When filling time, Gin likes to draw on napkins. Muses and gossips act as her “imaginary friends.” She tells stories through artwork, often about the muses, and compares them to talismans or tarot cards. Charged with meaning and intention. She calls herself a secular mystic.
Gin is an artist. She shares her last name with another artist, a very famous one, and is often asked if they are related.
“No,” she says. “But we’re both a bit mad.”
He looked like her uncle.
“If he had very small hands,” she says, “then yes.”
Gin’s artwork was exhibited in a Santa Fe art gallery for 15 years, and each year she cycled through bipolar symptoms, often set around the seasons. Winter met her dark and quiet, shutting herself inside. In spring, she thawed, and Gin frantically created more art and socialized before the bitter winter crashed once again. Half her life was spent isolated and waiting for the time to pass.
“It was a hellish way to live,” Gin says.
Gin had insurance, but the traditional care it covered did not include what she needed, which was a focus on recovery, and she needed more help than just once-a-month therapy sessions. She needed to learn critical life skills that had been lost in her depression, like how to organize, eat well, manage stress, sleep better, cook for herself, set goals, be physically active, and create a daily structure.
The thing that remained constant for Gin was her passion for art and her desire to help others. She became interested in the services provided by Jefferson Center, which included an art co-op at the time. She believed this was the perfect place for help, and while the co-op did not last, her instructor referred her to the center’s wellness classes. Through these, she began to fully appreciate and align herself with Jefferson Center’s commitment to recovery. The wellness community at Jefferson Center helped Gin regain control of her life.
“They (Jefferson Center) acknowledged that it takes time, it takes a community, and they meet the needs of the individual.”– Gin, former client
Before engaging with Jefferson Center, Gin used to consider hypomania to be her nurse. Now, she has learned self-awareness and has the skills to manage many aspects of her bipolar symptoms. She is currently working on two art series, one of which she labels “pocket art.” Art is small enough to carry with you, so you can pause your day, pull it out of your pocket, and remember what makes you happy. Often, her art includes games to play with the viewer. One game is given to them in the bottom quarter of her painting, and she asks them to finish it. She uses the “Golden Ratio” to explain how all growing things share proportions.
Gin still takes many strides to improve her mental health. One of the most effective methods, she has found, is by going on a walk with some even more “offbeat” than herself.
“It’s a win-win,” Gin says. “Simple volunteerism. Good for your soul and theirs.”
Has your life improved because of mental health treatment? Do you wish to use your experience to help others?
Sharing your experiences with mental health treatment can help others who are struggling, and it can help fight the stigma of seeking mental health care.
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For more information, please email VoicesOfHope@jcmh.org.