Christmas 2015 is a new experience. My kids are happy, the presents are under the tree, and we are enjoying the break from the school-day rush. That’s not new. What’s new is that I am at ease, the opposite of anxious. Steady, solid equanimity; even in holiday traffic or out in marketplace. Happiness is much quieter than stress, no spikes in emotion. No dread of the “dark time of the year,” not cold at night. And it’s from undergoing a journey that had a difficult launch 10 years ago.
On Christmas Day in 2005, I had an accidental overdose that caused unstoppable flashbacks. These memories were undeniable evidence that my trusted therapist was right. She had been suggesting that I have complex PTSD from multiple experiences that were all rooted in family experiences in childhood and adolescence. After this crisis, I finally asked for her deeper help and diagnosis.
We worked through all of it, and she helped me create a linear narrative that helped me make sense of my experiences and accept my feelings about them, even if I was not ready to embrace the traumas. She showed me how to have compassion for myself, and how I could allow my emotions without being overwhelmed by them.
I committed to be open to change, not knowing the destination – changing my marriage, starting a nonprofit, changing my artwork, collaborating more, being more socially adventurous.
I was busy in the studio. Each artwork was a record of each step of that process, as well as being a practice of process itself. If I had an idea, I created something about it. If I had a problem, I created something about it. I made external records of what was going on inside of me.
I began remembering what had most excited and inspired me – and started working more in that direction. I had more conversations with friends and experts, and started adding to my creative inquiry. My good friend Hart Blanton, a Social Psychologist, helped educate me about different theories of behavior and emotion, and I was able to understand Robert Plutchik’s chart of emotions when I saw it as a color wheel. That helped me understand how to accept what feels unacceptable about trauma, grief, and rage.
For many years, I’ve actively strategized about of how to survive and avoid the holidays. My sons go to California with their Dad for Christmas to rightfully enjoy their great family there. But in early December 2013, I met Robert, my “I won the relationship lottery” life partner. We blended our families and doubled in size.
His love for me created the confidence of being loved that I needed to stabilize my life.
Last year, all of his family members were at our house. It was lovely. And coincidentally, my sons would be in Austin for Christmas, because their Dad, Todd’s family were going on a group vacation and leaving the 26th. In an awkward family moment, all four kids, Robert and I went to Todd’s house for Christmas Eve. Christmas morning was easy. Later they left on vacation, and Robert and I went remote camping at Big Bend in a winter storm, he kept me warm.
Over the past year, Todd and Robert have become good friends. They work out together at a gym. We do family activities together. We spent October and November having dinner and a movie at Todd’s to watch the Star Wars episodes in order. At Thanksgiving we had a 2-Dad head of the table. On Christmas we will just be all together.
I am so grateful to all of my family, friends and community to help me on this journey of acceptance. Thanks for hanging in, and giving me emotional and artistic support. There are so many people and experiences to be grateful for, and there is so much room in my heart now. I deeply appreciate you. I have more than I could have dreamed of. Merry Christmas.