Tag Archives: using your voice

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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Sometimes the Crazy Comes Out

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I always feel like I’m going crazy. I don’t always let it out and most people who know me wouldn’t even know that I feel this way because I’ve created and perfected a great mask of looking like I have it all together. I’ve worn this mask since I was 5 years old. I’m a great actress, I probably deserve some Academy Award or something.

But ya know what….sometimes I just have to let all that craziness inside of my head come out.

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This is how I feel when there’s craziness coming out of my head. I’m normally pretty well put together, but this little sculpture represents how those crazy feelings just swirl in a bunch of commotion as they come out, as represented by this lady’s hair.

Even though it doesn’t necessarily feel good, it’s good to get those feelings out and feel crazy. The more I keep them stuffed inside of my head, the more they grow and get keep getting crazier, to the point of becoming toxic to my safety and sanity.

That’s what my art is about. Getting this shit out. That’s what this blog is about. Not keeping the truth hidden, being honest about my pain and struggles.

It’s all about getting the crazy out!

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.

Broken Dreams

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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.

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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

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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!

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?

Freedom in the Fight

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“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!*

Past….Present….Future….

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This a series of paintings I made representing my past, my present & my future. These paintings were made as a challenge my art therapist made for me. I had been talking to her about my feelings and what I have had to go through in life. She had this set of Soul Cards. Each card had unique art on it made by an artist named Deborah Koff-Chapin.  You can see pictures of various Soul Card and the work Deborah does on her website, http://touchdrawing.com/  So anyhow, back to my process.  My art therapist asked me to pick out 3 cards that represented my past, present & future. I picked out 3 cards based on the art and how I related to it. Then she said my challenge was going to be to make my own series of paintings using the cards as inspiration.

So these are pictures of the 3 Soul Cards I chose:

Soul Card Past
What spoke to me most about this card was the position the person is sitting in. It looks like they are trying to hide or shield their body from being hurt.
Soul Card present
In this card, I saw a person confronting themselves. Looking in a mirror, taking a personal inventory and coming to terms with where they are at in life.
Soul Card Future
In this card, I saw freedom. I saw freedom entering the person’s life through their mouth, through speaking their truth, through honesty.

Here’s my Past painting, titled, “Be a Good Girl”
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It says “Be a Good Girl” which is something I heard a lot when I was little. I heard it from my abuser mostly, but also from my parents, teachers and church. I used the same basic position that the person in the Soul Card was in, but rather than just painting the person, I filled in the body space with word describing my past. It might be hard to see in this photo, but in the center of the body, there is a fire burning with barbed wire running through it. That represents the physical pain I felt during the sexual abuse, as well as the physical pain I still deal with.

Here’s my Present painting, titled, “Facing Myself”
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I don’t really like this painting turned out, but I like what it represents to me. In this painting, I’m looking at myself and the silver hand prints represent how I feel stuck behind a mirror, just watching the outside world go by. But basically this symbolizes the self reflection process that I’ve been going through in therapy, especially during this past year.

And now for the Future painting, this is titled “My Freedom”
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I really like this painting, both in the way it was done artistically and in what it means to me. The girl represents me, and the bird flying out of her mouth represents me speaking my truth, being honest, real and peaceful. The bird also represents freedom.

The freedom is within me and I’m finally able to access it, live it and breathe it.