Sunday, June 28, 2009

I remember when I first heard Michael Jackson's Thriller album, yes, on vinyl. My father brought it home and we didn't stop listening to that album for quite some time. Michael's talent managed to captivate many and inspire even more. I hope he gets the chance to rest in peace. However, I think it will be a long time before the media will allow that to happen. People must realize that this man was raised in a very abusive home under the strictest guidelines. Michael may have never possessed the proper tools to deal with fame. As we start to hear about his final days, we can't ignore that his demons got the best of him. We also have to wonder why those demons existed in the first place.

The day Michael died, I was out eating dinner as I overheard laughter in another room. People were dancing and sining along to Thriller. This was the day we were to remember his legacy. But as the days go by, all the media can do is unleash countless stories that surround his untimely death. Fame does have a price. Michael was dealing with more than we know and all we can do is judge. We have become slaves to the media. We have lost all ability to think for ourselves. We love the sensational stories that make our lives seem so perfect. 

I don't think many can ignore the fact that Michael's demons got the best of him. But some of the most talented individuals are sometimes the most tortured souls. Michael was lonely and possibly self medicating. A man who once had it all was now forced into solitude. We should have had empathy for this man. Shame on the media for coining the term, WACKO JACKO. Now they tell us to embrace his legacy? Why, because it's convenient? Look past all the propaganda and take the time to see a man, a tortured soul. Someone who needed help. A family who tried to stage an intervention. Think about those individuals and how helpless they must have felt. I feel for all of them because I have been there. I am just sad that it takes having this experience to really understand helplessness or loss. Empathy should not be an acquired emotion. It should be as obtainable as happiness or sadness. Do not let the media determine your emotions. Think for yourselves!

Friday, June 19, 2009

So I came across a quote by Beth Ditto a few days ago. Those of you who don't know her music, here is a link to a recent music video. I am not a super fan of "The Gossip" or anything but I applaud their art. Beth also proves that beauty is not defined by skin and bones. She does not conform to music industry standards and stays true to herself. Her voice, to me, has more feeling than most of the artists hitting the charts today. 

Beth responded to a comment Katy Perry made about her music. Apparently, Kary wasn't all too impressed. Well, I must say that in my opinion, Beth is creating art and Katy is, well, regurgitation catchy pop tunes. Fun to listen to, but not much substance. I was struck by what Beth said because I think it runs parallel to society's trivialization of mental illness. But first, Beth's quote:

"I don't care if she writes a song about kissing a girl, but there are people who kiss girls in their everyday life, and it's not as easy as just kissing a girl and everyone loving you. It'd be really rad to hear her talk about something like that. It's not about Katy Perry. It's about this song and its innocence on her part. To [Katy], it's just this party song. But as a gay person, it's like, 'Oh, of course this straight person singing about kissing a girl goes straight to Top 40 and people buy this record. Who can give a fuck about real gay people?' That's what's really painful about the whole thing. That's what makes me laugh about 'I'm not impressed.' It's like, 'Oh, that's what you think? Of course, because you never thought about what a real gay person feels, and the impact that a song like that has on the gay world in a time of crucial civil rights.' That's just one of the examples of what the mainstream is thinking about queer culture, when actually, we are completely fighting for our rights right now."

I feel that the media and most of society sensationalize situations which they have NO EXPRIENCE with. This very act is why stigma exists. And what gives a person the right to make money off of someone else's pain and suffering? In most cases, people are manipulating a twisting the topic of mental illness in order to shock the public. I am trying to wake people up to the fact that suffering can not be overlooked by ignorance. I know, this requires education, etc., but we need more discussion on this topic. 

I would love for more individuals to come forward and take a stand against stigma. I hope to develop a national campaign one day. Luckily, I will be speaking with congress in the future about my ideas to fight stigma on a national level. But I can't do it alone. I will need others to join me in this fight. Let me know if any of you are interested in telling your story. I will devote a section of my documentary to show real people living with mental illness and stigma. This portion of the video will display imagery and quotes from those who deal with stigma and are forced into silence because of it. Showing the public that you are not ashamed of your recovery and strength is a very powerful message. Don't allow others to speak for you.  

Thursday, June 11, 2009

As some of you know, I received my B.S. in biology with intentions of becoming a physician's assistant. At times I wonder what this career would have been like. I know one thing. I would have deeply cared for my patients. However, I am so happy that I was courageous enough to follow my heart and creativity. My interest in science comes from my obsession with how things work. I am always looking for answers or connections. Like putting the peices of a puzzle together. This relates to my outlook on life and how I deal with everyday tasks or situations. I am not a doctor but I do beleive that my personality fits the following:

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality: People with an obsessive-compulsive personality are preoccupied with orderliness, perfectionism, and control. They are reliable, dependable, orderly, and methodical, but their inflexibility makes them unable to adapt to change. Because they are cautious and weigh all aspects of a problem, they have difficulty making decisions (like at the grocery store or with anything). They take their responsibilities seriously, but because they cannot tolerate mistakes or imperfection, they often have trouble completing tasks. Unlike the mental health disorder called obsessive-compulsive disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality does not involve repeated, unwanted obsessions and ritualistic behavior.

People with an obsessive-compulsive personality are often high achievers, especially in the sciences and other intellectually demanding fields that require order and attention to detail. However, their responsibilities make them so anxious that they can rarely enjoy their successes. They are uncomfortable with their feelings, with relationships, and with situations in which they lack control or must rely on others or in which events are unpredictable (like with my brother).

Now I don't want you to think that I need a label for everything. It's just people always made me feel that I was different or strange. I love having this type of personality because it allowed me to do the following:

• Come home every night for six months and create the Gaining Insight Campaign (sometimes staying up until 2 or 3 am when I had work the next day)

• Create my video documentary with a ridiculous deadline (I always love a deadline-keeps me motivated)

• Going directly back to college to study graphic design after studying biology for four years.

• Staring at the ingredients on the sides of food products which usually makes my time at the grocery store endless.

• Worrying about my brother everyday since he came home from Italy with a mental illness (nice souvenir, huh?).

• Coming home from class and rewriting the notes I already took in class once. 

• Not settling for failure in myself.

• Keeping my family together no matter what.

• Worrying that chemicals or plastics could cause cancer (why I eat organic now).

• Not going to bed until I am happy with how a room is designed (this happens a lot since I bought my house).

• Or changing the design of a room 5 or 6 times until I am happy. 

• I am never 100% content with any of my creations, which is why I change things over and over.

• Fight stigma until I see change!

I could go on but you get the idea. All of these things make me unique and good at what I do. I am passionate to the end. I do not work well in groups and am usually not willing to compromise. I am stubborn as they come. I like to challenge the norm, at all times. I do get a lot of my quirks from my father who also seem to have OCD. He has always had rituals and is also very stubborn. Who knows, if I didn't have this personality mixed with my intense empathy, I may not have created this campaign. When my brother became sick, I lost my control. It is the best way to describe how I reacted. I searched and searched for a way to regain this control. I found it in my art. So, PERSONALITY TRAITS, thank you for finding me:)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

So, one of my new endeavors is to contact various media sources about their discriminatory stories involving mental illness. I would like to share with you my first letter to the editor. 

I was in line at the super market when my eye caught the cover of NY Daily News. The headline read in big letters, " NO END TO THE STAE OF SHAME: ALBANY TURNS INTO MADHOUSE" I of course pick up the paper to read further. It didn't take long to locate the discriminatory comment. The first paragraph read:

"Yesterday's coup d'etat revealed Albany for the madhouse it has become, with the lunatics firmly in charge of the asylum." Now sure, people may tell me that I am too sensitive but if this editor used a different stereotype to compare to the NY State Senate, I am sure he or she would be forced to apologize for this insensitivity. 

Here is my letter to the editor. I am hoping that I hear back:)

"I would like to comment on the editorial, "No end to the State of Shame: Albany turns into madhouse". Not so much for the content, rather the offensive comparison that was made. The stigma of mental illness is still alive and well. Due to lack of awareness, many news stories continue to portray mental illness in a discriminating nature. This article compares New York's Senate to a MADHOUSE, ASYLUM full of LUNATICS. I am tired of these derogatory comparisons because they discriminate and stereotype real people who are dealing with mental illness. Did you know discrimination against mental illness is about 20 years behind all other forms of discrimination? 

And why must the media sensationalize situations involving violence and mental illness? These stories only create public fear and personal shame. Did you know that 95% of all homicides are committed by individuals with NO mental illness? And 90% of people with a mental illness are NEVER violent? I think the public would be shocked to hear these statistics.

I am an advocate who is working to raise awareness because my brother suffers from schizophrenia. I can tell you first hand that the strength and courage required to overcome mental illness is nothing short of miraculous. Families are also subject to paralyzing, emotional pain as they watch their loved ones struggle to reach recovery. I would love for the Daily News to run a positive story about mental illness and discuss my cause. I think many people, who are otherwise misinformed, may gain insight into the reality of mental illness. Society plays a role in recovery because shame is one of the main reasons why people will not seek treatment. Could you imagine a cancer patient not seeking treatment because he or she is ashamed of their illness? The cancer patient could die from their illness whereas some one with an untreated mental disorder could die from suicide. You can learn more about my cause at the following links (my blog has many supportive followers):

Web: (check out the PAINTINGS page)

Feel free to contact me if you would like to run a story. We need to replace fear with empathy and shame with courage. I will soon have an educational video documentary about this topic. I hope to show this video in high-schools and universities across the nation."