MEET THE ARTIST
INTROVERT | TYPE A | BIPOLAR I DEPRESSION | ANXIETY | FIBROMYALGIA
Hi, I'm Erica.
I'm the bride. The three other people in the photo above are the most important human beings in my life: my husband, my son and my best friend of more than 20 years. They have also been essential parts of my mental health.
Speaking of that, this site is also a form of self-therapy. In April 2020, I was committed to an inpatient psych hospital after a suicide attempt. If you knew me, you'd be shocked by this news. It's the classic story of someone who appears to have a perfect, successful life but silently knew she was completely falling apart.
Over the last decade, I had been coping with two debilitating, chronic pain illnesses: endometriosis and fibromyalgia. A few years ago, I had a total hysterectomy, which finally alleviated the pain of endometriosis—only for fibromyalgia (a neuro-nerve disorder) to arrive on the scene a mere year later. The constant pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia caused several bouts of depression and hopelessness over the last couple of years. The unpredictability of how much pain I'd be in or whether I'd be able to wake up for work in the morning (or stay awake at work) had become one of the hardest things I'd dealt with in my adult life.
So when I left the hospital in April with a new diagnoses of depression and bipolar II disorder (and a previous diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder), I knew major changes lay ahead to adapt to my health and capabilities. I needed to channel my natural tendencies into something therapeutic while also attempting to pay bills instead of applying for disability.
In my mind, it could be done. Why? I am a Type A personality. I have been for as long as I can remember, starting my first job at the age of 14 and continuing on ever since. Type A’s like me also tend to be overachievers and self-critical in everything we do. No challenge is ever too out-of-reach or hard enough. Even after a task is done, I often think of how I could have done something bigger, better and/or faster. Then, I'm on to conquering the next thing.
My Type A personality also drives me to frequent bouts of inspiration and overflowing ideas. These "good days" lead to starting multiple new projects, learning new skills, creating a side business or staying up all night as I chase my newest muse. I guess that turns out to be hypomania, in my case. Who knew? Not me!
Ironically, the health system I work for is a community mental health center and a juvenile youth treatment center. I absolutely love my job as the Director in Healthcare Administration, in which new departments are added under my care every few months. The system spans four counties across 15 locations. The only drawback is the stress and natural emphasis I put on my work, along with the unpredictability of my illness while trying to work a set schedule. Stress tends to make my fibromyalgia worse. While I am passionate about my work, it definitely is strenuous by nature. My boss has frequently told me not to overwork or stress myself, but that’s easier said than done. If I knew how to undo 30+ years of my personality, I'd certainly do it! But I've been extremely fortunate to have a very understanding employer.
Currently, I am side-lined on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for at least the next four to six weeks to participate in a partial hospitalization program and to begin medication management and therapy. Art therapy and using my creativity in any manner (website design, art, singing, playing instruments, writing) is something I enjoy but rarely find time to do. While hospitalized, I was able to reconnect with my creativity and realized I could benefit from making it part of my daily routine.
I plan to use this site as my own therapy tool, where I will create artwork and provide educational tips related to mental health and wellness. I recognize there's a very real possibility that I may not be able to continue working in my previous capacity due to my breakdown.
This project has the potential to solve my biggest work barriers, including reducing stress, complimenting my introversion, completing schedule flexibility so I can follow my body's cues, channeling my Type A tendencies into healthy management of my behavioral diagnoses and providing an avenue to remain (hopefully) gainful employment over time—should I need it.
I hope my art, as well as my journaling, provides some insights into the struggles and healing process of mental health. Thanks in advance for supporting my journey and sharing my work with others.