Beth Jukuri learned she was living in denial for 46 years and decided to discover herself through art therapy.
Commentary from Dr. Carolyn Phelps
Beth Jukuri’s story is remarkable! Her personal call to find herself “at 46″ is inspirational and reminds us that any day we decide to change our life we can. We are not bound by legacy or personal history. The courage that Beth and her brother, Carl, show is inspirational; a willingness to honor one’s own truth despite the predicted and realized consequences of losing family members and their church by doing so. Beth’s statement “if you fearlessly accept the darkness, you will get to the point that you can accept the uniqueness of who you are” and her experience of “there’s a happy spot if you push through the dark” is true! In my work not just with trauma and abuse survivors but also with those who have suffered in many other ways – no one has regretted the journey out of the dark. No one has regretted learning about themselves, meeting themselves and being self-accepting. As Dr. Robert Holden of The Happiness Project stated, “No amount of self-improvement can make up for ANY lack of self-acceptance” and Beth provides us with this picture of inspiration and self-acceptance through her own story which she shares both verbally and through her art quilts.
Beth’s story informs us that while we are greatly affected by our experience, our perspective of our experience may change over the years. In fact, those who are able to weather distress and trauma the best do so with an understanding that life is 10% experience and 90% what we do with that experience. This is the essence of Viktor Frankl’s message in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning.”You heard this in Beth Jukuri’s elegant telling of her story. For those who continue to suffer the ravages of trauma and near trauma experiences, therapy can help people reprocess traumatic events (whether those events were incurred in childhood or adulthood) and that reprocessing helps people to understand their experience in a different light, one without shame or guilt or need to deny or cover up one’s own truth in a way that allows one to reclaim one’s self, to reclaim life. If you are a victim of abuse now or have been, there is help available and help that matters wherever you are. Seek out that help, whether through art therapy or more traditional therapy. Talk to a professional who specializes in treating posttraumatic stress and providing trauma informed care. Ask the professional whether they have received specialized training in this area before committing yourself to a specific therapist.
On a final note, Beth talked about the stigma of being called “mental.” OK. Let’s talk about this, particularly in light of the fact that this is the title of this series – a fact that has received its share of criticism. I understand the criticism. I also disagree with the criticism (this is a wonderful country where you get to do that). For me the title “Call Me Mental” is PERFECT. It associates this derogatory phrase – which has grown so commonplace in the popular culture with a REAL human being, boldly stating “Is this what you mean? I’d like to introduce you to a real person whom you are calling “mental.” I’d like you to hear their story. Hear their heart. Now, do you still want to call her that? Are you still afraid? Do you understand yet? Are you aware this could be you or your mother or your girlfriend?
Thank you, Beth and Carl, for your beautiful inspiration.
Carolyn Phelps, PhD, LP
Human Development Center