I am not the most tech-savvy person in the world and still feel relatively new to the world of social media. I fell into a coma at 18 years old in 2005, and when I was finally discharged from the hospital a year later, my friends tried to explain this unfamiliar realm of “Facebook” and were determined to set up an account for me. I definitely had no idea what a “blog” was and had no idea what a wonderful resource it was to reconnect with my world after being so suddenly pulled from it.
My medical journey is quite unique: my stomach exploded due to a blood clot, and when I awoke from my coma months later, I was told that I couldn’t eat or drink and it was not known whether I would ever be able to again. Having been creative all of my life, I hung onto my passion to create as my lifelines in order to persevere through years of medical turbulence.
To keep my hope alive and faith strong throughout ten years and 27 surgeries, and to feel like I wasn’t fading into the woodwork as the world I knew continued to revolve around me, I turned to art. I fell in love with painting and mixed media creations. Painting was an amazing discovery for me – it was a way to express things that were too painful and overwhelming for words. It was also a way for me to cope with uncertainty.
In 2011, I made the big decision to put myself out there after years of isolation and mount an art show with 70 of my paintings. I was overwhelmed with the amazing reception and for the first time since my coma, I felt part of my community again, no longer an alien looking in on the outside world.
But then the show ended, people went home, and my art was taken off of the gallery walls. It was such a depressing feeling – almost a tease – feeling part of the world again and then the letdown after it was all over. Then, a mentor of mine told me about the world of “blogging.” She set up a simple template on blogspot for me and gave me a quick overview of how to use it. I had never heard of a “blog” before, but the more I researched, the more enticed I was by the idea. Would people actually care about things I had to say?
I decided to name my blog Allspice & Acrylics to chronicle my daily routine of coping with not being able to eat or drink. To pass the endless hours, I’d divide my day between the furnace-room-turned-art-studio and ironically, the kitchen. Unable to eat, I actually became obsessed with cooking for my family, and took to spices as an artist might turn to different colours of paint.
Once I started posting on Allspice & Acrylics, I couldn’t stop. I didn’t care if anyone was reading my blog – it was an amazing way for me to mark time, document my daily creations, and have some kind of outlet to express myself. Even just sharing it with my family felt like a wonderful way to connect. Then, I used the Facebook account my friends had set up for me, and shared it with my Facebook “friends”. Suddenly I was a few steps forward from feeling completely isolated. Blogging made me feel less alone.
Then, I got my first “follower” – then my first comment. I was overjoyed and felt unstoppable – as though there was support around me that I could sense – a larger community than I could even comprehend cheering me on. I blogged every day, and knowing I would blog about my daily creations was motivation to create more.
Finally, I was surgically reconstructed with a make-shift digestive system and was able to eat. I grew a bit less interested in blogging and eventually stopped in favour of finally living the life I had waited for.
I took almost four years off from blogging and didn’t think twice about it. I went on to write a one-woman musical about my story, continued showing my artwork, finally enrolled in college, and even got engaged. Then, Allspice & Acrylics fell back into my lap at the perfect time. To promote all of my creative ventures, I launched my professional website. I resumed my blog when there was more personal content I wanted to share about my work, and too many updates on my latest projects to keep adding to my website. My blog allowed me to give a more personal slant on all of my work – a more intimate way to connect with my community.
Then, I discovered the wonderfully supportive blogging community. Starting with the blogging-related Facebook groups, I was introduced to the diverse blogosphere and the endless possibilities that can come from it. I was overwhelmed by the possibilities, including guest blogging, giveaways, paid guest posts, all the various social media, and linkups. For someone not “tech-savvy” it was very intimidating!
My first post after my hiatus was in late February (2015) and since then, I’ve been going strong. I post basically every day. I share my daily artistic creations, reflections on what I’ve been through, my writings, thoughts on nature, etc. It’s therapeutic for me, and it’s inspiring to others. I’ve expanded my blog’s reach through Pinterest, Google+, twitter, bloglovin –however I can reach others. I’ve even done a few guest posts on crafts, recipes, and sharing my story. Eventually, I started blogging more and more about my creative ventures, and those ventures turned into a business! I never thought I’d be starting a business. Piecing myself together after a decade of medical trauma has been a project, a journey, a story that I am still writing.
Eventually, I wrote a one-woman musical, Gutless and Grateful, which I’ve been touring across the country for five years. Now, I use my blog to stay in touch with my followers when I am on the road and to give them a glimpse of life behind the scenes! When I gave my TEDx Talk, I was blogging every step of the way, snapping pics backstage, and sharing my favorite rehearsal anecdotes. It’s great to be able to share what I don’t say on stage with a more- intimate bunch of readers.
After everything I’ve been through, I just want to share my story and spread my message of hope, strength and creativity as a way to get through anything. Soon I will be selling prints of my artwork and other items on my professional site, and because of my blog, I have unexpectedly built up a great online following. My eventual goal is to found an organization that advocates for the arts and healing, and by making my presence known online, I feel so much closer to spreading my story and gaining interest in my goals.
I really excelled as a blogger when I started sharing my story. Stories make us stronger. Stories make us think differently. And there is strength in thinking, seeing and doing things differently.
Everyone loves a good story. Is there a book or poem you’ve read that has always stuck with you? A certain metaphor from a whimsical children’s story that resonated with you as a child? I remember always loving the book Harold and the Purple Crayon. I loved the idea of a little child being able to create his own world. It made me feel like I could too.
That’s the beauty of a metaphor: Through a larger vision, we can relate with our own unique stories.
That is also the power of storytelling. Everyone’s story is different. But we all can relate to emotions. Be personal, bold and fearless in your blog. It will change your life, your goals, your path.
Blogging has anchored me with the support I didn’t even know was possible. I am reaching out to people I never would have even heard of otherwise. Blogging has introduced me to endless possibilities, and I’m hooked! Now that I’m a “regular” blogger, I anticipate the challenge of what to do if I don’t feel like blogging every day. It’s hard to not feel pressured when I’ve been so regular about it, but with my wedding next month, honeymoon, and whatever other adventures life takes me on, I want to make sure I make enough time for other aspects of life as well.
If there is one thing I’ve learned through life and through starting my own business, it’s to never give up. Persistence. In every respect. Keep going, never giving up, even when I was exhausted or overwhelmed by the idea of what I wanted to accomplish. I literally was a girl waking up from a coma trying to find her place in a big world. I didn’t know where to start. So I just started somewhere – anywhere. And just kept going from there – blindly at first, but eventually finding a focus, and then just following it intently. Persistence softened with a faith that with that determination, I would get there.
Blogging has been an unexpected treasure that has turned this not so tech-savvy girl into a connected creator – now the possibilities are endless!
Guest post by:
Amy Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-to-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for Huffington Post, speaker for TEDx and RAINN, health advocate, survivor, award-winning actress, and playwright. She works individually with her innovative creativity coaching, business, speaking, and social media courses. As creator of her one-woman musical Gutless & Grateful , the #LoveMyDetour Campaign, which was the subject of her TEDx Talk, she’s currently touring theatres nationwide, along with a program combining mental health advocacy, sexual assault awareness and Broadway Theatre for college campuses and international conferences.
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