My Journey Using Alternative Healing For My Mental Illness

Larisa Birta

My name is Monica Davis. I am a resilience and mental health advocate, an artist, a writer, and possibilitarian and truly believe that being vulnerable with others lifts burdens on both sides.

My journey is Heartbreak. Childhood Trauma. Iraq’s Warzone. Helplessness. Stigma. My journey is survival, finding hope, and sharing my experiences because the vibrations you create will be returned as an even greater echo.

I was born biologically to a man who was the very essence of narcissism and abuse and violence and manipulation. His nick name is sperm donor because that was truly his only contribution to my life.

From the age of three until I was in my early twenties, my biological father abused and harassed me, verbally, emotionally and psychologically – he did not respect my boundaries, terrorized my free spirit and gaslighted my sanity through psychological assault – he became my genetic nightmare I would blame for my behaviors, my fears, and ultimately my mental health crises. He is not my BFF.

I was born biologically to a woman who is the very essence of courage and grit and love and survival. Her name is Pam Davis, and she is my BFF.

The man I wasn’t biologically born to – his name is Marc Davis, and he is the very essence of everything dependable and compassionate and creative and honorable and father-like – he is my father, my one and only. He too is my BFF.

I am lucky to have two like whoa amazing holy moly thank you God, parents in my life who raised me to become the woman I am today – despite the traumatic journey I have experienced. My parents are rock stars, and they have stood by me through it all – and before I start doing the ugly cry – let me tell you why I am sharing this today.

I am done being delicate, so I am sharing my truth, and the alternative ways that help me cope.

For me, I find immense joy and healing through alternative therapies like painting, writing, cycling and running, tattoos, puppy love, and my work within the military, mental health, and non-profit communities – and these communities – they naturally came together to form a collective partnership within my life-mission.

One of my many hats working in federal civil service for the U.S. Army is a Master Resilience Trainer – I am able to teach a set of resilience and coping skills that help set the tone for my soldiers –they know they have someone to reach out too and a safe space to just talk it out. They know that I will provide resources, not judgment.

I am also the Social Media Director for the not-for-profit resilience resource Project Rebirth, we use our impactful programs and suite of documentary films to teach hope after tragedy, grief and loss within the Veteran, First Responder, and Education communities.

Via my personal social media footprint, I’ve connected directly with active military and veterans, and starting mid-2014, what began with receiving a call or two a month, turned into a call or two or three or four a week. Conversations about their experiences, their demons, and their lost hope – and nothing but love coming from my end. Have I saved every person – nope.

Will I save every person – nope. So, do I require a massive amount of self-care considering I am sometimes triggered during these conversations – oh yes – especially when I find out someone loses their battle with mental illness. But does that prevent me from connecting with someone when they choose me to be their person? Heck no. Kindness is  free, sprinkle that shit everywhere, and impact someone’s life in the most authentic way I know how – be their battle buddy.  

I also fell in love with cycling (like fell in love hard core saved my soul type of fell in love) because of our veterans. Once you witness an American hero wounded physically and/or mentally – cycling over 400-miles right alongside of you or better yet, leading the pack – yeah sorry not sorry, I have no excuse – Inspired. Motivated. Empowered. I believe I was placed on this planet to ignite love and foster hope – and my work within these communities has proven to fulfill this desire.

I am a self- taught painter and only after returning home in 2011 from Iraq, after taking an assignment in support of our military, did I find the outlet to purge my experiences onto canvas. I knew I needed a new approach to healing, this was the first time I had painted since I was a little girl in grade school.

In just six months after returning home, I created over one-hundred fifty pieces calling them my ‘Warzone Purging’ collection, which then launched my artist website – which stands for Define Your Own Interpretation. I still create free-spirited work, and also focus on custom requests –all my work is for sale on my website, and a large portion of the proceeds are donated to organizations of the buyers choosing.

Painting saved my life and it continues to do so by giving me a creative outlet to purge my continuing battle with mental illness, and purges the emotional weight that I so often carry for too long.

Many times, the Middle East was frightening – but it was the more frequent quiet times that brought to the surface demons that forced me to remember my childhood trauma. In 2014 I began to journal, I felt an escape, a way to connect with my thoughts directly. It was the start of what I now call my Growth Game Diary. I began sharing quotes and sayings that lifted my spirit, posting my writings and blogs, became a contributing writer at Thought Catalog, and last November I publicly told my trauma story in detail to the world, which you can see on my website and blog.

It has taken me over twenty years to fully come out of my shattered shell, and I can credit each of my alternative therapies to saving my life. Although cycling and running, and my furbaby Oakley play a ginormous role, creative outlets have been the most freeing. Painting, writing and then there are my tattoos.

In January of this year, I completed a piece of body art, a full-back tattoo, that made me realize this too was a type of therapy for me – and through the over a year, seventeen-session process, I shared that journey with my social media tribe through photos and truth bombs that I uncovered about my emotional state. You know that quote “The Ax Forgets what the Tree Remembers” – the Ax is the tattoo gun, and the tree is my body in pain. Isn’t it strange how we decorate pain? This isn’t my first tattoo, but it wasn’t until this most recent, massive piece covering the entire backside of my body, including my booty, that I was able to uncover a gigantic revelation about myself.

Some people cut themselves, I get tattooed – pretty bold statement I know. I am still in awe of how strong I am, my pain threshold, and where I can take my mind when under such circumstances. Then there’s the phantom pain – I can go back in time and remember the abuse, and even when the details of a situation are blurry, I remember vividly how I felt or how scared I was – I can also go back to each tattoo session and remember and feel it so clearly. Even now, my tattoos give me a sense of feeling alive – Kinda fucked up, right?

Let me tell you how empowering it feels to conquer the pain, to mend the wounds as they heal – and then to let that shit go. Through the pain of all of my bodyart, I have been able to purge emotions and create permanent beauty reminders that have helped my GrowthGame journey. I am constantly aware that these choices are forever – but I am also aware that my past is not – and as I grow old, and my skin starts to wrinkle – this work will adapt to its new body just as I have with my ever-changing story.

My truth living with bipolar disorder, anxiety, and PTSD is that I am basically a prostitute of feelings – in any given day I have amazing highs, laugh out loud sessions – to ugly cries that purge the day, and those manic episodes that knock me out for days. It is devastating, yet for me an utterly beautiful human experience – and because of my alternative therapy approach to my journey, my perspective has enabled me to be remain vulnerable, feel free and less caged, but to also know my limitations and triggers – which for me is the most important facets to controlling and coping.

Some of you may have heard the saying – “Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity” these days – So what do we do? How do we cope when, for many of us, the world is one big emotional trigger?  Answer: We wage the struggle by being our best selves, rise above and crusade. So I focus on what heals me, what I consider self-care and therapy, and allows me to be strong enough to continue loving humanity no matter how ugly we get.

Emotional courage in a time of hatred is revolutionary.

Love hard. Be fierce, and never apologize for your superpowers – because that’s what mental illnesses are – superpowers.

You are all ambassadors of hope. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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