I am known to be opened about my experiences and journey. Writing so openly is never easy, but I do it because I know I am not alone. I keep doing it it because of the mail and encouragement I receive.
I faced the hard truth about who I wasn’t, I discovered who I was, and then created a better version of me.
A once type-A, perfectionist, strived for honors and excellence. Triathlete, skydiver, a thrill seeker, and a 5-star business owner, people loved me. I was outgoing, funny and good at everything I did and attempted.
I was living a lie. I wasn’t completely fulfilled, but I portrayed a life of someone who was. I lived behind a mask, inside a dark, lonely cage. It felt like a million locks were holding me captive before I could ever discover my way out, identifying my true self.
Over one time, I was a victim of assault, betrayal and sexual acts. Before losing complete hope, I laid awake for 3 days, gazing at my ceiling, crying in immense pain. And, that was the last time I felt anything deeply.
I remember very little as a kid, but I remember I slept with my shoes on and that the closet comforted me. For a while, I repeated what I knew what would make me feel safer.
I’ve endured plenty of pain, faced horrible people, and somehow always found a way to use creativity to remain positive.
Until I learned to heal my wounds and love myself wholeheartedly, I believed and even accepted that trauma haunted me, leaving me to question my existence and self-worth.
Being a single mom of a teenager, I forced myself to appear strong and never allowed myself to heal. She never met her biological father, so I felt I had to play both parts. I wanted no one to think of me as weak.
Apathy was an understatement. I use the word, but I eventually stopped feeling entirely. I lived without pain, sadness, happiness, compassion, or love. I stopped feeling stress, adrenaline and excitement. My laughs became short and noticeably, awkward and fraudulent. When clients talked about their pain and discomfort, it felt like a chore to be present and listen. When I looked at people and things knowing I should feel love, I felt nothing.
My patience was unfathomable. Having practiced Buddhist philosophy for twenty-plus years and always having a strong connection to the universe and my Native American roots and beliefs, I questioned if I reached a new level of normalcy.
In 2002 I began retraining my brain, making the first commitment to change my life. Digging deep into mind-body experiments, I stimulated my brain waves using neurofeedback techniques and equipment. Till this day, I haven’t watched T.V. or picked up a magazine since. I want my mind open and aware. I gave up anything that brought negativity into my life. Having struggled with anorexia and bulimia when I was younger, It was necessary. I weighed but 68 lbs at 22 y/o.
I questioned if being a victim and witnessing what I have in my past had turned me into a monster. Having had studied psychology and anti-social personality disorders, I felt like I could relate to certain traits given I lost the ability to feel. I sought help to understand my new perception on life. To be clear, I never got pleasure out of someone else's pain, I was incapable of feeling pleasure and I never intentionally wanted to hurt anyone. Over one Dr. explained how my brain shut off my emotional switch, just like a light.
I had to perceive the world without feeling and without intuition. I had no way of sensing danger and my mind could no longer convince me I was unsafe. Without emotion and intuition, the mind has a lot less to talk about.
Everything and everyone changed around me. I was living in another realm. It heightened my senses, and I became drawn to people and places new.
I started started studying body language in hopes to understand human behavior in a new light. I then turned to visual journalism and New York City, a place I once despised. I was just getting back into photography after a long absence.
I fell into an obsession observing others because I needed to know there was still good left in this world. I was on a mission for hope because I had none. I became attached and connected to the energy of city and the spontaneity of walking and going places without direction.
It wasn’t long before I found myself traveling to other cities without direction, alone, just observing others.
I sat, stood, walked for hours upon hours and miles upon miles a day (and night), just observing. My favorite hour is 3 a.m. when the rats flooded the alleys and the drunks stumbled out of bars. I never left home without a toothbrush and peanut butter sandwiches, in case I wouldn’t return that night. I sought dangerous places in hopes to feel something. If I did, it was short lived.
I reinvented myself by observing reality. I created myself through my imagination and eventually discovered beauty in life again. I studied people intensely for one year.
Every time I raised my camera, power within me ignited and I hoped for the chance to fight back. Street photography was about regaining control. I searched for my reflection in others, and ways to discover my pain. I searched for memories, because my mind tends to block out things quickly. Therefore, anything that brought on pain or emotion, I allowed myself to feel it. I observed people, day and night, throughout the night and walked aimlessly all day without direction. Every subject in each photograph energized me somehow. I clicked until my intuitive sense came back and I continued to click until compassion returned. Because of the connections I felt intuitively while photographing and observing, I am still here, and I am more alive than ever.