If you are interested in seeing more of Olivia‘s art please visit oliviaboomhowerart.com or find them on Instagram at oliviaboomhowerart
Mixed media collage art by the author, Olivia Boomhower
I spent 17 years of my life growing up in a household where identifying as LGBTQ was a sin. Emotional and mental abuse were regular occurrences, and trying to remain an authentic person at home was nearly impossible. As I got older, I was able to find a community that accepted me and found solace in many relationships where acceptance, love, and support were regular experiences. Since then, it has been quite a journey of learning how to find healthy coping mechanisms to help me recover from this abuse.
Having struggled with mental health issues for so long, I decided to actively engage with counseling and psychiatric help starting in 2019. This commitment to well-being also led me to become a full-time college student, and I was able to graduate from the College of Western Idaho in May 2021 with an AA in studio art. Expressing myself through art has always been a lifeline, but this year, I decided to focus on getting a degree in English to further expand my knowledge in communication and rhetoric. I think that coping through creation is only one aspect of being an artist. On the other side, I have found that writing about my experiences helps me further process what happened and where I am now, shaping my art into something powerful.
Thankfully, I was finally diagnosed with PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder in September 2021. I feel relieved to finally call my experience by a name. I think this relief comes from not having to second guess myself anymore, not having to gaslight myself into believing that everything is my fault. I spent so many hours of my life wondering what was "wrong" with me, wondering why I was so unlovable to my family. Now I understand that these are reactions in my brain to the trauma I faced. There is nothing "wrong" with me; I just experience the world in a different way than other people now. I am deserving of love, happiness, and success, just like everyone else, and I always have been.
I want the world to know that I am not defined by the harm or abuse, nor the fact that I do not fit into my family’s perception of what they wanted me to be. I am the person I choose to be, that I was born to be, and I am proud. I want others to be proud of themselves too, especially my comrades who have a similar diagnosis and/or identify as members of the LGBTQ community.