Tag Archives: abuse

Reflections Of A Lost Girl

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This is a famous painting by Pablo Picasso called “Girl Before A Mirror” painted in 1932.

From the website http://www.pablopicasso.org, it describes this painting in the following way:

When you look closely at the image, you can interpret many different symbols within different parts of the painting. The woman’s face for one; is painted with a side profile and a full frontal image. One side shows the day time where she seems more like a woman, dolled up with her make up done. The other side with the rough charcoal texture portrays her at night. When she takes off the mask of makeup, and is more vulnerable as a young lady. One way of interpreting the painting is when the woman looks at herself in the mirror; she is seeing herself as an old woman. From the green discoloration on her forehead, darkening of her facial features to the lines that show that her young body has been distorted, and gravity has taken its rightful place. Another way of viewing the painting is that she is self-conscious, and she sees all the flaws in herself that the world doesn’t see.

As I’ve said before, some days I would go into art therapy not knowing what to work on, feeling upset, angry or confused about what has happened in my life.  So one of those days, my art therapist gave me this challenge.  She showed me the picture of “Girl Before A Mirror” and said that she wanted me to recreate this painting in my own way with my own meaning.  When I did my version of this painting, I had not even read anything about the painting.  I honestly didn’t even really look closely at the painting until I started sketching it out on the Masonite board I was using.  But once I started sketching, drawing my own lines and conveying my own interpretation of Picasso’s work, I realized what this picture was.  It was me.  I was looking at myself in the mirror, I was seeing my flaws, but I was reaching out to myself, offering comfort.  I didn’t copy what Picasso had done, but I did use many of the same lines, images, details and colors…but I just added my own style, flair and meaning.  The girl in my mirror has a tear flowing from her eye, running down her cheek, just as I have had so many times in life.

I didn’t go into this project thinking that anything amazing would come out of it, but when I allowed myself to just go with the flow, to just let my feelings speak through my paint, something amazing DID happen!  Not only did I end up with a super cool painting, I also ended up showing how I really feel.  And I ended up with a work of art that I am very proud of.

So here is my version, titled “Reflections Of A Lost Girl”

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Sometimes the Crazy Comes Out

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I always feel like I’m going crazy. I don’t always let it out and most people who know me wouldn’t even know that I feel this way because I’ve created and perfected a great mask of looking like I have it all together. I’ve worn this mask since I was 5 years old. I’m a great actress, I probably deserve some Academy Award or something.

But ya know what….sometimes I just have to let all that craziness inside of my head come out.

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This is how I feel when there’s craziness coming out of my head. I’m normally pretty well put together, but this little sculpture represents how those crazy feelings just swirl in a bunch of commotion as they come out, as represented by this lady’s hair.

Even though it doesn’t necessarily feel good, it’s good to get those feelings out and feel crazy. The more I keep them stuffed inside of my head, the more they grow and get keep getting crazier, to the point of becoming toxic to my safety and sanity.

That’s what my art is about. Getting this shit out. That’s what this blog is about. Not keeping the truth hidden, being honest about my pain and struggles.

It’s all about getting the crazy out!

Drift Away with the Smoke…

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“You can never hurt me,
And you will never cause me pain
Cause you’re made of fire,
And I’m the heavy rain.”
― Ghaith Salloum, Burning Innocence

As much as I wish I could magically make my past disappear, I can’t. No one can. The truth is, it happened and now I have to learn to live with it, heal from it, learn from it and continue to live my life to the fullest.

People have always told me that I need to “let go of the past” and “just move on with life”. I never understood how that works. How can one just not remember the torture that happened to them as a once innocent child? How can one not feel the stabbing, burning, physical body memories every day? How can one not feel the emotions: the fear, the anger, the sadness?

But there is a way I can symbolically “let go”. One idea my art therapist suggested was to make a ceramic bowl, pot or container that I can burn things inside of. She shared with me about the first time she did a burning like this and how much it helped her let go. And in explaining the whole “letting go” part, she said that letting go doesn’t mean that you forget or act like it didn’t happen, but you control your life now, not the memories, not the past. So to her, when she did her burning, she said that watching the smoke rise from her bowl and disappear into the air was symbolizing how those things (the things she was burning) weren’t controlling her thoughts and emotions anymore. She said that there have been things in her life that she’s had to burn again and again and that the process is continual for her.

So after thinking about it for a bit, I decided to have an open mind and just try it. I decided to use red clay draped over a big coffee canister for the basic shape of my pot. Once the clay had slightly hardened, I removed the coffee canister and smoothed out all the bumps and ridges. I thought that I would be done at this point. I was going to use glaze to decorate the outside of the pot, but somewhere along in this process, my mind changed. I decided to carve designs on the outside of the pot. I wanted the designs to be smooth, curling, flowing, swirling….like the smoke as it it would look as it rises from the pot. But I also wanted the designs to be jagged, rough…not perfect. Because I am not perfect. I have a lot of jagged edges and a lot of rough spots.

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So this is how it came out. I used a rough ended carving tool and started scratching and carving the curls and swirls into the clay. Artistically, something I struggle with is knowing when enough is enough. I’m never quite sure if a project feels finished. As I looked at my pot, wondering if I should keep carving or not, I realized that it doesn’t matter if it’s finished or not.

There is never a “finish” in recovery and healing.

I wanted this pot to represent that.

Burn Pot After the first firing in the kiln, I put a thin layer of a greenish-teal colored glaze on the pot. I wanted a thin layer so that the natural, earthy red color would show through a little bit.

Burn Pot 2So this is the finished burning pot.

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As you can tell, I haven’t burned these things yet. I’m not sure when I will, but I’m sure I will know when the time is right. Some of the things I have in this pot are words and phrases that describe the shame and guilt I desperately want to rid myself of. There’s also a few photographs, one of my abuser when I was at the age the abuse was happening and one current picture of him and his wife that I found on his Facebook page after he contacted my father several years ago.

“What is to give light must endure burning” – Viktor E. Frankl

So here’s to burning, to the curls of smoke rising to the clouds and to only the bits of ash that remain.

Freedom in the Fight

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“There is Freedom in the Fight”
My boxing gloves are on and ready to fight! I’ve been fighting for my life, my right to live a “normal” life (whatever that is, if that’s even possible).  What my abuser took away from me, I’ve had to fight hard to get back.  He got off with no consequences (other than his conscience – hopefully).  I’ve had to invest thousands and thousands of dollars in therapy, treatment, doctors, medications…..I was kicked out of cosmetology school twice because of my mental health issues.  I’m stuck paying for student loans that I took out for school that I couldn’t complete because of how HE messed up my life.  I’ve sought out help.  I’ve fought hard.  I still struggle on a daily basis, but I’ve come so much further than I ever believed I could.  Back when the memories and flashbacks first started, over 10 years ago, people told me to just hold on and things would get better.  My life was at such a dark place that I couldn’t believe what they were saying.  I felt totally hopeless and helpless.  But through years of therapy and treatment, I’ve learned to fight for myself and fight to get back what I deserve.

I AM WORTH FIGHTING FOR!

*and if you are a survivor, you are worth fighting for too!*

Past….Present….Future….

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This a series of paintings I made representing my past, my present & my future. These paintings were made as a challenge my art therapist made for me. I had been talking to her about my feelings and what I have had to go through in life. She had this set of Soul Cards. Each card had unique art on it made by an artist named Deborah Koff-Chapin.  You can see pictures of various Soul Card and the work Deborah does on her website, http://touchdrawing.com/  So anyhow, back to my process.  My art therapist asked me to pick out 3 cards that represented my past, present & future. I picked out 3 cards based on the art and how I related to it. Then she said my challenge was going to be to make my own series of paintings using the cards as inspiration.

So these are pictures of the 3 Soul Cards I chose:

Soul Card Past
What spoke to me most about this card was the position the person is sitting in. It looks like they are trying to hide or shield their body from being hurt.
Soul Card present
In this card, I saw a person confronting themselves. Looking in a mirror, taking a personal inventory and coming to terms with where they are at in life.
Soul Card Future
In this card, I saw freedom. I saw freedom entering the person’s life through their mouth, through speaking their truth, through honesty.

Here’s my Past painting, titled, “Be a Good Girl”
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It says “Be a Good Girl” which is something I heard a lot when I was little. I heard it from my abuser mostly, but also from my parents, teachers and church. I used the same basic position that the person in the Soul Card was in, but rather than just painting the person, I filled in the body space with word describing my past. It might be hard to see in this photo, but in the center of the body, there is a fire burning with barbed wire running through it. That represents the physical pain I felt during the sexual abuse, as well as the physical pain I still deal with.

Here’s my Present painting, titled, “Facing Myself”
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I don’t really like this painting turned out, but I like what it represents to me. In this painting, I’m looking at myself and the silver hand prints represent how I feel stuck behind a mirror, just watching the outside world go by. But basically this symbolizes the self reflection process that I’ve been going through in therapy, especially during this past year.

And now for the Future painting, this is titled “My Freedom”
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I really like this painting, both in the way it was done artistically and in what it means to me. The girl represents me, and the bird flying out of her mouth represents me speaking my truth, being honest, real and peaceful. The bird also represents freedom.

The freedom is within me and I’m finally able to access it, live it and breathe it.

Just Float Away **TRIGGER WARNING**

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I couldn’t get away from him. I was just a little kid. He was a grown man, so much larger and stronger than me. He held me down, pinned me to the ground. Sometimes he tied me down. The things he would do to me could easily be considered as torture. I know that no sexual abuse can be considered “run of the mill” but this stuff wasn’t just touching my private places. It involved full force rape. A grown man raping a 5-year-old. He would penetrate me with other things too; sticks, toys, pencils, silverware, knives…basically whatever he could find to shove in there. I remember blood. Lots of blood coming out of my body. Lots of physical pain. After he was done, he’d leave me there, usually in the dark. I would curl up in a ball because the physical pain was so intense. I was scared, alone and in pain. I was little. My mind created a great escape plan to protect me. I would dissociate. I would leave my body. When I would leave my body, it felt like I had a special door on the top of my right shoulder that would open and I could float out of. I’d float to the ceiling, in the corner of the room and just watch, that way I didn’t have to feel it.

Our minds do amazing things to protect us in traumatic events. Some minds create alternate personalities to deal with situations. My mind just left. I was freed, leaving just an empty body for him to hurt. At the time of my abuse, this dissociation served me well. It was my safety. But now that I am trying to face my past, sometimes I don’t want to dissociate. I want to stay present with my body and my feelings. My dissociation became such a natural coping mechanism throughout my life that it happened automatically. I didn’t have to do anything or think anything to make myself leave my body. I just did. Now I try to fight to stay in my body. I’ve learned that my friends don’t want relationships with an empty person. I want to be an active participant in my life now. It’s not always pleasant to feel and remember, but it’s part of the process of my healing. It’s part of my journey and I now have the support I need in order to face my past and learn to live as a whole person again.

Picasso Style Sexuality

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This drawing represents the inner struggle I sometimes have with sensuality and sexuality. Because I was taught so many conflicting things about sex, sexuality, my control of my own body and pleasing others, I really struggle with this area of my life. There have been times when intimate moments are wonderful and amazing, but there have also been moments where they are filled with guilt and shame. When I was being sexually abused, I knew that it was wrong. It felt wrong to me. I knew that sex was something that only grown ups should have. But I was forced into it. It wasn’t fun. It was extremely painful, often causing hours, sometimes even days of pain following the episodes of abuse. Because our bodies are made to respond to sexual stimulation, I didn’t understand why it felt good sometimes. I thought that meant I liked it and wanted it. These are still thoughts that get all tangled up in my mind sometimes and I’m still working on these issues in therapy.

Not a victim….a SURVIVOR!!

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One of my favorite art forms is collaging.  I could spend days looking through magazines, cutting out words and pictures.  I have a whole scrapbook sleeve full of stuff I’ve cut out already.  When I make a collage, I usually don’t go in to the process knowing what I want it to look like, say or have pictures of.  I start by choosing some sort of background because I generally hate having white, open space in my collages.  After that, I just start picking out words and pictures that jump out to me and a theme starts to form.  Usually that theme is about my feelings at the moment, or what I’m struggling with or thinking about at the moment.  In my collages, you can definitely tell my good days versus my bad days.  Honestly, there are a lot more bad days, than good ones….but there is hope!  I know there is an end in sight.  I know that someday I’ll feel able to cope with life better.  I know I’m not alone.  I know I’m safe, loved, cared for and special…all in wonderful ways.

This collage was definitely a bad day when I was thinking about my childhood sexual abuse.  I carry so much shame and guilt about what happened.  Sometimes I think the abuse was my fault.  Sometimes I still feel scared that the man who hurt me will come back and hurt me again.  I know that there is no way that will ever happen, but it’s just one of those irrational fears I have sometimes.