• Alex Mae

Add an 'And'

Updated: Jun 3


"Perfectionism is not a way to avoid shame. Perfectionism is a form of shame. Where we struggle with perfectionism, we struggle with shame." Brené Brown

Recently my blog was weaponized. That phrasing might sound odd to someone who has never experienced abuse. Abusers find ways to take beloved, or even mundane, things and use them as weapons against their victims. Specific blog posts were suggested as reasons why I was behaving poorly as a parent and my time with my children should be lessened. Absurd, I know. However, it triggered me. I didn't recognize that until a few days ago. I also had not recognized that I had triggered prior to then as well.

One of my unhealthy coping mechanisms is perfectionism. I had shut down creating completely - including utilizing my blog - in an attempt to seem perfect from the outside. Sure I create carefree things that aren't rooted in healing, however, my artistic style truly began for me when I allowed myself to heal through creating. When I finally gave in completely to the messiness of purging and processing within the act of creating I found myself and my voice. My art doesn't sugar coat. It doesn't throw a silver lining on pain or horror. It's raw. It's real. It's messy. It's about the furthest from perfect, Mormon, homemaker, mom that it can get. So I stopped. Out of fear.

When this blog, and my art contained herein, was brought up as a reason I should spend less time with my children it confirmed the fears that experience and PTSD had already been bubbling and solidified them. No more art. Not for me. The hyper vigilant symptom of PTSD kicked in full force. Again, that means perfectionism for me. Without my healing outlet I slipped further and further into a funk. So many other big things are also happening in my life so I didn't notice this trigger. I tried many times and used varied resources to walk through the ick but nothing was working because I wasn't addressing the source, only symptoms.

Over the last couple of days it became clearer and clearer that I needed to create again. Write again. I couldn't. I also couldn't figure out why. Facebook kept sending notifications along the lines of, "Your followers haven't heard from you in a while." Yeah. I know. It was annoying but actually got the wheels turning and led to figuring out that my vulnerability and healing space was weaponized and I needed to reclaim it. Last night the severity of the trigger and it's repercussions hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew that I needed to act decisively and quickly.

The concept of "Yes, and." is not new. It's a process used in many theater groups to invite creativity. It's a concept used in therapy to helps patients move past hold ups. I recently made the image attached here after yet another mass shooting and shared it with the caption, "You’ve sent thoughts and prayers. Now what? What’s your action plan? Add an ‘and’. I’ll pray AND I’ll _________." Last night I knew what I needed to do. I needed to "Add and 'and.'" To take action.

I recognize and sit with the fact that it is terrifying to be vulnerable and share my life experiences publicly; I am methodical and hyper vigilant about any details I share which is also a symptom of PTSD; every post made comes with a trigger; perfectionism is unhealthy and does more harm than good; my art and words may be turned against me; AND I will continue to utilize the act of creating to heal; I will use my creativity as a vehicle for social and policy change; I will not hide myself.

I also encourage you to add an 'and' in your life. Both your personal struggles and beyond. For example:

I'm depressed AND I will do one act of self care today.

I'm anxious AND I will practice breathing exercises to calm my symptoms.

I'm dissociating AND I will wiggle my toes and fingers to help myself ground.

I'm frustrated AND I will write about the process.

I'm angry with the way my elected officials are governing AND I contact them regularly.

I'm disappointed with the way the government spends money AND I vote.

I'm heartbroken that there has been another mass shooting AND I am actively supporting legislation that aims to stop it.

I hate racism AND I joined Safety Pin Box.

I'm scared when I see another instance of rape reported AND I volunteer at a local crisis center.

That is a short list. Most of us have been taught complacency and that we don't have power. That is a lie. We have unhealthy coping mechanisms that help us escape and ignore. No more. We can reclaim our power by adding action. Be a hero. Add an 'and.'

#heroesandart #alisamay #addanand #domesticviolence #perfectionism #shame #hero #coping #creativity #ptsd #action