I’m in “Wonderland” right now. Been here for a week or so. Time seems to be inching by, my head too heavy to lift off the pillow. Not sick physically, I’m just…just…what can I tell you? I have had some unknown trigger going me headlong into a timewarp. Into a place I never ever wanted to return to…
Is the reflection REAL?
My art, from it’s earliest inception, has contained 2 sided faces. Always compelled to create a smiling side juxtaposed to a moody/dark side. Even before I consciously knew the face was symbolically my own, before I had ever heard of mental illness or anyone called manic depressive illness bipolar, I was painting my double sided inner person. I have doodles and sketches from grade school where this manifested…it was a necessary act to portray my protagonist self this way. This was the girl inside of me, who would soon find ways to hide from physical reality in altered states…
After the traumatic events of my young life had begun, my self-image became warped and twisted. My mental despair manifested itself in self harming behavior: anorexia/bulemia, punching walls, suicide attempts…to this day, nearly 50 years after the onset of the abuse, I still cannot eat without feeling ugly afterwards.
“…running to the window, still asleep, she fell thru the glass with a crash…”
A short story by Susan T. Martin…
She was never very confident. Her mother said she was ‘pretty’. She did not believe her. She didn’t want to be ‘pretty’, anyway. No. She wanted to be ‘breathtaking’, achingly ‘beautiful’, devastatingly ‘gorgeous’. A ‘real heartbreaker’, ‘homewrecker’, a ‘ten’. A ‘perfect’ ten.
Like Tracy. Her best friend with the huge blue eyes and pretty lips, nice hips and long, long hair. But she was none of those things that Tracy was. She had a sneaking suspicion that her mother was lying about ‘pretty’ as well.
The boys did not say she was pretty. Not that she liked them. Only one. Joey. He was super smart. Super duper smart. Almost as smart as she was. But smart didn’t rate very high in her circle of giggly little girlfriends. It especially didn’t rate with Tracy who thought being smart was ‘stupid’ and ‘a drag’. A drag with a roll of the eyes added on.
It seemed she was just doomed to be a ‘bookworm’, which was a term that also elicited an eye roll from Tracy and the gigglers.
Oh, how she loved her books. She longed to go to the exotic places depicted in her ‘National Geographic’ magazine that her dad had ordered for her. He thought she was beautiful, but not in the ‘Tracy’ way. No, dad said she was beautiful for her brains, her intelligence. This made her feel very good. Her and her dad would walk in the garden and he would point out different creatures and plants for her to name, from her study books in the library. Oh, that’s a salamander…or, That one is a chickadee. His eyes glistened when she got this right, especially his beloved songbirds. He could whistle just like them, he knew every call. She could not whistle, because her tooth was missing in the front. He said he would make sure the tooth fairy knew that she had to have a mouth that would whistle for her next birthday. It was coming up soon, so she was excited.
Something bad happened that next month, tho’. Her daddy had a heart attack and died, and mom said he had gone away to a better place, in heaven. She didn’t get to tell him that the tooth fairy gave her a whistle, or that she could now tweet, almost as good as he did. She didn’t believe that heaven business, her dad said that heaven was a place where the birds lived, not dead people.
She spent a lot of time alone that winter, walking alone in the garden. She would whistle all the time, and learn about new animals and birds. She dreamed about her father every night, sometimes she would sleepwalk.
One cold, rainy February night she had an especially bad night. In her dream her dad was locked out of the house. He was calling to her, from the garden, and in her dream she wanted to fly down to him, like a beautiful exotic bird. She knew if he saw her, all arrayed in bright and glorious feathers, that he would be saved, and they would be together again. If only she could just fly down there. She started whistling and flapping her arms, and running to the window, still asleep, she fell thru the glass with a crash, landing unconscious in the garden below. Her bedraggled wet little body, so twisted and broken, was rushed to the hospital.
They said she would not be the same if she ever woke up. But they did not know that deep inside her amazing little mind, she was just fine. Her and her dad had both learned how to fly, and they tweeted happy little birdsongs back and forth as they flitted about a magnificent garden.
…seems to be less like a monkey…more like a huge Brahma that has lain down, groaning and farting…
I’m feeling disgusted with myself. Yet again I have lapsed into the void. The Void that exists inside me, when I feel incapable of creating anything of value. My fellow artists, do you ever come to this vast zone of inability?
Many would tell me that it’s the Bipolar monkey, bouncing up and down on the seesaw of creativity that exists between my ears. Right now I want to “shock the monkey”…(thank you Peter Gabriel)…It seems to be less like a monkey and more like a huge Brahma that has lain down, groaning and farting, on all my art supplies. (warning:EXTREMELY GRAPHIC WORD PICTURE!!!)
The warning should have come before the farting bull. Sorry. NOT.
Oh, the wonderful bucolic images that now dance ’round my imagination. Huge farting cows in pink tu-tu’s daintily dancing hoof to hoof. Hey, maybe I’m onto something! I hear Brahms playing in the background while the Brahma’s cavort! Wait for it… Wait for it….There!!
…the room seems to awaken with her…golden rays fall…like the petals of an opening rose…
this isolation is kind of nice, (she thought), it gives me time to explore my thoughts. But too much pondering of self is no good, (she thought to herself), it can get messy. Really, it is messy, all this thinking in isolation, (she remembered), because it makes me so sleepy, (she yawned), not doing the dishes, nor combing my hair, (she sighs), flummoxed, just flummoxed. I should try to eat something, (she groans), but there’s nothing here I want, (she moans) it all takes too much energy… e-n-e-r-g-y…(she sleeps…)footsteps recede, door closes.
Ahhhh, fresh air… Curtains of pale yellow blow in the morning breeze. We know it’s morning, hear the cardinals breakfasting at the feeder. A nuzzle of cold snout under the hand leads to the opening of an eye: Here is Izzy, the proud mom, ready to show us her new brood.
” Good Girl Za-Za!”, we exclaim, thrilled now to sit up, taking a long draw on the crystal glass of water at our bedside.
. “Hey, Kiki old-man! You gonna show us the grand babies?”
. Swing the legs over the side and stretch, then again before standing…
. With that, off they dash as we stumble along behind, into the hall then into the den. We can already hear the tiny grunts and squeals as the teeny pups angrily demand breakfast.
“Get in there, Izzy!” She’s already in the basket, dutifully cleaning little backsides as they squirm and nuzzle in for a teat. “Good Za!”
. She gives us a look of pure bliss, eyes narrow and smiling with a mother’s pride. Not to be outdone, Uncle Kiko, gives a little nose-nudge to the basket as if to say, “I helped too!!”
. ” Good Boy Kiko, you’re a trooper, indeed!”
In the quiet of the morning the scent of brewing coffee tantalizes our senses, and as we look up into the kitchen, there is Dad, in his Dad chair, reading the newspaper as he’s done ten thousand mornings before. He glances up from his cup, mid-sip, to wink and smile, mouthing a silent ‘good-morning’.
. We move down the hall towards Mom’s bedroom, still closed as she slumbers on. We can’t resist a peek, gently opening the door and gliding over to stand and caress her sleeping face with our eyes. She is so beautiful in her repose, a wisp of brown hair touseled over her brow. We must have made a sound, she stirs and the room seems to awaken with her, the birds chirp louder, the golden rays fall around her like the petals of an opening rose. She stretches, smiling, her hand reaches out to touch ours…
For Our Lost Ones
Prayer for Magdallia, by Susan T. Martin 9 x 11 Marker on Board $50.00
“…look into this inner world and I promise I will use my “INSIDE VOICE”.
Hello again, and welcome to the big show! I have begun what will become a Major Series of New Works entitled , “INSIDE VOICE” a series of works that speak to my inner battle with Bipolar Disorder’s lows and maniac highs, my way to shout out how the battle rages on inside even when silence prevails outside.
Many people who meet me may be uncomfortable being near a person diagnosed with mental illness, such as Bipolar Disorder. However, they are often surprised at how “normal” I seem. It has been my experience both with my current diagnosis, and with my original diagnosis of Chronic Depression, that friends and family are amazed that I don’t run around slathering at the mouth, or beating my head against the wall. They often try denial on, “No…not you…” or, ” You seem so happy, normal, well adjusted, calm, smart …”
Some have even gone so far as to comment on my family tree, as in, ” Well your Grandpa was a little odd.” Or the opposite, “Nothing like this has ever been on my side of the family…” In my family, on my Mom’s side, my Grandpa and his Brothers had come to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from Woodbury, Tennessee because there were good jobs to be had at the State Hospital, which was what insane asylums were called in the early 20th Century in the U.S. The treatment of mental illness was a whole different ballgame back then, my relatives saw many terrible and terrifying things, indeed.
Their positions within these huge hospitals required them to live on the Hospital Grounds in Dormitories, where they could hear the “lunatics” screaming and carrying on all day and night. It’s no wonder they were aghast at the idea that their kin were somehow linked to those poor souls in the “Looney Bin”. I am so glad to live in this century, and I am very grateful to all the poor souls who were the subject of many ghastly experiments and treatments, who helped behavioral science and the Mental Health Community to become what it is today. As a “50 Something” woman who was not properly diagnosed till the age of 32, my life now is a dream compared to the suicide attempts, the self medicating, the self debasing promiscuity, the manic spending, the jail time, the fate-tempting, death-defying thrill-seeking, mayhem-causing pain I lived thru before. The sheer energyit would take to put up a happy, smiling front…man, I needed a eight ball just to keep it up for a weekend.
But it would all unravel in the end. I was not OK. I was really, really not OK. Inside my head I was screaming, and my thoughts were rolling at warp speed. I was that cat on the electric floor in that Steven King movie, running up the walls. I would try to hold down a job, and this is after a year of sobriety, after a few hours I would go to the loo and hide, shaking like a leaf. After about a year and a half clean and sober, I got my hands on my first credit card and inheritance at the same time and bought 5 acres in the wilderness, had it cleared and levelled, had a well dug, fenced it and then went to the mall and purchased a bunch of tanzanite and diamond jewelry, winding up spending over 20 grand in 2 weeks(and ultimately filing a chapter 13 bankruptcy).
Interspersed between those bouts of mania, where I seemed so “normal”, I would cry. And cry. And Finally I just couldn’t take the pain anymore, so a dear friend said I should go to a local Mental Health Facility, called New Horizons. I was given this ancient psychiatrist who looked wizened, emaciated and nearly blind. But, bless her heart, she had me pegged. With her help, with my determination to stick with my med trials, with a great therapist and social worker, I have been able to stay alive there past 23 years, now clean and sober for 21 of them, come September.
. So, anyway…(whew, that was quite a tirade!)…I am painting this series to let you look inside a person with this illness, look into this inner world and I promise I will use my “INSIDE VOICE”.
. This project was a couple years in the making for me, and was born from the bottomless grief I was dealing with then. As caregiver to both of my parents after a 23 year-long active addiction, and after a devestating breakup of my marriage when my ex went to Federal Prison, I was an emotional train wreck. I had not been creating visual art except for private sketches and some mural work, but I made a smart move during those early years back home with my parents by purchasing a Surface Pro in 2006 with all the bells and whistles. As a result, I did have a creative outlet in the new digital editing and photographic capabilities of this amazing device.
. During the long illness of my Mom, who was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in 2007 (after years of passing blood but afraid to get a colonoscopy!!!!), I had much pent up emotion to release. Any moment of freedom I had was spent exploring the new medium I now possessed. I think I was at an advantage due to the fact that I knew no rules about photography, so I was very free to experiment and play. As a computer illiterate during my long years away from civilization, this was both hell and Utopia as I navigated thru the most basic techie stuff. But I was enthralled. I could take a photo and make it a work of art!
. Alas, my next 9 years were so pain-filled, as Mom’s cancer progressed she and I had to navigate colostomy’s and ileostomy’s and her suffering was so acutely mine that I wanted to die with her. And a huge part of me did, on the first day of spring in 2010, her birthday and day of death. I wrote endless prose and poetry, keeping her alive in words and rivers of tears.
. That seemed like a joy ride compared to nursing my father until his death. Dad developed dementia even before Mom died, and it became full blown Alzheimer’s afterwards. He also had prostate cancer which had been diagnosed 20years before but had never been treated. Years of violent outbursts and vile language and hate filled conversation poured out of my Father for the better part of Six years, and out of my warped sense of love for my mean Dad I determined in my heart to never let him go to a nursing home.
During those years I had a catastrophic fall which injured my brain, neck, back, shoulder, hip and knee, causing me to undergo a 12 hour double neck and back operation so that I would only have one recovery and could be up and about within weeks to caregive again. Wow. Five levels in my neck were fused and a previous 3 level lumbar fusion was repaired and taken up another level. I had torn major cartilage in my hip, needed arthroscopic surgery there and in my shoulder, and also was left with a type if vertigo that still effects me on a regular basis 7years later! Oh, my. Need I mention my mental illness battles with rapid cycling Bipolar Disorder and PTSD from a history full of childhood sexual abuse, violent sexual assault and rape as an adolescent and severe emotional and physical abuse due to 7plus years of Domestic Violence? No, I really had given myself a heavy, heavy load to carry with Daddy. But somehow I did it.
. I cannot describe the last weeks of his life, as there was a lawsuit and a non disclosure agreement with the establishment that hastened his death. But his last night was spent in a hospital bed at home, alone with me, while he screamed and pleaded with God and me to help him. For hours. And hours. The morphine did absolutely nothing so I covered my ears with my fists and screamed with him.
. During this unimaginably daunting, heart-wrenching and overwhelming time in my life there was a story on the news that just planted itself in my brain, because it was so horrific. A group of 27 immigrants were being smuggled into this country from South America. My video is my interpretation of what they went thru, and also a cry for compassion towards all who suffer such indignities and trauma.
…crack a smile or frown a frown…about the wonderful gift of creativity!
You open your eyes in the morning, and briefly it feels like a regular day. A “before” day. We need a name for that now, something catchy, that we don’t mind saying. I do mind saying “before the Pandemic”, “before Covid”, I suppose because I am on sensory overload about the ” situation”. I want to be safe, follow the guidelines, but I also want to talk less about it!!!
I am getting used to the “new normal”, a phrase that seems to be a paradox. If it is “normal”, the very definition suggests it is not “new”. I just want to ‘breathe’, and ‘let go’ of all the must do’s and need to’s, to float above it all mentally. Isn’t that a lovely thought?
. Remember the movie “UP”? I hope you’ve seen it, if you can be your inner Child while you watch; you will love it. The whole premise of a bunch of balloons carrying one away into the sky… Did you ever have a scary moment as a kid when your older brother told you to hold onto something or you’d float away? I kept imagining that I wouldn’t be able to hang on when I was so high the fall to earth would smush me, and that I’d be afraid to let go when I was still low enough to survive. What a lack of confidence in oneself, even in an imaginary setting!!!
. Who was the cartoon character who said, “What a Maroon!” every time the main character did something ‘dumb’? I’m thinking it was Barney on the “Flintstones”. It was said so often that it became this background sound, and up until today I couldn’t figure out what he was trying to say about Fred. Now that I sounded out the word to type it, I am thinking he was calling Fred a Moron.
I’m a wee bit disgusted about not being paid my winnings yet for recent painting, nor have I received payment for the sale of it. The Show and sale ended May 30th, and here it is July whatever…Poo. The organizers must know we are all starving.
. Anyhoo… I still have time to draw a line or make a dot. So I’ll write words again afterwards. Words. Just not the “P” word, or the “C” word, or “19”. I’m going to share some of my digital art with you tonight, hope you crack a smile or frown a frown, just have a thought about the wonderful gift of creativity! Goodnight all.
I must push myself to new heights. I want to. I am still th
th I used to think so. Especially in High School. My mind was ablaze with boundary pushing content, just under my skin and ready to burst out in neon glory. Most days it did, and if I had a dollar for every cool doodle I left in that building I would have at least 500 dollars . I was going to say a million, but….
Chicken Head Guy
. No, seriously-why am I so stuck? So careful? Who really cares if I am different anymore? In the Arts it is desirable to be different! Many artists feel they need a gimmick or a persona to excite interest. That is not always the case, however it really helped me drop my self-consciousness.
NOTE TO SELF: Take pride in uniqueness, courage to explore, new and untried substrate and media. I must push myself to new heights. I want to. I am still that artist.
It is beginning to pain me, keeping all my hair in a nice, neat ponytail. It is time to set the locks free, jump up and down, scream like a banshee!! Roll myself up in Saran-Wrap and hug the world! Paint my body, paint my face, paint! Paint!
. PAINT!! PAINT!! PAINT, GIRL!!!
I applied for a new grant today, and I have some prize money coming soon from the 2nd place award I won in “The Art of Possiblities” Show and Sale. These are certainly lean times for all of us. I am heartened by all the offers for grants and loans that can be found for all artists online, with just a few minutes searching. My advice is to just “Apply, Apply, Apply!!!” Fill out applications till your pointy finger turns blue!
Also, I have committed to walking more, getting outside and seeing! I will also write down 3 things I am grateful for each night before bed, and draw them. We mustn’t let our mind’s stagnate!!!
Shall I call it “UNBAGGING”? I told you that you would never guess my source photo, in the last post’s images. Well here it is:
. Here’s the deal: I was ready to take Kleo for her daily walk, mask on, prepared to face the outside world. I had just finished watching (another) horrible newscast about the indescribable suffering going on all around the world. They had pinpointed the lack of PPE(initials we now know by heart that stand for Personal Protective Equipment), and the total disregard for life being shown by leaders who shall remain nameless,. The glaring situation that faces those on the frontlines who work to save the sick and dying was very much on my mind, so when Kleo and I stepped onto the street I was shocked by what I saw.
. Up and down my street, in front of every house, were little pink plastic bags, big enough to slip a hand into. And they held a single folded newsprint page with a small sheaf of advertisements tucked inside. I had been upset by these exo-system destroying little plastic bags before, being tossed all over the ground by secret eco terrorists each night under the cover of darkness. I mean- No ONE HAD ASKED FOR THESE! NO ONE HAD ORDERED THESE, OR REQUESTED THEY BE SCATTERED ALL OVER CREATION!!!!
Well , excuse me, there was SOMEONE…
Like I said, this had already bothered me, but now? NOW?!?
. I had just viewed nurses in New York City going to work using “gloves” fashioned using sterilized newspaper bags, shopping bags ( using clean garbage bags for goodness sakes) to shield themselves, and their CHILDREN, AND PARENTS, AND STAFF, AND NEIGHBORS, AND YOU AND ME from the virus!!! So here I was, rushing up and down the street, very angry, very sad, and self-righteous over this waste. I wanted to SCREAM AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS AT THE INJUSTICE OF IT ALL!!
I may actually have screamed something, or at least shouted into my frayed cloth mask, which successfully muffled my words…I marched home with Kleo falling behind, tilting her head curiously, as if to say, “Mommy, I didn’t poop yet!?!”.
I paid her no mind, but kept up my March all the way to my couch where I threw the offending bags on my couch, and made an angry video about the whole mess of emotions I was feeling!
. Then I watched said video, and the old, grouchy Lady with the pink bandana (who was wielding pink plastic bags like a weapon) -well, she just looked pathetic. Very Ineffective.
Therefore I did what artists do best:I made meaningful art, and in doing so I made a statement, a loud statement… A SHOUT FROM THE ROOFTOPS, A SCREAM AT THE TOP OF MY PHOTO EDITING VOICE!!!
“HERE YOU MONSTERS! Here you UNTHINKING BOOBS!!!!” “SEE WHAT I THINK OF YOU!!”
“THERE WILL BE A RECKONING” Because my friends, it’s not up to me with my little pictures… No, the GREATEST ARTIST, the One True God, says in the BIBLE
” …AND HE WILL BRING TO RUIN THOSE RUINING THE EARTH!”, Revelation 11:18B
. Now with the situation reframed, and with me letting go of a job that my Higher Power is doing, way, WAY better than I ever could, I can be happy again. I can use the little pink bags for doo-doo bags for my Ragamuffin Dogs, and be eco-illiterate myself…or, I can make a collage with them and use the adverts also! Ooooo, this will keep me going till nightfall, anyway!!! Then I will have to search for a new, fresh bee to toss into my bonnet! Another vital quest for justice for little furry creatures!!!
. ONWARD, AND UPWARD MY FRIENDS! Let us keep pushing on to better tomorrows!!!
Can you dig it? I am sure most all of you can, gentle readers. You can probably deduce from my latest posts that my creative powers seem rather discombobulated. I would have to agree with you. The “SITUATION” certainly has a dampening effect on my spirit; whereas I used to force myself to get around people and interact for my mental health, now I have more than enough reason to stay home. The guilt I feel for staying up all night still pokes me in the side in the morning (oh, wait a minute, that was my teddy bear), however, I just take a swig out of my water glass, roll over and bury my face in Kleo’s furry belly and drift happily back to dreamland.
. I did try to do better, by getting ready for bed before 3am , which is good for me. I hit a groove in my art practice, which does usually happen around 2-3, and was looking up images of pelicans for a study I’m going to do. I was VERY mature and turned off all my devices and went to bed. Then I laid there, in agony, on that horrible verge of wakefulness and sleep. This happens when my pain patch wears out and my muscle relaxer can’t keep me far enough under to rest. So I feel like a throbbing thumb you just smashed with a hammer that is now buried in hot quicksand… Everything in s-l-o-w-m-o-t-i-o-n…except the p-a-i-n…
. I have been letting myself go, and allowing my house to get (very) messy…Even though they talk on the news about food running out, I can’t get myself to go to the store…I will when the dogs need food, I guess. All I want to eat is chocolate and ice cream, maybe a few Doritos in between to cleanse my palate… I allowed myself to vent by creating this:
I also made these :
And you will never believe what I originally photographed to create these works! That will give YOU something to do for a few minutes!
Dear Friends, I woke up this morning believing the world was fine, normal. I had no thought of a world on lockdown for a few fleeting seconds.
Dawn Moon in September by STMARTIN2015
. Then, as was wont to happen after my Mom’s death, the awful reality came down on my brain like a sledgehammer. It did actually stop me in my tracks in the hallway. A punch in my tummy that brought me fully awake: My world was indeed shuttered and sheltered in place. I couldn’t dash down to the donut shop to drink coffee and chat with friends, I could not go over to my elderly Auntie’s and give her a gentle hug.
Regaining my bearings , and with a profound feeling of sadness , I finished my way down the hall to the kitchen. However, there was no longer any wind in my sails. I was just tired…”bone” tired, as they say in Carolina . My aim for the day now seemed to just be sleep, sleep and forget, sleep and dream of a new world, free from death.
Before Reaching Out, Landscape of St. Lucie River at River Park Marina,Acrylic on Canvas, Susan T. Martin, 2016
Suddenly I remembered I had to be somewhere! I hurried to hook up to my Sunday Meeting on Zoom, which took enormous effort as I had only 13 minutes to prepare. I washed and put on a dressin rapid-fire succession , drank a glass of milk and flew over to my chair, just as the meeting started! Now I was with friends and loved ones. With gratiude in my heart I lifted my voice in song, then bowed my head in prayer-thanking God for the sacrifice He made by sending His Son Jesus to die as a criminal. To give His perfect Son so that we humans could have a chance to live forever and see our dead loved one’s raised from the dead to join us a perfect world.
. My mind now soothed, my thinking set right, the day was now on track. Yes, I did go back to sleep afterwards, but it was a nap free from dread, and full of hope. My creativity freed, my imagination is no longer on lockdown. I will paint my way through this, and the light of hope will shine thru in my art!
Crossing the Delaware, Well Aware, acrylic on canvas, Susan T. Martin, 8/11/17
Portals to Peace (detail of Legacy of Lunacy)Acrylic on Canvas