Here is a collection of collages I made representing my childhood.
I may have posted some of these previously, but since they fit with this theme, I thought I’d re-post them.
These are actually pictures of me when I was around the age when my abuse was happening. (Yes, I know, I’m really freakin’ cute!) Even though there is a smile on my face, there wasn’t a smile inside. Inside, I was a very angry, confused, hurt and scared little girl. I learned from a very early age how to “fake it” and put on a great mask to make everyone think I was normal and good.
This collage represents all the stuff I wanted but didn’t have. I have most of those things now, but as a kid, I didn’t. I love the expression on the face of the little girl in the picture. She looks delighted, excited and full of innocence with a tiny bit of mischievousness mixed in there. In the center of her arms, there is an owl. I didn’t have a stuffed owl as a little kid, but I love owls now and I have a stuffed owl named Lumpy that I take to therapy sessions with me. Lumpy is my friend, he keeps me safe, he listens and he comforts me. As a kid I really didn’t have that stuff.
This collage is a bit different from a lot of the collages I make. In most of the previous ones, I’ve used words and pictures cut from magazines, but in this one, a lot of the words were hand written and decorated with a specific purpose. The specific phrases “I am bad” and “Naughty” were written with my left hand, which is how the little girl part inside of me communicates. The picture of the bird in a cage represents how trapped I felt then and even now.
My Busy Brain
Sometimes I feel like my brain is overloaded with thoughts. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by memories, triggers, flashbacks, emotions and even just every day stuff. I wish there was a PAUSE button for my brain.
This multimedia painting represents those feelings. It’s kind of hard to see, but there is a clock in the upper right corner that represents the passing of time, the feeling of wasting time & wasting my life away. Of course the woman at the bottom represents me, but the top of my head is missing, letting all my thoughts spill out as represented by the clock gears, nuts, springs, wire & twine.
It’s good to let thoughts out of our heads, even if they are thoughts that we consider bad. Getting those thoughts out can happen in lots of different ways. It doesn’t mean we have to broadcast everything to the world. We can write letters, journal entries, poetry, songs, we can talk to a trusted friend or therapist, we can make artwork….heck, we can even just scribble on some paper. In my experience, every time I get something out of my head and out into the open, those negative thoughts & emotions have so much less power in my mind. Sometimes I have to keep letting the same stuff out, over and over, but that’s ok. It’s all part of the healing process. Everyone of us has a different process and what works for me might not work for you. Sometimes you have to just open yourself up to trying new things though because you never know what might help or not. But it can’t hurt to try….right?
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.
Meet my friend, Dudley. Dudley is the brave security guard that protects my little girl from being hurt. Yes, that’s right…my little girl. Not my daughter, but the version of me that lives inside of me who was the little girl who was so terribly abused. She lives in almost constant fear, sadness, anger and is always alone. She is scared to let anyone in because people hurt her. But now she has Dudley to protect her. In my mind, I kind of envision Dudley as Aslan, from The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. He’s kind and gentle with the little girl, but he’s fierce when it comes to guarding and protecting her. She can snuggle with Dudley, lean her head on his chest and feel him breathe when she feels like she can’t breathe. He’s soft and fluffy, but has strong muscles beneath his fur and she knows his sharp teeth can rip any predator apart. His roar and growl will scare anyone away, yet his purr comforts her.
There are some days when I am so overwhelmed that I just can’t think straight enough to even function. Thoughts, memories, body memories and flashbacks fill my mind. This painting represents those kind of days.