My name is Whitney and I am an artist at Indigo Wings. Photography has always been a passion of mine and I attended a small University to obtain a degree in Graphic Design. Photoshop allows me to take my pictures to a different level, expressing the hidden elements and highlighting detail that I feel deserves prominence. It also allows me to express my true self in ways that would otherwise be impossible.
As a baby I was exposed to alcohol and drugs while my mom was pregnant with me so my developing brain had to adapt. I have an anxiety disorder, depression, a closed head injury which resulted in a severe right hemispheric dysfunction with Obsessive, Compulsive tendencies and Fibromyalgia. They affect me daily. I second guess myself a lot. Ordering a pizza or calling to set up appointments can oftentimes seem insurmountable. Even talking to people on the phone, I constantly feel judged. With OCD I get stuck in a loop of thoughts and I have to work to get out of them. Depression is something I live with every day. My bad thoughts can overwhelm me but I am working to get through them. Some days it is just a complete struggle and it lasts all day. Situational depression can be cured, I wish I had that. Please don’t ask me “how long it will be until I’m done”, working on it.
Crowds are usually overwhelming, and by crowds I mean any group of two or more people. My anxiety has cost me opportunities in those situations. I know that you can’t always avoid those situations but they still make me feel uneasy, at best and total panic at worst. Fibromyalgia causes me pain every day. The amount of pain varies but it adds to my worries about the future.
Indigo Wings has helped me find a place where I can be creative and express myself. I am not very good at interacting with people in social situations. Being able to talk and interact with people online is easier for me. Volunteering to take on the role of managing Indigo Wing’s social media was good for the organization and for me. This is another way that I can contribute that is in addition to my art. It helps me feel like I am being a productive part of society.
Full time employment has eluded me. Many work places have really fast paced environments and that can get overwhelming for me. While I am a hard worker, sometimes it just takes longer for me to complete tasks. Wanting to work and being able to find the right environment for me has been difficult. I worry that I will never find a place that can accommodate me.
Sometimes I dial myself down because I’m worried that I will be too much for people. I worry that people won’t like me, but I am working to accept that I don’t have to change myself to please other people. Even when I was young I did not like to bring attention to myself, I just want to blend in. I dealt with bullying early on in my life, being biracial and adopted into a white family. People would always ask why I was adopted. Some people even said that my birth mother didn’t want me. That was not the case. My birth mother struggled with alcoholism and an addiction to drugs. She knew that she was not well enough to take care of me so she chose to put me up for adoption, she even chose the family. I had visits with her over the years but she passed away when I was 9. I still miss her. I wish I would have been able to know her as an adult. I wonder what she would think of me.
Race has been an issue for me as long as I can remember. My mother was Caucasian and my father was Caucasian/African American. I was unsure of my identity for a good chunk of my life. I wasn’t white enough and I wasn’t black enough for some people. I didn’t know where I fit and that’s all I wanted, was to fit in and not get all this attention. I didn’t like being questioned about my race. I was told by multiple people that I had to choose one race or the other and I could not be both. I did not want to pick one or the other. So it I questioned my identity and wondered if I would ever fit in.
A lot of kids would make mean comments and bully me. I remember being at a park after I finished a soccer game and a boy on the playground made fun of me and said I looked like a boy. I hadn’t even talked to him yet. I felt really bad about it for a long time. Looking at old pictures I can’t see what he saw. He was just mean for not reason. I got called ugly and teased for the way I talked.
Middle school was really tough for me too. That is when I started cutting myself. This went on until my senior year of high school. Even after that I had some slip ups over the years. When I was young I felt that my choices were limited, I have learned that is not the way to solve problems and I realized that I was affecting people more than I knew. You can’t hide something like that for long. Wearing long sleeves and pants was a way of covering it up. I tried to hide it but some people saw the wounds and scars. I felt a lot of shame.
In high school l was cyber bullied and the girl said that she would get her cousins from another school to come to our school and beat me up. I finally showed my mom the conversations but I was scared to. From kindergarten to 12th grade I was bullied. I was quiet and kept to myself. I was nice to everyone I met but people would still mess with me. I didn’t tell my family and friends the full extent of the bullying that was happening. I just kept it inside and kept it to myself. I did not want to burden other people with my problems. I felt angry and really sad. I was super depressed for a long time and felt I was really ugly. I still struggle with depression.
Over those years I had attempted suicide multiple times. I felt like life was not worth living and I was not important to anyone. I had so many pent up emotions and I did not know how to control or deal with them. It’s so hard when you feel a lot of despair to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I just felt like it was never going to be better. I felt hopeless, even though I had some friends, I was afraid they would leave me if they knew how messed up I was.
Finally finding a good therapist after so many failed attempts, I have realized that there is hope. Things do get better and I am glad I’m still alive. My closest friends and some special family members stuck with me and helped me see that suicide was not the answer. Sadly, there are so few good community mental health services, some people never get the help they need. My mom fought with the ‘gatekeeper’ of insurance coverage for behavioral health services so that I could keep trying to find people who could really help me. She was told many times that I should not be allowed to choose my own therapist. I am happy that she kept fighting.
My birth mother died of the complications of alcoholism when I was nine, but I have had a good relationship with her family and especially her mother and father (who passed away last year). My parents encouraged this relationship because they understood how important it would be to me.
While I struggled with strong emotions growing up and my baby brain had to rewire itself to allow me to function, I feel all of this has contributed to who I am as an artist. The way I see things is different than anyone else I know and I have the talent to give others a glimpse into my world, not everyone can do that!