(Story and Art by Juli Cady Ryan)
Everything changed in my peaceful world the day my daughter was diagnosed with a serious and life-long mental illness. I now reference my life before and after mental illness. I remember when my days were not dominated by my daughter’s moods or whether she had taken her meds. She is wearing long sleeves and pants, does this mean she’s cutting herself again? It was agonizing to watch my funny, smart and adventurous daughter on her twelfth birthday lie on the sofa and tell me that she was depressed. My heart broke. The worst would come much later when she was 18 and overdosed on Ibuprofen, with me finding her unconscious in her bed. I still cannot look at a bottle of Ibuprofen and not wince with the memory. After several hospitalizations, therapy and meds, my daughter is living on her own, in a healthy relationship and working. All things that for years she could not do.
Years later, my two sons would be diagnosed with anxiety and depression. My oldest son had to enter rehab, as he was using alcohol to deal with his illness. They both are now doing well and on the right path. When you find out all three of your children have serious mental illnesses, there comes a point where you will either break or you will hold strong. But as a parent, you really have no choice whatsoever. You have to be strong for you kids. You have to be.
I have always been a seeker of silver linings. Even in the worst of tragedies, there is something that comes out on the other side that is positive. I looked and I found myself, what I was meant to do. Yes, I am an artist that paints happy paintings, but now I am more. I am someone who has a message for other people struggling with these issues. Afraid to talk about it, feeling stigmatized, feeling alone. I want to reach out with my paintings as my voice and say it gets better. It does get better. You first must acknowledge it and get help.
I now speak out whenever I can about mental health. I use my paintings, writings and social media to tell my story. My blog, Inner Butterfly, is now devoted to it. I just recently did a radio interview about how my art changed after my daughter was diagnosed. I speak out wherever and whenever I can.
I love what I do and I hope that by using my family’s journey through the maze of mental illness I can help people reach out and get help. That I can in my own small way change the world for the better. If I can do that, even for one person, that is truly a silver lining.
“Day of Acceptance”
Who is Juli Cady Ryan? I’m glad you asked.
She is a self-taught artist from Indiana. After attending Indiana University for three years she put her career aspirations on hold and raised her family of three with her husband. During this time, she started painting as a hobby and fell in love. Once she realized she could sell her paintings on Ebay, she decided to make it her career. Her colorful, whimsical paintings took a new path once her daughter was diagnosed with a serious mental illness. Juli now uses her paintings as a vehicle to talk about mental illness and to help remove the stigma that still remains. Her art has been in several galleries and she has published two books. She now lives in Cincinnati and hopes to continue her mission to be a voice for mental health.
Visit Juli’s website.