I am an artist that struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. What these diagnoses mean is different for each person, as there is a massive spectrum that these collections of specific difficulties can express themselves. I can only speak for my individual experience. What I go through on a daily basis is basically a roller coaster of hyper vigilance and overwhelming sensory overload. My emotional life is very unpredictable and unstable. Along with this, is the ever questioning and confused self that never quite feels like a fluid, real, whole human being. I am always doubting who I am, what I want and what I value. This sense of being consistently untethered leads to panic, anger, and emptiness. I either feel everything, or I feel nothing. Numbing is a way my brain copes with the raw nerve that is my identity. I can disassociate as a result of stress as well. This leaves me feeling unreal and wondering whether or not I actually exist. I am also always assuming I will be abandoned by those that I love, and hated by those who claim to love me back. This all has been completely present in my life for as long as I can remember. It escalated throughout my life to the point where I was finally hospitalized for planning my own suicide in 2014. Thankfully, I was finally diagnosed correctly, and I can credit Four Winds Hospital in Saratoga Springs, NY for saving my fucking life. Not only did they put names to what exactly I had been going through since my earliest childhood memories, they encouraged me to express myself in any way I could. This ended up being art. I had drawn here and there most of my life. Cartoons, comics, etc. Nothing serious. Then it became a matter of survival. This exploded my inner creativity and allowed me to fully engross myself in the creative process and I have been drawing and painting almost nonstop since I got out of that hospital. I pour all of myself into my art and it is a major reason why I am still alive.
The second reason is my wife. I cannot begin to express the soul expanding experience of meeting someone who truly accepted, understood and loved me in spite of my flaws. While I have always had certain family members that have always made me feel this way, it was easy to discredit it all in the belief that they only loved me because they had to. Obviously, I learned later in life, that was not the case, but it took a neutral, objective third party to convince me I was not broken. Not only was I not broken, but I was admired. Adored. Cherished. To this day and forever more, I will give my wife Krista all the credit for why I am still breathing and why you get to see the art that lies before you. I hope that it can connect with you in a way it has with me, and that through it maybe you can see the beauty that this incredibly unfair and brutally painful life can offer. Life is both terrible and wonderful at the same time. I no longer try to fit it into one or the other. They are not contradictions anymore. It simply is.
I cannot leave you without saying something about my dog, Finn. He is a rescue that was found living in an abandoned house in Georgia. He had no chip, no collar, and no history. They think that he might have been surviving on his own since birth. He was two when they found him. Despite being completely on his own and having the world abandon him, he still was a joyous, caring, loving dog when I first met eyes with him. I will never forget that day. My wife and I went to four shelters that day and none of the dogs felt right. We were going to give up and go home when we decided last minute to google one last shelter. It was across the PA border in NJ, but we thought, fuck it. We walked into the caged lined hallways and I slowly went up to each cage, saying a soft hello to each pup. I was judging that immediate reaction to them hearing my voice and feeling for that connection. The first few dogs ignored me. Some of them went crazy and started barking like mad. Then I went up to this little guy curled up in the corner, facing the wall. He was not trying to impress any onlookers, and seemed indifferent to the would be adopters. He was in his own, peaceful world. I said a soft "hey there", and he immediately perked his head up. He ever so slowly walked over to me, wagging his tail curiously. He sat right at the gate and looked up at me, into my soul. I knew this was the one. My soul dog. I won't go into all the years we have had (including health scares and near death complications), but what I will say is this: I have nothing to do with how amazing Finn is. I did not teach him or train him to be kind and sensitive to my needs. I take zero credit and fully recognize Finn as the most empathic, sweetest dog I have ever met. He has been like this since birth, despite being dealt horrendous cards in life. His odds were against him, yet he remained opened of heart. I can only dream of ever having that for myself. Here's to you Finn, may we have many more years to come, and if not, I have cherished every second I have been blessed by your presence. Thank you for choosing me that day. You will never know the joy you've brought me.