Heading in a New Direction

23 Lizard in Bisbee Arizona

Threatened © 2011 Bo Mackison

Let go of the need for perfection – perfection bought at a high cost. Embrace imperfection, acknowledge mistakes, claim the lessons they provide. Embrace change.   ~ Bo Mackison

I’ve had an on and off affair with the label “mental illness” — a label that defined me for many years.

I hated it; I needed it.
I pushed it away; I pulled it close.

That label deprived me of the basic experiences of choosing life and living it fully; it also allowed me to abdicate taking full responsibility for my life and the choices I made.

Behaviors, lived over years, became habits. They settled deep within me:

  • as a child when I developed highly creative but pathological methods for body, mind, and soul survival
  • as an adult while I was in the throes of deep depressions and slow recoveries,
  • while I was fighting demons from my childhood,  searching musty rooms in my mind with a dimly flickering match light.

Defenses and behaviors I erected as walls of protection were no longer functional, viable, needed, wanted. Yet, it was what I understood.

I had to let go so I could grab onto a better way. Caught in the pause between the two trapeze bars, I was  dangling in a mighty discomfiting place.

Eventually I understood that letting go of the behaviors that mark even a functional mental illness would grace me with freedoms I wanted, but hadn’t fully experienced:

  • not as a child in a puzzling environment
  • not as an adolescent who carried demons in her hand luggage wherever she wandered
  • not as an adult trying to function in the challenging world of careers and marriage-with-children, while burying the past and eventually losing the ability to even acknowledge it
  • not as a woman in the prime-time of her life who suddenly crashed head-long into reality, suffered a total collapse, and a crushing breakdown.

I worked for years to repair my body and mind; I worked even harder to repair my spirit.

Living under the shadow of the statement “I had a mental breakdown” provides a certain cover. Even after the initial stages, after in depth therapy spanning two decades, and after reclaiming a life of wholeness, doubt lingers and unwelcome questions pop up.

There is the voice that harbors deep in my sub-conscience, occasionally breaking through to my awareness. It questions my actions, my motives, my plans, my challenges, my courage, my decisions, my art, my life. It questions my EVERYTHING.

I must then re-affirm my strength, stand on firm ground, and repeat:

  • I am responsible for my thoughts, my words, my actions.
  • There is no one else to blame for my failures, short-comings, errors in judgement.
  • I take full ownership of my mistakes and claim them,  but I also claim the lessons these mistakes teach.
  • This is no excuse living.

It is hard, excruciatingly so as times. It is necessary. It is the only way.

Because as long as I blamed the past for mistakes I made in the present, as long as I didn’t acknowledge the mistakes and accept them for what they were, I did not learn the lessons. I had an excuse to push away change and healing.

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Why am I writing about this? Because during the years I focused on creating photography for public display, photographs for art shows and festivals, photographs for art centers and museum shows. I also created photography and other art as a process for healing.

Creative activities are healing. I use art and nature as components of my healing practice. I want to share my art and my story with you, my dear readers.

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Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  This is the first photograph in a series of twelve.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.

Comments

  1. I look forward to your posts

  2. I am so excited for you, Bo. It takes a special bravery, a single mindedness of purpose to zig right now when you’ve been zagging. I applaud this step you are taking, this risk you actively seek. I’ll be with you all the way and wish for you godspeed, my good friend.

  3. I am so looking forward to seeing what you share Bo.

    And in case you don’t know it, your work already has a healing quality – it does for me anyway!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Thank you, Joanna. Almost all of my photography is healing, in allsorts of ways for me, I’ve just decided to credit my art and writing with what it has added to the quality of my life.

  4. Hi Bo,

    Been suffering on and off from depression for years and the value of creativity can’t be overstated. When I feel overwhelmed and sliding down, I try to do some creative work. I pray. I read the Bible and uplifting books. And I keep whatever illustrated book on creating art/books/atc’s/whatever near my bed to look at just before I go to sleep.

    You’re an amazing gal. Keep going. Trust your instincts and your heart. Take a deep breath and smile. You can do this!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Thank you for your comment, Barbara. I’m following a course that feels intuitively right. I hope it will be a helpful series of projects.

  5. Bo, your strength and courage are a soul-witness to us all. Thank you!

  6. This post resonates with me so very much. Everything from mental breakdown all the way through to art as healing. I had a complete breakdown at 38 followed with years of therapy. The breakdown really did open the door to freedom, but it was hard work. When my daughter died 5 years ago (she took her own life) I came very close to another complete breakdown – but there was still depression and isolation. Art in its many forms has been so healing.

    I look forward to seeing your work.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Kimberly, thank you for your sharing. When we experience a breakdown, it is horrible and life changing. How so much more difficult for you, the death of your daughter. May you find comfort and strength in the powerful healing of art.

  7. I am humbled by your words (and those of the above commentators). I applaud your courage in sharing, as well as the courage and persistence and strength your journey has required and continues to require.

    I’ve suffered from mild, ongoing depression (Dysthymia) all my life. I want to say a word about the benefits of medications. For me, antidepressants have made a huge, positive difference. They did not replace the work of changing my thinking and behaving, but they took away that which held me down, that which covered the real issues.

    Thanks for your sharing in words and photos.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      I agree, Anita, art alone is usually not enough. I’ve worked with a team of health practitioners including therapists, doctors, holistic body workers, and followed their medical advice.

      That said, speaking for myself, art is and has been a powerful adjunct to healing, and I truly do not believe I would be where I am today without my art and writing practices.

  8. I have thoroughly enjoyed your desert photography and thoughts. I will look forward to more and especially your new focus.

  9. WOW…I’m reading this with tears in my eyes. Your courage to open and share brings me to my knees. For me too – photography and art are healing. I’m walking your path..right alongside you. Looking forward to seeing where this all leads (as I too – venture and dare to show different parts and pieces).

  10. Thank you so much for this new work and direction, Bo. You are strong and so wonderfully creative! I am looking forward to this new unfolding in your creative journey…

    Gorgeous…

  11. I’m looking forward to journeying with you, Bo, in your new direction. You are my hero. 🙂

  12. From all walks of life, everyone struggles with something, their own demons. To have something creative is an outlet, and with that creativity, reality can be seen through new eyes. You are very wonderful and brave, and I am grateful for you in my life.

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