art by: Jerome Lawrence shadow voices: finding hope in mental illness
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Vonada (Vonnie) Williamson

Vonada (Vonnie) Williamson
Vonada (Vonnie) Williamson

I was brought up in a family where you don’t show emotion, you know. You don’t show crying, you know your parents love you. You got food on the table, shoes on feet, clothes on your back, and you’re just supposed to know it. You know, no hugging, no, no loving, no “I love you.” Nothing.

So I learned to build a wall when I was growing up.

And I’d been in therapy for quite a long time, and when I got in Readiness Development and IPR, that’s when I started really realizing that I did have an inside to me, and I had to get in touch with my inner child. That was hard to do, because I was taught all those years not to show anything.

I had to learn to talk to people, that it’s okay to show who I am. I am a person, I ain’t the illness, I am the person. And people love me. You know, they don’t love the illness, they love, me, you know, they talk to me.

If you ain’t into your clown, then to me, you might as well not be clowning. I mean if you can’t make somebody laugh, and make somebody forget about their hurts or their pains, or whatever they’re going through, and just let them laugh, you know then what’s the point of doing it. That’s my philosophy: if I can’t make them laugh, then I’m not going to do it. And if I don’t have fun doing it, then why do it?