Inverness In Mourning, Inverness In Light, Inverness In Heart

Blog, Photography, Writing

Content Warning: Mentions of self-harm and death by suicide

 

Originally when I thought about doing photo journals for this trip, I imagined them going quite differently. I imagined a journal for each place I visited accompanied by some lines of poetry and my best photos. Instead, I’m doing this.

 

Prior to arriving in Inverness, Scotland, I received news that my friend committed suicide. I couldn’t imagine carrying on with my travels. All I could think about was going home and going to school where I could mourn and be with the people who understood my pain and what I was going through.

The last time I went through a series of losses (in high school), it ended up jumpstarting my struggles with my own mental illnesses. I knew that there was no way I could possibly go through that pain and emotional incapability again, especially when I have come so far in my healing journey. But whenever a death by suicide comes up (regardless if it’s someone close to me), it always sends me into dark spaces thinking about my own experiences and emotions.

In this particular loss, I felt helpless and as though I didn’t do enough for Al. I knew it wasn’t my fault—and couldn’t possibly be—because I did what I could for them. But these thoughts still entered my brain in waves flooding my thoughts. Dealing with loss at home is hard enough but it was even harder being with people who didn’t quite understand what I was going through because they weren’t experiencing the same thing.

My photo journals from the other parts of my trip may come later, but for now, Inverness is the most important place from my trip. It was not only the most gorgeous place I’ve ever been (and will ever go, I’m sure) but also held some of the most important revelations following the death of a friend and my need to carry on. I don’t think my words alone can express my gratuity for, love for, and experiences in this place so I’m pairing my photos in attempt to share my full experience.

This piece is entirely dedicated to Al Davey. I miss you dearly, Al, but no matter how much I write, nothing can do you justice.

 

Part One: Inverness in Mourning

While riding the train for 8 hours through the United Kingdom, I had a lot of time to really reflect and mourn. I went through waves of sadness, then waves of relief until sadness washed over me again. Until I looked out my window listening to Spotify suggested songs and saw these beautiful views. I looked up just to see the evening light over this beautiful, untouched part of the world. And in this moment a song titled, Wild World by Johnny Stimpson came on. I’d never heard the song prior to this moment but it was like a dagger through my heart. With the opening lyrics, “Everybody’s got a heart that’s bleeding/Sometimes it’s bliss, sometimes it’s pain/Everybody’s got a hurt that’s healing/It’s you and I in in the same place/Everybody’s got a loved one dying/And all of us are gonna go someday,” something clicked. I felt peace along with the realization that I needed to keep going, that I couldn’t stop.

With this renewed sense of clarity in my travels, I began to see in color again. I watched the sun set over Inverness and felt so much love for my ability to be in such a spectacular place. (Even if the timing was completely off, was there any really a good time for anything?)

 

Part 2: Inverness in Light

Exploring Inverness held the most beauty I’ve ever encountered. I was completely renewed and ready to explore local shops and find some even better photo-worthy treasures.

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(Photo credit goes to Beth Strong)

I had wanted this tattoo since the start of my 3 weeks abroad but I didn’t go through with it until I found Inver Ink in Inverness. After my realization of why I needed to keep going along with my lack of breath while surrounded by such beauty, I knew this is where I needed to get my tattoo. This tattoo means more than me just going and traveling. It’s my connection to my life and living and purpose. To add an extra sentimental touch, I had my tattoo artist style the “O” just as the Earth was sketched out on the album cover of Wild World.

Our second morning in Inverness, we walked 35 minutes to find this beach. We walked across a giant bridge just to spiral downward onto a rocky beach. The view from the bridge took my breath away. I was ahead of my travel mates and noticed tears stinging my eyes. I took a deep breath and put my camera down. This was the moment that I realized the meaning of life. My own exploration and going on this journey (along with others) is the reason I am here. It is the reason that I have not taken my own life and have lived through as much struggle and pain as I have. I also realized that Al wouldn’t want me to stop living because they are no longer here. In this moment, I realized that my mourning process was drastically accelerated than my other friends back home experiencing the same loss. I was having breathtaking experiences and seeing jaw-dropping sights that my words, photos, and feelings can’t even explain. I realized that while this pain from losing a friend won’t just disappear, I’ve mourned before (and will mourn again) but I know now that not only can I handle it, but I can empower myself to continue living.

There was a sign that used to say “PRIVATE NO ACCESS” but the “PRIVATE NO” was spray painted over with black paint. We continued onto the beach. My friends explored while I walked ahead. I found a place to sit. Although this wasn’t a sandy place to swim, it was the most grounding experience. I forced myself to put my camera away because I knew that no photos I would take could capture everything I was feeling and experiencing. I knew that this moment along with moments from the day before were things I never wanted to forget. This helped me solidify the love for my tattoo because I couldn’t forget this trip or this place.

 

Part 3: Inverness in Heart

We continued our adventure on the Loch Ness tour where we took a boat down Loch Ness to the Urquhart Castle and explored. I continually found myself being grounding in the sights and overwhelmed with positive emotion.

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Inverness provided me with so much but most importantly; after years of struggling with my own mental illnesses and symptoms including self-harm and suicidal thoughts, I found a reason to live that was bigger than any of my emotions. After the suicide of a friend, I was alive. And for the first time, I genuinely wanted to be. I finally felt free. The kind of free that, previously, I had wondered if only death could provide. Before, I was tied to my past, the pain, the negative things that I thought formed me. So now, here I am. I am alive. I am here. But above all, I want to be.

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(Photo credit goes to Kelly Evak)

 

Original Article Link: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/inverness

Odyssey Update

Blog, Poetry, Writing

Hi all!

As mentioned previously, I was a writer for Eastern Michigan University’s Odyssey page. This was short lived as I could not handle the pressure and deadlines. So I will link you to the first few articles I did and in a separate post, I am going to fully post the last article I wrote. This one is the one I am the most proud of and feel the need to post in full.

Here are the links to my articles:

A Photo Journal: Inverness in Mourning, Inverness in Light, Inverness in Heart: This is the article I will post with my next update.

Poetry on Odyssey: A Lifetime of Coffee: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/poetry-odyssey-lifetime-coffee (this can also be found here!)

Coming To Terms With My Nonbinary Identity and What That Means: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/nonbinary-identity-what-that-means

Mornings Are Important: 5 Steps to A Successful One: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/how-have-morning-routine

My first “article” was actually a poem that is already listed on my website as “Vicious Loving”. You can find it here!

More Than Nude

Blog, Photography, Writing

Version 2

I’ve been debating about posting this photo for the past few months. Being naked has such a negative and sexual connotation and part of me feels so exposed. But this photo is one that I am incredibly proud of. I used to think of bodies as something to hide. I was jealous of the way by classmate’s slim bodies fit into Abercrombie clothing. I would squeeze my tummy and just wish it to go away. I was ashamed of the way my body curved in ways that the media didn’t portray. I struggled with being healthy up until last year. My mom always said, “I want you to be healthy and aim for that rather than to be skinny and aim for a certain weight.” And yet somewhere in my head I was trying so hard to be something out of the unrealistic media instead of myself. After my first year at college, my mental and physical health deteriorated. My unresolved mental health issues aided in the lack of motivation to help myself physically. I gained the freshman 30 that I was so adamant about losing in the first place. I became more uncomfortable in my own skin than I had ever been before. Although I had a solid hatred for my own body, I fell in love with the beauty of others. Being at college, I had realized that the media was wrong. I had seen all different types of bodies in all shapes, sizes, colors… I had a deep motivation to love my own as much as I loved other people’s. I also had a deep motivation to take care of my body and my mind more than I had before. I fell in love with not only the idea of self-care but also of self-love. I began following other people’s body positivity movements which included (mainly) women who were disabled, recovering from eating disorders, or just wanted to be empowered in their own skin. Throughout the summer, I took control of my mental health and began medication. By being happier, I had the motivation to eat healthier and became more active. My face stopped breaking out all the time, I lost most of what I had gained, I stopped looking at the sizes of what I was buying and instead focused on what looked good, but above all; I began falling in love with my own body. Eating healthy and being active made me feel good. I was no longer doing it to lose weight but I was doing it because I felt better. And since my mental health was being helped, I had the motivation to continue to take care of myself. Now, while I might not be at the weight I wanted to be at or to look the shape I wanted to be, I only find beauty in myself. This is why this image is so important to me. I took this photo to show the purity of the human form. I finally feel comfortable enough to be exposed. And I no longer think of my body as a sexual being. I no longer try to oversexualize myself because that’s not the purpose of my body and that is not me in my true form. (There is nothing wrong with being sexual but that’s just not me.) My body is my home. It is pure and beautiful and unique. It is beautiful with my scars, with my stretch marks, with my birth marks, and whatever else may be visible. This is why I’m finally able to show this photo. Because it is not a sexual photo. It is me, in a bath, taking care of myself. It is raw and it is innocent. But it is also mature. And if you aren’t able to look at this photo as the raw and innocent over the sexual than I don’t believe you should be looking. Although I’m nervous to post this photo, it is finally time for my confidence to shine through and for me to stop apologizing for something that every single one of us have.

-MAKluz

“Normal” Isn’t Enough: A Queer Analysis of Psychology and Science

Blog, Uncategorized, Writing

(Note: A reoccurring issue I am having as a psychology student is that I feel as though nothing is inclusive enough. There is always a group of people being left out of the conversation or being invalidated. Last semester I wrote a piece for my queer studies course about the intersectionality and erasure of asexuality in psychology, however, it doesn’t stop there. I’ve noticed these issues within gender, disability, sexuality, race, religion, etc. Considering that this still applies, this essay outlines just the beginning of what needs to change in order to make our world a more inclusive place.)

Within science, there is a level of factuality and certainty. When someone goes to the doctor with a sore throat, they expect a clear diagnosis and a treatment plan. Within psychology, the first step of treatment is addressing the issue and how it affects or impairs the person’s everyday functioning. Next, most doctors will attempt a simpler course of therapy to address the issue. If that doesn’t work or if the issue is too large, therapy is continued and psychiatric drugs are introduced. Psychology is already considered a queerer aspect of medicine since the brain is very complex and treatment is not as straight forward as some treatments within the body. However, there are a few common issues within psychiatry such as depression or anxiety that are considered “the common cold” of psychology. This is because they are some of the most commonly seen psychiatric disorders. Just as with medicine, there are many disorders that are rare or less frequent but are still identified within the DSM (diagnostic and statistics manual). While psychology is a queerer form of science, it is still not queer enough. Up until 1987, homosexuality was still considered a mental disorder. While removing homosexuality was a huge stride in the right direction, there are still changes to be made. In the DSM 5 (the most updated version of the DSM), there is still a whole classification of sexual disorders that desperately needs to be revised. The psychology field likes to pride themselves on being ever-changing, and progressive therefore being queerer than some other forms of science. However, with the DSM still having certain sexual disorders, this can completely erase the validity of asexual individuals. This leads my discussion into not only the queerness of psychology but also how psychology needs to be changed in order to be as progressive as it claims to be. Furthermore, within the change of psychology, perhaps there will be a change within science overall to be more inclusive and progressive within the treatment of queer folk.

Within the textbook, “Essentials of Abnormal Psychology” by V. Mark Durand and David H. Barlow, there is a chapter which covers some basics of sexual dysfunction disorders within the DSM 5. These are seen as necessary disorders for anyone going into clinical psychology to know. As a psychology major, who also happens to fall on the asexual spectrum, I didn’t have a problem with the initial disorders the chapter discussed (such as erectile dysfunction). I did start to notice a problem as I continued on with the disorders I was reading about. An arousal disorder within the textbook defined for men is “male hypoactive sexual desire disorder” which has the definition of “apparent lack of interest in sexual activity or fantasy that would not be expected considering the person’s age and life situation”. As for women, there is a disorder that is called “female sexual interest/arousal disorder” which is defined as “the recurrent inability in some women to attain or maintain adequate lubrication and sexual excitement swelling responses until completion of sexual activity.” Overall, there is generalization title (“sexual dysfunction”) which is defined as “a sexual disorder in which the client finds it difficult to function adequately while having sex”. While these definitions are seemingly meaningless, they can actually be detrimental to anyone within the asexual community.

Sexual dysfunction can be a helpful term for psychiatrists (or doctors) to use if a client develops a change in sexual arousal or functioning with the changing of medications. However, a common theme within psychology is that in order for symptoms to be a disorder, there can’t be certain underlying issues that could be causing the symptoms instead. Therefore, with disorders such as male hypoactive sexual desire disorder or with female sexual interest/arousal disorder, they cannot be diagnosed if the client has another mental disorder (such as depression or anxiety) and/or is taking medication that could inhibit their sexual being. A valid way that these two particular disorders can be diagnosed that doesn’t necessarily block the way queer acts, is if the changes have a more sudden onset, doesn’t have an underlying condition, or is a change within a particular relationship. However, many times these conditions can be diagnosed when the client is having sexual dysfunction without change which is where the conflict between queer and psychology really comes into play.

The asexual spectrum flows anywhere between having no romantic or sexual attraction to anyone to having attraction with special specifications and everything in between. For me, being asexual means that I have no sexual attraction until I have a deep emotional connection with someone and I have limited romantic attraction often times until I have an emotional connection with someone. From a psychological standpoint, and the requirements of diagnosing mental disorders within the DSM, I could be considered to have a sexual disorder because my asexuality did cause me distress in my everyday life. However, also realizing that I was gay had an impact because I learned more about the LGBT+ community where I found a label that described me. In Robert McRuer’s essay “Compulsory Able-Bodiedness”, a quote that I directly relate to is “Compulsion is here produced and covered over, with the appearance of choice (sexual preference) mystifying a system in which there is actually no choice”. While this essay directly talks about the intersectionality between queer movements including LGBT+ movements and disability movements, this quote I felt really impacted the way I’ve lived my life. As young as I can remember, I haven’t had crushes or attraction to almost anyone. And when my friends would have crushes I would pretend to fit in. In health, when I was older and we learned about sex, I pretended to like it and I would force myself to think about it because I thought that was normal in our society. I obviously realized later in high school that what I was feeling wasn’t “normal”. I never learned about alternate titles for sexuality other than heterosexuality and I didn’t learn about any other type of sex besides straight sex. I didn’t know how queer I actually was until I started questioning my sexuality of being straight. As the quote says, I was trying to fit into a binary where I didn’t belong. All of this journey could be considered to be causing impairment of functioning in my life and yet it felt normal to me. Except my normal wasn’t normal enough compared to others.

It wasn’t until this past year of school where I realized the severity of why we need to change the DSM’s classification of sexual disorders. As I’ve come to terms with my own sexuality, I have realized that I am asexual and I am happy being that way. I have learned how to live like that just as I learned how to live being gay. However, taking an abnormal psychology course along with a queer studies course made me reevaluate a certain experience I had. I have a history of depression, anxiety, and OCD, however, I have been asexual since before I showed these symptoms. More recently, I have been taking antidepressants and trying to figure out which medications work. My psychiatrist asked me if I had any change in sexual functioning and/or sexual arousal. I explained to him that I was on the asexual spectrum and so therefore I’ve never been sexual and so there has been no change. He got very concerned and was asking me questions about my sexual functioning trying to diagnose me with a sexual disorder because of my asexuality. Another key part of asexuality is that if someone identifies as asexual regardless of situational factors or life changes etc., they are still validly an asexual individual. After this appointment with my psychiatrist, I really began to reflect queerly on psychology and how progressive and open-minded it really is.

In a study from 1991, Simon LeVay published a study he had done trying to create a correlation between hypothalamus size and gay men. His study found that a gay man’s hypothalamus size seemed to be nearly double that of a straight man’s. While there are many criticisms to LeVay’s study from a psychological point of view, there are even more questions that I was curious about from a queer studies point of view. While it is a very queer approach for science to try to study gay people and figure out the biological causes for sexuality, this study was anything but queer. Queer doesn’t like binaries and this study was trying to explain sexuality as a strictly biological cause. There is an age-old question of sexuality which asks if sexuality is biologically-based, environmentally-based, or both. As a queer studies scholar, I believe that sexuality is too complex to attribute simply one cause such as environment or biology to sexual preference. This directly relates to the asexuality issue because while homosexuality is removed from the DSM and LeVay’s study has been seen as less valid because of the critiques and strong variables it carries, this does not solve the problem of there not being a place for queer within a scientific setting.

A final example of a way that science disables the queer mindset is directly related to transgender individuals. In order for transgender people looking to start their transition, they have to go through a complicated process of meeting with doctors first, seeing therapists and psychiatrists to diagnose them with gender dysphoria and then after a certain amount of time they may be approved for the ability to start transitioning. This is yet another aspect of science that may be seen as queer since medicine is seemingly accepting of transgender individuals and yet it is extremely not queer. Forcing those to “prove” their identity to anyone especially medical professionals is directly what queer fights against. Not only does queer combat labels, but queer does not approve of forcing people into boxes based on their identity. Ideally, queer would like for labels to be completely erased, however, we as queer activists cannot let labels be erased before they are accepted. To an extent, there may be a necessity for transgender individuals to go through this process if, for example, their insurance needs proof that the surgery they’re looking to have done isn’t strictly cosmetic. However, even then, that is not a queer way of looking at such an issue.

As stated above, with medicine and psychology, part of the field can be very progressive. As new studies come out every day for cures and ideas of how to help people in one way or another. Medicine and psychology are expanding and creating breakthroughs that are necessary for our health and wellness. On the other hand, there are aspects of medicine and psychology that need to be picked apart with a pin in order to fix the deep issues we have created. Part of these issues within medicine and psychology run as deep as our roots. The stigma and norms we have created surrounding sexuality have created check boxes for gender to fall into rather than a fill-in-the-blank line. By continuing to break down gender and sexuality norms within our everyday society (media), through our health programs in our school districts, even to go as far as how we raise our children; we will not only be able to normalize queerness within gender and sexuality but we will also be able to support medicine and psychology through a queer transition as well.

To revise psychology, we need to look at the definitions and obligations that lie within mental disorders and figure out how to reassess them so that they have a queerer way of thinking. An example of this would be to not push an asexual being into a sexual disorder simply because they do not have sexual attraction within the “normal” range. Another example would be to stop putting transgender people through so much in order to get them the medical care that they need. While psychology is objective through the eyes of the psychology professional, it is also objective through the patient as well. The job of a mental health professional is not to put patients into a box so that they feel trapped but rather listen to and see what the individual is saying with the freedom of the boxed in walls down. The psychology field should be progressive and learning through individuals rather than having the mindset that the professional knows best. By liberating psychology from the anti-queer mindset, this will further help the medical field become queerer as well. If the medical field became queerer then the psychology field would definitely follow, however, the medical field seems to be more set in its ways than psychology. Therefore, by normalizing queerness within psychology, hopefully medicine will follow shortly behind.

A way to normalize queerness within science is a lot easier than by trying to change the entire course of medicine and psychology. As a society, if we start by destigmatizing psychology (especially mental health disorders) we can lessen the queerness of the psychology stigma. Secondly, by continuing to talk about mental health, psychology will become the less queer science than it previously has been seen to be and medical professionals will be able to follow psychology with less shame than previously done. Lastly, a main thing we can do to change the way medical and psychology professionals see not only asexuality but also transgender folks, is by normalizing queerness within our everyday lives. By being open and outright with our identities as queer people, whether that be with a disability, mental illness, sexuality, race, gender, etc.; we can erase the silence that surrounds these issues. I was not diagnosed with a sexual disorder because I stood my ground and was very confident in my sexuality and who I identified myself as. As a future mental health professional, I have made it my goal to stand up for queerness within the psychology field and to advocate for those who may not be able to advocate for themselves. While this issue wasn’t directly discussed within the readings from this past semester or in either one of my courses (abnormal psychology and queer studies) that doesn’t make this connection any less valid. Asexuality is not a mental disorder just as homosexuality isn’t a mental disorder. From a queer studies perspective, science needs to be queer. It cannot be masked as queer but rather needs to be shouting queer from the rooftops in order to really make a change.

-MAKluz

A Backyard Memorial to Those Who Couldn’t Swim

Blog, Photography, Poetry, Uncategorized

A Backyard Memorial to Those Who Couldn’t Swim: I’ve been cheated on, felt not good enough, hurt, and ghosted by people I thought cared, and so to process these emotions after living and reliving them for the past 4 years, I decided to create this memorial with one of my best friends and fellow photographers, Lily Haddox. Her and I collected mementos, created the memorial, then watched as it burned to signify a new beginning. Through poetry, creative process, digital, and film photography (coming later), here are the beautiful results. Rest in peace, I won’t miss you.

Click here to see my exciting new joint project with Lily Haddox! I’m pretty proud of the results! 🙂

Exciting Updates!

Blog, Uncategorized

I’ve added a variety of items including some film photography, paintings, and drawings as well as some personal exercises in drawing, photography, painting, etc. I’m still getting a feel for how I want my website to look and feel so there are some slight changes to that as well. I’m getting very excited with how rounded my site is becoming so please check everything out, leave feedback, follow for updates, and like and share with friends!

-MAKluz

Finding Myself: Better Understanding the Artist

Blog, Writing
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(Madeline Kluz; Canon EOS Rebel t3; 2017)

Everyone told me that I was going to go through the process of finding myself once I headed off to college. I nodded and secretly thought “but I already know who I am”. As I headed off to Eastern Michigan University for the first time, I was stuck in this mold of who I was and wanted to be as a senior in high school. I rebelled a got a nose piercing which was one of the first steps of me finding myself. Through my first semester at school, I truly felt like I was myself. I had settled into my sexual identity and was confident with that part of myself. I was studying psychology and art which made me feel like I was on the path to doing something great with my life. I was independent and dyed my hair purple. But as the year moved on, my mental health only got worse. Struggling primarily with depression in high school, I never got that under control before moving 3 hours away from home. I went to CAPS (counselling and psychological services) on campus and did what I could to help myself. At the end of my first year, I was in a terrible mental place and somehow lost the person that I thought I found my first semester. Whether I believed it at the time or not, I wasn’t who I wanted to be. Going home for the summer, I decided that things needed to change. I wanted to be healthy again, mentally and physically, and I wanted to be confident in who I was. I took it upon myself to see a therapist, start medications, and accept that I needed help with my anxiety, depression, and OCD. Coming back to school in September, I was finally happy, healthy, and excited to further grow and expand on who I am. I am finally allowing myself to come out and quit hiding who I am for one person or another. My artwork is reflective of who I am, and what I believe and it’s taken me a long time to realize that that’s what makes me a successful artist. It’s not about how “good” your work is, it’s about the amount of passion you put into your artwork. Now, I am an advocate for mental health and I will gladly talk about my own struggles. I am proud of who I am and will tell anyone who asks that I am a queer studies minor and identify as a demisexual lesbian. I am an artist and I will no longer try to create work to please others, but rather, I will create work that pleases me. I know my journey is not over and I will continue to settle into who I am but right now, I am above and beyond proud of how far I’ve come. As a painter, I enjoy letting my paintbrush and emotions lead me in abstract works. As a writer, I enjoy using words with poetry and narrative to express my emotions. As a photographer, I use film to focus on detail and portraits and digital to focus on details in ways other people don’t necessarily see. As an artist, I am emotional with my works because emotion fuels my passion. As a person, I am finally me.

-MAKluz