Tag Archives: Sexual 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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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.

Magic Potion

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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!

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!

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.

Silence

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“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!

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.

Change your perspective

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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.