Today we’d like to introduce you to Alma Gonzalez.
Alma, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Life has always been hard for me and my family. My mother has always worked hard to put food on the table. She might not been able to get a good job because she is an immigrant, but that never stopped her from taking care of my siblings and I. From a very young age, I learned from my mother how to be strong. I saw her get beaten by my father everyday but even though this happened, she remained strong to look after us. Then suddenly once I turned four years old. I was sexually abused by my father from the ages of four through seven. Throughout those years, I had become rebellious and very aggressive and I was doing self-harm so my mom put me in therapy. I was blessed to have a mother who saw the importance of getting me help and believed I was strong. I say this because in the Latinx culture therapy is seen as bad and people think you are crazy especially if diagnosed with a mental health disorder. While in therapy, I spoke about the voices in my head and the monsters I saw I was put under medication right away. Little did anyone know I was showing symptoms of schizophrenia due to my trauma. Although I was on never ending medications, was hospitalized for suicide attempt twice, and I have been in therapy practically my whole life; I am still currently in therapy. Although throughout the never ending medication and misdiagnosis art was the only thing that made me feel normal. I started drawing from a very young age but took it seriously when I turned 12 because I realized I could fully express myself through art. When I drew, my voices were silent and I saw no monsters in sight. No one really knew I heard or saw things and the reason was I was afraid to get locked up in some hospital.
Furthermore, I honestly felt ashamed of who I was because when I would open up about it people in my community would say she is possessed or witchcraft is being done on her. I was alone and no therapist or psychiatrist could tell me why I had these experiences. The only thing that made me feel safe from the outside world was art. The words schizophrenia were always being thrown at me but every professional would say I was too young to be diagnosed. When I finally turned 20 years old, I was diagnosed with not only schizophrenia but also with anxiety, PTSD, depression, and bulimia. After all that, I decided that I needed to share my story/experience with the world by creating an art account on Instagram. I wanted people to feel inspired and to know that they are not alone. My art not only helps me cope with my mental health but I hope that I could somehow help destroy the stigma around mental health. I began my journey by going to echo park every Saturday to sell my art and talk to people about the stories behind my artwork. Most people are very supportive and some people have come up to me and have said that everything is my head and have also compared schizophrenia like being on drugs. Although the negativity is hard to take it doesn’t stop me from making sure people know that mental health is important.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has definitely not been a smooth road for me at all. I went from having a job to becoming disabled. Furthermore, I have schizophrenia episodes and they can happen anywhere at any time. If it wasn’t for my loved ones, the random people who see me selling at the park on Saturdays saying keep going, and most importantly my art, I don’t think I would be here.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with 20shadesofsugar – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
My little art business is to help others understand the importance of mental health as well learning how to keep pushing forward when things get tough. I only draw female characters because they are seen as week or less than in the eyes of society. So I draw them to represent visibility and demonstrate their strength. I am a mixed media artist but I also do a lot of watercolor art. The thing I am most proud of from my little art business is that people from all over the world see my art and reach out to say thank you for giving us a voice and that because of people like me, they feel less alone. The thing that sets me apart from many artists is that my work is filled with so much emotion but also I’m not in it for the likes, the followers, and/or purchases what I want is to give people hope that things will get better. I want them to feel inspired and to know that they matter.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
My plans for the future is to someday become an art therapist for children who have gone through traumatic experiences. I am looking forward to my art business growing and meeting new people.
- Address: 333 S Union Ave apt 6
Los Angeles, CA 90017
- Website: www.etsy.com/shop/20shadesofsugar
- Phone: 2139096187
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: 20shadesofsugar