Blooming Hope

Monoprints 1 and 2 by Kitt O'Malley
Monoprints 1 and 2 by Kitt O’Malley

The Blooming Hope Nursery is an art exhibit of The Expression Project for NAMIWalks Orange County.  The purpose of this exhibit is to grow seeds of HOPE.

To tell the stories of individuals who struggle with mental illness and their family members we are embarking on a journey of hope. The first leg of this journey is the sharing of stories and works of art by family members and individuals.

Here are my entries and story of hope:

Though I am a minivan-driving wife and mother, unlike most of my suburban neighbors, I live with bipolar disorder. On my blog kittomalley.com, I recount my struggle with mental illness, the two decades it took to get a proper diagnosis, and how my journey has ultimately given me a sense of purpose – and at times, a sense of religious calling. I find creating art and writing a good release for racing thoughts. Coloring, especially, helps to slow down my thoughts and quell anxiety.

When I go on walks, I like to take photos of nature, especially flowers and cloudscapes. The photos I’ve taken over the last two years. Walking outside in nature and taking the time to appreciate beauty helps me with my moods. At the same time, I must be sure to not overexpose myself to the sun, for it triggers hypomania.The monoprints I created almost two decades ago when I lived with a diagnosis of dysthymia, well before I was diagnosed bipolar type II. The doodles I’ve done recently, as I’ve found coloring and doodling helpful in grounding me, in slowing down racing thoughts and overcoming anxiety.

I am not creative in spite of or because of my mental illness. I simply am creative. Even when medicated properly and asymptomatic, I am creative. Medication does not turn my creativity off. Using creativity can help me to manage my symptoms, it can be a release, but it is not dependent on me having a diagnosable mental illness. What I want to get across is the importance of self-care, including medication, if needed, and psychotherapy. Art, photography and writing do not take the place of medication or psychotherapy, they are adjuncts to traditional treatment modalities.

Check out my fellow artists’ hope-inspiring work at The Blooming Hope Nursery.

Diva at Heart

Glamorous Even as a Toddler in My Grandmother O'Malley's Mink Stole
Glamorous Even as a Toddler

My name is Kitt O’Malley, and I am a diva. H.K. Abell aka Helena Hann-Basquiat (a self-proclaimed dilettante) flattered me by describing my nature as bold and brassy (some may think that an insult, not I).

So Easily Broken

So Easily Broken text on broken glass image

Yesterday this “story” of mine was published on Stigmama.com at FICTION SERIES: So Easily Broken, Kitt O’Malley | Stigmama. Clearly, it is fictionalized autobiography. I simply wrote what surrounded me in third person.

FICTION SERIES: So Easily Broken, Kitt O’Malley | Stigmama

All around her books, binders, and training manuals piled. She had an article to finish and submit, blog posts to write, book reviews to complete once she finished reading the books, and multiple social media presences to maintain. “Shit,” she thought, “how the hell am I going to get out from under all this?” Why, oh, why had she made so many friends who wrote books and blogs she now felt obligated to read? Actually, she really wanted to read those books and blog posts. Really she did. But there were only so many hours in the day, so many days in the week, so many week in the month, and she could not procrastinate indefinitely – actually, she could and she did.

Why now had she decided to volunteer in her community? Volunteer work that required her to study densely written manuals before her actual training even began. Volunteer work in which she would bare her soul, expose her vulnerabilities – her struggles living with mental illness, with bipolar disorder – in public, in person, in front of classrooms of high school students, in front of mental health professionals. Yes, she would share her triumphs, too, but she didn’t feel particularly triumphant in the midst of the chaos that surrounded her. Her anxiety grew. She neglected herself, her family, her dogs, her home, even her roses.

Like she didn’t have enough to do already. Everywhere she looked on every horizontal surface – every counter, table, desk, chest of drawers – she saw clutter. In the corners of the master bedroom, under the stairs, on the living room and dining room floors – clutter. Stuff and more stuff. The clutter needed sorting, needed decisions made. Keep or toss? Where would she put it anyway? The clutter overwhelmed her – buried her.

Then there were those unfinished walls – a patchwork of dreary earth tones the previous owner preferred, fresh new paint, and raw drywall texture covering up wounds from temper tantrums thrown. Turns out not only toddlers throw temper tantrums. Her child had no way of knowing that if he kicked the wall it would break. Lesson learned. Walls are only sheetrock, son. They are not strong. They are not invincible. They are not all that solid. She felt just as fragile. Maybe she looked rock solid, but she was so easily broken.