The Story of My Healing Journey and The Restorative Power of Art – “The Barrier Series”


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 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 strategies 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’ve 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.

It took many years for me to understand that letting go of behaviors that mark even a functioning mental illness would grace me with the freedom I yearned for, 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 life who suddenly crashed head-long into reality and suffered through 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” provided 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 harbored deep in my subconscious that occasionally breaks through. It questions my actions, my motives, my plans, my challenges, my courage, my decisions, my art, my life. It questions my EVERYTHING.

Then, once again, I must re-affirm my strength, stand firm, 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 learned.
  • This is no excuse living.

It was hard, excruciatingly so at times. It was necessary. It was the only way. And it remains so.

Because as long as I blame the past for mistakes I make in the present, as long as I don’t acknowledge mistakes and accept them as the learning experiences they are, I do not learn the lessons. I have an excuse to push away change and healing.


Art Heals! © 2013 Bo Mackison

Why am I writing about this?

Because while I created photographs for public presentations, photographs for art shows and festivals, photographs for art centers and museum shows, I also created photography, did art as a healing practice, and spent much time reconnecting with the natural world. This continues as my daily practice.

Creative activities are healing.

I believe nature offers opportunities for connection, the arts offer opportunities for self-expression, and life offers continued opportunities for growth and self-discovery.


Over the next weeks, I’ll be re-posting an 11-part series I first ran in January, 2013 on art and healing. Feeling somewhat vulnerable doing this once again, but this message is too important to keep buried in the bowels of my blog. It is my hope that my journey will also inspire others. We are all on a journey of one kind or another. We are all pilgrims following our path.

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.


  1. If not for Nature I’d be a mess. Thank you for unveiling this new post and efforts to revisit your journey, Bo. I look forward to traveling it with you once again. Good food for thought that should help us each in our own personal journeys. XO

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