To Shake Violently.

The word “concussion” derives from the Latin concussus, which means to shake violently.

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To live with a history of 7-8 Concussions, all gathered like easter eggs in one wonderful, but very fragile basket (a.k.a my skull cavity) all accumulated during the ages of 13-19, leaves one to wonder just what the heck is really going on up there.

At this point in time, I prefer not to go to the hospital when I happen to have sport/life related head injuries. Because frankly- Is there anything that they do besides shine a flashlight in my eyes, look at my chart, see that I’m a “chronic offender” and simply treat me like a hypo-chrondriac? That seemed to be the case last night. And when the doctor pulled the mental illness card. Saying, “I could be experiencing other symptoms due to my other problems” I knew I had to leave. I was not going to receive any help from this Doctor.

Yes anti-depressants can cause symptoms similar to concussions, but the severity of head pain due to pressure and the overwhelming memory loss and slow functioning, I know this is not just some  “side effects” – those side effects are something that I deal with everyday. What I am experiencing is getting worse, not better, and is limiting what I am able to do. After having an antique wooden door fall, and crack me on the back of the head on May 1st, then 2-3 weeks later, having a soccer ball almost knock my lights out, the month of May has been full of concussion symptom observation. What I am finding a little uneasy is that I am finding it harder to “bounce back”. Trust me. I think I know myself after all the mental health shenaneghans I’ve had to deal with before the age of 20. It seems that unless you see a brain surgeon, or a neuroscientist, post-concussion symptoms are not recognized to be much of a big deal. And since I did not come in unconscious, puking, or in a vegetable-like state, I was pretty much told “we can’t help you” and sent on my way.

It’s true, they can’t help me. Unfortunately medical care has not ventured into the treatment of brain injuries, and the problems one may experience afterwards. Help like that doesn’t seem to be implemented in an everyday hospital. After being told that they “cannot prescribe magic” I literally begged for a cat-scan. But was told “it would not change anything”.

Thanks for thinking I am a 6 year old, I know it won’t change anything. I want to be aware if there is anything that is being ignored, or that could explain any of my problems that lately, I am finding very hard to cope with. And the treatment and unprofessional remarks I received from this doctor? – not impressed at all.

It seems I have hit many a wall in regards to trying to find a better quality of mental health. Is it really so hard? More often than not I come home and begin to doubt myself, thinking that yes, I do complain too much. But then again, all I am looking for is to be able to actually enjoy living. And having the fear that yes, there may be something happening in my head unawares, does affect my ability to achieve a day without worry.

So even though it frightens me, and causes me to worry,  I’ll keep reading articles, papers, whatever I can to find help, since I have yet to find a doctor that will acknowledge my worries about permanent damage.

The only “advice” I received last night was “to avoid getting hit in the head again”.

Thanks, like I didn’t know that already…

http://www.bcmj.org/article/current-concepts-concussion-diagnosis-and-management-sports-clinical-review

I Suppose You’re Wondering…

And to be frank,

So am I.

I too, wonder, what am I doing. What should I be doing. Where should I be. Where should I go. Why am I here. Why am I not there. Who am I. Who will I be. Am I supposed to be worrying about this. Why am I so worried about this. What do I do, now that I am nearly twenty, mentally ill, and feeling completely confused on what to do next. Yes, I am an artist. But will that pay the bills. Will that give me freedom to educate myself further. Will I forever be dependent on my parents for not only moral support but also financial. How do people do it. Show me how. Not how to settle with mediocre, show me how to find this thing called happiness. Contentment. Joy. Whatever you call it. I want to find it. The world is my oyster you say, but why does that seem so frightening. Oh don’t be so cliché, you cluck at the computer.

Go ahead and cluck. I am a walking cliché. Full of my generation’s struggles and expectations. Full of false hope. Full of hoping that my hope is not false, but something that could possibly become true. Becoming an artist seemed so right when I was a child. This is what I’ve learned. I can’t become an artist. I am an artist. An artist who is, trying to find a purpose for herself. Trying to find who she is. Trying to find who she was. Before I knew what mental illness felt like.

Can I be the person I was before mental illness filtered through me, making the windows of my perception darkened. Who was I. The photographs can only speak so much, and leave so much to be questioned. Do I even want to be that person again. I was merely a child. Can I be both. Can I feel the happiness. Experience the emotion. But also have the strength gained from all the scars I carry. Is it too much to ask.

It seems with everyday comes more self-reflection. More questioning. More fear. But also, more hope. Hope that I won’t have to question what happiness is. Hope that I won’t have to feel guilty for existing some days. Hope that as an artist, I can enjoy the search for who I am. Who I will be. And become inspired by what I experience. Hope that I won’t feel obligated to worry about things I can’t change, foresee, or control.

With everyday there is more hope in my life,

that everything is going to be okay.

And even if I don’t believe there is hope- I will keep telling myself until it rings true, because right now- I am not sure what else to do.

xx

Community Project: Dawson City Hospital

Think about it.

When admitted to hospital, having doctors and nurses keeping watch over you, providing a calm and safe place for you to heal… Do you stop to say how truly grateful you are for them?

Do you acknowledge that these people, in the health and helping sector also have lives, their own people to take care of, and also have themselves to nurture?

All the countless hours of helping strangers, in all sorts of stages of life and health, at any time of day or night- being ready to not only provide medical care, but also a kind and thoughtful approach to you and your health.

Yes, I know, it is their job. But still- shouldn’t we still voice our gratitude once in a while?

IMG_6993I really like this photo of my Doctor’s Office. I sneaked a photo when I was waiting for her to come back from checking on some paperwork.

Recently spending time in the hospital, I spent two nights in the new Dawson City Hospital- and I must say, what a beautiful centre as a brand new building, but also as a community of doctors, therapists, nurses, and pharmacist.

IMG_6841Late night trip to the ER- I really do hate hospital gowns.

Gone were the fears of strange hospitals, with cracking paint and scuffed floors, and that awful lysol/sickly smell of unwell people. What I found were beautiful murals, spacious rooms, and wonderful staff. Because of my situation- I had to have an eye kept on me, so I got to know some of the nurses quite well- (on a patient/nurse kind of terms I guess) 

IMG_7112My nurse let me pick out some tea once I got settled in- David’s Tea at that! How special- :) 

IMG_7109Yes, I was painting the closet. After they gave me a dose of my anti-anxiety meds. I just felt so chill and all I could really focus on was the closet- Soon fell asleep after the third closet.

The genuine humour, laughter, and interest they had shown in both myself and my artwork was so wonderful. I immediately felt safe, calm, and content in my room. It is amazing how your environment and mental state can affect your quality of sleep. – even sleeping on a hospital bed- (a.k.a. – a bit like sleeping on a block of wood)  I slept like a rock, and woke up in a calm, almost meditative manner. What a wonderful change to the not-so-good nights I had been having previously.

So- To thank all these wonderful people. I decided to create my Community Project into something that would acknowledge all the special people at the Dawson City Hospital. (At least- the ones that I was lucky enough to have as providers of care for me) 

How I did this was I began to knit.

I love knitting- and have always found it very therapeutic. Lately, I have been making these little pouches, “Marsupial-satchels” I call them. To carry special things that one may find dear to their heart.

IMG_7046                     Here is one I made for a dear friend of mine for her little mouse named Candlelight.

Using beautiful yarn my mother had sent me in a care-package, I began to knit and crochet thinking of all the caring people who I had met when I was at the hospital. With every stitch, I silently said thank you, with every little detail, I silently reminded myself how grateful I was to have crossed paths with them. It was a very healing and meditative experience to create these little pouches. I knitted eleven pouches. And then included a little letter within each one. Here is a quote from the letter:

“Just wanted to say thank you for all of your help and patience over these past few weeks. To be able to have a safe place to go to when on cannot provide that for herself is a blessing. Therefore ~ Thank you, for being YOU! As part of my Community project for SOVA, I would very much appreciate any comments, feedback, etc. on what you think of your homemade marsupial-satchels. I wanted to give a token of appreciation, ~ you may keep, give away, switch, as you like with these little pouches. Just wanted to show in my own little way, how thankful I am for crossing paths with you ~ as you have made it a more positive one to walk.”

IMG_7224A photo showing all the little pouches with letters inside~ ready to be dropped off at the hospital! 

IMG_7225A close up- I hand wrote the letter, and made photocopies, providing my email and blog address for people to check out this article, and maybe even leave some feedback about what they thought about it all! 

IMG_7226Here I am wearing one – to show size and where they would approx. rest on the body. – This pouch was made for one of the amazing doctors I am lucky enough to see once a week to help me through this all. 

So far, I have not heard back from any of the medical staff on what they thought about their little marsupial-satchels. I hope to hear via email, or face to face, what they thought about it. Even if I don’t hear a peep from anyone- I know that I myself felt love and joy making and giving these away to those that had helped me, so hopefully, that loving energy will be passed along with these pouches to the 11 gentle souls who made my life a little easier to cope with this past month.

And that is my Community Project.

 

Fire Engine Red

Somehow while in the midst of a storm- the sun breaks through the clouds to remind me that there is hope.

And by hope, I mean knowing that come summer, I will have:

  1. A cabin of my very own – With a PINK outhouse! – Not to mention fabulous studio space
  2. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (I am so thankful for Yukon Healthcare)
  3. Mountain Bike as transportation, and fingers crossed- maybe my darling of a Chevy, Ol’ Blue-  will make the trip up the Alaska Highway from B.C. with me behind the wheel (Spring road trip in the making? Possibly)
  4. AND – As of tonight- I have a job lined up for the summer being the Museum Manager for the Dawson City Firefighters Museum

Now to just survive the final days of school, holding on tight to the last bits of sanity that I have.

Here is one of the vehicles I saw in the museum today!


 

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ELMER GAUNDREAU WITH THE CLAPP AND JONES FIRE STEAM PUMPER

1897 Clapp and Jones Fire Steam Pumper

Put into service with the Dawson Fire Department in 1900, this was the second engine to be purchased by the city. Capable of pumping 500 gallons a minute, the double engine meant that one pump was always running, thus resulting in a near constant stream of water. The steamer had two suction and discharge openings, allowing either side to be connected for use. The frame of the steamer rests on springs, which would have helped it to run smoothly on the rough roads of early Dawson.

For more information on Firefighting and it’s history in Dawson City : Click here

 

 

Getting Plastered On A Thursday.

And by that- I mean getting my face plaster casted for my assignment dealing with prosthetics.

 

First Step: Cover entire face, neck, ears, hairline, eyebrows, lips, etc. with a thick layer of Vaseline.

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Oh yes, and don’t forget to put some up into your nostrils.Image

 

 

 

Step two: Have two assistants that you trust and that have previous plaster casting experience to assist you. You will be completely useless and blind in a matter of moments. So pick your assistants wisely.

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I chose Bronwyn and Justice. The super-couple of SOVA. Both very talented artists. Watch out people- this duo-power is out to crash and conquer the art world!

Step 3: Have your assistants begin to plaster your face. It is honestly a rather relaxing experience. This picture was taken before they blinded me for the next hour or so.

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The perks with having artists do this- is that you will have a two people who can think on their feet, strategize, and always have aesthetics in mind

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Step Four: This is where I am completely unaware of what these two goof balls do whilst working on my face. I can hear, smell, but not speak or see. I have asked them to document the process- and document they did. With lots of “selfies” – Oh how I love my friends.

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Finishing touches on my nostrils.

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Strips of plaster had to be cut and specially fitted for the bridge, nostril, and delicate parts of my nose, eyelids and other parts of my face that proved finicky.

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There seemed to also be a plaster war going on while this was happening as well.Image

Step Five: Soon- I am fully plastered, and ready to sit still , try not to move to much, and allow the plaster to dry. I am completely blind, but can make some squeaky noises through the air pocket between my lips and the plaster. I sound a bit like a dolphin with a paper bag on it’s head.

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Hearing giggles, and feeling hot breath on my head- I am intrigued as to what the hell is going on. Image

It is not until I check my iPhone after the whole process is completed that I realize what these two guys where doing…Image

Remember- I am completely unaware of what is up. All I can do is squeak and grasp blindly into the air to try to catch one of there bodies to somehow ask what is going on. I hear laughter- I can’t help but dolphin muffle and laugh as well.

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Step Six: Soon it is time to peel off the mask. Bronwyn and Justice walk me over to the work desks, where I can sit on a stool, and start to scrunch and move my face beneath the mask, creating air pockets. What a weird sensation- From wet warm plaster strips, to cooling and hardening, to becoming itchy, to the peeling, pulling, and finally popping off of the mask!

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The bright light of the classroom is blinding, and I feel super icky. The Vaseline saved my eyebrows, eyelashes, and hairline from being ripped out, and also just for general comfort of the skin on my face.Image

And here it is! My face cast! I am happy to say that it looks like me! This is step one in my prosthetic project, more strange things to come.

Thanks again Bronwyn and Justice for helping me out!

 

 

 

Plaster Casted Upper Ventral Region

Yes, that means boobs.

 

As an artist- sometimes you need help, and if you have a wicked idea that involves body parts, well, you kind of need to go on a search for willing appendage donors (is a breast an appendage? never mind – you know what I mean)

So Friday after school I was an appendage donor and had my breasts plaster casted, for my friend Dana’s homework assignment on prosthetics. I am really excited to see the final project, as there will be roughly 25 sets of breasts casted for this project. You should be excited too- as I think her assignment will blow the gallery show out of the water.

So to spread the good karma, and to satisfy my curiosity- we set up shop in the wheelchair washroom and got to work. And because I am way to curious for my own good- I requested another student (Props go to Lucy) to film and help me create a stop-motion film documenting the process. Because hey, it’s not everyday you get to create art with your rack, am I right ?

I found the whole experience relatable to a tea party with friends, it was very casual, and had lots of laughter, the only thing missing was the tea. Weirdly enough, this was something that I truly needed since my mental health has decided to play dangerously with my well being these days. It was also a nice pick me up- it’s nice to be part of someone’s art project. Even if it is just your breasts. I like to help out where I can, what can I say?

I think the practice of being a nude model for KIAC drawing nights helped with some of my body confidence/acceptance issues- and to be honest- this whole getting naked for art thing is quite liberating! To be able to find the beauty in someone else’s, as well as your own body, is such a wonderful thing.

I look forward to creating this stop-motion film. I feel like the title should be something along the lines of “They’re Just Boobs”

Here are some quick iPhone photos of the “tea party in the washroom”

Here are the “Facebook Proof Photos”

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And then here is a shot of my plaster casted upper ventral region.

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Oh- The things we do for art.

Thanks for the opportunity Dana.

 

Improvising. Like The True Small Town Girl That I Am.

Hello !

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Here I am beside the Yukon River, with not my snowmobile- but the Doctor’s snowmobile. (I was on my own for the month of January, with a broken down skidoo- so he graciously lent me his Bravo so I could get to school and back in the cold temperatures- “my contribution to your education” he calls it. Very thankful for all the helping hands in Dawson City)

For school – we are to write about our experiences and art created at Yukon School of Visual Arts. Well, as some of you may know- My experiences at SOVA have not been of a quality that I am willing to post about on my blog. Challenges are good, yes, but this circumstance has become more of a burden than an enjoyment. More of a heavily medicated experience than an invigorating one. I don’t work in the studios unless I have too. I don’t spend time at that school unless I absolutely have too. Believe me when I say I try to enjoy every shred that I can while floating through the semester on anti-anxiety meds. Definitely not what I thought Art School was going to be like, but hey, what can I say- this is just a bump in the road, I will learn something from this (I have already learned many things while overcoming this) and I will keep on producing art. Preferably in a less medicated manner, as I do not like this whole icky, floaty, strange feeling. (But it was that or super depressed/panic mode – so I had to prioritize)

So like any small town kid would- I looked to my family, friends, and community (both Fort St. James and Dawson City) for help when times got lonely, confusing, and stressful.

Sure you could say that SOVA brought me to Dawson City- But the people who call Dawson home, that is what has really made this whole crazy first year of art school experience really worth it.

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The VICTORS – Snowshoe Baseball team that I was lucky enough to be apart of!

So thank you, everyone who has held out a hand and let me grasp it and really, well, pick your brains and gain such rich and inspiring knowledge that has influenced my art and myself not only as an artist, but also as a well-rounded, strong young woman on the journey to self-healing through the practice of making art.

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At the Traditional Feast- gifting a painting I created at a painting workshop at Myth and Medium to a very inspiring and talented Nunavut Artist- Mathew Nuqingaq

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I have worked very hard to be successful at art school. Knowing that I learn best in a one-on-one teaching environment – I took advantage of any opportunity that presented itself. Including when my father stopped by from driving down from Tuktoyatuk, where I got to spend a weekend with one of my favourite people, being tutored to help me with a difficult project, I spent that day learning about gears, motors, and general mechanic knowledge that became very helpful for me to create my kinetic sculpture.

Hopefully- I will get the marks saved for posts regarding SOVA put towards posts that showcase the fabulous people and resources that have been available to me in Dawson City, outside of school. My fighting argument is well- if a student is struggling in Math class, he/she is allowed, even encouraged to get a tutor. So when an Art student is struggling in Art school, and feeling that her expectations are not being met, what is so wrong about turning to her newfound community for assistance? Here are a few events, places, and people who have been such amazing resources for me during my school year.

  • Myth and Medium 2014
  • Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Community
  • Dawson CIty Community
  • Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Heritage Department
  • KIAC
  • Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre
  • Robert Service School
  • Mayor of Dawson City
  • The countless people I’ve interviewed for my short documentary
  • My family in British Columbia
  • My close family friends in Whitehorse, Yukon
  • Elder Victor Henry, as well as many other Elders of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in community
  • My inspirational roommate
  • My supportive friends
  • Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Heritage Department Library
  • Community Library
  • Dawson City Medical Clinic and their wonderful staff
  • Visiting artists as well as local artists
  • My Sweat Lodge family
  • My Yoga Community down in Vancouver
  • My pen pals
  • My neighbours on the Old Dome Road

So you see, I would not have moved to Dawson City if I knew that school was going to be such a brutal experience, but then, I would not have discovered that an organic approach to gaining a well-rounded education of not only the required “foundation year” curriculum, but also the land, community, and local artistic practices does not start in the classroom, it starts with the first hand you shake, the first time you acknowledge whose lands your lucky enough to live on, and the first time you get the wool pulled over your eyes by a cheeky elder. SOVA is a young school- I have hope that they will adapt and evolve to recognize and include such experiences and opportunities for future students, I know they will, change takes time. We all know that. This experience has given me a lot to think about and a lot to smile about, and it simply reminds me that yes, it does have to get pretty dark to be able to see the beauty of the stars that the universe has gifted you to see. And the stars I have found! Oh how thankful I am.

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I am also a Canine Companion and Dog Walker- this is Ziggy. Who helps me by providing smiles, howls, and laughter every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Thank you, Musi Cho, Namaste

Bipolar Disorder, Through the Lens

Originally posted on Le Blog de Kait:

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Manic

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Trying to photograph grief

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A life

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What depression feels like

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Dreaming of joining the ghosts

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Late night anxiety

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Down again

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The manic compulsion to change my place

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Asking for help

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Exhausted

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Duality

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type II disorder on January 28, 2014. I have been working on a series of images since then to depict what mania (hypomania) and depression have been like for me. These are the images in the series so far. I will be making more images for the series and will add them as they happen. To see these images in better quality (and to see a bit more than I have shared here) visit www.kaitmauro.com/bipolar. Some of these images, I found out today, are going to be featured in a show in New York City on March 29th. I will post more details about it later — for now I am…

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