Tag Archives: art therapy

ramblings about interim therapists and trauma work and body stuff

I’ve been seeing another therapist in Dr C’s practice while she’s been away. It’s been weird, but helpful in maintaining balance, especially with all this physical stuff going on. I didn’t really talk to her about much outside of “safe” things (things going on in the moment, dealing with the physical stuff that doesn’t have a medical explanation yet (or ever?), surface stuff). There were times I wanted to cover other stuff that wove its way into the session, but I couldn’t open my mouth. It felt like my lips were glued together, and even if I did manage to open them, all that would come out were sobs and screams…

That’s not a new phenomenon for me. I’m not sure I’ve ever managed to open my mouth and tried to speak at a time like that. It taps into something I still don’t have an understanding of, and it never feels safe or comfortable enough to just let that part of me do whatever it needs to do for release… maybe I can bring it up with Dr C once she’s back again next week. I wish I could remember what it was that triggered that feeling.

I know before walking into the building, I had wanted to address the body memories that always get triggered (or more intense) when I get my period. We had kinda started taking about bodies, and how comfortable I was in mine (or not comfortable). We had talked a bit about liking or hating any particular part of my body. I said there wasn’t any part I liked. I should have said, there wasn’t any part I liked anymore because at one point, I had liked my eyes and my hands… but both have failed me since. My eyes either hide too much or tell too much; and my hands don’t create to my standards anymore (stupid trembling and fatigue). So no, right now there’s no part of me I like.

She also asked if there was any part I really hated. Of course there are parts I hate more than others, but there wasn’t enough time in the hour to tell her about it and still come out of the session balanced enough to go on with my day… I’m not totally sure I even want to write about it now, though there would be less explanation involved here than with her… I hate my pelvic area, and my stomach, and the insides of my legs. It’s where I feel the most uncomfortable memories, and what triggers the easiest. It’s the fastest way to send me to space…

A had asked if I’d ever done any body work (on paper) with Dr C. I told her I hadn’t, because even though Dr C had offered it, I panicked at the thought of tracing my body. A clarified that she meant doing it smaller scale. No, we never did do that… I’m not sure why the subject changed with A in that session. I think I started panicking and backpedaling into my head, because at some point, she asked how present I was & busted out a ball as a means of grounding (side note: it worked too! Who knew playing catch could actually bring me back? Normally, I can still do that stuff while dissociated. This time, the act of catching and tossing was balancing. Maybe it was the inconsistent way she did it? She would pause, look at the ball, change the speed of her toss… whatever it was, it worked).

Anyway… yeah. There were so many times I could have said more to her, but I didn’t want to get into it knowing that the hour would end too son, and I’d be left dealing with whatever came up for the rest of the week. At least with Dr C, I can reach out during the week if I need to. A did say to call if I needed anything, but I wouldn’t bother her. It takes me a long time to trust that it’s really ok to bug someone outside of the time they are getting paid to interact with me. Even with Dr C, I still hesitate much of the time, and I’ve worked with her on and off for almost 10 years now…

Oh, I remembered what I was originally going to say about the body drawing; it’s another thing where I feel frozen for fear of what I might do or say. There’s still that urge to destroy my body, even if it’s just a drawing. I still want to take a knife and stab the drawing on the parts I hate the most… or, since I no longer carry a knife with me, stab it with the pencil… that would probably freak her out, so… maybe some day I can mention that to Dr C, and we could find a way for me to be ok doing it in some form. The kid really wants to talk about it still. He has no words, just screams and sobs and anger… or silence. He’s usually just silent because the other stuff is not acceptable…

I really wish Dr C was back now. I wish this could be addressed while it’s still here & “relevant.” It’ll be gone again by next week. This is when that concept of easily accessible, more intensive treatment would be helpful; when stuff comes up and would benefit from being addressed in the moment, so it would be nice to be able to walk back into the room and get to work… let’s tackle this shit coz it’s here. Gimme that little body drawing, tack it to a tree, and let me stab the shit out of it. Let me rip it up and scream and cry and cover it in red paint so it bleeds like my body would if I did that to myself. Let me burn the page so it all goes up in smoke. He needs the release. I need the release…

Let me rip the legs off a toy, and bash it and destroy it… but then I’d need to apologize, because the toy did nothing, it’s just a receptacle for the anger. So let me run out into the woods and scream until my voice is hoarse, and my legs are so tired they want to fall off, and my breath burns in my chest (maybe my lungs would actually burn up. That would be an interesting medical & scientific impossibility)…

Sometimes the anger and the hurt is too much. Sometimes I want to disappear to a safe place where I can do something about it without weird looks and panic over my safety, because ultimately, I’ll be safe, this just all needs a release…

Why aren’t there trauma treatment centers in the middle of the woods, with animals and drop-in massage and art and yoga and holistic therapy like they have for substance abuse? And why is nothing local? Why is the only treatment center even remotely like that all the way across the country, and religious?! I want something with no BS about higher powers or gods or spiritual anything. Why does that not exist?! And why aren’t there more art or play therapists around? The kids want time too, but everything’s in an adult world, so they use translators instead…


Ashes- mixed media panel

It didn’t start out specifically as something related to the loss of Chow, but it ended up that way…

I was just messing around with art supplies in an attempt to get myself unstuck from the grief. 

There were also 2 pages in my journal I played around with, but they are not finished yet. So far, they are just backgrounds: 

I  was experimenting with a rust texture set I dug out of the clearance section last week. This tag was the first thing I used the stuff on. I think it came out ok (much better than when I tried it on the blue page)… It will go on the blue page eventually. I can’t decide where to put it though. I really like how it pops when it’s in the bottom left corner, but I also really like the detail of that spot. I’ve been trying to make it work in other spots, but it seems to get lost in the chaos of the background anywhere else I try to put it. I might have to deal with covering up what’s easily my favorite area on the page. The other option would be to alter the tag or background in a way that allows the tag to be distinguished from the background. It may take me a while to figure that out…


Barbie gets a makeover; steps to an altered doll

Last week, I decided I wanted to turn an old barbie I had bought for mold-making purposes into an altered doll. It started because I’ve been struggling with some really graphic self harm thoughts. I was hoping expressing it on the doll would help alleviate them… it’s kinda working I guess. Either that, or the doll has me distracted enough to put the thoughts on the back-burner.

I had cut most of her hair off back when I thought of making a mold, so I decided to pluck out the rest of it to be able to sew in something else (it might be useful to note that hand-sewing doll hair is a pain, and painful. Even with a thimble to help push the needle through the plastic, my fingers are raw and sore from having to do it so many times… I’m not even half done yet!).

Anyway, I started with her hair change. I also removed her existing makeup. Painting a new face will be challenging, but I’m looking forward to that. I’ll have to thin even my high flow paint to avoid the brush lines visible with the white I had tried…

I’m planning on articulating her better as well. Currently, she’s only movable at the shoulders and hips. I’d like to bring a greater variety of motion to her other joints also. I did a quick YouTube search and found this video. It’s about articulating a Bratz doll, which is pretty much the same structure as Barbie, so I’m hoping it will work. I need to get my hands on some of the plastic molding stuff she’s talking about. I’m guessing I can find it online (amazon smile has been my best friend in finding random art supplies)…

I have ambitious plans for this doll. I want to figure out how to make it look like she’s pulling her own heart out. It seems that her body is hollow, so that should be easy enough… I just have to perfect my sculpting skills so I can make a heart I’m satisfied with. I’d also like to figure out some way to express dissociation. I’m not sure if I want to alter her head to accomplish that, or simply utilize facial expression…

There’s a measure of therapy involved in making this doll. It will be a blend of artistic expression and autobiographical depiction. I guess something along the lines of Hollywood creative nonfiction; the backbone of the story is true, but the details are exaggerated and embellished for dramatic effect…we’ll see how far I actually get with her. 

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I’m going to put some YouTube videos below for reference. I haven’t tried them yet, but I want to know what to come back to later. I would normally do this in a “private” post so you don’t have to see my note-taking, but it might be useful to others if they are also interested in making dolls… and if any of you have experience, feel free to critique or offer up suggestions. 


When art holds more power than you think it should (the baby, revisited) 

Why is the concept of this baby in a painting so disturbing to me? 

I couldn’t stop the panic around this painting of a baby existing. It was as if it was something from a Stephen King novel; that simply by having a painting of a baby, I was putting that baby in danger… 

I asked Dr C if she had a bit of time after group to either destroy or alter the painting. She had a few minutes, and we took the time to make the painting feel a bit safer. I really had just wanted to destroy it, but she suggested altering it first in case that helped. We added some elements and removed a few others. She then gave me a few options where to store it till our next session. I had her leave again it where she had originally put it (it was a high-up, safe place with other client art so it wasn’t all alone) … 

As I was leaving her office, I realized I really wanted to be at the beach… I needed both to not be home alone, and to be somewhere that felt healing & safe.  I weighed my options, and figured the beach would do me good.

I took the 50 minute drive there, and wandered around for a bit. I sat by the water. I let the waves wash over my legs and get my pants wet. I didn’t care that they would be damp for the rest of the day. I collected rocks and shells and feathers and bones. It helped distract me…

Since leaving Dr C’s office, I’ve had a mantra running through my head, trying to convince myself that the baby in the painting is safe in Dr C’s care. I’m really not sure why it means so much to me. It’s just paint on paper, and it’s not even spouses to be me as a baby. It’s a little boy with no face. I’m not totally site why it feels so in-danger.

Hopefully it will feel safe for the remainder of the weekend.


Kinda lost

Saw Dr C today. We did some art. It was around the concept of a baby, and how to keep that baby safe…

It came about because of my panic yesterday around the concept of ever having been a baby. I don’t really remember yesterday’s session, but I remember the dread and fear and panic and denial around her statement that I was born a good baby. All I could think was that I was never a baby… I couldn’t even fathom the concept of ever having been a baby. I knew at the time that pictures of “me” as a baby existed. I knew somewhere in my head that it’s impossible to be alive without ever having been a baby, but I couldn’t admit/understand/connect to ever having been one.

Later, after the session (and again today), I am mad at her for suggesting it. Part of me knows it’s a simple biological truth; I was at one time a baby, but… I wasn’t (or I can’t bring myself to accept it). There’s this huge fear around acknowledging that I may ever have been a baby. It pisses me off to think about it. The image that comes into my head when I think of myself as a baby is scary… I don’t want it.

Even now, as I write this, I’m angered by the thought of being a baby… angered and scared terrified. It feels like someone might die; like I might die… and my heart rate soars through the roof… and I want to shred my body into a million little pieces so I don’t have to feel the fear and body sensations…

I don’t really know what to do with myself. Whatever was stirred yesterday in session, and re-surfaced today, is continuing to stir and bubble. I don’t know how to process it. I’m not sure what to make of it. The thought of more surfacing is intimidating. It’s creepy & scary & enraging… I hate it.

The baby in the art today had no face, or feet, or hands (though I painted in hands after she suggested it). If the baby has no face though, it can’t see the scary, or hear it, or cry (and get in trouble) or smell anything. The baby doesn’t know if anyone is coming, if they are good or bad, until whatever it is that’s going to happen will happen. It kinda protects the baby, but it also scares him… Dr C was looking for something. In the time she was searching, I grew more and more uncomfortable looking at the baby I had painted. I wanted to scribble over it, or spill paint over it – anything to obliterate the image of the kid. I censored telling Dr C that I wanted to erase the kid from the page. Instead, I asked what we were going to do with the baby because it was making me uncomfortable looking at it (what an understatement!). She said we were going to to make the baby safe. I had no idea what to do, so I tried to draw a protective person in the picture. Unfortunately, she turned out scary. I wasn’t sure how to fix it. I did a few other layers but it was only making everything worse. Dr C offered to help. She drew in someone holding the baby. I added a blanket to cover him… then time was up. As we were cleaning up, she asked if the baby was safe now… I told her he was “safer”, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call him safe. I blew out of there somewhat fast after cleaning up. I wanted to stay and change the picture more, but her light had gone off (indicating another client was waiting). I also felt like I needed to run away from there. It felt like trying to make the kid in the picture safe was a forced thing and wouldn’t really actually do anything to keep him safe. It felt like a facade…

Suddenly I’m out of that head-space. I know I have reactions to things, but once it disappears, it feels foreign. Those walls are back again, and are really high and thick. It feels like all my experiences happen in isolation chambers. If I’m not in the chamber, I really have no concept of what goes on there. I guess that’s the dissociation… I should ask Dr. C what the new name is for that diagnosis. It used to be DD:NOS, but I know the newest DSM changed that. I definitely have isolated experiences, but they are not so severely isolated that I would have “alters”. I just can’t really access much of the experiences unless I’m in that particular head-space. I may know they happened (or the general gist of it, most of the time… there used to be a time where I totally had no memory at all of days or even months), I just understand them as something someone else described to me once…

I should stop writing. My head is beginning to spin, and I’m losing focus on what I want to say.


Out of Phase

That’s it! He feels out of phase… I think maybe that’s why communication is so difficult.

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Art and life run parallel

Today, the orange and pink piece is very different. Drying dulled the colors. The gloss finish was too thick too fast and has cracked…

Fits the emotional experience… yesterday held promise of pretty. Today reveals the cracked, dark mess…

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As soon as I stop running from distraction to distraction, the black hole returns to my chest…

After session today, I came home and dragged art stuff outside bent on making a mess. I invited one of the neighbors to join in the mess making. She didn’t end up participating, but we chatted for a while.

The mess turned out ok. I tried something I had seen a friend do a lot of lately: fluid acrylic abstract painting.

It was fun to put large amounts of paint and water to canvas and watch the components interact… I tried harder with the first painting (blue/ green/ black), and I think it looks kinda forced. The second one (magenta/ orange) was more spontaneous. I picked colors I don’t normally use, and just went to town wherever the paint landed. I really like it, except I used too much water so a lot of the color was lost as it dried…

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Phew!

No nightmares about L dying last night.

No nightmares at all last night actually 🙂

I’m itching to play art again, but I’m at work at the moment. I did bring one of my art journals, but I’m not sure what to draw in it. I couldn’t exactly bring all my paints, and I don’t have a travel paint set put together. I could have brought the gelatos, but I didn’t think of it till after.

It’s all ok though. I’ll have time tomorrow before group to play art. Then tomorrow evening, a friend is giving a talk on paper arts at a local gallery. I was planning on dragging L. It should be fun.

Other than that, progress on the therapy front: I was able to watch what would have been a triggering scene in a TV show without falling into intrusive memories. HUGE, HUGE step for me, even though it was “just” around the domestic violence stuff. I was kinda excited that I was able to be aware of the memories but still remain engaged in the show (it was a scene from Flash about Zoom’s back-story). I kinda laughed when I noticed that I had witnessed a similar scene numerous times (minus the murder part) and marveled that I wasn’t a sociopath…

Anyway, so yeah, little victories and happy-dances all around.

Note to self: engaging in expressive art, and seeking support around the ickiness are both helpful in regaining balance when things are starting to fall apart again.


Where did I leave off?

Let’s see, what have you missed out on?

I’m still having a rough time. I still really just want to cry but can’t seem to. I’m still not sleeping all that well…

I’ve also been creatively dry lately. I participated in an art journal page supply swap, and felt like I was kicking and screaming my way through it. I did most of a page around what I received, but it still needs work.

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I tried working more on a small mixed media piece that I started a while back. I had overdone the silver foil when I added it; It took over the whole painting. I tried to balance it with some steampunk-style, but now I’m feeling the focal image is completely lost. I dunno. It’s definitely something to keep working on.

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Other than that, I’m creatively stalled.

Outside of art, I’m finding the repercussions of wanting to help people out are again causing more stress than happiness. Several weeks ago, I had suggested to someone I could bring something back for her from across the country because, at the time, I thought I could make that trip easier than I actually can… least week, she asked if I was still open to picking up her purchase. I said yes thinking I was doing this trip at my pace. Unfortunately, between work constraints and the preferences of others involved, the trip has been pushed up to the end of this week instead of the beginning of May. That leaves me reeling on a few levels: money is a HUGE issue for this trip. At the time I quoted the person a cost, I was expecting to have more cash at my disposal. I only quoted half the cost of the trip, but that leaves me having to pay the other half, which I don’t really think I can afford right now.
It will also be hugely emotionally draining to go back. I’m going by myself. The whole 2-day drive will be on my shoulders both ways. There’s no one to talk to, or to switch off driving with… and I’m going back to the place that had me so triggered for the last 2.5 years.

Why did I agree to this again on this time-frame?

I hate that my insane push to help out and to please people pushes me into situations I should have thought harder about. It is what I tend to do at work and in my personal life: I push myself way past my own limits until it ends up backfiring… when will I finally learn this lesson?

Oh, I had mentioned the pattern of March being difficult seemingly every year to Dr C during last session. We brainstormed a bunch of ideas, but none seemed to feel like they fit. Maybe it’s just a rough month for no real reason…


Journal page update

Worked on this page again today. Still trying to figure out what to do in the top left corner…

An artist friend suggested a nose, though at first I was thinking the lack of one is symbolic of how depression makes you feel like you can’t breathe. I dunno. It still needs something. The right side definitely needs work too, but that’s looking like a total overhaul. This side just needs *something*…

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I have to admit though, I worked my butt off on those stupid strings sewing her mouth shut. I must have redone them at least 5 times. They look a bit better in the photograph than in real life, but I’m still pretty proud of them. I had originally planned to glue actual thread on there, but wanted a more 3-d look to her lips, so I painted them in… I’m sure they look amature to more experienced artists, but they’re the best I’ve done so far. I’m happy with how they turned out.


More art

Worked on this page today. I’ve had the under layer done since September, but hadn’t figured out what else to do with her. She’s still a work in progress (didn’t mean to make the gold above her eye look like bangs), but she’s getting there… gonna get rid of the bangs and sew her mouth shut… not sure what else will happen, but that’s part of the plan.

Gelatos over gesso’d magazine page. Feather is gesso’d steps of origami paper.

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So many layers!

I think I’ve finally finished that fold-out, multiple-layer journal I started forever ago… it’s truly a mixed media piece. I don’t think there is much I didn’t use: spray inks, collage, acrylic paint, stamping, two types of embossing, textiles, sewing, pen, charcoal, wax pencil, stencils, rub-ons, stickers, washi tape, vintage paper, grommets… among all the layers, I used a ton of stuff (my journal isn’t too happy about it; the spine has been stretched almost to capacity). I think I finally feel like it’s finished (it only took 2 months). I have to admit, the hidden layer was way more triggering than I had expected. It made me want to rip my insides out in order to stop feeling the body memories. The additions I did to that page took less time and artistic effort than any of the other pages combined, but it took the most emotional energy. I stuck with it though and just kept going with the art. I focused on painting the heart and getting it closer to anatomical correctness. I thought about asking Dr C for support, but changed my mind. I was determined to wade through the triggers on my own… it worked. It took all day to complete and now it’s waiting for Monday when I can talk to Dr C about it.

Here are the finished pages (except for the hidden layer):

The top page says: “be the author of your life… write your own ending”
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The left page (with the heart) says; “don’t think of all the things you fear, just be glad to be here”, and the right side has a Harry Potter quote; “I don’t care! I’ve heard enough, I’ve seen enough, I want out, I want it to end, I don’t care anymore!” … “you do care. You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death from the pain of it…”
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And some progress shots:


That took a sharp turn

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I didn’t really have an idea for this page other than adding the rainbow inks… they didn’t turn out exactly as I’d pictured it at 2am when the idea came to me, but they turned out ok.

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I had thought I was going to use the heavy gel honeycomb pattern as a resist when adding a black ink wash, but when it came down to it, I wasn’t sure I could get the look I was going for. I opted out of the totally dark background (the black letters would have gotten lost), and went way out of my comfort zone to keep the bg mostly white…

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I had originally used a silhouette mask of a woman when laying down the honeycomb pattern. I wanted to highlight her in some way. I finally ended on cutting out another copy of her from the rice paper I had covered in gel medium. I tried to color her with blue gelatos… didn’t like it, so did my best to wash them off. Go figure, this time I can’t get the color to wash off completely. Anyway, I didn’t like the blue much, so I thought of drawing in her details. Then I thought better of it, and drew in a skeleton instead. I lost stream drawing by the time I reached the skull, so that part looks way more cartooney than I’d like…

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It’s still a work in progress (more ideas of what to do both with the skeleton and the background), but this is as far as I’ve gotten… I haven’t worked on her in 2 days. I haven’t worked on the squares since the night I posted about them… I dunno. Motivation is sorta there, but energy and effort to execute isn’t.


“Little squares” page update

I’ve been trying to do these every night, and take pics every night, but I have to admit I’ve only worked on it about 4 times, and only remembered to take progress pics two additional times…

Here’s a pic from just now, before I’m starting to work on it again for the night.

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They’re not supposed to bleed over into each other, but I’ve given up caring.

And progress from tonight:
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Updates and an art journal WIP

I haven’t had much to say lately. Therapy has just been… therapy. Nothing major or very deep… or maybe it has, but hasn’t been overly memorable? We talked a bit about the topic of touch, but not too much. Dr C loaned me a book on the topic (A Very Touching Book, by Jan Hindman). It’s written mainly with kids in mind, but works for adults as well… it’s actually kind of cool, breaking touch down into 3 types: good, bad, and secret. I like that delineation. It makes inappropriate touch easier to understand and explain that way.

Other than that, just plugging along through the days. I’ve been working a few more hours, which is nice. The holidays were uneventful. I hadn’t done much art lately, but picked it up again these past 3 days or so. Dr C and I had talked more about masks and layers of self. She asked if I would want to do some art around it, so I’ve been trying to work on that. I’m not quite sure where I’m going with it, but it’s going…slowly. Mostly at the moment it’s covering layers I dislike because I wasn’t really sure where I was going with them. I wish I had taken more progress shots, but I wasn’t expecting to cover quite so much of each layer at the time I went to add more to them.

This is the current top layer, though it will be added to/covered some more after it dries:

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It’s actually a 2-page-spread layer I had taped onto the original page. I will be doing the back side of this page, adding another 2-page-spread layer taped under this one, but to the right side. The top most layer will represent the life I have now: the love, the success, the life that I built for myself. The middle layer will be a more translucent layer. It will be that murky, uncertain, muddled layer that will represent the symptoms that were so confusing out-of-context. It’s the confusion around whether all of this is just in my mind, or actually true. The bottom layer will be the ickiness that hides in the past: the abuse, the assaults, the trauma stuff…

So far I only have that top layer done. It kinda feels like 3 or more art journal pages rolled into one project… and it’s daunting. I miss my art friends who helped so much with inspiration and ideas. I’m substituting them with an endless stream of YouTube art journal tutorial videos. They are mostly just going on in the background, but they’re good for sparks of ideas.

Here’s the only other “wip” shot of this page, and two stamps I carved yesterday for a change of pace.

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Art therapy as a processing tool

I’ve long been a proponent of art as therapy, but I had not yet experienced such a drastic shift in symptoms as I did Wednesday evening.

I had been struggling with flashbacks since last Thursday’s doctor’s appointment. It was made worse by the incident that came up Sunday evening. The image and feelings just kept repeating and intensifying unless I was bombarding myself with sensory input.

I told Dr. C as much when I went in for that extra session Wednesday evening. When she asked if I wanted to talk about it, all I could do was nod. She then suggested doing some art around it. I nodded harder to that. I figured it was easier than speaking at the moment.

We moved to the floor and got to work. She had me represent the “memory” as best I could (right side), and had me add the emotions to it also (left side). She then asked me what I wanted to change about the image to help make it feel safer. Did I want to add something between the image of the memory and the emotion? Was there something protective I could incorporate into it to help it feel better?

I admit I was quite stumped.

She started listing off suggestions, then dug through her bag of supplies for more ideas. She pulled out some felt, and offered that up. originally we were thinking of using it as a blanket or towel around the kid, but the color I happened to pick out (red, unusual for me b/c there was also blue there & I normally gravitate to blue) was already cut into a heart shape. As she realized it was a heart, she mentioned that it would be perfect. We re-adjusted the concept of a blanket/towel to using the heart instead. She cut it down to fit on the page, then we set about trying to figure out how to attach it – glue doesn’t work too well on felt. Dr. C happened to have a needle and thread, so she suggested sewing it on.

We ended up with this:

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Yesterday, when describing the piece in group, I said that the heart was covering up the unpleasant image. Dr. C commented that it was an interesting choice of words, since it was meant as a protective measure more than a way to hide it from view… We didn’t delve further into it, but I’m sure there will be a conversation around it during Monday’s session. Either way (hiding from awareness or protecting from it), doing that project helped lessen the flashbacks. They are relatively minor intrusions in my day now, and it’s not nearly as disturbing as it had been all week.

I’ve known expression through art can help change the impact of the trauma for a while. I have even used the technique of changing an expressive piece to help change the experience of whatever it was expressing, but it’s never been such an immediate and noticeable change. It’s always just crept up on me. I would realize the change a few hours or days later. This time, doing it in session with Dr C, it was a huge difference just in the hour and a half we spent on the piece. I went in to her office feeling raw, triggered, and spent, but left feeling lighter and able to smile. It felt a lot like the change in symptoms after an EMDR session. I think part of the relief came from sharing not only the incident, but also the experience of changing it. As I mentioned before, I have tried changing the art to change the thoughts around what it expresses, but it felt more “healing” to be doing it with the help of a safe person.

If you are having a rough time with things, this might be a good technique to try. It’s helpful to have a therapist around to make the overwhelming parts feel a bit less overwhelming, but it can be accomplished solo also. I will try to look up the link to the study I remember reading about this technique. I think I saved the link (or article) somewhere. I just have to find it again. I’ll add it here when I do.

UPDATE: found that article & how to link to it. It’s a free-access article through Taylor & Francis. “Check, Change What You Need To Change and/or Keep What You Want”: An Art Therapy Neurobiological-Based Trauma Protocol. They actually have a bunch of free-access articles that you can read without having to purchase anything. It’s a great resource.


A wonderful afternoon

The wife and I spent the afternoon with the kids. We carved large pumpkins, painted smaller ones, watched Hocus Pocus, and had a grand time enjoying the activities and each other’s company.

As much as I wanted to bawl my eyes out before we got there, getting lost in the moment with the family helped me move out of that frame of mind.

I’m once again anxious about the upcoming fundraiser on Tuesday (for domestic violence awareness), but there was some escape during the day today. I also settled on calling the piece “finished” (mostly because I turn it in tomorrow). I just need some paint to finish drying, and to figure out a frame, and it’s good to go…

I’m glad today was planned with the kids, and I’m glad I was able to immerse myself in the moment to fully enjoy it. We all need that total immersion in something outside ourselves from time to time ❤


Another minor art dump

I didn’t really do much art for the past several days, until today. I worked on (stared at) 3 pieces this afternoon. It was nice to have my creativity back, even if it was severely stunted.

I started by working more on the piece I was asked to do for domestic violence awareness. For the past 2 or 3 weeks, it sat as a sketch with a plain black background. I had an idea of what was to come next, but I didn’t move to work on it.  Today I caved and colored in the sketch with marker. It’s not great, but it works ok for what it is. I still have a lot of practice to get in when it comes to art with markers… Anyway, I think it’s mostly finished. I will look at it again tomorrow before I put on the sealant spray as the final step. I thought about framing it, but I just don’t have the cash flow to make that happen right now.

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I changed a few minor things since this picture; I removed the triangles from around the word “crash” and I took out the upside-down exclamation mark because it looked too much like the letter “i”. I would like to attempt to blend the bottom of her torso and the bg a bit better, but I’m not quite sure I can accomplish it the way I’m picturing. Anyway, like I said, it’s mostly done. I just have to contact the dv clinic and find out when and where to drop it off.

The two other pages I worked on were backgrounds that had been sitting idle for a while. They are far from finished, but they served the purpose of giving me another thing to multitask with while watching Netflix with L (I’m noticing more and more that I need the constant distraction again).

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The face done in pen came about from the shapes I saw in the marbled background. It kinda reminds me of the Indonesian warrior masks, or the Japanese warrior faces from kabuki theater. I think I will go back and add more lines with a better pen before I call it finished (I’m still struggling to find a replacement for my favorite black scarlet lime pen. Nothing I’ve tried works as reliably or effectively on multimedia surfaces)…

Yesterday in therapy we talked about stressors that add to my depression. She pointed out something that should have been glaringly obvious to me, but something that I just hadn’t put together yet: I’m lonely. It’s difficult when everyone has wonky work schedules. Even at my work, I don’t really get to interact much with peers. Most of the time, I do customer service by myself. I chat a bit with the customers and in passing with the other associates, but for the most part, it’s just me by myself the whole shift. When I do finally get to spend more time with a few people, I inevitably end up doing or saying something horribly awkward :/ (I also still have a lot of trouble believing anyone would want to hang out with me of their own free will. Even visiting my brother and his wife this weekend, I didn’t feel like I belonged. It felt like everyone else had a right to be there, but I was just wasting oxygen and space. My rational mind knows that it is not true, but I still felt very awkward and out-of-place)…

Talking about all that was good though. Having L randomly needing to switch her schedule to be home most of today also helped. It’ll just be weird on Thursday when she has to work all day…

Oh, the latest self portrait I did was last Wednesday… it’s more stylized and emotive, but I like how the whole piece worked out:
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Self portrait – 100 mile stare

This pretty much encompasses today:

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I might redo the face tomorrow (have another idea for it), though I might not. I suppose I should keep the drawings as they are, and watch the progression/change as I get practice under my belt.

This one is definitely reflective of the mood of the day: distance, disconnect, attempts at grounding…


Self-portraits

Last week in group, Dr C suggested we do a self-portrait a day for a month. I can’t exactly remember how we arrived at the concept, but it’s not all that important. Anyway, I didn’t start till yesterday (4 days later). I kept it simple. I did a quick stylized cartoon of myself. I was trying to go for the frazzled,tired, sad feeling I’ve carried all week. I also didn’t want to have to put much effort into it (I was tired and running out of creative stream).

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I left the picture mostly unfinished…

When I showed it to Dr C today, she called it “glamorous”… ?!?!!? I dunno. I don’t see glamorous, but whatever. I told her as much. She then asked if I had done one for today yet.

I shook my head.

She asked if I wanted to do one there.

:shrugz: might as well. I tend to speak easier when slightly distracted.

Then she asked if I had a picture to draw from. I told her I rarely have pictures of myself, let alone ones I like. I suggested that I didn’t mind doing it more representational of what I’m feeling. She shook her head as she launched the camera on her phone. “No. You need to do one from a picture of yourself.”

I laughed and lightly protested. She took the picture anyway… she said it was nice. I looked at it and started listing everything wrong. She cropped the picture and zoomed in on the face. She offered drawing utensil choices, then asked me to start drawing… she grabbed paper and pencil and joined me in drawing.

We chatted, and she gently encouraged me when I started to get frustrated. She gave some tips she learned along the way: 1) draw what’s around the object rather than the object itself. 2) Focus on the shapes, not the finished object. 3) try drawing it upside down.

I was on a roll with my first sketch, so I kept at it. I asked for more explanation on the concept of drawing “around” something to get the goal. She said it had something to do with seeing the shapes that make up whatever it is you are trying to draw. I’m still not clear on that concept… I did try something new with the watercolor pencil sketch though: I didn’t throw down the line with pencil first, but let the drawing appear as the colors were laid down. I think it kinda worked out ok. I look about 80, but that’s kinda how I feel sometimes, so it’s ok.

I was going to do a second one (upside down this time), but session was up.

She asked how that went for me (not talking about what had been creeping on me all weekend. Instead, drawing together in session). I told her I liked it. It was nice, as I had been hoping to find someone to sit and do art with. I also told her that I wished I had talked a bit about what was going on inside. We talked a bit about the value of not always tackling therapy head-on. She cited this session as working on seeing myself as a beautiful person rather than all the negatives I feel. She also mentioned something about still being a person and seeing myself as such (recently I had mentioned more of a disconnect from myself and my life. I think I had phrased it as being surprised again that I had a reflection in the mirror)…

We set another time for tomorrow because the stuff from the previous week is still very present.

I think I could get behind doing more art in session (I have to admit, I’m a bit skeptical on the “take away” message of the session having been a deliberate one… though she is pretty good about stuff like that, so maybe she did plan it at the time she asked if I wanted to draw today).

Oh, the final drawing from the session is on the left. My attempt at drawing myself upside down is on the right. It was done in prismacolor marker while waiting for my laundry to dry…
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Trauma-Informed Creative Arts Therapy Articles

This came across my feed and I wanted to share/save it. I really like this page, they have a lot of good info and resources. It’s mostly geared towards professionals, but there’s other resources there also.

Trauma-Informed Creative Arts Therapy Articles

One of the first articles listed is about art journaling as self-help.


other art

I have a bunch of art journal pages that are just sitting there, waiting for progress. Some are further along than others, and many have been sitting for months. A few are actually finished. Most of them are “left over” supplies pages.


untitled art (needs a name) **might be TRIGGERING**

wpid-20150923_164522.jpgNot exactly what I started out picturing, but I think I like it. This is the “finished” piece, though it may just be finished for today… It also needs a title. It was supposed to be a comforting image, but it turned creepy when I couldn’t get the level of detail I wanted with the pastels. It became creepier still when I needed an outlet for these stupid body memories, so they made it into the painting (awesome how memories can be transferred into & contained by art… kinda reminds me of the Vigo painting from GhostBusters II in that respect).

Some cool things I learned about oil pastels while playing with this piece: 1. to remove it from a gesso’d background, scrape off as much as you can, then rub over what’s left with paint thinner. I used Turpenoid Natural b/c it is supposed to be non-toxic. It smells like Goo Gone so it may be the same stuff. 2. To make oil pastels behave/look more like oil paints, brush over with a small amount of said paint thinner. To keep the detail of the piece, use a very thin layer applied with a soft brush at a nearly horizontal angle. If you want it to behave like paint, use a bit more paint thinner and brush the pastels as you would if you were painting.

These are some “progress” shots.

 

Loosely inspired by:

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Other things in the works:

 

 

 


Building

I’m not sure what this anxiety is about today, but I’m doing my best to “sit through it” until its resolution. It feels like something is trying to break through to the surface. I feel frantic and rushed. I want to find that release for it.

I can feel sensations building to body memories but they are still vague and patchy.

I started doing art in hopes of expressing it, but it’s slow going trying to get the image right. I found something on instagram that reflects the emotion building (or will, with some modification), but it’s also building anxiety around getting the expression “just right”…

I was hoping some of my friends would be around to come play art with me, but everyone is working or sick. I was then hoping to find technique tutorials online, but I can’t pay attention to them. I want to get right to the painting. I really want my bg to dry now (and to give me the look I’m going for, which isn’t exactly happening atm… wishing I hadn’t ruined a bg with the huge flowers I had added to it. Made me have to cover over the bg, and now it’s not the look I wanted)…

Anyway, trying to keep the anxiety in check. Trying also not to bug Dr C again for the millionth time this week. The last 3 sessions triggered stirrings. I need them to hurry up and make themselves known so I can settle again without resorting to those coping skills that shall not be named.

Someone come play art with me…


Studying Stones – art journal

I finished this page up the other day. It didn’t really have an original direction, but it went through a bunch of layers before I settled on an ending.

It started as lyrics to a Flyleaf song (So I Thought), then was covered by some vintage papers… I colored over those in gelatos thinking they would be more translucent, but I ultimately liked the way the colors spread, so I kept them. I still wanted some of the paper peeking through, so I used stencils and wiped away some of the gelato through the stencil…

I wasn’t sure what to do next, though I thought I would try maybe some zentangle-style things. I quickly remembered I kinda suck at the zentangle style though, so I went digging for other things. I found a print-out of the lyrics to Ani Difranco’s Studying Stones. I did an image transfer of that onto the b/g… then I went searching for reference photos of balancing stones (I had a specific picture in mind, but could not find it). Along the way, I stumbled upon a pic of stones that looked kinda like a little stone person, so I used that as a reference instead. More gelatos. I also added the phrase “you are magical” as I had seen it on one of my social media feeds and thought it would work for this piece (I know it was meant as an inspirational phrase, to mean that the reader is magical, but I also liked the concept of the little stone person believing the stones are magical in their own right: being unaffected by life, and simply being stones – as the lyrics to the Ani song describe).

Anyway, here’s the final result (and a few more “progress” shots)

I would still like to do something with or of my interpretation of the flyleaf lyrics at some point. There are some lines in that song which I can really relate to…


More art

Progress on “flashbacks” & some other stuff…

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Flashbacks (WIP)

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This page has been one of the slowest yet. I’ve had the general idea for the top layer for over 2 weeks (though it went through at least 4 revisions before that. The original bg sketch was done back in June), but can’t seem to execute it the way I see it in my head. I totally screwed up the skeleton… now I’m waiting for it to dry before I can try it again.

Also, faces in profile are my toughest draw. They always look wrong, so I tend to just do a mass of hair covering where the face would be…

Here are some of the steps that I remembered to take pics of:

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Mistaken

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