Mary Costello comes from a long line of Washingtonians: her grandfather, Anthony Clare Costello, was born in Tacoma even before Washington was granted statehood in 1889. She is a singer and songwriter who has long loved music.
She was a precocious child whose language skills emerged quite early. But Mary experienced domestic abuse from her father, an extremely intelligent, but bi-polar, doctor who suffered from his own experience of addiction. As a child, Mary would be locked in a closet and told that the angels would protect her, but if she came out she was at the whim of the devil. By the age of three, Mary had reverted to babbling.
Mary was diagnosed with bi-polar and borderline personality disorder at 21 years of age. She estimates that she has had over 125 hospital stays to treat the symptoms of these mental health challenges across 35 years, between 1973 and 2008. During this time, Mary developed the habit of “self-harm” as a way to find relief from the pain of childhood and psychological trauma. Throughout her life she was always looking for a way to “disappear.” She also turned to “self-medication” and developed an addiction to alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine – but the most difficult addiction to overcome was to opiates. Mary is proud to share that she no longer uses any of these drugs. She has been off of opiates for four and a half years. She currently belongs to Community House Mental Health Agency and Catholic Housing Services. Each are among Path with Art’s many social service partners.
Mary, who has lived in homelessness, says that the experience makes an undeniable impression on your life, “It sticks with you. It’s a horrible existence. Not having a place to lay your head down and take a nap. You can’t just lie outside and take a nap as a woman.”
Mary now lives at the Josephinum on Second and Stewart in Downtown Seattle. She joined our choir, the Path with Art Singers, after a friend at her current residence invited her to participate. “Rebekka, our Music Director, helped me immensely. She is both patient and supportive. Sometimes in the beginning, I would judge the situation of the choir and I would want to run away. I would wait for the break at the middle of class and briefly explain to Rebekka why I was overwhelmed and felt the need to get away quickly. She has always been so kind and encouraging, telling me to come back as soon as I could – and I would. Finally, I got to the point where I felt safe in PWA Singers. Now I have settled down, I don't get so agitated. I relax, and talk to other members of the choir, laugh and have a good time! Learning to go to these classes for mental health as opposed to fighting mental illness works best for me at this stage of my life."
"Path With Art Classes can offer a new beginning to those who think that their tools and skills will never be shared. Sculptures, drawings, singing and dreams are never too old for Path With Art people. We have a singer who is 90 years old! If someone is held up by mental health disorders, inadequate young home life, and/or addiction, Path With Art can allow them the opportunity to experience, with top notch artists, who they are and who they may become. I have come along way with Path With Art. Something I don't envision doing elsewhere."
Mary has been participating in the Path with Art Singers for three years. She now also takes writing classes and is participating in the “Hear and Now” art project led by the renowned sound artist, Trimpin. This project will be touring through the Seattle in 2018. Mary will be performing with the Path with Art Singers at our upcoming Fall Voices Showcase at the Seattle Art Museum on November 1, 2017.
“New to Homeless Blues”
Trying to make my way
I know that can’t stay
I was just moved out
I’ve no longer any doubt
Cause I’m homeless, walking the streets
Yes I’m homeless, feeling defeat
Yes I’m homeless, where will I eat
Yes I’m homeless, where will I sleep//
I’ve got nowhere to go
No place to call my home
When I want to take a nap
I know that I just can’t
Food Banks aren’t for me
I’ve got to carry whatever I see
No toilet, fridge or stove
I’m careful where ever I go
Kindness is for me
Golden Rule that’s the key
If you can lend a hand
Then perhaps I can make a stand
Musical Tune and Lyrics: Mary Costello