Just to get this out of the way, yes, this art journal was loosely inspired by Miley Cyrus’s song, “Wrecking Ball”.
Actually it was just the words “wrecking ball” that made me think of this art journal piece. Throughout my life, I’ve had a lot of dreams, wishes and visions of what I want for my life. I’ve also had a lot of those dreams shattered because of the damage my past abuse has done to my mental and physical health. One of my dreams was to become a cosmetologist. I’ve always loved hair and makeup and girly stuff like that, so I thought cosmetology school would be a great avenue for me to learn more and become a great hair stylist. Well…..that didn’t happen like I had wanted it to. I’ve actually been to cosmetology school twice and was expelled due to the way my depression, anxiety, eating disorder and self harm were affecting my performance and attendance at school. I was a great student. I got almost perfect grades and I loved what I was learning and doing….but there were a lot of days that I wasn’t able to even leave my house because my anxiety was so bad. There were days I’d eat lunch and purge in the bathroom at school, or go to the bathroom and cut myself. On more than one occasion I was caught and finally was confronted by the school administrator. I knew I wasn’t at the level of functioning that I needed to be in to finish school, so it was basically a mutual decision that I needed to quit school. I tried to go back again a few years later and the same thing happened. I was 5 months away from finishing school….but I just couldn’t do it.
Dream = Broken
There were other dreams, projects & plans that were broken. I lost many, many jobs due to my depression, anxiety, PTSD symptoms, frequent hospitalizations and overall inability to function. I lost friends when I would isolate and not leave my house or answer my phone for weeks at a time. A few amazing friends have stood by my side, but a lot have left too. My parents have suffered greatly. They’ve continued to pay for school loans for school that I couldn’t finish. They’ve invested so much financially into my treatment, therapy and care.
Life throws us a lot of curve balls. Wrecking balls smash into the dreams we have sometimes. But I’m learning to go with the flow. Take the punches and get back up. I’m even learning how to duck from some punches. I’m rebuilding dreams and a new life. This may not be the life I envisioned for myself, but I’m doing the best I can with what I have. I have an amazing wife who loves me with all her heart. My parents are so supportive of where I’m at in life. I have wonderful furry cat-kids who adore me. I have food, a lovely house to live in, clothes, a warm bed and most of all, I’m safe and loved.
Those are the things that matter now.
Broken dreams are in the past.
I’m rebuilding a new life.
It’s part of the healing process.
In a recent therapy session, I was telling my therapist that I felt like my past abuse and abuser filled me with poison and I still felt so tied to the poison. My therapist suggested that maybe I should do a piece of artwork on that theme and somehow find a way to replace some of the poison with something more healing. So that’s how this art journal piece came about. That’s me in the middle. On the bottom right is the poison of my past that I’m still holding on to, but also on the top left is a Healing Potion that is slowly filling me and replacing the poison.
Imagery like this doesn’t always work for me. Lots of therapists have suggested other ways of looking at things and replacing bad images with better ones. But the bad images are still there. I almost didn’t do this art journal because I felt like it would be a waste of my time and wouldn’t work. It certainly hasn’t been the magic answer, but it s a good reminder for me to look at occasionally to remember that the Healing Potion is there. It is within me and it’s continually being poured into my life through many different avenues. It’s also a good reminder that I am still holding on to that poison, but some day I will be able to let go of it and not let it ruin my life. Looking at this piece reminds me that I have to keep working hard and I have to keep fighting.
Because freedom is possible!
“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!*
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.
“Danger lurks in the shadows”
I was never really safe when he was there. I tried to hide, but he knew where to find me, it was as if he was a blood hound, out to track my scent. My house was not a safe place. I couldn’t hide in my bedroom, the playroom, the bathroom… Not even my toys were safe. He used them to hurt me too. My parents had no idea he was hurting me. I was forced into silence. They just thought he was a good guy. I mean, he was a student at the local Christian college, so I guess they just assumed that he was a good person. But that was all a lie. He was evil. He was a liar and a pedophile.
“Silence is golden….unless you need to be heard”
When I was younger and being sexually abused, I was forced into silence. I was threatened that if I told anyone about what he was doing to me, he would hurt me more or even hurt my family. I was terrified, so I stayed quiet. I needed to be heard, but wasn’t allowed to speak. I was forced to be voiceless. In my recovery, I’ve had to learn to use my voice. After decades of silence, it has been hard to learn to speak about what happened. I’ve also learned to speak up for myself, to speak up about how I feel and what I need from others. I’ve learned to confront life head on, rather than just run away from problems and cover my feelings up. Our voices are powerful tools in recovery. The more we speak up, the less power our past has over our lives!
“She wanted to scream, but all she could do was whisper…but no one heard”
Lately I’ve felt pretty voiceless. Like I have emotional laryngitis or something. I made this art journal page today in effort to express the feeling of voicelessness. As a child, I didn’t have a voice. I was threatened, hurt, scared and little. He was powerful and so much bigger than I was. But here’s the great thing….I DO HAVE A VOICE NOW!!! I can express what happened. It may not be pretty. People may not want to hear it. But I have freedom and no one can stop me from sharing my story. Now people can hear my screams and some of my whispers.