"grey matter" 24 x 36 oil/ink/water on canvas
grey matter includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control.
I used to think there was something physically wrong with me. I would constantly wonder about an easy explanation for what was causing anxiety so grave at such a young age. My central nervous system has been activated and in fight or flight mode since I was 8, after experiencing my first big T trauma experience.
My bodies response to what it perceives to be danger has been elevated for the greater majority of my life. When learning what trauma can do to the body/mind it was that big relieving breathe, that "easy explanation" I was searching for, for so long. I just wanted someone to validate that I was having the same human experience as other people that struggle with similar mental health issues. I needed someone who walked before me.
Just like getting sober I had to follow in the foot steps of people who figured out how to get off of substances. Or another women having been through abusive relationships urging me to get out or I'll end up like her. Or my therapist who told me he has seen so many patients get relief from EMDR.
My dream is to be the women who walked before you. The women who walked*FOUGHT* through grave traumatic experiences and figured out how to calm my central nervous system.
Thats the part of mental health people do not usually talk about. People talk about mental health in such vague terms that it devaluates those who suffer through it, making it more likely that your loved one won't talk about it at all. The physical body symptoms that trauma/mental health disorder patients live with are a lot of the time one of the main reasons some people turn to suicide. They are told by the misinformed to "just get up and get sunshine!" "exercise!" "drink water!", when they're central nervous system is so activated they can barely think straight.
We don't talk about the physical realities of anxiety/PTSD/depression/personality disorders enough.
my anxiety presenting in physical symptoms include (different than a panic attack):
my face feeling stiff and weird, my heart truly feeling like I am having a heart attack, complete frozen stiffness in my neck/back, stomach issues, not using the bathroom for days, my tongue will randomly feel like a foreign object and freeze in my mouth and on the roof of mouth, my eyes cross and get blurry, uncomfortable tingling in my hands and feet, feeling like my veins are burning, agitated feelings and not being able to explain them, restless, always fatigued.
I DO NOT SAY THIS FOR PITTY. I DO NOT PITTY MYSELF ANYMORE. I WANT THIS TO BE A WAKE UP CALL FOR PEOPLE WHO DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE GRAVITY OF THEIR PARTNER/FRIEND/FAMILY MEMBERS MENTAL HEALTH SYMPTOMS.
My recovery journey started with getting off of substances. Which was at the time the hardest thing I had to do. In reality it wasn't, because now I deal with those emotions and feelings SOBER and cannot instantly self sooth with substances. Setting really hard boundaries in relationships that have brought me stress. I didn't have the self respect to walk away, I thought I just to "deal" with that relationship stress because it was family.
Learning how to calm my central nervous system has been a huge part of growth + recovery. Finding self soothing techniques to help these physical symptoms and get some relief. Art, therapy, meditation, breathe work, communication, journaling, exercise, and doing things that make me happy. All of those coping skills help sometimes but there are days that I don't even know why my anxiety symptoms are presenting. The deeply rooted trauma in my subconscious is being gutted out and dealt with but sometimes my body remembers and does strange things. Asking your loved ones "what is stressing you out" might not be helpful. The most helpful thing you can do for someone who feels shame/guilt about not knowing exactly why they feel the way they do is just letting them know you are there for them. Simply offering company, space, food, a clean space, watching someones kids, can immensely help not only it simply being helpful but because they know they are loved and not judged.
If any of this resonates with you I want you to know you are not alone. Educate your family/friends so they know how to support you better. Educate yourself because you may have not known why you are struggling. Educate those around you because the more people are educated the more suicides can be prevented. I am in no way saying that all tragedies can be prevented, but I truly believe in my heart that if people knew more about mental health disorders those red flag signs wouldn't go unseen.
I want "Grey matter" to represent the path you walk, pave, and outline that can be shared to help another human. Every person has a story, and every story has the opportunity to be shared so people do not feel as alone.