"I think I do overshare. It's my way of trying to understand myself. It creates community when you talk about private things." - Carrie Fisher
Nothing put the final bookend to one of the worse years of my life than the death of Carrie Fisher. Actress, feminist, and mental health advocate, she spent her entire life struggling with addiction, coping with mental illness, and dealing with the weight/pressure of being one of the most iconic characters in Hollywood. She was smart, she was a force, and she has been one of my role models since I first saw Star Wars as a teenager.
Upon hearing of her death, I found myself diving into her words and her films easier than I ever have before. I was smiling as she made me laugh (and soon crying when the hole she left became even more apparent). I saw how strong and how fierce she was, even when her bipolar disorder would wreck her or society would try and break her. She was a light, a beacon for those struggling with mental illness and, to me, she was hope. That if is she could carry on and survive throughout all of her life's struggles and illnesses, so could I.
Hearing of her death broke me, in the worst possible ways, but it also, surprisingly, empowered me. I knew, without a doubt, that I was going to not only do my best to carry on her legacy, but somehow, someway give tribute to her work, to her fire.
If you know me personally, you know how open I can be when it comes to mental illness and the things that torment me, day to day. In a public forum, however, I've been silent, way too afraid to be open about this huge part of myself (for fear of being looked down upon or being called "crazy").
Well, not anymore, folks.
Hi, my name is Kristen Gula and I am a recovering alcoholic who is currently medicated and seeking treatment for depression, anxiety, and dermatophagia.
Whew. That was a lot easier than I thought it would be and guess what? That confession, that transparency didn't make me weak or hurt my image/brand or make me look crazy! No, this kind of openness and vulnerability does nothing but make me strong, make me powerful. Being able to finally accept who I am, not just on the couch of a therapist or in the eyes of those closest to me, but to complete strangers on the internet sets me on fire, brings newfound light into my eyes, and deeply emboldens me to reach out and help others in the same situation.
So, with all fingers and toes crossed, I hope that this testimony inspires you, helps you in some way. Maybe it opens up your eyes, causes you to look deep inside yourself and see a person struggling with unknown levels of illness (and addiction). Maybe it takes away pressure from yourself to feel the need to be "perfect" or "normal" to those around you or on social media. Or maybe, just maybe, it really doesn't affect you at all.
Whatever your current state, I can bet that every single person reading this, statistically speaking, has at least someone in their life that does struggle with mental illness or addiction (or both). According to National Alliance on Mental Illness
and USA Today
, 1 in 5 persons currently struggle with mental illness while 1 in 7 struggle with some form of addiction (and those statistics are just in the USA, folks).
If you know someone that is currently suffering from mental illness or addiction, please be a presence in their life, a shoulder for them to lean on. Research their addictions, ask them questions about their illnesses, or just be quiet and listen, when/if they try to reach out to you. One of the biggest struggles in my life was being open and vulnerable, but the minute that I began to open up was the minute I began to see a light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Especially when I had someone near me who cared and loved me enough to listen. Perhaps you too can reach out and inspire someone you know and love to seek help and recovery.
Now, if I can do any of that, in the slightest, with this transparency about my struggles, I do exactly as Carrie Fisher would have wanted for her legacy: live openly with my mental illnesses and addictions, thrive with my mental illnesses and addictions, and normalize/change the way people view others with mental illnesses and addictions.
Which brings me to January's #Stitchventure Pattern(s)
of the month: a typography pack of my favorite Carrie Fisher quotes
! I decided the best way to honor the impact that Carrie Fisher had on my life was to take some of her most famous quotes and put them on fabric.
These patterns, though simple, are easily completed with just one stitch and can be put on any type of fabric, with any color of thread (for those wondering at home, I used a ivory linen blend with DMC 310 black embroidery thread with these examples to keep them simple and clean). You can keep the patterns plain, with just the words, or you can add flowers (or anything really) to accompany the quotes. Just know that these patterns can be completed by any stitcher at any level and these patterns are extremely versatile!
Also, another way I planned to honor Carrie Fisher's legacy with this pattern pack was to donate proceeds to one of her favorite charities! That's right, 50% of the proceeds of this embroidery pack will be going towards one of her favorite charities, The International Bipolar Foundation
! Also, if stitching really isn't your jam, I am offering these hoops for sale in the shop
for purchase (if you want one to adorn your wall or gift to someone you know) with 50% of the proceeds going towards the charity as well.
Let's all get stitching this month in honor of the great Carrie Fisher and let's help change the world's outlook on mental illness and addiction in the process. If you do finish this month's patterns, make sure to snap a photo and share with #stitchventure so I can see your finished piece as well as feature it on social media!
As always, check out the giveaway below for a chance to win your own embroidery pattern pack and make sure to leave a comment below with any and all questions you might have (I also would love to hear your own stories, if you feel comfortable sharing)!
I appreciate your love and support, from across the globe. It warms my heart to have such a great following of my work.
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