July 8, 2020

Portraits in the Sky – My Coping Journey

CW: This article contains mentions of trauma and mental illness

As I’ve grown older, I’ve started to know who I am and what works for me. It took a lot of work. In middle school and the beginning of high school, I faced some bad trauma. These years caused me to develop a plethora of issues (shoutout to the old noggin), and with this, I needed to find ways to make it through the day. 

Sophomore year of high school, I was waiting outside for my grandmother to pick me up. This was the first time I had sat outside in a while, so I was taking it all in. I looked up through the leaves of the tree I was sitting under, and I kept catching glimpses of these beautiful clouds. I could see the dimensions, the puff, the thin and wispy lines around gigantic pillows of white. I felt amazing. Ever since that day, I’ve relied on the sky to give me a release from all my negative feelings. 

April 30, 2020 Original photo by Kass Ricketson

The pictures included in my article were all taken by me on some of my worst mental health days within this past year. It’s a nerve-racking thing; displaying your most vulnerable moments. But, if it can help or inspire others, I’m there for it. 

So why clouds? Don’t you see the sky all the time? The answer is yes, I do. When I need an outlet for my emotions, I focus my thoughts onto pointing out every tiny little detail in the clouds above. Just like a painting in a gallery, the sky reveals deep strokes and colors and movement. 

 After allowing myself to focus on one task, I’m usually in a better place than where I started. My next step is to try and put myself into an open headspace. Often my trauma causes me to hyper fixate and shut down, so opening everything back up is important to coping. 

I do this by imagining I’m in a gallery. First, I mentally frame the clouds I see. Then, I explore every twist, curve, brushstroke, the shine of fresh paint, the blending of the colors and the build-up you get from layering so many elements. My favorite scenes are ones with purples, pinks and yellows, all intertwining to create pastel blooms of clouds. This stage is usually when I take my pictures. It helps me visualize all the details. July 13, 2019 Original photo by Kass Ricketson

After visualizing this fixed, framed image, I put down my phone and just look at the sky. By taking away the limits my phone shows me, I see an open and expanded version of what I had been fantasizing. No details are lost, in fact, the clouds look more intricate and elegant without the frame. They’re allowed to freely move and exist in this infinite space that I get the honor of living under. This is what helps me open-up and get out of my mental “frame”. 

My appreciation of the clouds is definitely a metaphor inside a metaphor inside a metaphor that can get very complicated and overwhelming. Yet, it’s still one of my best coping mechanisms I’ve found. 

I know that my trauma will be with me until my days are done. This is a scary reality. But the sky is also a part of that reality. It is a positive constant that keeps me grounded, and I will forever look to the clouds for help. I hope this helps someone out there. Just remember that you’re stronger than your trauma, and you will find ways to cope so every day gets a little easier.

May 20, 2020 Original photo by Kass Ricketson