Tag Archives: change

PTSD Themed Collages

Standard

20140105-024738.jpg

20140105-024758.jpg

20140105-024821.jpg

20140105-024843.jpg

20140105-024903.jpg

I know I may have posted some of these before, but I wanted to post a group of specific collages that have a PTSD theme.

These collages depict the thoughts, feelings and images that I relate to my childhood and the severe sexual abuse that I was going through at that time.  I still struggle, on a daily basis, to remember that I am good.  He did not break me, ruin me or cause me to become evil.  I did nothing to make him hurt me.  I was just a little girl.  I was innocent, but he stole that from me.  I’m working hard in therapy to learn how to deal with all these feelings and memories that I repressed and kept secret for so long.

Part of finding freedom from my past is getting these long-held secrets out in the open. I want others to know they aren’t alone. The feelings and struggles that we go through, as survivors of abuse, are very normal for what we’ve experienced. Never, NEVER feel bad or ashamed of who you are! Your past does not define you! It may impact your world, but you are not bad because it happened to you!

And you’re never alone…

Drift Away with the Smoke…

Standard

“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.

IMG_0584

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.

Burn Pot 3
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.

Broken Dreams

Standard

20131007-102431.jpg

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.

Magic Potion

Standard

20131007-102534.jpg

Magic Potion

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!

Freedom in the Fight

Standard

20131007-102113.jpg

“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!*

Change your perspective

Standard

Image

One day when I was feeling especially down, I was talking to my art therapist about it.  She suggested doing a project that would help me turn my yucky feelings into happier ones.  The basic idea of the project is a 2 layered approach.  The bottom layer is made first and decorated with your negative feelings.  For my piece, I just used some poster board and I colored big, geometric shapes in lots of dark colors, representing the anger, frustration and sadness I felt.  The second layer uses tissue paper to cover up the first layer, but with the tissue paper still being thin and semi-transparent, you can still know that the other feelings are there and that is ok.  So for my second layer, I used a childlike scene with a blue sky background, a sunshine, green grass, fluffy clouds and flowers.  I used Mod Podge to glue the tissue paper over my first layer.  It didn’t turn out stunningly beautiful or anything like that, but I liked the process of changing my thought process a bit.  Sometimes all it takes is a change in perspective to make our attitude or day a bit better, and some days, that’s all that matters.