foot and was technically left “disabled” from it. My car accident happened after I abruptly stopped taking medication for my bipolar type two (bipolar depression). I didn't titrate off my meds, I just stopped (don't ever do that!!). I have little recollection of the events leading up to the accident and zero memory of the accident itself.I just remember feeling as if fireworks were going off in my brain. When I came to in the hospital I was told that I drove my car off cliff and rolled 100 feet down. It was a miracle I survived. I took it as a blessing and a wake up call to finally put my mental health first.
During my recovery period, I had to teach myself how to walk again and although I remained optimistic about my future, I experienced debilitating depression and anxiety. My therapist gave me the suggestion to do something that I liked doing as a kid so I started painting. Creating art helped soothe the anxiety and depression and gave me sense of hope and purpose.
Fast forward a few months later and I found myself back in the corporate world- constantly questioning my purpose. One day I started obsessively doodling Saguaro Cacti. I couldn’t stop. I don’t even know where it came from! I spent days thinking about why I was drawing these plants and then it hit me—I was inspired by the cactus because of its strength.
Saguaros are magnificent plants. They can grow upwards to 70 feet tall in the harsh, desert environment and can live for more than 150 years. The Sonoran Desert environment can make even the strongest of man perish, and yet, these plants thrive there.
After reading about the Saguaro, it dawned on me as to why I was so inspired by them. They are my spirit plant! They were given a less-than ideal environment to live in, but they stand tall regardless. They instantly became my inspiration for living with mental illness. Just because I was given a difficult mental environment, doesn’t mean that I can’t thrive—I can if I remind myself to “Stand Tall”, just like the Saguaro.
As someone who aims to live fully with both a physical and mental “disability”, I’m hoping to make the Saguaro a symbol of hope and strength to anyone facing adversity with their mental or physical condition. I fully believe that anyone can thrive if they remember to believe in themselves and receive love and support from those around them.
**A portion of my profits go back to The National Alliance on Mental Illness- San Diego as they are working hard to educate the public about mental illness, remove the stigma surrounding it and provide services, support groups and a helpline for those in need. They have been of great service to me and I am also a volunteer!
Since starting this project, I have raised over $1600 for 2 mental health charities that provide support to those in need.
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