Friday, September 10, 2010

Untitled 27...and a difficult topic

10" x 20." Oil and cold wax.

The fire seems to be getting under control, and we've been very lucky. Last night it got really windy--that's normal for Boulder, but since the wind here only comes from the west, it was very worrisome and our neighborhood was given a "pre-evacuation" warning, that we should be prepared to evacuate at any moment. Somehow the firefighters kept it all under control and I think it's safe to say we're out of danger now.


I may regret doing this, I know, since things live forever in cyberspace and there's still so much discrimination out there, both overt and not, both in terms of personal relationships and professional opportunities, but I've decided to "out" myself here, in honor of World Suicide Prevention Day. I have Bipolar Type 2 Disorder. My mother had Bipolar Type 1 and was not much present or functional during my life. I have had my own experiences with suicidal ideation and attempts. I'm currently on medication and have been since my diagnosis 15 years ago, but the medications are far from perfect, and side effects are what keep most people from staying on them or perhaps taking as much as they may need.

It's a whole other topic--and one that has me perpetually enraged--but due to the health insurance situation in this country, I had to declare bankruptcy due to health care costs, and then lost my job due to the illness (under a very common kind of contract, where it says you can be "let go" for any reason; if you don't sign these contracts, you don't get the job). Were it not for meeting The Husband at just that time, well...let's not go there.
I have heard that in Europe, things (jobs, health insurance, being able to afford to live) are not as difficult for people diagnosed with these conditions (I'm sure they're still difficult, but here it's absurd). It's ironic that my father left Germany to come to the United States, and now I'm wishing I had been born in Europe (or Canada) because of the insane health-care situation in the U.S.

I know many people who are taking antidepressants and have been diagnosed with mood disorders, whether bipolar or unipolar depression, or conditions such as ADD or OCD, and I bet by now everyone knows someone who is affected by these disorders. I've thought for a long time about whether to actually "out" myself or not, and am just so disgusted by a society in which one has to keep everything hidden and pretend to be just fine all the time, in order to hold onto jobs which allow one to (partially) afford meds in order to be able to keep the job in order to be able to (partially) afford's a vicious cycle and one which is most often suffered in silence.

There's an interesting CNN article today about someone else who decided to speak out. I would also like to write a memoir someday about the experience.


It's been a while since we've visited the beautiful, shy, stripey Lynx creature.

More art on my website:


Karena said...

Take good care Jala, it takes a lot of courage to speak out!


Art by Karena

Ann Reyes said...

Jala, my heart goes out to you. You're an excellent artist and I wish the best for you.

Shelley Smart said...

I visit your blog often and love your art and your wonderful animals and the love that is there. We've all have our challenges and it seems that you are making some amazing lemonade out of the lemons! Thanks for sharing your story.

Sandra Galda said...

Hi Jala, you are a wonderful artist and your good heart shines thru your posts! I wish you the very best solutions, if they can be found, in this situation, hoping all thing reach a level of peace for you.

SamArtDog said...

Betcha can't name one "balanced" artist.

All the best people are fruitcakes.

Word verification: being

Lisa Le Quelenec said...

My support, hugs and best wishes are with you. It is a very brave thing for you to do. Until more people speak out, raise awareness and the stigma surrounding mental illness is broken the discrimination will continue. As you say we all know someone touched by this issue.

Laurel Daniel said...

Thank you Jala. Awareness and openness are so important in this issue, but easier said than done. It takes confidence, bravery, and compassion - all qualities I see in you. Thank you for taking the risk. (And I am so glad the fires are subsiding. Very scary.)

Kim said...

Jala, Yep, the system is crazy. I've never understood how people who become really ill (and don't have super-duper kick-ass insurance) can get by living in the States.
Good on you for opening up. Nothing you need to feel bad about. As it's talked about more, people realize it's just another medical condition. Most people will have some type of health battle in their lifetimes.
Love your work. Often wish I could do what you do. Keep doing it : )

Casey Klahn said...

My love to you, Jala. You are an artist blogger I have a lot of fun reading and talking with.

My mother was manic depressive (the old school term). Western State Hospital, Lithium, living on the street. The whole works.

Your ally,

Sheila Vaughan said...

Sam is right - we are all on that long line of sanity moving up and down it.. and I prefer to think of it that way rather than an "illness". Good for you for speaking out, so much prejudice about. People need to understand there are a million ways of experiencing the world. Hang in there and grip on tight,Jala!

Sheila Vaughan said...

Hang on a minute - I responded to your written message but not to untitled 27 - loving the scratchy outlines on the slate grey - remember doing that as a kid? drawing on slate? I really like this different approach.

Bonnie Luria said...

Jala- after reading your blog for the longest time, one gets a feeling of
" knowing " someone, even if that is superficially substantiated.
What I know, is that you've been able to express through your art, your sensationally loved animals, and your skilled writing ( books AND blogs ), what a well formed, caring, intelligent person looks like.
It took courage to present this side of yourself but really, why should it? You have no apologies to make and thoroughly valid arguments about the deplorable, manipulated, third world level state of a health care system that casts its enrollment to the wolves, hijacks premiums and looks for every loophole to deny you what you've paid for.
We pay more for health care than any other developed nation and get screwed perpetually.
I applaud your admission, and hope that in the " I am Spartacus " tradition, more people will stand up and shout it out. Make demands, close the ranks.
It's sickening.

Bah but that Sam can say in few words a whole lot of truths!

Here's to fruitcakes and non fruitcakes enjoying some basic citizens rights.

I think you're beyond swell.

As are your animolicules.

Jala Pfaff said...

Karena, thank you.

Thank you, Ann.

Thanks much, Shelley. It's true, I think there are dark areas of pain in all our lives, even though the type and timing might vary.

Hi Sandra, thank you.

Sam - Fruitcakes unite!

Lisa, thank you for your comment.

Thank you, Laurel, and yep, we're out of fire danger now, it seems.

Hi Kim, thank you. And the sad answer is that when people do really need to make a lot of use of the medical system here, we have no choice but to put it all onto credit cards, sell one's house or car, etc. It's the most f***-ed up situation here, I tell you.

Casey- Wow. Someone who knows EXACTLY how it feels to have a mother like that. My mother's story is a tragic one and has all the same puzzle pieces. Thank you.

Thank you, Sheila, I think it's true. It's not a black-or-white thing; we're all somewhere on the spectrum...

Bonnie - A million thank yous.

Double "D" said...

Jala, first of all, you are awesome for outing yourself.
It gives others the willingness to get help and move forward. Only the strong survive and move forward.
You are a powerful and sensitive person not afraid to share and speak your mind. I truly sympathize with all that you are and have gone through. Incredible!

For 20 years I've been treated for Double Depression.
Constant low grade depression with episodes of severe depression. Medications have kept me nearly sane.
Most artists are occasionally insane ... we wouldn't be creative without it. There are many of us out there, and we are stronger when we admit it.

My initials are DD and I am DD.

As usual Sam is able to state it so clearly!

Melinda said...

I hope you see and feel from the responses you've received that there is no need, no need at all, to regret or feel the slightest reservation for being your authentic self, with all of its challenges.

It drives me into a rage sometimes thinking about the cruelty of our current healthcare system.

You are brave. You are stronger than you think. Every day that you work in art, care for your animals, live well and share your life with those you love, is a day that you have victory over the chemical imbalance that is not your fault.

We artists need to stick together, 'cause we are just as Sam said!

Take good care of yourself--always.

Jala Pfaff said...

DD - See, I always knew you were special. :) Your story reminds me of many other people I know. Why do you suppose we all suffer so much these days from depression? Is it the toxins in the environment causing hormonal and chemical imbalances, overcrowding, stress of modern life, or just the fact that people are more willing to talk about it now, so we are now aware of it? What do you think? Now look who's being brave! :)

Hi Melinda - Thank you. It's not regretting telling it to my blogging buddies that has me worried--and people here have been so supportive--but more around jobs, current and future. Because you know how it is with discrimination and no job security in virtually any job these days. The health system here sucks so bad that I have no words for it anymore. Except maybe four-letter ones.

loriann said...

Hi Jala, My heart goes out to you, for I know it is a battle everyday ... in a way no one but you can truly understand. I have seen my sister tormented by the exact same thing her whole life. The disease is hell and the meds not much better. What I do see is an amazing woman who has created a life that is beautiful, illness or not. The USA has so much to learn and change and I am sorry that you are caught in its stupidity.
You are one brave individual to just come out. Embrace the love that surrounds you.
a big hug, Loriann

Jala Pfaff said...

Oh, Loriann, your sister? I'm so sorry. What you said is exactly it: the illness is hell and the meds not much better. Thank you for sharing this and letting me know I'm not alone. A big hug back to you.

Brian McGurgan said...

I admire your courage and candor in writing about this, Jala, and am not surprised at all by the support you're getting from online friends out there. I also admire the fact that, despite the personal struggle you undergo, you produce such beautiful art (these oil and cold wax paintings are wonderful!) and bring so much humor to your reflections on pets, homelife, etc. You're touching lots of lives by doing what you do and being who you are, and that should make you feel pretty good. And my wife Kyoko just loves your pet photos!

Don Gray said...

Jala--bravo for your courage in speaking out! I'm sorry that you have to deal with this condition while being treated like a third-class citizen by our broken health-care system.

Sending good vibes to keep you and yours from harms way during these terrible fires.

Lastly, "Untitled 27" is a beautiful, sensitive work. I love those tenative marks that suggest life energy...a sense of something evolving into being. The figure drawings are terrific too.

Jala Pfaff said...

Brian M, thank you and I am seriously tickled that your wife likes my animolecules so much. :)
Perhaps it's not "in spite of," but perhaps in part "because."

Don - Thanks very much. And thanks also for the comment on this painting--it's one of my favorites.

Stinson Fine Art said...

Glad the fires did not sweep thru!

Write the memoir. I would read it for sure. We are a rich country that should take care of the people first not as an afterthought. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful painting, Jala, and with it a story of your personal strength. I echo the comments and support of the others above.

It is not fair that you should have to fear for your job or your economic future. But then, so little is fair about our culture. And that is something very few understand. Thank you for bringing it once again to our attention in such a personal way.

Diane Hoeptner (hep-ner) said...

Good for you Jala! Everyone knows someone who struggles to pay for prescription drugs, the state of healthcare in this nation is a crying shame. I worked as a (telephone) counselor at a suicide prevention center for a few years in Los Angeles and I can tell you first hand-- there's a lot of people going un-diagnosed and/or suffering in silence. You are so lucky to have a creative outlet through your brilliant art. Please know you are not alone!!

Nancy Standlee said...

I just arrived from the "abstract blog" and was going to tell you I really like the Google Buy Now check out at the bottom of your posts. I might consider using that sometime - usually I just don't mention price.
Thanks for sharing your story.

Nancy Standlee said...

I just arrived from the "abstract blog" and was going to tell you I really like the Google Buy Now check out at the bottom of your posts. I might consider using that sometime - usually I just don't mention price.
Thanks for sharing your story.

Astrid Volquardsen said...

Hi Jala, I would have never guessed, because all your blog entries and your comments on my blog show a positive attitude towards live: full of love, caring and creativity.
I just read an article about a German stage director who was diagnosed five years ago with the same disease. He is on medication, which isn't always funny, but he said, it enables him to take part in this life, that he is glad, that everybody knows now, because he doesn't need to pretend to be someone else, that he isn't. That has taken a lot of pressure from him and made his life much easier.
I deeply admire your courage.I send you all the strenght I can think of, Astrid.

Tonya Bates said...

I, too, must join the chorus, and raise my voice in support of you -- your courage, your strength. My heart goes out to you and I wish you hope and health. I agree that those of us who suffer should speak out, speak FOR those who can't, speak TO those who need to know. There is strength in numbers. You are not alone.

One thing I have found is that intense exercise provides relief, a leveling effect that I can not live without. The hormones released are incredible drugs. But everyone must find their own way, and I wish you strength in your journey. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Jala, what we put on this cyberspace and share with strangers, is what, perhaps, just a theory, we are accepting about ourselves and want to be acknowledged and accepted for... my rule of thumb is: would i be ok to see this written on the front cover of a newspaper about me?
as for the health system in the States (having recently been there myself) it is no better than slave labour: the employer is all powerful as they know that without them, the employee is up the proverbial creek if/when you have a health issue. I saw this with so many people I met there: in jobs they hate and employers who had the behaviour and mental capacity of a 3 year old. In the UK, at least, medical care is a fundamental human right and everyone is entitled. i think that is humanity and we should never lose sight of it for a self-serving system that operates on 'everyone is equal but some are more equal than others' system as the USA has. Come and settle in Scotland, it is wild, wet and welcoming:)

Nancy B. Hartley said...

Jala, You are very courageous,creative humorous, and an animal lover! All qualities that I admire. Thank you for speaking out! That was very brave! It only makes me admire you more!

Randall David Tipton said...

You did good Jala and that will count. That`s a very strong painting too! Damn!

jane minter said...

..thinking of you jala

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

Love what SamDog says and Double D too.
What's normal anyway? Most artists are a little 'off', as 'they' say.
I was a moody, overly sensitive kid and my parents used to say, "she has an artist's temperment." Which I hated. But, at some point I realized that that was in my favor and I wouldn't have to 'fit in' :D
Now I'm happy to admit I'm slightly off kilter and just muddling through.
As far as the insurance world is concerned, my wonderful Doctor said it well when he said to me, "I work for an Insurance company."
Scary, indeed.
Best to you courageous, animal loving artist. You are real and that's what's important.
Keep creating.
we pay un Godly premiums for my private health insurance. $800+ per month and rising steadily every year :(