Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Three Part BLOG: The Story of the Star
October 9, 2019
I have a lot of stories and I am aware that they are that: Stories. In reality there is only the moment in which I type. Everything else - every word - every thought - is a narrative I’ve created to make sense of the world as well as partake in it. Humans by nature are storytellers.
One of my favourite stories has been built on intuition (following my gut instinct), symbols, and signs. I like numbers. The Star of David is perhaps the most meaningful symbol however. I’m sure some people have wondered why it appears in my work when I state in my talk, The Art of Mental Wellness, that I am not religious.
On my Great Aunt’s death bed (the ‘Frank’ side) she told our family that we were Jewish. She and my Papops (as we called Grandpa Frank), their family had fled Germany to Canada around the second World War and they changed their religion out of fear. She had carried this secret for most of her life.
I have always had a strong pull towards the holocaust - Especially: Anne Frank. It figures, right? Haha. I get asked if I’m related to Anne Frank A LOT. I’m probably not though (in the close genetic sense of relatives at least). I’ve also never fully read the Diary of Anne Frank. I do struggle with reading, however, and I was quite young when I last tried to read it.
I have experienced many haunted dreams from the holocaust. Images of people screaming as gas filled the chamber. The sound of people’s nails clawing at the walls. They are horrifying to recall. I’ve never been to Europe and I don’t research the Holocaust anymore like I did when I was a teenager (around the time I discovered my Jewish ancestry). It’s the stories and photographs I’d see online from the Holocaust that led to the nightmares. And yet, I could never turn away. I’d research more and more. I also still watched Horror Movies back then which caused more images and sounds being glued into my memory to terrorize me.
When I was 17, while these events were occurring, I was living by myself in Fernwood. I was clean from drugs, but still an avid alcoholic, as it was closer to the beginning of my time in that apartment. I had been living in a Foster Care Home prior to moving to Fernwood, which is how I briefly cleaned up (but that’s another story).
At 17, I was experiencing what Western Medicine calls ‘psychosis’. I was in psychosis for years after the street drugs were removed. In my psychosis I thought ghosts and spirits were haunting me. Horror movies and terrible massacres and disasters stuck to me - branding themselves into my memories. I still can’t get the image from The Ring out of my haunted head (when she crawls out of the TV). Yet, at a whole other level, I know that it’s acting. That they’re special effects. That what I am watching is not real. Even with all that ‘knowing’ it didn’t change my legitimate fear of ghosts.
It was bad. I couldn’t face my own reflection as I feared when I saw myself that I would also see someone standing behind me. Songs like “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Michael Jackson and Rockwell played incessantly as the soundtrack of my life. I was haunted and terrorized from the inside out. …And yet I had to partake in the world. I had function in our society which does not tolerate ‘insanity’.
I was afraid of all reflective surfaces and when I did see my reflection, I didn’t know who she was. So much had happened to me by the age of 17. But most of all, I was lonely. I had a beer, a book, and a pen. Those three things kept me alive, at the bare minimum, on the very worst days, those were three things I could lean on for support.
The Story of the Star is a journal entry from October 2003. I was 17 years old when I wrote it.
**Please note, all names have been changed - as they always are - to respect privacy.**
PART II (video): The Story of the Star
October 9, 2019 (Continued...)
So that is how The Star of David started to become symbolic to me. It was a symbol of hope and strength.
After I branded the Star of David into my wrist, it became a lifesaver as I branded it directly down the centre vein. Fearful that I’d fail the suicide attempt, I never cut my arms vertically, following the vein, as I was afraid I’d survive and ruin the Star. In essence, The Star of David saved my arms from a knife over and over again. I still have my wounds but they’re not as fierce as they could have been.
For almost my entire life I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts and a lack of a will to live… These days though it feels like the sun is shining. There are still ups and downs but I try to stay in the Present moment as much as possible and when I’m not - when I enter a story - As soon as I’m aware that I’m not present, I try to return to the present moment by connecting with my bodily senses.
I also use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. First, the recognition that every thought and every word I speak, think or write is a story. Second, taking a step back and detaching from the story. Third, changing the narrative (re-writing the story).
I am a storyteller. The mania, the psychosis, the depression, they are all stories yet extremely powerful ones… Our minds - our stories - are capable of caging us in terrible nightmares. I’m not saying there aren’t people who are legitimately living in terrible nightmares. A lot actually seem to be… Trauma is different than stories I’ve found, too. Trauma hijacks me, reverting me to an age in which the trauma occurred. Sometimes I’m a terrified 5 year old hiding under her bed while other times I revert to my teenage self, who was just as scared but wore it as anger.
“Anger is just sad’s bodyguard.” - Liza Palmer
Trauma and emotional pain lead to addiction. That’s the thing. We’re having an Opioid crisis because our society is in pain and people are turning to substances to cope. Following the Core Four has been a rude awakening for me as the more vices I removed (Cigarettes, Alcohol, Refined Sugars) suddenly the Trauma was exploding like a minefield because there was nothing to drown it with. I had to face it. I’m still facing it. I still have trauma that emerges and when it does I turn it into writing and drawings - like I’ve always done.
I decided sometime back that I was going on a journey and I still am, but I won’t be venturing too far from home… This journey doesn’t require it.
As I type, I realize this journey too is alas just another story… And an unwritten one at that. ;)
I return my attention to the clicking of my keyboard, to the comfort of the couch beneath me, the sound of the furnace coming on, the new warmth spreading into the room and the sound of soft rock coming through my speakers. Yes, I am back. Back in my house, in this room, in the ‘Now’. I am back from the stories (for the moment).