American poet, artist, musician and mental health campaigner Laura Konowal writes about her ongoing struggles with anxiety and bipolar disorder in her own lyrical style…
Two themes clearly stand out in Laura’s life: education and creativity.
Laura’s creative outlets have been diverse and many, including music (singer, guitarist, songwriter), art (drawing, creative writing, computer graphics), photography (mainly birds and nature; Laura is an avid Birder), and sports (tennis, basketball and general fitness).
After college, Laura chose to immerse herself in education, teaching 6th grade students in Math and also English. She enjoyed a very successful career, receiving awards for ‘Most Valued Educator’ in 1997 (nominated by one of her students, when they became a senior, 2nd in her class, who felt Laura impacted them most during their education) and ‘Teacher of the Year’ in 2002. She also obtained her Master’s degree in curriculum & education with a specialization in math in 2005.
From a young age her musical ability rose to the surface and she taught herself guitar and began writing songs from the age of 12. Being a teacher was an ideal setting to incorporate her love and ability in music. She wrote songs to help her students learn difficult lessons, and also wrote and produced musicals, focusing mainly on environmental issues, for many years for her students to perform annually. Programming and playing the keyboard, though to a lesser degree than guitar, Laura has written 100+ songs and produced several cd’s, and has had one studio cd (which had a single that was in rotation on local radio stations) mainly centered on her faith at that time. She gave concerts and performances.
Concurrent with her career, Laura, an athlete herself winning numerous tournaments in tennis, coached men & women’s Highschool tennis and Middleschool women’s basketbal, the former of which she received the ‘Division 1 Mens Tennis Coach of the year’ for Ohio in 1999. Laura ended her 10 year tennis coaching career with a 305-67 winning record.
Laura retired on disability after teaching for 22 ½ years, due to her progressing illness of treatment resistant BiPolar II (though Laura still takes a number of medications), which was diagnosed in 2003. Since then she has continually educated herself and others when possible on the issue of mental health.
In June 2017 Laura was diagnosed with breast cancer. She took her diagnosis, mastectomy and treatment in stride.
Living with diagnosed BiPolar II, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Anxiety Disorder is a huge challenge, but fortunately her creative abilities still allow her a variety of outlets, including volunteering for charities she supports, making photo books and other photo items & creations, many of which she has donated to benefit a cancer respite home charity, the Eilidh Brown Memorial Fund (eilidhbrown.co.uk).
Laura lives in NE Ohio with her wife (together for 30+ years) and dog, who all love walks in nature, traveling throughout the US and to England, and watching movies. She also has a wicked sense of humor and makes a concerted effort to live a life anchored in kindness, loyalty and being compassionate and caring – you never know what others are going through.