Healing Through Creative Expression
Chat with Les: An interview with Casey Promise Thompson September 2021
This interview is part of a series of interviews collected for the ongoing column "Chat with Les" by Vocal Media author Call Me Les in the new Vocal Creators Chronicle. The Vocal Creators Chronicle is a free, online magazine that is comprised of authors from 5 continents and 8 countries. Les is both a columnist and a co-founder. Her column presents candid interviews with people from all backgrounds, and aims to examine the finer points in the lives of those around us, such as the humble and talented Casey Promise Thompson, who describes herself as an "omnist, artist, chronic daydreamer & lover of brie."
Find Casey and her extraordinary art online:
If you're a fellow Creator, perhaps you know of Casey's creations and have already read some her poignant and intriguing fictions. Les' personal favourite has to be Casey's entry to the SFS-Pear Tree contest, A Life Pondered.
Q1: What is an average day like for you?
When I first became sick with Autonomic Dysfunction and could no longer work, I spent much of my time in heavy bouts of depression and financial anxiety about my future.
What is Autonomic Neuropathy or Autonomic Dysfunction (Syncope)?
"Autonomic neuropathy is also called autonomic dysfunction or dysautonomia. These terms describe many conditions that cause the autonomic nervous system (ANS) not to work. The ANS controls the body functions that we do not consciously think about: breathing, blood pressure regulation, digestion, temperature regulation, and more." -Cleveland Clinic, 2021
I just sat and watched television, occasionally working at a foot peddler for exercise. I am a Visual Artist, and yes, it was something I now had plenty of time to do. However, art is the last thing I want to make when I'm struggling with mental health issues. Many other artists thrive on it. Me? I almost feel angry at it. The expectations to make it because I wasn't working were even higher, and a part of me fled from that responsibility.
I see lots of doctors, take my medications, do my Aquatic Physical Therapy. I try to be somewhat productive around the house. Unfortunately, I can only do so much on my feet because of my Autonomic Dysfunction. It keeps me trapped indoors when it's too hot. Swimming has been awesome for me. I do spend a lot of time fighting for social security disability and dealing with lawyers, case managers and paperwork. It's a gruelling process.
~Casey discusses more about living with her disability in her article, Disability and Optimism Bias.~
But, as time went on, I started finding other creative ways to get through my slow and mind-numbing days.
That's when I found Vocal.
I had secretly always wanted to write, even though everyone in my life expected drawings and paintings. So, I just started writing about my life or my past and even my pain. Then the fictional short story challenges came along, and it completely changed my life. Not only did I find a new love for writing, but it also sparked my interest in drawing again because I could use my art to illustrate my writing. So now? Now I spend my days dreaming about what to make next…that's when I'm not at a doctor's office or at therapy.
~A recent creation of Casey's that The Chronicle's editors adored is a touching poetic tribute to her wife.~
Q2: What or who inspires you?
My first gut reaction to this question is always music. I love the physical high I get when listening to certain songs. In a way, I’m transported to another place and sometimes, I never want to leave there. It could be Max Richter, Billie Holiday, John Lee Hooker or even Portishead. If it hits that chord in me just right, I’m hooked.
A personal inspiration is my father. His levels of kindness, gentleness and patience are something I’ve never witnessed in someone before. He’s my guiding light, like a lighthouse, now and always. As far as artists and writers? Laurie Lipton is my absolute favourite artist, and if you haven’t seen her work, I urge you to look her up. As far as writers go, I have to say that while I love the wild writings of Neil Gaiman, I emotionally feel more connected to Virginia Woolf….almost as if I knew her in some past life.
And, of course, there are countless Vocal writers that I adore. So many were there for me when I wanted to give up. Many had kind words or advice. I couldn’t be more grateful.
- Aiden Graham Cole
- Lori Melton
- Mike Singleton
- Arpad Nagy
- PJ Jackelman
- And so many others, including you! [Call Me Les]
Q3: Do you feel called to a cause of action? If so, what should readers know about it?
I believe wholeheartedly that the Universe gave me a few creative gifts, and it is my responsibility as a human in society to share those gifts with others. Unfortunately, I often get criticized for giving away my art. I understand why I should sell my pieces, but I get more joy out of giving than receiving. As far as writing is concerned, I feel my gift to others is my honesty. Just like my art, I like to write about how I feel deep down and about the things I’ve been through in life. I want people who are going through similar journeys to be able to see a piece of art or read something written that helps them feel both less alone and maybe even use it as a way to communicate with others who don’t understand. I’m okay if I never become “famous”, as long as I know that I helped just a few people along my path.
Q4: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve read or seen lately?
To be honest? Vocal itself and the Vocal communities on Facebook are my new favourite interests. The people, their stories, the support, the new friendships. I’ve been absolutely wrapped up in these people’s creative journeys, and it’s been amazing. They helped me find more confidence and faith in myself, and what better way to spend my free hours than supporting them back?
~Casey is an active and appreciated member of The Vocal Social Society~
Q5: Why do you write/create? And which genre/subject is your niche?
I make art and write because it was built into my soul. Anyone who's creative knows what I mean. It's something we can't quite define with words or on canvas, but we sure as heck try. It reminds me of who I am deep down. It is just something I absolutely have to do. I don't really think I have one as far as which topics or subjects are my niches. I think I'll always be experimenting and exploring and giving myself space to discover and rediscover. If I had to put a label on my work, I'd probably say I'm more of a Surrealist in both drawing and writing.
6. What is your best creation?
That's a very difficult question to answer. I've created so many different things throughout my life, and I could never pick out one thing that I would describe as my "best". As my life progresses, I'll continue to make better and more beautiful works. Sometimes I'll fail, and sometimes I'll make something really grand. But, if there's anything that I made that I'm the proudest of, it's how I made my way through life and didn't give up. No matter what happened to me, I always put one foot in front of the other and kept going…..even if I felt like I couldn't. It's actually every single sketch and poem and painting and story I've ever made because they are all just stepping stones to bigger and greater things out there for me in this world. Though I will say, I'm very proud of my very first solo art exhibition.
Q7: What's your greatest accomplishment professionally? And, what is your greatest achievement personally?
I wish I had something grander to say about my professional accomplishments. My art exhibitions, sure. But, I never graduated college or had any significant career. And you know what? That’s okay.
Personally? My greatest accomplishment is,
"Every single time someone responds to a work of art or a piece of writing and says, "I understand this. I feel this way too."—that’s everything to me." -Casey Promise Thompson
Q8: How do you pick yourself up after a failure?
The thing about failure is that you can't truly appreciate success and happiness without it. Failure is a necessary part of life. And, while I may not have been my best during my failures, I most certainly was proud to make something out of them.
Life can be really hard for all of us. Yes, some more than others. But, we all suffer and hurt. We have all, at some point, doubted ourselves. Creating work, reaching out to others, getting therapy when I need it and remembering who I am deep down is what helps me crawl out of that doom and gloom. It's also hope. Hope that today's terrifying but temporary failure will soon lead to validation and success. You know how many plants I had to kill 'til I finally learned how to take care of them and nurture them and to ultimately have plants that thrive? Too many to count. Now I love them so much and have more of a sixth sense about what they need. Failure just means you'll make fewer mistakes in the future- and that's kind of awesome.
Q9: What quotes get you through the hard times?
I’d like to pretend that I have all these fancy quotes in my head or on a wall that I use, but I don’t. If I ever need to hear or read anything to help me get through a hard time….I just call or text my father. He’s truly one of a kind.
Q10: What would you like to have remembered about you?
That I tried.
That I did my best.
That all I really wanted was to be kind and good and to know I gave something back to the world.
Q11: If you could have a superpower, what would you choose and why?
That’s easy: to heal. To heal both mind and body.
Why? Because the world desperately needs it.
Q12: What is one message or piece of advice you would give to your fellow humans?
Everything is temporary.
-My favorite musician of all time : Tori Amos
-Favorite movie: What Dreams May Come (cheesy, I know, but it’s how I always envisioned the afterlife)
-I love Star Trek
-I’m a night owl.
-I love stained glass lamps.
-My Spirit Animal: Hawk
-I have a Brie cheese obsession
-Pet peeve: apathy
Touching Tribute to her furbaby Felix:
-I used to love hiking, rock-climbing and kayaking before my disabilities took over.
-I like to dream a lot about winning the lottery and all of the people that I would help, but I’ve never bought a ticket because I don’t know how ��
If you had a theme song that played when you entered the room what would it be and why? First one that pops into your head.
My favorite song: “Aerial Boundaries” by Michael Hedges
Because it’s the one song that most represents me as a person, artist and soul. It’s what reminds me that I’m more than flesh and bone. It’s been my favorite since I was only 9.
And on this high note, Les concludes her interview of the talented, humble and ever-fascinating, Casey Promise Thompson. We at The Chronicle are so pleased to tell her story, and we hope that you, dear readers, enjoyed touring Casey's dreamlike world of art and fiction as much as we did. Casey's favourite charity is Oasis Center. To find out more about them and how you can help or to make a donation, visit their website below.
Previous interview in this series:
First Published September, 2021 by Call Me Les for The Vocal Creators Chronicle.
*Important note: The Vocal Creators Chronicle is not part of the company Vocal Media and we neither represent them nor answer questions on their behalf. We are an independent, Vocal-passionate, writing collective.
About Les & Why She Writes Her Column
"Understanding each other is the foundation for many of the great causes in the world. I can’t champion them all, but, like Dr. Roshdy states, I can make a difference by starting with one. Telling one person’s story, starting small by bringing their passions, frailty, hopes and humor into the world, is a way I can make a difference to many." -Call Me Les
~We are better together~