Tag Archives: rape

PTSD Themed Collages

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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…

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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.

My Childhood…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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?

It’s Been a While…

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It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything here.  I keep meaning to post, but just haven’t had the mental, emotional and physical energy to really do it.  But I’m back now.  Hopefully I will be better at keeping up with this regularly.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

These collages were made during the past year.  When I look through my collage book, it’s pretty obvious when I’m having good days or when I’m really struggling with something.  The last collage here was a really difficult one to make.  Sometimes it still really triggers old, yucky feeling emotions.  But through the various mediums of my artwork, I’m learning to deal with and express those emotions rather than taking them out on myself or holding them inside until I self destruct.  Growth is hard, but it’s a good thing!

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.

Danger Lurks

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“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.

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.