Heather Hutchison is the Amazon best-selling author of Holding On by Letting Go: A Memoir, and an award-winning singer/songwriter with three albums released to date.
Blind since birth and having struggled with mental illness from a young age, she is passionate about educating people on disability and mental health through her music and writing. Heather is a frequent guest on national television and radio programs and renowned podcasts across the globe to share her message of hope to those who are struggling. In her advocacy work, she has appeared alongside numerous high-profile psychologists, clinical counsellors and other mental health professionals.
An avid traveler, she has spent time living and teaching English in Latin America. Heather lives on the west coast of Canada with her partner Jordan and their cat Maya. When she isn’t writing, playing music or traveling, she can usually be found at the beach, or curled up with a good book and a chai latte.
INCLUDED IN THIS EPISODE (But not limited to):
· Living Life With Blindness and Mental Health Struggles
· Misconceptions About Blind People
· How People Can Teach Us To Dislike Ourselves
· Wrestling With Suicidal Thinking
· Life Inside Of Psychiatric Wards
· A Lesson On Spiritual Understanding
· The Healing Found In Music & Writing
· Why Blood Is NOT Thicker Than Water
· Getting Over Addiction To Family
CONNECT WITH HEATHER:
Website, Books & Music: https://www.heather-hutchison.com/
· Pray Away Documentary (NETFLIX)
o TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tk_CqGVfxEs
You’re listening to the sex drugs and Jesus podcast, where we discuss whatever the fuck we want to. And yes, we can put sex and drugs and Jesus all in the same bed and still be all right. At the end of the day, my name is De’Vannon and I’ll be interviewing guests from every corner of this world. As we dig into topics that are too risqué for the morning show, as we strive to help you understand what’s really going on in your.
There is nothing off the table and we’ve got a lot to talk about. So let’s dive right into this episode.
De’Vannon: Hello hello. Hello, everyone. And happy friends giving. Thank you so much for joining us today on the sex drugs and Jesus podcast. Today, I am super excited to be talking to Heather Hutchison, who is a bestselling author, and also she has cut three albums and she’s also a legally blind. She is the first illegally blind person.
Had on my show and I’m excited to talk about how she [00:01:00] lives her life to the fullest and is not letting anything hold her back. In this episode, we talk about what it’s like living with blindness and mental health struggles. We talk about some misconceptions about blind people, what it’s like to be inside of a psych ward.
And, um, we get into the healing found in music and. We talk a lot about why, why it might be a good idea for people to get over this addiction to family. And a lot of people seem to have so help you enjoy the episode. And I hope you enjoy the time with your true family on today’s.
Heather, thank you so very much for stepping onto the sex drugs and Jesus podcast today, it is such a blessing and such a wonder to have you today.
Heather: Thank you so much for having me.
De’Vannon: Oh, of course. My dear sweets, of course. So we [00:02:00] are going to be talking a lot today about your beautiful book that you wrote.
It’s a memoir it’s called a holding on by letting go. When I, when I hear that title, it reminds me of how in the star wars theories Yoda was telling aniguns ignorant, stupid fucking ass to He said, you have to, you, you must learn to let go of that, which you fear to lose. And he, and he was cause he was heart aching over, over pad may and everything
like that, fucked up the whole galaxy for 20 years
Heather: Yeah. That’s all right. I thought about that before now. Every time I think of that title, I’m going to think of star wars.
De’Vannon: totally, Yoda right there. And I know usually I would start my show and you know, getting my guests to give us a little blurb about who they are and background and stuff like that. But this time I’m going to do it differently because I really, really love the [00:03:00] way the prologue for your book was written.
And so I’m going to read your prologue because I thought, I think it was, I I’ve just never heard of book B, so it’s, it’s a short prologue, but I felt like the content was. and fresh. And I, and I just really think it sums up a lot of the matter. So I’m going to read your background for you through this prologue.
Let we take a moment. So her book opens like this y’all it says, I don’t know. When I first realized my life was optional, something I could hold in my own two hands and take away. When I saw fit, as I lie awake in a dark and hospital room, I scan back through the years, searching for answers and reasons. I may never fully understand.
Maybe it was exposure to mental illness and suicide at an early age. Maybe it was when the problems at home started or an inability, both to learn and innate to [00:04:00] cope with stressful situations. Maybe it was because the school bullies told me I should kill myself. Or perhaps it was growing up faced with frequent discrimination caused by being born blind.
Realistically, it was probably a perfect storm of circumstances that came together with disasters, timing to lead me to this hospital bed. And so I’m going to give you the Nancy Pelosi clap
on that line. And with that, I will hush and let, let you tell us anything you would like to personally about yourself,
Heather: Yeah. So as you said in the prologue kind of does sum it up. So I’m also a singer song writer. I have three albums out so far and I just released this new memoir.
De’Vannon: I think memoirs are fucking awesome.
I have mine coming out whenever we finally get it done. No those bitches [00:05:00] that they long time to write
Heather: Right. And the writing’s like the first dress, the easy part. And then you got to go back through and
De’Vannon: If it’s been about, it’ll be a year about a two year process before it’s all said and done with mine. a friend of mine, a good friend of mine, Theresa Hissong, an author, and she’s written countless books. She told me when the process started, she was like these much easier to write fiction than, than a memoir.
So he was like, this is going to take a while. And she was telling the whole truth. So I commend you on getting yours done and out there for the world to see. Now you have a lot of unique things. You know, you, you were a woman who was living. You know, disabilities, you know, as well as mental health struggles.
So I appreciate your candidness, your willingness to, to tell the truth, but you know, so many people want to act like they got it together. They want to act like they don’t have problems. They want to kind of skirt the issue. [00:06:00] Or if they do say they’re struggling with something, they’re very timid about it, they don’t really get into the gory details, but you know, the healing comes when we’re transparent just by somebody hearing that somebody is going through the same thing that they’re going through can encourage somebody to take another step rather than stopping and giving up right where they’re at.
Heather: I totally agree.
De’Vannon: Even without giving advice, just, just by saying, yes, I have this same problem that you do is enough for somebody to catch a second wind. And
so go ahead.
Heather: no, it’s so true. Like, and I think that’s why I wanted to write this book because I feel like there’s not a lot of info out there really like people, they more want to talk about their recovery, which is great. That should be the end goal. But I remember like when I was going through it, I would read, you know, these posts from influencers or whatever, talking about How they had a really tough [00:07:00] time, but they’re better now.
And it’s like, well, what did, what did that journey even look like? Nobody really wants to talk about the journey.
De’Vannon: How do we, how did we get there? And so I want to talk about a story, the opening story in your book, which I found to be incredibly captivating and it’s PivotTable and it represents so much of us a thing from this story was about how people around us teach us to judge. You were talking about how you were, I believe on a family vacation.
You didn’t, you really, hadn’t not at this point, looked at yourself like somebody who had a problem, you met a kid on a playground, you were just the best of friends you’re running around and everything. And and then he, and then he asked you I’ll make maybe like why you weren’t looking at something and then it kind of goes from there.
Do you want to tell us this story and what you, your experience there?
Heather: Yeah. So like you said before, then I never really considered that society viewed [00:08:00]me as different because you know, you’re, you’re kind of, sort of absorbed as a kid and you’re in your own little world and, you know, I would hang out with my brother and cousins and everything and just do whatever they didn’t.
Nobody really said I couldn’t. So then. This family vacation. I was on the playground. Like you said, with this kid who asked me why I never looked at anything. And I told him super matter of faculty I’m blind. Like, cause it never really crossed my mind at that point that it was anything more than like, oh, I have brown hair and blue eyes.
And his reaction was so immediate and so stunning. So he actually turned around, I was standing at the top of the side, he turned around and he pushed me backwards. So I fell and he yelled something over his shoulder about me being blind and then got on his bike and left. And we had been hanging out like great friends before that.
So it was just this like sudden shift. And I remember laying there kind of going, [00:09:00] wow, like I am different and this is forever. It will never go away.
De’Vannon: Well, fuck him.
Heather: Yeah. And she’s out there and I’m fucking.
De’Vannon: You know who you are, you know what you did,
Heather: He probably doesn’t remember. He is probably an asshole to everyone, but he got it from somewhere
De’Vannon: right? So he, you know, and there’s something in us that can really recoil at things that are different, you know, people that are different, we don’t understand, you know, but when that happens, we have a choice, you know, when that, you know, we don’t have to cater to every emotion that rises up in us. So in that moment, whatever made him uncomfortable about you, you know, he could have in, anybody can do this, that he could have said, okay, wow, this makes me feel uncomfortable.
Gee, I wonder why, you know, and then he could have maybe asked you, what is that [00:10:00]experience? Like, what can I do to help you today? Is there anything you need? opposed to pushing you as they’re screaming, insults and running away,
Heather: Yeah. Yeah.
De’Vannon: he got, he sounds like a Republican.
Heather: Yeah. That’s a good point. It’d be interesting to know his political views this point.
De’Vannon: Yeah. You probably hanging out with someone who’s a Republican Senator now.
But you know, that, that’s what happens, you know, like in the, in the, you know, the gay community and stuff too, people are different, you know? So then we get rejected. Not because we’ve done anything, but just because people have an emotion that arises within them and they don’t know what to do with it or how to process it.
So then it comes out as well. Then we just want to get away from you.
Heather: yes, absolutely.
De’Vannon: And so. There’s not much we can do about people like that. And I feel like that your [00:11:00] audience is similar to mine. It’s like, you know, who is out there? Can we help? Who has been hurt as opposed to going after the, you know, like the asshole kid or the asshole Republican, you know, we, you know, we can’t, we can’t really touch them too much,
Heather: Yeah, you’re not going to change their mind if they don’t want to learn, they don’t want to learn.
De’Vannon: but I think it’s beautiful to be different though, Heather, you know what the fuck is normal any damn way.
De’Vannon: So, but explained to me like, so in case somebody out there is wondering, okay, so if you’re blind, how are you able to run around and, you know, do stuff, you know, all day with him on the playground.
Anyway, if you can’t see. So is it like a partial blindness? Like explain to me how you’re able to.
Heather: Yeah. So it is partial. A lot of people don’t realize that blindness is kind of on a spectrum. They think all or nothing, but so I can see [00:12:00] better in low light, like in, at dusk, kind of. And I can see sharp, like stark contrast between light and dark, things like that. I might be able to see that a person’s standing there, but I would never be able to recognize them.
But I think when you’re a kid you’re so resilient that it doesn’t even really matter. If you can’t see anything, you just kind of run and fall and whatever happens happens. So you don’t really think about it a ton. I think when you’re really little
De’Vannon: Right. And that’s what, and I’m glad you explained that because you know, blindness is on a spectrum, you know, I think about what is it, is it, is it lady, lady Gaga, his grandmother? I think it was, I may have read a story. Like she has a sort of blind that’s like that and And so a lot of the scaffold clad outfits, lady Gaga has, you know, I think caters, you know, from the story that I read or heard [00:13:00] somehow like her, her grandmother can see like the heat signatures and maybe like that, the skin.
De’Vannon: And so like, so by her wearing less, our grandmother can actually see her more.
Heather: I don’t know how some, some people’s grandmothers would feel about that, but I guess it’s a good excuse to not wear very much clothes.
De’Vannon: the grandmothers would totally understand. It’s funny, the grandparents, at least, you know, from my experience, the ones that are more open-minded than the actual parents are.
Heather: Yeah. Yeah. They can be. That’s true.
De’Vannon: Because it was my grandmother. When I was young, I would put on my love talking about like three, four or five years old. I would put on my mother’s heels or little pumps, a little, two inch ones, whenever my parents were gone. And I would put on like an oversized shirt, which is pretty much what I wore. And I put on one of her belts and tied around my stomach and make me a dress
De’Vannon: I put on her shoes.
And I would run around the house, the little shack we lived in, you know, you can’t even call that a house. And I would just [00:14:00] like be a girl and my mother shoes and my grandmother would keep a lookout at the door in case my parents were coming back and give me the signal.
Heather: That’s awesome. Grandparents. They just want to heck whatever makes you happy.
De’Vannon: Yeah. They’ve lived long enough they’re over this shit. It’s like,
Heather: Yeah, it’s true.
De’Vannon: Okay. So, so then let’s, let’s talk about like, so you mentioned. being admitted for psychiatric treatment. What, what exactly are your mental health diagnoses?
Heather: So I struggle with major depression, anxiety and OCD.
De’Vannon: Okay. Wow. Okay. Major depression, anxiety. Yeah, I’ve had, I’ve had all three of those too. And Hmm. So much to work with there. How do you well, tell him, tell him, tell him, tell me what was it like for you being in the mental hospital and what led you there?
Heather: Well, [00:15:00] it’s, it’s hard to put into words really, as I’m sure people can relate to who have been there and everybody always asks you, is it like in the movies? And I mean, yes and no, there is a lot of drama that goes on, but it’s not like constant, there are moments of, of calm, but I mean, you, your freedom is taken away, you know?
Get to make any decisions really for yourself. You have somebody always watching you, especially for the first few days, if you come in on suicide watch. And so I ended up there because in November of 2000, it’s kind of a long story, but in November of 2018, I entered into a major depressive episode that just went on and on and on for months, it didn’t end.
My hair was falling out. I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t sleeping. And I arranged an emergency meeting with my doctor in June because it [00:16:00] just was getting to the point of no return. And I was actually able to stay out of the hospital that time. They just played with my medications. Got me more. Outpatient mental health supports, but then when the pandemic hit, it was like, you know, nobody was seeing people in person anymore.
My doctors and therapists weren’t even seeing people on video call. It was just like regular phone calls. So they never really saw how I was deteriorating and they never you know, it was harder to reach them. So there was a lot less support. And I think I just, wasn’t far enough into recovery that I could manage that on my own.
So I started to think with the uncertainty of everything and my Dick and troll everything that I couldn’t, that the one thing that was left that I could control was how and when I would die. But before I did [00:17:00] that, I decided. You know, as a promise to unspoken promise to my loved ones, I was going to go to the hospital.
And if I wasn’t admitted or if I didn’t feel better, when I got out, I would kill myself and I didn’t really expect or want to get better, even it was more going for absolution, I guess. So that when I was gone, my family and friends would kind of think, well, she tried, but, so I figured if I did get held at all, I didn’t think I would, but I figured if I did, it would be, you know, at the most the 24 or 48 hour psych holds you usually hear about.
But no, it didn’t quite work out that way
De’Vannon: How long were you in for?
Heather: nine days.
De’Vannon: Yeah. That can be a lifetime. Cause you you’ve never been to jail or anything like that before
Heather: No, no. So nine days, yeah, it feels like a long time.
De’Vannon: yeah. That, that, [00:18:00] yeah. It’s like, so y’all what she’s saying. Can’t be, they can’t be overstated when your freedoms are taken from you. I, I think I was in the mental hospital for 12 or 14 days and it’s it’s Just imagine you’re not able to come and go as you, please, if you want to go get a Sprite or a glass of wine, the answer is no, you know, you can’t walk down the street,
Heather: In the psych ward.
Like you, you, and then you know, you around people who are far more crazy than you are know a lot of times. And so, you know, so you’re like, damn, I know I got some problems, but that motherfuck over there really fucked up.
Heather: Yeah. And it’s all out there. They’re a lifer. They’re not getting out of here. I hope.
De’Vannon: I remember they had all the, it was this big, huge plastic, like Mario brothers Lego land furniture, bolted to the ground.
Heather: Yeah, [00:19:00]
De’Vannon: nothing’s movable.
De’Vannon: There’s one guy there that the tiles that like colored little checkers in it and he was trying to move the COVID checkers. Like, yeah, I think he was seeing in 3d
everything really in like Wendy and the standing on the couch, talking to people who weren’t there, you know, you had the guy of course shitting on the floor.
I think you have those in like every , psych ward.
Heather: I think so. Yeah. And then sometimes they play with it. Anyways, just taking that too far.
De’Vannon: You can never go too far. When I was in jail one time, this one girl was telling us that she was definitely a medical case. I think someone had come to see her or something. And then she decided this shit into a water bottle. Cause she didn’t like this person and throw it either on him or in his direction.
And then, then she coined the term, the itty bitty shitty committee.
Heather: Oh, gee, [00:20:00] why is it always shit? I don’t get it,
De’Vannon: Hey, it’s organic,
Heather: I guess. Yeah. It’s all you got, I suppose when they take everything else away.
De’Vannon: No sharp pencils. No nothing.
So no pointy objects.
Heather: no No, cell phone chargers, no shoes.
De’Vannon: No shoelaces
De’Vannon: nothing like that. So you, so we mentioned that the like blind is being on a, in a way, first of all, I’m very glad that you’re still alive and that she was still with us. I’m glad that your, your absolution plan was interrupted that way. And also even more to the point, glad that you understand that, you know, your deliverances and your struggles are not something that had to be kept secret.
I’m glad you get that. You made it out so you can help others make it out.
Heather: yeah, totally. And that’s part of the reason I made it out.
De’Vannon: I think so too with me as well, my sister. So what are some of the other common myths misconceptions about [00:21:00] blindness you’ve explained to us that it’s actually on us, a gradient, like on a scale on a spectrum, you said, is there anything else that are some misconceptions about blindness.
Heather: Are there a ton. But we have super crazy senses. I think like when the movie Daredevil came out of that kind of ruined my life. Cause everyone’s like, oh, do you see butter in the rain or whatever? I can’t even remember it. Cause I don’t actually even think I saw the movie, but I think it was something like that. So senses, no, we don’t have these like crazy, super human senses. They’re not really any better than yours. They’re just way more developed. We learn to use them more effectively, but they’re not like super human I wish. Cause that’d be cool.
De’Vannon: So you can’t hear a pin drop in the water, like a mile away.
Heather: No, probably not. I can smell a Starbucks from a few blocks away.
De’Vannon: Okay. So then, so like all the senses are heightened [00:22:00] relative to somebody who would have them all, but in different blind people. So like somebody might have stronger smelling, you might have stronger here and somebody else might have stronger, you know, touch. So even amongst the line, people there’s, you know, one might develop even more, you
know, in somebody.
Heather: Yeah, I think so. And it’s just, it’s just practice. That’s all it is. We’re not like born with something different than everybody else says.
De’Vannon: Yeah. All right. So with that, any other misconceptions?
Heather: Gosh, how can you pick just one that we don’t dream.
De’Vannon: are, you can talk about as many as you would like my dear. You said you don’t dream.
Heather: Yeah. That’s I don’t know a lot of people think that, but yeah, we do. And people always ask, do you see in your dreams? No, but it’s kind of weird because in my dreams I’m like, never, like I can be in these unfamiliar environments, but there’ll be like totally familiar to me, like my own house. So I never use like a cane or a [00:23:00] dog or anything in, in my dreams, even if I’m in like a place.
I don’t know. So that’s kind of weird.
De’Vannon: So you’re saying you do.
Heather: Oh yeah, totally. Yeah.
De’Vannon: do during the misconception that some people think blind people don’t dream.
De’Vannon: Okay. So I guess, I guess some people think since you can’t see anything, you wouldn’t have anything from which to form a dream. But what you’re saying is that even though you don’t see like other people do or in some blonde people, can’t see it all you dream you’re dreaming and perfect clarity.
Heather: yeah. Not so much visually. It’s so hard to explain, just, you know, I don’t need there’s none of those barriers. So I don’t need, maybe it’s just lack of like total inhibition. I don’t know. But there’s none of that, like, oh my God, I need, I need my cane right now. Cause I’m gonna like fall over or some shit or something like that.
I just know in my dreams, it’s really weird.
De’Vannon: All right. [00:24:00] Cool. So. Until we say. So we’ve talked about getting, you know, checked into the mental hospital and everything. The plan to do the suicide, which didn’t happen. Can you tell me though, when you first have it started having struggles with depression and anxiety, what was going on in your life to, to, to bring you down to that?
Heather: Yeah. It started super early for me. I would say by seven, the anxiety was pretty well developed. There were some family struggles. My dad had cancer and then he actually left. And so there were things like that going on as well. I was starting to really realize that?
people were not, not all people, but that there were some people that were uncomfortable around me.
My classmates were kind of starting to realize it as well at that age. So I would get sick a lot at school and have to be sent home. [00:25:00] I would have panic attacks, but I didn’t know what they were obviously at the time. And the depression, I think kind of started in my early teens as a reaction to that anxiety because who wants to feel like that all the time.
So you’re kind of looking for a way out of it.
De’Vannon: Yeah, I mean, Growing up, you know, with all the hormonal changes and things like that that are going to naturally happen. And then I have, you know, you know, blindness thrown in on top of that, and then, you know, a parent to abandoned you, you know, as well, you know, do you feel like all of these struggles have made you stronger though?
Heather: I think so. Yeah, because I mean, I’m pretty grateful for where I am today and, you know, he kinda think about it like a, choose your own ending book and like, wow, if I’d turn that page, what would have [00:26:00] happened differently? Where would I have been? And I think that to lead me to this point, when, you know, I’ve gotten to do quite a few things that I wanted to do, you know, I released three albums.
I wrote this book and things like that. You know, I needed material to write a vote for those albums and for the book and things like that. So I think, yeah, I think all of that was kind of leading to, to this moment and to get to do those kinds of things.
De’Vannon: Oh, absolutely. And the beautiful thing Heather about it, you know, now that you have the book written in the music, you know, those things will outlive you. So it’s a, it’s a great testimony. So people, as long as this earth remains, you know, your voice will be a contributing factor to people’s healing and deliverance.
And so it’s, it’s a gift that keeps on giving,
Heather: yeah, I hope so.
De’Vannon: And so, but when [00:27:00] did you first know that you wanted to, to write a book though? Like when did it hit you? Like, you know what, it’s time to put this pin in the paper for this.
Heather: So people were telling me for years, like, oh, you should write a book. And I’m like, what the hell would I write a book about? Like, I didn’t really feel like I had anything to say. And then a couple months before I went into the hospital, I was talking to my therapist and I was like, you know, I could write a book about all this stupid shit people Do and say, because I’m blind and he, he kind of looked at me and went, well, maybe you should.
And I kind of dismissed it. And then I was in the hospital actually, and I was laying awake one night. I couldn’t sleep. And somebody was brought in by air, ambulance in critical condition. And so I’m laying there listening to all this stuff going on, you know, there was the code blue called and everything like that and kind of going like.
Those peoples that, that person’s family must be [00:28:00] having one of the scariest nights of their lives. And then I thought, well, how come I can feel so much compassion for their loved ones? And like, I know that the choice that I want to make will devastate my own and you know, this person in the bed would, they want to trade places with me if they could, because I have a choice and they’re fighting to live right now and I’m fighting to die.
And it just kind of was like at this cross rate roads of like I knew in that moment that I had to make a decision, I was either going to live or die. And if I was going to live, I had to make this pain mean something. I had to turn that pain into purpose to try and help other people, because I think the most painful thing of what I went through, honestly, I was thinking about somebody else having to go through that as well.
So, you know, if I could reach even one person and, you know, take away a little bit of [00:29:00] that pain for them, then, you know, living was worth it. So that’s when I started actually trying, you know, working with the doctors and therapists actually being an active part of my treatment plan and things like that.
So I could get well enough to leave the hospital and tell my story in this book
De’Vannon: Do you feel like maybe that individual had whatever happened to them and it was airlifted and all that code blue happened, you know, in part to get your.
Heather: kind of. Yeah. Like, I don’t know. I, you know, some people might say, oh, that’s crazy or whatever, but I think, I think things. Do sometimes happen for a reason. I hate when people say that when there’s like some awful tragedy and somebody dies or something and oh, everything happens for a reason. But I think some things are, I think some people get put in our paths right when we need them.
And I think this person did for me. [00:30:00] And fortunately I was at a moment where I was ready to receive that because I think if somebody else had told me about that, or if I had read that in the news or something, you know, it wouldn’t have affected me So, much as actually being there. So yeah, I do think that fortunately, that person was there and I was fortunately in a place that I was ready to receive that, that lesson or that message.
De’Vannon: So, what we’re talking about here is a, is like having spiritual understanding. So to what we’re talking about is like the one person might look at what happened and say, okay, well, people are gonna drop into emergency rooms all the time. You know, you’re in a hospital anyway, how could that be assigned to you personally, but for people who have spiritual understanding and who can listen to the signs and who have their hearts open to receive such things, you know, that I [00:31:00] can look at this and go, okay.
I don’t believe that that was accidental, that you were in the hospital that night. When somebody in a circumstance with your state of mind came in, puts you on a different trajectory.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely.
De’Vannon: So somebody, you know, what spiritual understanding is going to look at that and go, okay, God made that happen. Or, you know, some spiritual force that they, they don’t want to believe in God or whatever, you know, the notes say, you know, this is a spiritual thing.
You know, it happened this way for a reason, this was not an accident. Look, she’s had three albums and a book now, you know, this was a pivotal moment for her. And, you know, in the, and they’re in, is a different. So so I encourage people to check this, you know, their level of spiritual understanding and perhaps consider looking at things from different perspectives and finding, you know, connections there and see what’s speaking to you when you have unusual things happen to you.
So talk to me about what it’s like [00:32:00] being blind and living in different countries, because in what all countries have you lived in.
Heather: I’ve lived in Peru and I spent a lot of time in.
Mexico. I feel like I’ve practically lived there because I like I’ll spend three weeks here a month here, that sort of thing. But I actually lived in Peru for an extended period of time.
De’Vannon: So do people treat blind people differently? They have is you have a different experience where they nicer, where they meaner, what I mean, you kept going back. So I guess it was good.
Heather: Yeah, probably wouldn’t go back if they were meaner. I’m going to make some huge generalizations here and there only generalizations, but I think like I’m in Canada and I think the U S is pretty similar in that people tend to have one of two responses when they meet me either they try to completely avoid the topic of me being blind.
And it actually gets to the point where it’s [00:33:00] like uncomfortable, because you can tell that they want to ask and they want to know more, but they won’t, or they try to pretend they’re totally cool with it by cracking jokes and things like that. And I like a good blind joke as much as the next person, but I’ve heard them all a thousand times.
People are not actually that original, but in contrast people in Latin America, they tend to observe far more. So Yeah, in general, they can be more intuitive, I guess, and kind of Intuit what I might need and how I might need help or not need help without making like a big awkward deal about it. They’re just way more like casual about the whole thing and way more casual about differences.
I think in general, they, they kind of are more accepting of adversity and willing to meet people where they’re at.
De’Vannon: So basically they just have a natural flow about it. [00:34:00] Do they teach you.
Heather: yeah, exactly.
De’Vannon: Unless this is something since situation might warrant some sort of change. But other than that, they just there’s just cause they’re just cool about it.
Heather: Yeah. Yeah. It’s not even something they really think about.
De’Vannon: So I wonder what that speaks to the internal nature, you know, cause you know, we can’t give away what we don’t have. So in order for them to be that cool and that chill with you, that lets me know that they’re, that they’re strong and well composed on the inside, you know, for them fucking Americans and.
Heather: and Canadians.
De’Vannon: Well, I’ll let you say that. I haven’t been, I haven’t been off of a plane in Canada. I’ve been through, through there on planes before. So you could say fucking Canadian and my gosh now I’m getting, I’m getting South Park flashbacks. Sheila Broflovshi south park, the movie, she hated the Canadians.
They had the whole blame, [00:35:00] Canada, blame Canada, things like everything’s gone wrong since Canada came along.
So that whatever that speaks to the, like the internal state of being with Americans, you know, in Canadians, you know, sometimes it seems like some of the richest countries, which, you know, America is just like, like the most fucked up character.
Heather: Yeah, it’s true. I mean, I love Americans, but yeah, it’s a little, a little messed up.
De’Vannon: Oh honey, this, this country has a long way to go in terms of actually showing love to a diversity of people.
Heather: Yeah. And so it is Canada.
De’Vannon: You know, the love of country, the big, big thing with people, especially Latin Americans,
Heather: [00:36:00] Yeah,
De’Vannon: love of country, and futball
Heather: yeah, yeah. And food,
Heather: they take food pretty seriously.
De’Vannon: I take food pretty seriously.
Heather: I do too, but I don’t know, like compared to like Mexico or the rest of Latin America, like we got nothing. Like what food do we really have? That’s like ours, like hamburgers or grilled cheese. I don’t know.
De’Vannon: American. Yeah. Hot dogs, popcorn, baseball type shit.
Heather: Yeah. Same here.
De’Vannon: I don’t know. I eat everything off the ocean myself. I love a lot of seafood.
Heather: Oh, sushi. Do you like sushi?
De’Vannon: Yes. I love everything. Japanese I’m studying Japanese. I that’s
that’s that’s the country. I would move to whenever I get ready to abandon this,
this, this, this, this place here. And so what are some of the [00:37:00] positives of being blind? I don’t think that when people look at blindness, they really think very much a good can come out of it.
So what, what are some of the positives
Heather: I can put makeup on without a mirror.
De’Vannon: you hear that? And drag Queens, no mirror needed.
Heather: No, exactly. I think there’s, there’s lots of things. You get, I don’t know, like you maybe learn to be not, not every blind person, but maybe we learned to be a little bit more empathetic. We had to ride the bus for free in, in most places. We, what else we get to skip in lines a lot, which like, I don’t really know how I feel about that because on one hand we want to be treated just like everyone else.
But on the other hand, we get special accommodations and I, I kind of [00:38:00] struggle with that one a little, but I guess that could be seen as, you know, one of the positives.
De’Vannon: Yeah. Hey, you got to take what you can get in this life.
Heather: It’s true. It’s true. Like, I don’t ha I don’t need a nexus card to cross the border, which is nice. Cause those things are expensive, but I get to go in the next, this line anyways.
De’Vannon: You see them there, there, there could be somebody blind out there who didn’t know about those
Heather: yeah. Maybe or someone who’s going to go on the internet right now and buy a white cane. No, don’t do that.
De’Vannon: And so his comment, his knowledge is, you know, not, it’s not really, you know, that doesn’t mean necessarily when knows it, you know, so little stuff like that. I didn’t know, you know, that blind people get the ride, the bus for free and most places are about crossing the border hat. And I had no idea.
And so when there could be a parent of a blind person out there trying to figure out, you know, what to do and how to do it, and that information that you gave them, [00:39:00] my just opened some new doors for them.
Heather: Yeah. There certainly are little perks you learn about them.
De’Vannon: Those things can go a long way, especially somebody who’s struggling financially. I’ve been broken up before when I was homeless, I couldn’t afford the 50 cents or a dollar 15 or whatever it was to catch the bus.
Heather: Yeah. Yeah. That’s true.
De’Vannon: You know, it’s a
Heather: Other, there are definitely people who do fake it.
De’Vannon: oh, you don’t, you’re not necessarily carrying some sort of credential, like a, I dunno if there’s a way to prove it or anything.
Heather: Supposedly there’s a card. I have it mine’s like five years expired. Nobody ever asked me for it. They see the cane and they’re like, oh no, you’re good.
De’Vannon: And so you mentioned a white cane, is that, is that a color specific for people who are blind?
Heather: Yeah, it’s kind of the most recognized symbol, I guess the, the white cane [00:40:00] means blind person. You can, I think get different colors now, but it’s just like super recognizable, you know, somebody sees a white cane and they’re like, oh yeah, that person’s blind?
De’Vannon: Okay. That’s another thing I didn’t know. But I suppose I could, you know, maybe could have figured it out in the situation, you know? Cause when I hear white cane, I’m thinking like, you know, a pimp walking in the club and you know, with like a white fur coat and a white
Heather: Very different interpretation. But yeah, I didn’t see that.
De’Vannon: perspective is everything.
So how did, how do, how did, how has your music helped you with your, you know, desire depression and anxiety and everything like that over the years, talk about how your [00:41:00] music has been therapy for you and what techniques have worked for you the best to help you manage your mental health.
Heather: So, I mean, I kind of grew up singing. I would take like this old heavy tape recorder around with me everywhere when I was like five and just like make up songs all the time. And it was always kind of helpful to like exist in my own little world, I guess when things got to be too much and kind of live in that fantasy world of writing songs and stories and things like that.
And then as I got older into my teen years and I felt more isolated. I started writing, I guess, more serious songs. And it was just, it’s very therapeutic, very comforting to sit down at the piano and really talk through, I guess, what I was feeling. And then when I was 15, I entered a talent competition and one of the judges for [00:42:00] the finals actually came up to me backstage and was like, Hey, I’m a producer.
We should do some recording together. I didn’t actually think it would ever happen. But three weeks later we were in the studio recording and the studio like that first day in the studio was like, my God, I finally found my place in this world. And so it was, it was a huge comfort to me as I was going through those tough years to get to be in the studio and be with, I think, musicians or another group, for whatever reason that are just like super cool with people who are different.
So none of them really ever questioned me. You know, I was just this girl who played music and loved music. It wasn’t, you know, the blind girl who plays music, it’s just a person. So how was really comforting. And I don’t, I don’t know what I would have done, honestly, with that. Music and without kind of that intervention of that producer, because I was still really [00:43:00] struggling and that gave me purpose and something to live for and to fight for.
So if I didn’t have that, I don’t know, honestly what would have happened.
De’Vannon: Well, I’m glad you found it. Family. It sounds like amongst the music, the musical crowd,
Heather: Yeah. Yeah. They really are.
De’Vannon: and you see, this is something that I talk about often is how sometimes our natural blood family and the people who we are raised around, they don’t always pan out to actually be the best family for us. Sometimes, sometimes blood is not really a sticky thick is water.
Heather: Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s very true. And it’s cool with friends that you actually get to choose your family when you’re, when you’re super close with somebody and you can totally feel like their family, even if they aren’t related.
De’Vannon: I mean related family. I really want people to get out of this dependence [00:44:00] on
related family because of how destructive family can be. You know, you, you, you, you sat there and you see people go through the greatest stress. They end up with strokes and in hospitals, because they’re worrying about something about blood family.
Say it to them, it’s doing to them going to accept them, people in the LGBTQ plus community. You know, we go and kill ourselves because you know, our family has rejected us. know, know our blood family has rejected us, but people, you know, when one door closes, that just means you have an opportunity to go through another one, you know, so we can go and pick other family.
And the, and the Hebrew Bible says it like this, that there’s a friend that sticks closer than a brother and better a friend near than a brother far. So, you know, no matter how you believe, whether you believe in God or not, surely you can see the wisdom in what and what those texts they’re saying.
Heather: Yeah, totally.
De’Vannon: reach out to who you [00:45:00] can, you know, for family, instead of trying to force your blood people to act ways that they don’t want to act.
Heather: Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s so true because there so many people, you, you see who put up with such shit from their family members because they’re family And you wouldn’t put up with that from anybody else on the planet, but it’s okay because their family, well, no, it’s not.
De’Vannon: And they’ll even say those words, there’ll be like, you know, we’ll go through this and you know what, we’ll put up with it. Why? Because we’re family and I, and I, and I’m sitting there thinking that’s exactly why you shouldn’t because there’s, that means they’re taking it sounds all great. And rosy and sweet.
Oh, it’s family. And it’s such a nice warm platitude and everything, but nobody should treat you bad and disrespect you. I don’t give a fuck who they are.
Heather: Yeah. Yeah. What is family really mean? Like why? I don’t know. I’ve never understood that.
De’Vannon: Mom, dad, sister, brother, family, is the people who [00:46:00] accept you unconditionally and show you love no matter what family, like when I got arrested, it was not my family who came and bonded me out. It was my bartender. I was a drug dealer as well. So we had a symbiotic relationship, but the point is, you know, the blood family was not there first, you know?
And so Or, or the second time I got arrested, I, I don’t know what was going on. I was so fucking high. And so, and so, but gosh, I’ve seen it. You know, friend of mine, they got, you know, she was getting married, you know, she’s come from a strong Catholic or, you know, the, the Catholic cold as I call them background, you know, he’s not Catholic.
I don’t think he really believes in anything. It was a whole thing. You know, the family was like, oh, I can’t believe you’re marrying someone. Who’s not Catholic and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Not, you know, he treats you, well, he loves you. He respects you. And all of that, you know, let’s focus on this one thing that we don’t like about him because he’s not like us or [00:47:00] how we think he should be in.
Let us make that cause you stress.
De’Vannon: That’s the type of bullshit that blood family will try to impose upon you here. Meanwhile, if you’re at your drag mother’s house or at your gay family’s house or musicians, they’re going to be like, cool, welcome in the story.
Heather: Yeah, exactly. And, if they’re not, then, you know, you just stop hanging out with them because apparently there are no family, so you don’t, you don’t let other people treat you that way.
De’Vannon: And, and so why would blood family feel like they could call somebody stress over that? Because they assume that that blood family person will always be there no matter what.
De’Vannon: And, you know, we don’t go to work, acting a fool because we know that we don’t always have to keep that job. We can dismiss that employer, or they could dismiss us in blood family.
There’s this, this is a lie that people believe like you always have to be their people. You have the [00:48:00] right to divorce your blood family. You can walk the fuck away from them. Or if you want to, you don’t have to deal with them for the rest of your life.
Heather: Yeah. Yeah.
De’Vannon: Sometimes people need to just hear what we’re saying, Heather, they go in and cuss their mom out one last time. But then don’t talk to the bitch again. You know, if she’s got you fucked up, not customer my dad out a couple of years ago, I was, I was across the street, you know, buying some crack rocks and whatever.
And so he decided, you know, he was waiting in his, his front then his driver, when I got out to yell at me for buying the crack. And everything. Cause this drug dealer, he had a crush on me so I can get a lot of rocks for him, from him, you know, for like cheap. And so, yeah, I don’t smoke crack anymore, but you know, I don’t, you know, rest in peace, Whitney, I feel you girl, you know, I feel you girl.
And so but you know, so I had [00:49:00] to cuss him out because you know, this is a man who’s had, you know, not one but two affairs, you know, and a couple of other things and I’m like, oh, well, Hey, I’ll tell the no, you’re not about to judge me about my crack rocks when you can keep your Dick in your pants. Oh no,
Heather: Yeah. One of these things is okay, but the other isn’t
De’Vannon: it’s not going to happen like that, sir. No, from that day forth, he’s treated me a lot better. We have a completely different relationships. If he got cussed out one good fucking time.
Heather: really that’s awesome. That is able to be that 180. Cause I think sometimes it’s, it’s not like family members just fall back into old patterns, so that’s, you must have been very effective.
De’Vannon: Oh, I’m sure that they heard me all up and down the street, a few blocks over because that was some pent up rage and aggression that I had been having at him for a long ass time. And it was my grandmother that told me about the first affair that he had when, when [00:50:00] my mom was pregnant with me,
De’Vannon: it’s some, some men like to cheat on their wives when they’re pregnant with their babies, for whatever fucking reason, it’s a certain type of evil
that I do.
It’s just lower than low because she’s vulnerable in already in super emotional. And all of this is going on. And during this time, some men are more attracted to their women when they’re pregnant. And then you’ve got scoundrels like how my dad was, who were like, Hey, you know, now I’m going to go skip across town while you’re here with this child in your belly.
And the other three that you already have.
Heather: yeah. Yeah. Even though you know that you were a part of that you helped to create this, you should probably, you know, stick around at least still it’s born. Hopefully afterwards,
De’Vannon: You think so, but honey, whom the whom the son sets free is free. Indeed. Families are not meant to be [00:51:00] a burden yourself from anything that is causing you, stress that maybe you can’t walk away immediately. Then you can establish a plan. Start to think about it. I started to pray about it, meditate about it.
If you don’t care to, to do something called prayer, then that’s fine. You know, meditate about it or something and see what you can do to identify the causes of the stress and then get away from it.
Heather: Yeah. Yeah. Which doesn’t happen all at once. Often, you know, sometimes it’s small steps of putting in little boundaries at first.
De’Vannon: And a little bit goes a long way, you know? And then it grows from there. I mean, but have a, your story in and of itself has peer encouragement. Cause you know, some people think about blind people, they can’t do anything you’ve traveled.
You’ve written your You’ve written your three albums. You’ve written your memoir.
You’ve lived in other countries, you know, and you’re still promoting yourself and [00:52:00]everything like that. You know, even though you have blindness and also you have mental disability that you’re, that you still struggle with every day and you’re still doing the damn thing. And that’s what I love about your story because you have all of this, but you’re not letting that hinder you.
So how do you, how do you tell yourself a mantra everyday to get up and to move forward? How do you keep from focusing on what the problems are and focusing on what you can.
Heather: I think my mantra is turn pain into purpose. So do one day, one thing every day that makes this world better and it can be like the smallest thing, but one act is going to do so much for self-worth. And then when you have that self-worth you can do more. Cause I think as you, as you said, there is this another kind of misconception that a lot of people have that, you know, blind people leave this lead, this.[00:53:00]
Boring depressing life. And it actually hindered me from reaching out for help for a long time, because I was worried that if I did people would just be like, oh, you’re blind. Like, of course you’re depressed, but there’s so much more to it. But no, generally, like we lead very full lives.
De’Vannon: Absolutely. And so in case there’s somebody out there who is. Blind or even if they’re not blind, but suffering from mental health issues or perhaps there’s something, you know, that you said did they, that they can identify with, you were able to channel your pain into, into writing. So can you explain a little bit about what the process was like for writing a book and how it differs and what the process, how it differs from and what the process is for like writing songs?
Maybe somebody might want to start with.
no, you totally should. Even if you don’t share it with anyone, it can [00:54:00] be such an outlet. And then if you do feel like sharing it with people, it’s so wonderful to get that response of, oh, me too. You know, I feel that way too. Or this happened to me and this song really helped me. Like, that’s kind of what, what we live for as musicians and the songwriting process.
I think for me writing the book was, was a little bit different because songwriting, I guess I tend to hide behind metaphors a little bit more, or you can say, oh, you know, like I’m talking about the song isn’t necessarily about me or this part of the song isn’t necessarily about me, but in a book it’s all about you and you don’t get to hide behind metaphors because then there’s no point in writing it.
If you’re not going to be raw and honest, You know why I do it. So that was really challenging. There were a lot of like sleepless nights of, oh my God. Like, what is this person gonna think? Or what if this person. Thanks. I meant this thing a [00:55:00] different way, or, you know, like all of these, like how are people going to react?
Because you’re writing about people who are still alive as, as I’m sure you’re going through right now,
Heather: is challenging because you have to like, are you going to let them read it ahead of time? Are you going to allow them to influence what you write? You know, all these questions, you know, are you doing it for the right reasons?
That was a big one for me. Cause I know some people who kind of doubted initially what I was doing were like, well, is this to get revenge? So I really had to think about that one. And I was like, no, like it, it definitely isn’t because the people I’m talking about in this book who have done me wrong, I couldn’t care less if they read it.
So, no, it’s not about revenge. It truly is about telling my story and hopefully helping other people
De’Vannon: And there’s also. I it’s been unexpectedly healing for me to both host this [00:56:00]podcast and talk about things and also to write, I knew it would be, but it’s, it’s been more profound than that. And and just like Heather was saying, sometimes you have to start small. So, so she’s not saying sit down and bust out a whole memoir tonight or crank out three albums right now.
So you may start with one line, just write how you feel that they may be in a journal. You know, it’s just something healing and writing. It’s a form of therapy. That’s practiced in mental health circles, all around the world. W all kinds of writing and stuff like that. It’s something about putting pen to paper.
Are you going to click away on a keyboard somewhere or on an iPad or whatever it it’s. It just, it does it just heals, man. I don’t know why.
Heather: I think it’s easier to. Thoughts and feelings out on paper or virtual paper. It’s so like, oh, that’s how that happened. You know, you can see maybe a [00:57:00] bigger picture that you can’t just see in your mind until it’s actually out there on a piece of paper.
De’Vannon: And then writing is also another form of expression in the sense that maybe there’s something you would like to tell somebody and you can’t invoke a lot.
Like when I got HIV, I couldn’t tell anybody. It was something about if I couldn’t find the words, I don’t know if I thought it would make it really real.
I’m going to always, I think I already knew it was real. I don’t think I mentally could have handled it. So I texted my friend and attorney and then I, I let my boss listen to the voicemail of the ratchet as a doctor who left my positive HIV diagnosis on my voicemail.
I left, you know, the white while it’s I’ll let him hear it.
I couldn’t vocalize it. And so writing is a way to still communicate, you know, maybe you can find the words locally. There’s another way for you.
Heather: Yeah. Yeah, that’s so true. And even [00:58:00] when I was doing the recording for the audio book And I had to read some of those passages out loud for the first time, it was like, I can’t do this. This is so hard. It’s way harder than writing it. So I totally get what you mean about how vocalizing can be so much more challenging than just writing it down.
De’Vannon: And as far as the real life, people who are married mountain, my book, you know, they don’t really have a choice in the matter, you know, I changed the names
Heather: Yeah. Yeah.
De’Vannon: of everybody. So if you sort of, they want to go and make a big deal about it and be like, yeah, I’m the asshole that he’s talking about over there on page 42.
Okay. Well, that’s you, I, you know, I tried to change the name, but if you wanna, you
Heather: going to admit to that, right? Like, oh yeah, I screwed you over. Yeah. You’re talking about me there. Aren’t like, nobody’s going to admit to that. Those kinds of the points I got to in my book was like, well, [00:59:00] these people aren’t going to actually do anything because they’d have to admit having done something.
And then and that require all kinds of corroboration to, it’s just not worth it. It’s just be glad that you’ve made it in somebody as final edit and beagle glad with that. And so,
so, so just, I’ll let you have the last word. I think we’ve talked about a good bit today. That will be super beneficial to people. Not just people who are blind, people who know people who are blind and people who are struggling with mental health issues and people who know people who are as well, hear this interview, share this interview.
All of Heather’s contact information and everything will be included in the show notes. As I always do with direct links to her website or music or books and everything like that. So you can find this woman and ask her whatever [01:00:00] the fuck you want to
Heather: there you go. Yes. Do it.
De’Vannon: Heather, I’ll give you the last word, reading, any kind of words of encouragement you have. So there’s a glow, but anyone struggling with the things that you have or anything at all, whatever you’d like to say.
Heather: Yeah, I’m not gonna, you know, offer you if you’re struggling a whole bunch of bullshit about how tomorrow’s another day and it gets better. And things like that, because I know when I was going through it, when people said that kind of stuff to me was the exact moment I stopped listening to them. But what I will tell you and what I can promise you is that there will come a day when you’ll stop in a moment and you’ll feel such profound joy in that time.
And you’ll be so you’ll think to yourself, I would have missed this and you’ll be so glad that you hung on for it. And I hope that you will hang on for that day.
De’Vannon: Well eight men. That, that, that, that was that real shit. That wasn’t that [01:01:00]bullshit. What’d you do that right there. Thank you so much for joining us today. Heather was, this was a, this was a very helpful episode.
Heather: Thank you so much for having me.
De’Vannon: Thank you all so much for taking time to listen to the sex drugs and Jesus podcast. It really means everything to me. Look, if you love the show, you can find more information and resources at sex, drugs, and jesus.com or wherever you listen to your podcast. Feel free to reach out to me directly DeVannon@sexdrugsandjesus.com and on Twitter and Facebook as well.
My name is De’Vannon and it’s been wonderful being your host today and just remember that everything is going to be all right.