I experienced my first real tragedy when I was 10 years old, the attack on the World Trade Center. It was the first time I felt unsafe in my small little world, the first time I thought I would be an orphan because my mother was heading to work that day.
The years after that tragic and life-changing event, I was never the same. Anxiety-ridden and afraid for some time, but then as I got older and the memories started to fade, I felt safe again. I didn't have to fear losing someone I loved like how I thought I lost my mother on 9/11. I started to forget that every day constant thought of fear and being on the edge afraid to do anything.
I was a normal teenager or as normal as one would think until I started to experience a lot of anxiety again. It was during my sophomore year of high school when I found myself falling into the traps of my undiagnosed mental illness. I knew at 7 there was something wrong with me but the feelings would come and go so my family thought it was a phase. At 16 though, the feelings were so intense that I stopped sleeping, I became so afraid to look at people in the eyes that most of the time my face was down. I felt crazy, alone, because my family couldn't understand and they thought it was a phase again but I knew this time, it wouldn't go away as quickly as the other moments.
I did everything I could to keep myself from staying afloat even though I was lost. I joined a sport, played an instrument and kept myself as busy as possible to keep my brain from thinking. Being creative was one of the best ways that I could express myself. I painted, I drew, I danced and I was a photographer for the yearbook. Years passed and at 18, I was diagnosed with a mild form of depression and generalized anxiety disorder. It's weird to say but because of that clinical diagnosis, I felt safe again and more in control of my emotions and thoughts.
In my sophomore year of college, I was gifted my dog, Emmy for Valentine's Day. I was so in love with her and couldn't believe how quickly she stole my heart. Ten days after receiving her, my sister from my father's side was in a motorcycle accident. She died at the hospital and my chances of meeting her in person and creating memories with her did too. You see, I never knew I had siblings on my father side and I just got in contact with her a few months prior to her untimely death. I didn't understand why I was so heartbroken by someone I never really got the chance to know and once again I found myself lost in the darkness. This darkness would last for such a long time and I would do it alone because after losing my sister, I also lost my friends. To this day I am not sure why my friends decided to end our friendships at one of my darkest and neediest times but everything happens for a reason.
All I had was my puppy, Emmy, and art to keep me going. Around this time I also found out about Instagram and decided to play around with some digital manipulation. I created images from my nightmares and my dreams and below is an image digitally manipulated to create a world that described how I was feeling. Falling, lost and afraid of my own mind. Afraid of death and losing people I loved again, I decided I couldn't do this alone and I sought help.
The unfortunate reality of life is that I have a mental illness and it will forever be a part of who I am. And as we get older, we will start losing people that we love. Do what you can to cope, to get yourself out of that fearful dark place; for me, it was art in all forms that it comes in. It was allowing myself to express myself even if I couldn't comprehend what I was doing. I still suck at painting and can't draw for the life of me but art still keeps me sane. Thankfully, I found safety in photography and can escape whenever I feel scared. My sister's anniversary is this Monday and for these past two weeks of February, I have been in an extreme funk, so I decided to paint on one of my favorite jeans from American Eagle. I painted a crescent moon and a sun to depict the light and dark aspects that lie within all of us. I know most people will try to hide from their darkness and/or avoid telling the world about it but I've never been one to follow the rules.
I'm sad and that's okay. I'm scared and that's okay too...
Until then, xoxo Jacklyn.