I’m Dani Kelley,

and I do lots of things.

Journal

All you can do is survive

The final product: calligraphy and hand-lettering by me (with help from Showcase Sans for the smaller text). 2016.

It’s been a rough year so far. There’s been a lot of life changes and personal crises and accomplishments. Lots of good, lots of bad, lots of change.

As a creature of habit, change doesn’t usually bode well with me.

I’ve taken time away from 99% of freelancing work, aside from the occasional lettering commission that I take on only because I want to. I’ve cut out every single thing from my life that isn’t necessary for me to survive — because right now, all I can ever guarantee out of any particular day is that I will survive it.

The circumstances of my life aren’t shameful. And if all I can do is survive, I’ve done more than enough.

Want a free print-ready poster file?

Support me on Patreon by the end of the week, and I’ll upload Saturday morning!

The Stories We Tell: Purity Culture Edition

Purity culture: a definition.

As defined by the excellent No Shame Movement,

Within the conservative Christian context, purity culture is simply the view of any discussion of things of a sexual nature outside of the context of heterosexual marriage as taboo.

Those with in purity culture must adhere to a strict heteronormative lifestyle that forbids most physical contact with significant others, as well as engaging in self pleasure, or holding lustful thoughts about another person that is not a spouse. This view is generally enforced and policed by the family and church community. Purity culture includes an insistence on female modesty and responsibility to shield boys and men from sexual temptation.

To be blunt, purity culture is distinctly religious and sexist at heart. As Dianna Anderson states, “Purity culture is, in brief, the linking of religious piety with virginal status, particularly in young people, and the association of sin and shame with sex.”

As such, it operates with an awful lot of assumptions about the world and how people do and/or should belief and/or behave:

When I must be “The Bad Guy.”

I could explain my thought processes for every step of these various journeys. I’m very prone to explaining and dissecting and hoping beyond hope that I can just make you see why and how, make you see cause and effect, connect dots for you, connect dots for me. I want to feel justified, validated. I don’t want to be The Bad Guy. I don’t want to accept that to so many, I am petulant and over-sharing and running away from problems that could be fixed if I would just try harder.

But I can’t change, even if I tried. Even if I wanted to.*

And so…here I sit. The Bad Guy. It’s not comfortable. I don’t like it. But if this is who I have to be in order to be me, then so be it.

On being kind to myself.

It’s New Year’s Eve, so of course I must write.

Y’all, this year has been hard.

I started the year planning to write more, letter more, draw more, do more. Instead, I started the year barely being able to breathe, and it’s honestly been one health crisis after another.

On the one hand, I’m getting medical care. I have access to good care. That’s amazing.

On the other hand, I’ve been cycling through new meds AT LEAST monthly since the summer, almost ALL of which have had drastic affects on my life. (At least 2 of them made me suicidal, and this latest one has helped my depression but increased the intensity of my migraines. I haven’t been able to be present in a fully-lit room for weeks.)

I feel like I can’t complain. After all, I am getting help. I’m doing a lot better than I was a year ago or two years ago.

But I feel like a failure, honestly.

I haven’t written the way that I want to, because I’ve just been emotionally incapable. I haven’t created nearly as much art as I’ve wanted to, and I’ve only been able to do it in spurts. Most of my days look like me barely making it through the work day before I come home and collapse.

I’m a writer. I need to write. I’m an artist. I need to art. I’m a designer, I’m our only source of income, I’m dealing with a lot of personal life things that are so, so draining.

And it’s December. December is terrible, and historically the month when I am the most hopeless.

I’m trying to be gentle with myself. I’m trying to be kind. But it’s hard. I look and sound healthy, but I’m not. I’m just not. And I don’t know how to manage being kind to myself without driving myself sick with worry over how others will perceive my inactivity and sporadic creation of words and art.

In the words of wise old Bilbo Baggins, “I feel old. Thin. Like butter scraped over too much bread.”

So maybe, in 2016, I can work on beating myself up less for things that aren’t my fault in the first place.

I have chronic migraines. I’m allowed to ask for less noise and fewer lights.

I probably have fibromyalgia. I’m allowed to say that I can’t do activities that require I put myself in a position of being bed-ridden the next day.

I have anxiety, depression, PTSD. I’m allowed to care for myself when these problems arise.

I’m allowed to ask for help, like when I texted Paige at midnight the night I realized one of my medications was driving me to suicide, and when I called my parents the next day telling them something was horribly wrong and they and Paige both took care of me.

I’m allowed to be alone, for my introverted sanity.

I’m allowed to cry when things hurt or are scary. I’m allowed to laugh when things are funny. I’m allowed to not participate in activities I don’t want to do, and I’m allowed to give myself time and space to just be and breathe and recover.

May 2016 be a year in which I choose to be kind and gentle with myself, and therefore give others like me permission to love themselves, as well.

I love you all, so very much. My online communities breathe health and care and love into my life. Your presence, your words, you care and love…they all keep me going. I’m so grateful for you, and I hope to grow closer to you all in this new year as well.

I contain all of me.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my various passions, the segments of my life that sometimes mesh together and sometimes seem not to. There’s been not just a little worry about writing so openly about my mental and physical health problems, particularly on a site that also contains my professional portfolios of work.

It’s difficult for me to really nail down an accurate picture of myself. I know who and how I’d like to be, and how I’d like to be perceived, but despite all my intuition, I can’t often intuit how others actually perceive me. Which, of course, can present problems. Particularly when fighting an anxiety disorder.

What if my writing turns away prospective clients or alienates colleagues? What if my insecurities illegitimize my experience and expertise in others’ eyes? What if they see all my selfies and talk of video games and makeup and think me another shallow millenial? What if my self-preservation techniques are misunderstood? What if my feminism or humanism are seen as obnoxious? What if I am simply not enough of a Normal Adult, and too much…me?

On suicide: when the darkness is too deep.

If you’re suicidal, please be gentle with yourself. Reach out — to friends, to doctors, to the National Suicide Hotline. Sometimes those of us out here in the sea really can support one another until the next life raft arrives.

If you’ve been impacted by someone’s suicide, please be gentle with yourself as well. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.

Please start fighting back against people who think suicide is a joke. Please fight against those who blame people for being unable to stop from drowning when the darkness got too deep. Please fight against the stigma that people who are suicidal need to be ignored or reprimanded.

Please love us. Please love one another.

Sometimes, the darkness is just too deep. But I know that I’ll never forget the people who care enough to really see my situation and help rather than blame.

Let us love and support one another, and let us destigmatize suicide. Let’s help each other stay afloat as long as we can.


This month is National Suicide Prevention Month. If you need help for yourself or for a loved one, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also call 1-800-273-8255. You are not selfish. You are not a waste. You are not a failure. And you are not alone.

The body I have, continued.

Some days, I absolutely rock at self-care. Some days, I don’t hurt as badly and I’m able to function. It’s easy to accept myself on those days, to like my body on those days.

But some days, I look in the mirror and want to scream. Some days getting out of bed without screaming in pain takes so much effort that it’s all I can do to catch my breath. Some days I still want to give up on everything. Some days I’m still overwhelmed with feelings of betrayal about my body, feelings of hatred for it, feelings of moral decay and failure for being unable to attain society’s label of a Good Body.

But you know something?

The body I have is a Good Body. No matter what anyone says or thinks, even on days when I can’t quite believe it myself.

It’s the only body I will ever have. Its shape, abilities, size, and other physical attributes absolutely do not decide my worth as a human being nor my ethics or morals. The hatred I’ve been taught to have for it is what’s immoral. The system that shames women, particularly fat women, particularly fat opinionated women, is what’s immoral. My existence? Nah. My existence in this particular body has no bearing on my morality.