Breaking or Awakening: Tee’s story
Thinking back and trying to recall in accurate detail, the process that some view as a “nervous breakdown,” “psychotic break,” “exhaustion” or whatever other term is used to describe my “spiritual awakening,” is both difficult and painful for me. I think that mostly this is due to the judgement around the events being seen as failure or “being broken.” Not good enough. Less than. This actually was not the first time “it” happened, it is just that I attempted to address “it” this time. I had also had years of recovery from substance abuse and alcohol addiction under my belt, thank Goddess.
I remember standing on the platform of the Concord BART station in the Bay Area where I had been living for about 10 years with my partner, living in our “own private Idaho,” waiting for the 6:10 to take me into San Francisco where I had been working at the Museum of Modern Art as a Retail Operations Manager.
I remember thinking “I can’t do this anymore.” I was feeling unfulfilled and inauthentic. I hated my job. I had always been propelled through life by my passion to do art. I had none left. I was an empty shell of my former “happy go lucky” self. I had worked a few dead end mundane jobs that sucked the life out of me prior to my arrival at SFMOMA.
I was having sleep issues and was not getting much. My partner was on disability for HIV and we had a mortgage and furry mouths to feed. Most of the responsibilities fell on my shoulders. I had no room for self-fulfillment on an artistic level, or so it seemed to me. After several tests etc. it turned out that I had sleep apnea. While addressing that, I started seeing a psychiatrist and a therapist. I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety disorder as I started experiencing panic attacks. My therapist explained the Dark Night of the Soul which she pointed out and explained to me, which really resonated with me. She understood me. I was teetering on Suicide and had suicidal ideations my entire life starting around 15. This was the first time I held my Boy Scout knife to my jugular vein and pressed against it, but resisted the plunge. I never acted on my impulses, but would often do “dry runs.” I always had a plan. I would rehearse them over and over in my mind completely down to the last detail. The plans would just change and morph over time. Somehow in my mind, this was a “survival tool”. It helped me cope with the emotional and Spiritual pain that I lived in
I was put out on disability from my job and entered an Outpatient day program through John Muir in Concord, California. I was put on approximately 4 or 5 different medications by my psychiatrist in an attempt to figure out “what was wrong with me.”
I had suffered bouts of agoraphobia after my first partner Ali, died from Aids approximately 15 years earlier. We (my psychiatrist and myself) were exploring: PTSD, Schizophrenia, Bi-polar, multiple personality disorder and other terms as well as, my Suicidal ideation which had become quite prominent and I would say a dominant theme in my life. I remember the day that I knew I was “beginning to crack.” I heard and felt a deep rumbling inside myself while at the day program and didn’t know what was happening. It felt like an emotional tsunami and I jumped up out of my seat running down the halls of the facility pulling on locked doors trying to find a place to hide from what was happening. I heard the sounds of a deeply, wounded animal coming from the depths of my Soul broadcasting and reverbing in the empty halls. I didn’t know it was possible to emit those sounds and didn’t recognize them as mine, but knew they were coming from me. I finished out the rest of my Program and in the middle of my “Dark Night of the Soul,” my partner William was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer and given 1 year to live.
I spent the next year running him to his chemo appointments at the VA in San Francisco and exploring and learning alternative healing modalities which I used on him: Reiki, Pranic Healing, aroma therapy, accu-pressure, EFT etc. At some point, I lost my medical insurance and could no longer continue with medications or Therapy. I cold-tukeyed from the meds and did my best to hang on until he passed away.
His departure became my awakening oddly enough. He parted me with Life’s secrets and Universal Knowledge. I started volunteering at the Hospice that took care of him. I was offered employment teaching Volunteers to sit with the dying. I took Shamanic classes and soon realized that Death, was my bridge back to Life. I explored and accepted my intuitive abilities, empathetic gifts, my ability to communicate with those who left me and resided on the other side. I learned to walk both worlds, as I was instructed how, by those I sat with and helped to transition. I accompanied them on their Journey and got to peak beyond the Gates, but made to wait outside, as it was not my time. I became a certified Death Doula and conducted Workshops on taking care of ourselves while taking care of the dying and helping those in the Grieving process on how to reclaim their lives. I lost my passion to do art but it was replaced for my passion to be to service to those who are marginalized, misunderstood and misplaced within this narrow-minded Culture.
After 5 years of grieving William’s loss, my artwork and my passion for Life has returned with a vengeance. Another gift granted. It made me realize and accept that EVERYTHING is this Life, on this PLANE is temporary. The good, the bad AND the UGLY. I have learned to Embrace it ALL. I am Grateful and humbled. And so it is…
Tee’s beautiful Landscape entitled ‘Placerville’ depicts the magical land where he and William had planned to build their dream home together.
Placerville will be a contender in the cover design for the official #Emerging Proud commemorative book:
Would you like to submit a piece of art for consideration for the book cover? Submitted designs will go to a public vote at the end of March.
Contact me via this website if you’d like to take part…
Thank you Tee, for your open heartfelt sharing ❤