603 Stories – June 2022: Being Radically Visible – Expression


JACE: The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the hosts and guests and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of NAMI New Hampshire or the organization’s funders. All individuals and personal experiences are different. Please connect with your primary care provider or a mental health professional to seek advice regarding any condition you may experience. NAMI New Hampshire does not endorse or advise specific treatments. For 24/7 crisis Help contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text NNAMI to the crisis text line at 741-741 or call 911.

Welcome to the 603 Stories podcast, a monthly mental health podcast, made by young adults, for young adults. Where we share stories, make connections and find hope. Any ads throughout this podcast are not associated with 603 Stories or the 603 Stories podcast. There will be sensitive subjects discussed during this podcast, should you need them the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 or you can text the crisis text line by texting 741-741.

JACE: Jace Troie (he/him/his): Hello everyone welcome back to the 603 stories podcast a mental health podcast made by young adults, for you and adults i’m jace my pronouns are he him his and i’ll be one of your hosts but this episode.

HEATHER: Hello hello, I am the other host of this podcast heather my pronouns are she they and before we dive dive into our topic for pride month discussing expression and identity. I just like to send out a reminder for all of our listeners that Jason I are not mental health professionals, we are simply two young adults who are passionate about mental health and enjoy sharing these important discussions with you.

JACE: So expression has many different meanings but today we will be focusing on these two in particular. expression being the process of making known one one’s thoughts or feelings and expression, being the conveying of feeling through a work of art performance a piece of music or facial expression and tone impulse.

HEATHER: awesome now let’s welcome our guest for this episode Emily.

EMILY: hi everyone, my name is Emily my pronouns are they/ them, I am a disabled queer artists and I was interested in being in this podcast today person because i’ve made some of the art for this podcast and so it’s nice to be on this side of the podcast. And I have been on a lifelong mental health journey and I definitely use our as my main form of expression.

JACE: Wonderful well Thank you so much for joining us today, our first question for you is what does expression mean to you personally and as an artist.

EMILY: essentially like a way to show Others how you’re feeling on the inside, it’s a way to showcase your identities, or how you’re feeling, without necessarily saying, though. And as an artist, I feel that art is a great way to capture your reality in the time that you’re experiencing it without necessarily having to put into words exactly how you’re feeling, or what you’re going through.

JACE: That is such a great definition!

HEATHER: Would you say that art has been an integral tool for you, you know, navigating your own identity or figuring out who, who you are?

EMILY: Absolutely.

HEATHER: Would you say it’s a necessary tool for navigating your identity or has been you know, a big tool in figuring out who you are as an individual?

EMILY: yeah definitely, I Especially struggle with trying to verbalize how i’m feeling, or what i’m going through. I find it really difficult to put into words exactly how I’m feeling. And all these different forms of expressions are a way for me to tell other people Either what I’m going through or how I feel about myself. And it has definitely led me to communities that express in the same way.

HEATHER: Awesome, do you mind explaining a little bit about what your practice looks like, what your process looks like, some of the mediums that you might use?

EMILY: Absolutely I typically use digital art or painting, mostly in watercolor and acrylic painting. I definitely use our in a bunch of different ways versus just to have fine I do create a lot of silly art and much just Like a really fun thing to do, there’s a lot of stuff going on in the world, and personally so it’s nice to create space where you can kind of just let go and be a little silly. But it’s also helped me capture moments where maybe I’m not feeling great. Or Like feeling down And it’s a way for me to kind of put to paper What i’m feeling and it helps me work through those like tougher bigger feelings, without having to like sit down and analyze it you kind of just free flow and you get it out on paper you kind of put it away and kind of leave it there.

JACE: I remember Recently I was talking to a colleague about how journaling is such an important thing for people to do because it’s a way for you to put down on paper, what you’re thinking inside and really give you a chance to kind of visualize it see it out there in the world and then let it go and it sounds like you use art in the way that a lot of people use journaling to kind of work through what you’re going through, but what I love about your use of art, for this is, you have like this masterpiece of this creation at the end of it That you can share with others and show them exactly what you’re feeling, whereas when I journal I I would not share that with other people, because it seems so intimate and personal but artists just have this wonderful ability to kind of open up and bridge those gaps In the Community by sharing their artwork and expressing themselves in a way that is so relatable.

HEATHER: That makes me wonder What exactly does sharing your work do for you, like what is, what do you get out of it, I guess that’s what I’m trying to say are there benefits.

EMILY: Yeah, I think so, for me it’s definitely a way to say things without saying things. If that makes sense that, like I said it can be difficult to you know verbalize your feelings or you know verbalize everything that’s going on in your busy head of yours And it’s kind of open to interpretation, you can make your art incredibly specific that there’s no Real question of what your artists about and can also know you can be a completely abstract artist where it’s totally up to interpretation, but you, deep down, know the meaning of it.

JACE: Have you found community through doing art?

EMILY: yeah I actually have. I do have a very small instagram but i’ve connected with a bunch of other disabled queer artists. There was actually recently a virtual fair that I wasn’t a part of but I got to see for the first time it’s been going on during the pandemic that was all sick and disabled artists, so it was really great that we found that and it was able to build a small community of its people all over the country but going through the same things as you and you know we all expressed it differently, everyone has a different art style and different mediums But we all do one thing is that we express ourselves through art.

JACE: That’s amazing

HEATHER: What was it like for you finding A Community where you felt so represented or understood? In a world where most of us are not represented or understood or many of us aren’t.

EMILY: yeah it was very validating to find communities like that that you really feel that you fit in to. Friends are great and everything, but if they’re not going through the same exact thing you are, it can often feel like you’re alone and you’re going through a tough thing or alone or you can’t confide in people close to you because they don’t really get it. So when you find these like small pockets of community of people who truly understand what it’s like to feel live as a queer person or live as a disabled person or live as a trans person it’s very validating and it makes you feel like it makes you realize you truly are not alone, and there are resources and people that are willing to help you through the tough times.

HEATHER: Thank you, I have a lot of feelings about that, That I might not be able to process at the moment.

JACE: And those are all such important things and honestly the communities that you mentioned the queer Community The Trans community, the disabled community Each of those Communities has a very specific way of expressing themselves, that is also so diverse and beautiful, at the same time. I was just wondering how does expression in these communities play a role in your life as well, even outside of being an artist or, as well as being an artist?

EMILY: yeah it definitely gives me a boost of confidence. I feel like, especially where we are in rural small town America it’s very easy to feel like an outlier, But when you find other people expressing in ways that like you would like to or you just like you know you really like someone’s style or how they dress or you like, how they do their hair certain way it like gives me the confidence to be like Oh, I can do that. And it’s the same thing with art, I have tried so many different mediums that I don’t think I would have if I didn’t see other people doing it Or if I didn’t see people like putting their sketches out, I always feel like I hide my sketches I don’t want anyone to see anything except the very final product. But plenty of people make, Not that are but like unfinished art and they still share it and they get it out there and it gives you the confidence of like Oh, this is something I can work towards to be better at or feel better or like feel better in my skin. And it’s not you know you don’t start at the end goal it’s really a work in progress.

HEATHER: and able to see, like, more of the reality, especially in a world where we’re navigating so much on social media and the Internet. there’s so much ability to filter out the in between the process, the mistakes, you know and only portray the parts of yourself that you know you want to portray. So I think being able to see those vulnerable moments see those little you know blips you know, maybe something that’s imperfect or something that builds into something more down the line is extremely valuable and validating and I think kind of going back to me saying like Oh, I have a lot of feelings that I don’t know how to express I think a lot of, that is, you know how I find myself representative with within like queer disabled communities within artists communities And, especially because we are in the new Hampshire bubble, you know it doesn’t always feel like there are other folks out there You know so knowing that there are areas that we can visit or You know interact with virtually is very comforting.

JACE: And Emily I really liked how you talked about People showcasing their works of art that aren’t necessarily perfect and talking about the process of how they get to the end And how a lot of times we don’t feel comfortable sharing those moments. Especially on social media, and I find that so interesting because I feel like people do the same exact thing with their mental health. They won’t show the imperfect moments, and they won’t show the moments of struggle, they only show the final product, and just like art people will always wonder how do I get there, and why can’t I do that. This person is so talented and this person is so healthy, but really you’re only seeing a fraction of that person’s world, and when you look deeper you don’t see all the hard work that goes into getting there.

EMILY: yeah I feel like, social media can be a really double edged sword, because you can get into Just viewing everyone’s perfect life And it’s hard not to feel down about that, when that happens.But there are plenty of people who do post about the struggles of life, whether that be mental health physical health. You know, Everything in between. I think that’s something that I benefited from a lot was seeing other people. You know, falling for me disabled creators on, like, tik tok and instagram. Especially as a young person it’s very easy to feel like i’m so young Why am I struggling with all of this, like i’m supposed to be young and carefree and like finding other people who are going through the same thing as you is just like, You know at the shares the weight of everything it makes you feel like it’s not all on your shoulders it’s like it’s a Community effort it’s on all of us, and we can all you know struggle together and also people together and also support each other.

JACE: yeah it takes such strength to be so vulnerable in front of so many people, especially online, but i’ve always noticed that whenever I see people like that, on my own feed. That is what gives me hope. That’s what makes me realize that it does get better, and I can make it and As long as I keep trying and keep pushing myself, Obviously not pushing myself too much because of self care, but as long as you try, i’ll make it.

HEATHER: You know, sharing those moments of vulnerability obviously you know you’ve made some of our podcasts are you post some intimate photos on instagram invite intimate photos I mean like some very personal pieces of art that you’ve made, and obviously today you’re here on our podcast sharing about all of those things. So what has that looked like for you?

EMILY: um yeah I feel like previously before I started to like really break down my own barriers and be vulnerable both online and also like with friends I was definitely a person to bottle everything up I didn’t want to you know trouble anyone with any of my problems was like i’ve got this I can do it it’s fine and truly that is not the way to handle anything your friends are there to support you. So once I started really being vulnerable and like not caring about how other people may view whatever i’m posting and really realizing like I post for myself and myself only I make my art for myself with myself only if other people like it great if they don’t that’s fine too. it’s really helped me, Like release everything that was inside of me. You know it’s important to talk to people, it’s important to tell people what you’re going through, because people are there to step up and help you with you need it. and similar to journaling. Like posting on instagram Is a kind of way of like sort of journaling but also.

HEATHER: I was just gonna say creating representation in our very stigmatized communities, yes, but I don’t want to put words in your mouth so I’m sorry for interrupting, oh you’re fine.

EMILY: yeah so posting online has. I always think about when i’m going through a tough time that I want to be the person that I needed when I was younger like I want to be the person. Young queer child needed or I want to be the person that I needed in high school and part of that is just making myself seen. The more people that talk more openly about their mental health The more likely other people will start talking about their mental health as well, and start seeking help and think they need it. when I was going through a pretty tough physical illness and I was posting online a ton of that. I have a very stigmatizing illness, I have a digestive disease and I had absolutely no shame, it was like, if I have to be the person that embarrasses myself so someone else will go to the doctor i’ll do it. i’ll tell everyone my life story if it gets one person to the doctor for, like, early detection and that’s kind of how I feel for, like, mental health as well that I’m vulnerable and other people see that it’s okay to struggle, then they’re more likely to reach out.

JACE: Especially since these communities that we’ve been talking about right now, people with mental illness or physical illness or people in the queer community, these are all. people that have been pushed into the shadows for so long and intentionally told “No it’s not something that you talk about because of stigma,” the fact that you have the strength to stand up and showcase yourself in order to help others just goes to show what an important pillar in our Community and even beyond our Community, because you’ve taken the social media, you are, and I just want to take a moment to thank you because it may not seem like you’re doing The most out there, but even with every small actually make it could have a huge impact on someone’s life, and I can just tell that you must be such a positive light for so many people out there, so thank you again.

EMILY: Yeah, thank you.

HEATHER:  I really appreciate, both those statements, both from em and jace. Especially I just took a second to kind of reflect on the point of us being here, you know 603 stories is all About you know breaking bad stigma sharing hope And really being able to you know broadcasts strength and vulnerability So that we can reach others.  So i’m just very happy to you know, in a state where We are clearly sharing that we don’t always feel we have representation, we don’t feel seen necessarily we feel you know, maybe pushed into the shadows that there are people doing the work, and making a difference, it’s just a good feeling.

EMILY: I really like to call it, and this is definitely co opted from a another disable queer creator. The creator of rebirth garments is being radically visible in whatever way that means to you. so radically visibly clear, though there’s no absolutely no one way to a queer but will, however, that means to you looking radically disabled use your mobility aids use the braces use anything you need. And that goes the same for like, Being radically visible and dealing with your mental health, you know I carry around like a small pharmacy with me anywhere I go and I have absolutely no medication shame. Like take what you need because someone else could see you doing that and then  that validates them and makes them feel Okay, that they have to do the same thing.

JACE: And because you deserve to not have to hide this is you just existing and if that bothers other people that’s their problem, not yours.

HEATHER: It is not your job to make other people comfortable.

JACE: Speaking of comfort. How does expression create a sense of comfort for you? Whether that be expression in your queer Community or expression in. Mental physical disability, how does expression, how does expressing yourself make you feel more comfortable in your own skin.

EMILY: there’s definitely comfort in owning my identities and The more I express first off it takes the weight off of like everything bottling up inside of me. Where I can just express myself, however, I want to, whether that be, like, wearing different clothes, one day, or you know dyeing my hair or creating a nice painting. there’s definitely a comfort and like letting go of your expectations or other people’s expectations and just expressing how you want. And then, like the more you do that, the more you feel like comfortable, or at least Caribbean claiming my own identity is like the more I create, The more comfortable I am getting into like Bigger and harder pieces and like really challenging myself but it’s the same thing with like how I dress up like Do as little by little. I have recently changed my entire wardrobe, but it was something I feel like I soft launch I slowly rolled out this new wardrobe but it’s like Little by little, you get more comfortable and you’re like Oh, maybe i’ll try out this maybe i’ll try out this type of shorts maybe i’ll shop in the men’s section that’s time And, little by little, you find comfort and really claiming who you are.

HEATHER: How would you say These types of exploration have impacted you. You know, with Community or relationships. Has it been something that’s been a strain, has it been something that’s been a benefit.

EMILY: it’s definitely been both a strain and benefit. I definitely have a lot of anxiety around How other people perceive my expressions. You know, most people who are queer and are out will say that you never come out once you’ve constantly keep coming out And come out to new people, you have to correct people.

HEATHER: Sometimes you come out to yourself.

EMILY: Sometimes your friends out you to yourself. It’s definitely been difficult to navigate. It’s hard to take this step of, say, coming out to You have someone you’re interested in dating or even friends that you’ve known for a long time, and not knowing how they’re going to react. But taking those steps also help you find your community of if people aren’t willing to accept you as you are, as your full self In my opinion, they’re not worth it, the more You talk about what you’re going through the more you’re going to find people who were ready to accept you with open arms and help you navigate it. Like I have a great group of friends that I came out to and oh let’s Like heather has come over to help me clean out my entire closet which seems like a very simple thing, but it was not a simple thing whatsoever.

HEATHER: But doing, doing the soft launch of Yet let’s try this on with a few comfortable folks and a few safe people before I launch myself into the universe. Okay, so I just, I appreciate that a lot of that resonates with me, you know, especially Emily and I are connected outside of the podcast. You know, and for me. becoming more vulnerable, becoming more open. Again, it just like you, has been both a benefit and a strain, there are definitely folks that i’ve kind of noticed, like, look we’re done, you know I can take a step back from this relationship, and you know that sucks kind of in the moment but ends up being really beneficial in the long run and It also has been something that has made me grow so much more in the relationships that I am in and honestly build like a much more intimate love and trust with the folks in my life. You know, especially for folks who you know, maybe I was bottling around and just kind of held back on expressing certain parts of myself due to. You know my own anxieties and you know I’m just concerned about how a person might react, and then you know find finally breaking that seal and opening up and having them say like okay cool let’s do it like I like that I all support you all, you know, whatever it might be Only grows that relationship. You know the risk of having a negative reaction is worth the, The connection that builds, The strength that it builds that hope and love that it builds.

yeah Thank you, you’re just giving me a lot to think about.

JACE: Emily planting seeds everywhere, they go.

EMILY: stealing something I used to carry with me a lot, like, mentally was “A new seed can’t root with dead roots in the way.” Sometimes you just have to shed what doesn’t serve you anymore, in order for you to grow.

JACE: New seeds can’t root with old roots in the way I love that. Oh, my gosh just gonna have like a moment over here. I want that on, like, a giant poster or those ones that, like, you have in your office, that’s just the motivation you need every day. 

EMILY: I’ll start making some motivational posters.

JACE: Oh my gosh, new job/ career opportunity for you!

HEATHER: All right, I just want to say thank you so much for your vulnerability and your honesty.I really feel like i’m leaving this conversation in a better space than I came in. So just thank you Emily and thank you Jace and all of our listeners for creating a space where we can share and thrive and break down the stigma in our communities.

JACE: Thank you all and have a great morning afternoon evening or night.

HEATHER: And thank you so much Emily for coming on and joining us.