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Rising Stars: Meet Ashley Wright

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashley Wright.

Hi Ashley, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I’m an emerging artist from Redlands, CA who focuses on mental health awareness and awareness for CPTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

My artistic journey began at a very young age and I have spent most of my life drawing, playing in band, orchestra, and doing theater. Throughout all these wonderful activities I got to do as a kid I was experiencing neglect, abuse, starvation, narcissistic abuse, homelessness, and helping care for my disabled single father who had cancer. Right after I graduated high school, my father passed suddenly and I was left completely alone. After my father’s passing, I struggled even more to survive while working three jobs and trying to complete my BA in Music. A year after his passing, I was placed on a 5150 hold and taken to a BMC for Suicidal Ideation. For the following five years, I struggled with many different diagnoses, pills, and mysterious illnesses. I also ended up in a narcissistic abusive relationship, experienced sexual assault and rape. I began to lose the sense of everything around me including what day it was, who I was, and where I was. Life felt like a dream. It always kind of did for me but I felt more lost than ever. But I pushed it away. I finished up my music degree and decided to push through grad school.

At the start of my grad school semester, I was officially diagnosed with PTSD and was told about an even more serious form of PTSD called CPTSD, which is not formally recognized. I had a therapist tell me that my life experience at 24 was double my age. My 1st semester in grad school ended with me once again hospitalized but this time for Mononucleosis and a Kidney Infection. I knew at this point I had to stop and heal. In the three years since grad school, I spent countless hours learning to take care of myself and heal. Painting became an incredible outlet for me to show the world how Derealization and Dissociation have affected me. My paintings focus on the change in perception someone may have with CPTSD. The world is unfamiliar to you and shape, size, texture, lighting, and composition in my paintings leave many feelings off and for some completely safe. I hope to bring awareness to CPTSD and show others that healing is possible, it takes time, and that there is beauty in it.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Some of the biggest struggles to becoming an artist and figuring out where I fit in and who I am came from my struggles with understanding my mental health. It started with my first 5150 hold when I was 19. I had been working two jobs and had a full class load and no support at home. I was suicidal and didn’t want to spend the rest of my life struggling as hard as I had been. I spent nearly 7+ years in therapy and was given many clear diagnoses and some wrong diagnoses. Throughout that time, I was trying to balance survival and putting myself through multiple jobs and school. I struggled on so many different medications that weren’t helping me and worsened my mental health. Fighting to heal me while also learning how to function wholely again was a feat within itself. It wasn’t until I received my PTSD diagnosis that I truly began to understand what was happening in my body and allowed me to regain a sense of power.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
As a mental health artist, all of my paintings are based around the struggle of Dissociation, Derealization, Depersonalization, and Maladaptive Daydreaming. Dissociation disorders are a cornerstone for those with CPTSD and other more serious mental health challenges. Dissociation disorders warp your perceptions and can make it difficult to connect to reality and feel safe. My paintings include highly vibrant nostalgic colors and textured imagery. A lot of my paintings aim to break rules of perception and balance by adding different elements of style, texture, size, and shape. These changes in perception are very minute and allow viewers to feel a connection and safe space while also feeling disconnected and off. The majority of inspiring imagery for my paintings includes old sci-fi nostalgia paired with familiar landscapes and terrains local to Southern California and places I have explored.

Through my artwork, I aim to raise awareness for CPTSD and allow others to connect to my experience with this mental health challenge. I hope my artwork can provide a safe space for others just like it has for me.

I am most proud of myself for getting out there and sharing my art with the world. It can be so incredibly daunting to share something so personal to your heart to the world. You never know how you’re going to be perceived or how it will present new challenges for you mentally. But it is the most rewarding thing in the world to have others connect so deeply with your art and be proud of what you do and look up to you for inspiration.

What would you say have been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
Learning to trust me. Having CPTSD and going through the traumas I have been through have absolutely decimated my self-esteem and confidence. Being an artist, you need to learn how to be your biggest cheerleader no matter what and to trust the decisions you make and build upon the mistakes you’ve made. It’s a journey that doesn’t happen overnight and you need to be gentle and patient with yourself. There’s no rush to the finish line and enjoying where you are at in life is so important to your overall happiness. If I could go back to my younger self and give her advice, it would be to be as gentle and patient as you are with the world and people around you. And to not lose sight of what you really want to do and make it happen.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Image of me holding painting goes to credit: Gabriela Toth all images of paintings taken by me, Ashley Wright

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