BY MEADOWLARK MONAGHAN
I think for me it starts with college. It was the 80’s, and people weren’t talking about mental health. Especially not guys, and not college athletes. I thought I was losing my mind, and I didn’t know who I could talk to about it. Eventually, I got a diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I did the whole gamut: exposure therapy, medication, exercise, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Each played an important role in getting better, but I still felt like I needed something else. A release.
Then, like 20 years ago, a friend suggested painting. I had never painted before in my life, but I was so desperate I didn’t even stop to think if it would help or if I would be good at it. On my way home I stopped and bought supplies, and I was painting that night. The craziest part was that it worked! I felt good. I noticed my worries decreasing. When I painted I had control and new way to show people how I was feeling.
I started feeling really good, and I knew I had a responsibility to share that with others. I went back to the art supply store and loaded up a cart full of supplies, and went back to the hospital I had received my treatment at. I went to the children's intensive care unit and told them my story, and shared how painting had helped me. That was really the moment it all came together. I was connecting with these kids, and I knew there was something to this. There’s something about creativity and storytelling that is so powerful. Now we have a studio, a talented team, and real programming. But that’s where it started, it was just an idea and a bag of art supplies.
PeaceLove has been our project for the last ten years now, and we’ve been lucky to have what we do grow and change over time. Our mission has always been to find a way to take what painting gives me and find a way to share that with the world. Along the way, we want to create a space where people feel comfortable to be honest about their feelings.
Today, we train frontline professionals to facilitate our expressive arts programming with their populations. Currently, our workshops are run in schools, hospitals, and prisons, just to name a few places. Our workshops span all types of mediums and forms. Some use painting, some use instruments. We use our workshops to bring creativity into people’s day. Our programming invites reflection and opens conversations around mental health.
I think that creativity is a critical part of our DNA- our makeup as people. The “flow state” you know, being in the moment- It’s invigorating. I think creativity is as important to our health as the air we breathe.
When I talk about making mental health “cool,” I mean making it cool to talk about- cool to take care of. Before I started painting and began this journey, I wasn’t around people who were talking about their mental health and taking care of themselves. I’ve always been interested in design and style. I knew mental health needed a positive movement. But in order for people to rally behind it- it had to be cool.
Peace. Love. Both halves of our name are based on radical acceptance. Both are concepts that have become so common I think we’ve kind of forgotten how powerful they are and what they really mean. In our workshops, a lot of emotions come up. People share really sensitive things. Our whole system is based on radical acceptance. We see you, and we love you.
I think this moment has been a long time coming. More than ever, we’re seeing how mental health impacts every population, and it’s because people everywhere have been brave enough to come forward and admit it’s something that affects them. It’s not taboo anymore. We’re finally at the point where we can begin to address this problem because we’ve named it- and that’s huge.
That I’m not perfect, that it’s okay I’m not perfect, and that I can’t be in complete control of everything that happens in my environment or to the people in my life.
If we can muster up the strength to accept things then we don’t have to fight them- they can just be. It’s easier said than done of course, and I’m still working on it myself.
I see PeaceLove being recognized as a powerful tool that’s approachable and accessible and can help millions of people find peace of mind.
Painting. I have a standing appointment to paint at least once a week.
Embrace the power of creativity.
My favorite podcast as of late is called ‘Crimetown.’
I grilled steak.
A piece of my birthday donut cake.
I said it was too cold and that I didn’t want to sit outside for dinner.