Here I am.

I have not always felt comfortable in my skin, the skin of a white woman appearing with mixed white and Latinx descent. Mi Abuela, Fluvia Marina Paniagua arrived in San Francisco from Guatemala as a baby. Her single Mom Adriana came via boat fleeing an earthquake in El Salvador. My Mother taught me my ancestral background, all the while I was trying to survive as a mixed up city kid. I knew I had a connection to my Latina heritage. ... I also discovered as a teen I had Lesbiana tendencies that I immediately repressed after seeing a butch girl who liked girls get bullied on the K heading for Aptos.

At age 11, the one Guatemalan classmate I knew, broke down my confidence harshly judging my youthful exuberance. I learned that girls must compete with each other, and I as I got older the only positive feedback was through men. Starving for attention, I unwittingly allowed myself to be objectified, after being a nobody during my adolescence. I soaked it up and eventually was me too'd by Male writing mentors. This created self hatred and was blocked from writing and self actualization - I believed that my worth was only of value by assisting men, or treated like a sexual being. I stopped believing that my individual writing pursuits were worthwhile. This also undermined the freedom I had felt as an intelligent, creative, sexually free woman. There were other challenges, brain injury, trauma, ptsd, then grief over losing dear friends. My voice no longer there, my heart broken, and and walking around in a fog.

This fog I walked around in is an Invisible Disability, underneath my exterior is a minor traumatic brain injury from a car accident in 2005. This rattled my already Neurodiverse brain. I processed the world differently, sensitive to sound, light, proximity to people, struggle with overwhelm, and emotional regulation. I've struggled with organizational thinking ever since I remember. I only discovered my Neurodiversity after I got sober 2 years ago as an adult which is when I started to get treatment. "...neurodevelopmental conditions like autism and ADHD has been focused on boys and men, women are often overlooked. Misdiagnosed as anxious, depressed, or simply 'sensitive,' many women don’t learn about their neurological differences until they are adults. The result, Nerenberg (from the book, "Divergent Mind") suggests, is a 'lost generation' of women, riddled with shame and low self-esteem, who 'have no name for their life experiences and feelings.'

The Lost Generation

I am a Recovering Alcoholic. I find that it still hasn't been recognized as an illness, or a disability. Drug overdoses doubled the amount of Covid deaths in San Francisco in 2021, and still isn't treated like a health care crisis. I have immersed myself into my recovery community many have felt discarded and marginalized by society. Addicts and Alcoholics are still faced with stigma, and not properly treated. I worked in a psychiatric residential facility in the city with clients who were dual diagnosed: mental illness and addiction. It was a turn-style. A client would come in after being 5150'd - we'd stabilize them, and send them right out 3-4 weeks later. Many went back out into the streets, and returned back into the facility not long after.

I have learned that the opposite of addiction is connection, also what worked for me in recovery was being a shown a model of recovery that worked from people who have gone through it. I have found that art making in a group setting is profound for healing. It doesn't force you to say anything in particular, the process just allows you to be in any state that you need to be in. I am familiar with working in diverse group settings (prefer it - feels like home) and as a facilitator for many groups: peer support, gymnastics team,. I also worked at Brava as the education coordinator for at risk kids in the Mission. Over the pandemic I began hosting art making sessions for women in recovery over zoom. I am eager to continue this work and with this new pilot program give our group of women in the Uncovery a chance to tell their story. There is a truth and power in storytelling that can save lives.

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