Sunday, May 30, 2010

things i don't understand

why convicted child rapists are allowed to have children.
why anyone would want to have a child with someone convicted of raping children.
why people look the other way when someone rapes a child...especially when that child is in their own family.
why the victims are shunned and the perpetrators are invited to family functions.
why people get upset when the victim of a horrible crime can't "forgive and forget." or move on.
why a perpetrator is only sorry he got caught...and does whatever he can to get away with his crimes.
why children are raped at all.

what is wrong with people?

Friday, May 28, 2010

commitment and a trauma time line

i've finished chapter two of my workbook. this chapter was all about how to stay safe while working through the rest of the exercises....especially in chapter three. the third chapter is about the trauma itself. writing about it, remembering it, documenting it.

at the very end of chapter two there is a quote from goethe:

"until one is committed, there is hesitancy...the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred....Begin it now."

so here it is. i'm committed. i'm saying it for the whole world to hear. i am committed to doing this work. i am committed to overcoming this difficult part of my life.

i've started chapter three. i've done a trauma inventory--what it is i've been through. i've done an exercise on my positive traits (which was very difficult for me to do). i did an inventory and scale of the frequency and severity of my PTSD symptoms. my next project? a trauma timeline. here is the exercise:

One way to record your trauma history is to draw a trauma time line. Take a roll of white paper and, beginning at the end of the roll, mark spaces for each of the years of your life on a horizontal line. This line can be a foot or many feet long. You may want to start the beginning of your life a few inches from the end of the roll so you can record any events that happened prior to its beginning. Did your mother have any serious prebirth events that could have impacted you (was she battered, did she fall, was she in an accident, was there a significant death during her pregnancy, was she confined to bed, etc.)?

Put any significant events that happened to you throughout your life above the horizontal line. These can be positive or neutral events (e.g., starting school, moving to a new home, first date), as well as traumatic events (e.g., illness, injury, abuse). Below the line, record events that happened to others who are important to you; these should be events that impacted you as an observer or witness but did not directly happen to you (deaths, births, etc.). You may use photos, magazine pictures, personal items, or drawings of yourself and others, placing them above or below the line to symbolize events, persons, and places.

If you wish, you can extend your time line into the future beyond your present age and put in some of your future intentions. This time line has been called "the Torah of trauma" by some individuals. You may find that constructing a time line is too retraumatizing to do alone; seek professional help if you need to. Also, take your time. Do a year or a few years at a time and then take a break. Take time to relax, regroup, and unwind.

i am a bit overwhelmed by this. last night i spent two hours on the phone with my mom, brainstorming the events of my life. i have to say that while most of what we talked about weren't really "significant" or "major" events, there were a lot of things that i didn't remember. and most of the things i recalled right away were negative....but overall, the pages of notes i took list positive events. this really kind of opened my eyes, i think. the negative experiences overshadow much of my life. but i had so many positive experiences...good, happy times with my family, my friends, life events that i just don't think about often enough.

so tomorrow night i will be starting on this time line. wish me luck.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

my safe place

chapter two of my PTSD workbook is about safety--physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. there are some exercises about finding out how safe you are, when you feel safest, and how to help yourself feel safer when you are threatened.

i have learned several things about myself by doing these activities.

1. i perceive threats to my emotional safety often and tend to overreact to them.
2. physically i never worry about my safety when hubby is around.
3. i "protect" myself from threats with anger--hurting and pushing away those who are "threatening" me, mostly my family, the ones i love most. the people i love the most have the greatest capacity to hurt me. i also run away, withdraw into myself, and hide under my covers. i hug my teddy bear.
4. my self-protective attempts are not successful. more often than not they end up causing more problems and putting my emotional well-being into more jeopardy.
5. i am safest when i am emotionally stable--which is rare.
6. i feel safest when i get along with those around me....when i feel LOVED. also when i feel needed.
7. intellectually i know i am loved; emotionally i don't feel that way all the time. this is more s a reflection on myself, my insecurities, than it is on those around me.
8. contention, disagreements, etc. make me feel unloved. this makes me feel threatened. this leads me to "protect" myself with anger and hurt.

the workbook suggests creating your own safe place, by imagining a location you have been (or would like to be) that makes you feel safe and secure. it needs to provide you with a sense of protection, and should have limited access--only you and those you totally trust or wish to protect can be there. think back over the course of your life to places in which you've been safe. think of what might make a place safe--its characteristics, any and all items you might want to bring, what you can hear, see, smell, etc. then you are supposed to collage or draw it in your journal.this is my safe place.

mission beach, san diego....the south shore, just by the jetty.

i am alone. the sun is setting over the sparkling water. the sky is full of brilliant colors--reds, yellows, oranges, purples. the spectacular rainbow is reflected in the waves. it is a warm day, and i feel the warmth radiate around me. i dig my toes into the hot sand, and feel the coarse texture on my skin. a slight, cool breeze blows through my hair and across my face. i close my eyes and smell the salt, hearing the waves crashing against the jetty, rolling into the shore, and the call of the gulls above my head. the brilliance of the color, of the salty ocean air permeates my body. i can think of nothing but the beauty around me.

safety. safety in color, in nature. security in warmth.

where would your safe place be?

having faith

thursday there was a post up at mormon mommy blogs called faith versus fear. it was a fantastic post and i highly recommend it. there was a quote from jeffrey r. holland that really stuck out to me, though, and i'd like to share it:

"First, we must never let fear and the father of fear (Satan himself) divert us from our faith and faithful living. Every person in every era has had to walk by faith into what has always been some uncertainty. This is the plan. Just be faithful. God is in charge. He knows your name and He knows your need.

Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ—that is the first principle of the gospel. We must go forward. God expects you to have enough faith, determination, and trust in Him to keep moving, keep living, keep rejoicing. He expects you not simply to face the future; He expects you to embrace and shape the future—to love it, rejoice in it, and delight in your opportunities."

someday i want to have faith like this again.

Monday, May 24, 2010

from picasso's blue period

woman ironing

woman with folded arms
blue nude

i've been using my art to show my feelings.

now i'm using picasso's.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

may blog carnival against child abuse

it's up! over at from tracie's blog. go read all the great posts. i even submitted my transformational self-portraits for this edition.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

this is me, i am (self-portrait 2)

this is the second self-portrait from the art therapy activity in my PTSD workbook.

after completing the previous four drawings, my workbook asked me to draw a second self-portrait and compare it with the first. it asks me if i see myself the same as i did when i drew the first self-portrait. this isn't really a yes or no answer to me. i guess the answer would be "mostly." after completing the first two drawings i had no idea what i would do different on this one. in fact i was contemplating not doing it at all because i had no new ideas. but then i did the life's road drawing. and i started to see myself a little bit differently. (i won't repeat it here, you can look at the life's road drawing again if you'd like.)

so...this is me. i am. i am contemplative. i am a little surprised, and a little more interested in seeing where my journey of recovery will take me.

this is me, i am (self-portrait 1)
this is my space
my life's road
my family and me

my family and me

a portrait of my family, from the art therapy activity in my PTSD workbook.

this drawing in one element turned out exactly as i had pictured--in another, nothing like the three previous drawings. i finished the line drawing and it was so beautiful to me i didn't want to add color and detail and ruin it. so it is more of a gesture drawing.

my family is facing forward, to the future...i am facing behind, stuck in the past, walking backward, unable to see where i am going, only where i have been.

this is me, i am
this is my space
my life's road

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

my life's road

a visual history of my life, from the art therapy activity in my PTSD workbook.

i have to say i enjoyed doing this drawing and seeing my life in this type of a visual way was really eye-opening. i now see exactly how far i have come...where my road begins, where it continues.

birth. my road is straight, it is clear, it is beautifully paved. my early childhood, while not perfect, is relatively good.

age six (approximately). the road ends...there is a deep crevice. i fall into a torrent of raging waters. i am spiraling out of control, in danger, and very much terrified and alone. here is where the abuse begins. for about two years i am lost in this river of pain and confusion.

age eight. somehow i get out of the river and make it back to the road. my road has become treacherous. a dirt road, full of so many potholes and rocks there is no way to safely travel it. i am still alone, at the edge of a precipice. i navigate the road successfully but do not escape whole...i am frequently bruised and beaten, i trip, i break my bones on the rocks, i twist my ankles in the potholes.

age eleven. my family moves, away from my uncle, away from the all-too frequent visits, and my road turns. my road is still rocky but it is slowly getting better. i make friends, good friends, true friends, who love me unconditionally. i am still being bruised and broken as i travel. a suicide attempt, broken family relationships, near desperation in crying out for help i am not receiving because no one understands my cries.

age thirteen. my parents and my family become aware of the abuse. i now have a guardrail on one side of the precipice. they get me help. they support me in beginning my recovery. my anger starts to diminish, my road starts to get better. after a few years i move from a dirt road to a paved road. it is still bumpy, still had holes and rocks, but my bruising becomes less and i stop breaking my bones.

age sixteen. i move out of state. while a huge change in my road it turns out to be a positive one. my road continues to improve. i make more good friends, friends who will influence me in ways i never thought possible--for the better. my art really takes off and i begin using it as therapy. i enjoy school, i get a good job, life is looking up.

age eighteen. i have a wonderful counselor and attend SOLE. i am the happiest i have ever been. i actually begin to love my life. while not perfect, while i still struggle, i am doing better overall. my relationships with my family, especially my parents, improves. my self-esteem improves some. i am on the uphill to recovery and happiness. i leave home to attend college.

age nineteen. all of the progress i made seems to slip away. i lose my focus on school and recovery, so i have time to play with a boyfriend who only drags me down. i finally break free of that relationship and things get better again. i meet hubby, who lifts me up. i had damaged myself so much since leaving home that i never quite reach my peak happiness again. the real world of bills, of family stresses, of school stresses, of recovery kept on the backburner catches up to me. with my relationship with hubby comes another guardrail--on the other side. he is aware of my past, loves me and supports me, and pushes me to be better.

age twenty. my road turns again. i get married. the road gets smoother. i am happy with hubby, in spite of the rocks and potholes i still have....physical illness, depression, money stresses...but i have him, and i am in love. a year and a half later, a flower blooms to make my road beautiful--our wonderful son is born.

age twenty two. my road starts to go downhill. my depression and PTSD are out of control, i am suicidal, i have nightmares, i am struggling. i still have my guardrails. i begin therapy again. i improve a bit but still keep going down hill. shortly after i turn twenty two i discover i am pregnant again--a difficult time but ends in the beauty of my perfect daughter. my road continues to go downhill rapidly. my ptsd and depression are out of control. i am in therapy again...but things get worse. i am still suicidal. i have good times but my bad times get worse and worse...i decide it's time to do something about the out of control descent i am on. i switch therapists. i start really working on myself, in spite of the difficulty, in spite of the constant nightmares and recurring flashbacks.

my road continues into a fog, a dark fog, a future i cannot see. i don't know if the road goes up, or if it continues to plummet. i don't know if it gets smoother or becomes more rocky.

but i do know that after i have completed this drawing, looked at it closely, and really thought about it...there is a tiny, really tiny, piece of me that is shocked. and kind of amazed, to be honest. i've survived this road? i'm still here, still alive? i have made it through the river, traveled the road to reach my husband, and my beautiful children? i really did that? i must be stronger than i think. everyone i know and care about, who really knows me, tells me that. i never believe them. all i can see are my weaknesses, my bad times, the horrible things i do to those i care about most, the times i want to end it all. so even though most of me still believes that, that i am worthless and weak, there is that teeny tiny piece that says, "what if you're wrong about yourself...what if you really are strong?"

two drawings ago i didn't know how i was going to do another self-portrait and have it be different...but after completing this third one i think it just might have altered a bit.

this is me, i am (self-portrait 1)
this is my space

this is my space

the drawing of my world, from the art therapy activity in my PTSD workbook.

i live in a bubble, in my own little world. the things i have access anger. my hurtful words, to myself and to others. my tears. my pain. and my coping love for my family, my music, my art, my writing. outside of my bubble there are things waiting to get me, threatening to shatter me...nightmares, depression, flashbacks.

and my family. a ray of hope, of love, of light, reaching for me as i am reaching for them...only a little light will pass through the barrier of my bubble...i cannot quite reach them, i cannot quite get outside of my little world to be with them fully. i am trapped. while i can see them, and love them, and be near them...i am still alone.

this is me, i am (self portrait 1)

this is me, i am (self-portrait 1)

my first self-portrait for the art therapy activity in my PTSD workbook.

half in the darkness of the present, half in the prison of my past. gaping black holes of pain, of fear, of disconnect in my head and my the cognitive and emotional parts of me. looking down and away because facing myself is too painful.

Monday, May 17, 2010

art therapy activity: who i am

this is the art therapy project from chapter one of my PTSD workbook. i'm really not sure where to begin. so i am going to post the activity here--if you'd like to do it for yourself, that would be great. i want to see your drawings if you decide to post them so let me know! also, i'm doing this because writing it out myself may help me get a better idea about what i want to do.


this exercise is a series of drawings that will give you information about who you are. these drawings were originally designed by spring (1993).

1. this is me, i am. this drawing shows you what you think about yourself. it is your self-portrait.
finished artwork posted here

2. this is my space. this drawing shows how you see your world, your position in it, and your reaction to it. do you believe you have a space in your world? what are your relationships with significant others? where do your fears, wishes, anger, depression, and personal strengths and weaknesses fit in? how do you tolerate your world in the present? do you feel isolated and withdrawn or included and part of the world around you?
finished artwork posted here

3. my life's road. this is a visual history of your life.
finished artwork posted here 

4. my family and me. this drawing is a portrait of your family and your current relationships and family system. it shows how you view your family and your position in it.
finished artwork posted here 

5. this is me, i am. this second self-portrait is completed after the three intermediate drawings are done. do you see yourself as you did before drawing the other three drawings?
finished artwork posted here 

in drawings one and five, how large are you? what facial expression do you have? what are you doing? in drawing two, draw what is important to you in your world and how your world is to you. what symbols are present? what emotions? in drawing three, show the ups and downs of your life in a linear way. is your road straight, curvy, full of hills and valleys? drawing four is self-explanatory.

what did you learn about yourself in completing these drawings?

therapy and PTSD work

it's been awhile since i've updated you all on what's going on with me. i've been working on those transformational self portraits though, and i really enjoyed doing it. i've also been really busy with my family, and with teaching piano lessons (which is going great, btw), and with everyday things.

remember how i said i was going to get a new therapist? well i did. and boy am i glad that i did. having told my last T that i was no longer going to see her, it turned into this huge drama-filled episode involving my hubby, her, and me...and it just 100% confirmed that i shouldn't be seeing her. she's all sorts of crazy herself, and seems to be all about the money. and manipulative, too, trying to get me to keep seeing her. nope, not going to.

i did find a new therapist, one that is closer to me, specializes in sexual abuse and is cheaper since my insurance will cover her. i can now see her twice a month instead of just once, which i really need. also, she communicates with me via email on the weeks that i don't go in to see her. how cool is that? she's younger and already seems to understand me better. so far i am really happy with this new situation. i've had one visit with her, and emailed her last week, and will have my second visit on thursday.

my new T has me doing a few things that have already been helping me. the first is documenting my nightmares. i have terrible nightmares almost every night, and the first thing i do in the morning is try to just forget about them. well T asked me to start writing them down. so i have been. i'm not going to lie, this is not easy. i'm then forced to remember them, think about them, write them down, and i have them in my head for the rest of the day. however...i have noticed several patterns in my nightmares and have been able to understand where they are coming from and how they relate to my feelings. i also had a nightmare that helped me remember something else from the abuse that i haven't consciously remembered before. this is a big deal considering i have so few memories of my childhood--both good and bad. getting this crap out into my conscious mind will help me put it behind me, i hope.

the second thing she has me doing is working on this workbook--a PTSD workbook. all i can say about this is WOW. i knew i had PTSD but i never really realized what it was, i guess. i knew it caused the nightmares and the flashbacks. but i didn't realize how almost all of my thoughts, behaviors, beliefs, etc. are a product of this. i have nearly finished the first chapter and already i know so much more about myself and why i act the way i do, why i think the way i do, why i struggle with myself and with relationships. this workbook puts it in terms that are really easy to understand and relate to, and has exercises that really force me to think about myself. and there is even an art therapy exercise that i am about to embark upon.

the downside to all of this is that i am struggling, really struggling, with the PTSD and flashbacks and nightmares, etc. Forcing myself to think about my past brings it right up into the present. I am anxious. I am afraid. i have had three major flashbacks and one minor one within the space of two days that have been horrific and debilitating. shaking, sobbing, screaming....i feel terror inside, ripping me to pieces. it is hard. it is really hard considering i've been burying this crap for so long that having it all come to the surface is hard to handle. luckily i have a family, specifically my husband, who loves me and supports me, when most people would just turn tail and run. i abuse that poor man so much...and as twisted as it sounds, it's because i love him. it doesn't make sense. but i love him so much i think he's better off without me, so i push him away so that i can't ruin his life any more than i have. so all i can say is that i am so grateful for his love and for his perseverance...because he sure puts up with a lot.

also by way of update, i had a visit with the dr that does NAET. very interesting. hubby thinks it's all a crock of crap, that it's a scam, but i was really surprised by it....i'm not going to take the time to write about it here but if you have specific questions, you can email me and i'd be happy to respond. i don't think i'll be doing it right now. i'm going to keep seeing my new T and see how the more traditional trauma processing goes before i start paying $40 a visit for NAET.

in other news...hubby got me pearls for mother's day. and a new pair of pants since i'm losing weight (woot woot!) and helped me make a delicious dinner. princess is seven months old and the prettiest little girl you ever did see. she is sitting on her own and starting to push up on her knees. little buddy is a ball of energy, is talking up a storm and we are pre-potty training. he's such a handsome kid it just melts my heart. i had my pic in the newspaper for the march of dimes walk which was last week, pretty cool, and the weather is pretty much fabulous. AND i didn't have nightmares last night, hallelujah.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

transformational self portrait:: my ideal future self

i started several different portraits before finally deciding to finish this one. there were also several revisions before i got it the way i wanted.

to me, this portrait represents freedom. freedom from pain. freedom from depression, from flashbacks, from nightmares, from the hell that is inside my head. i have reached the top of the mountain, i am looking over the valley. i can see all the way into the distance, no more fog, no more tangles of tree branches limiting my view. the sun is rising over my new life, over the new me. i am not inhibited by negative self-perceptions. i accept myself, my body, inside and out. i am comfortable in my own skin. i feel joy and pride in my journey to the top of the mountain. i feel gratitude toward those who have helped me there, for the love and support of my husband, my children, my family, my friends, my therapist, my God.

right now i can't even imagine what that freedom feels like. but i'm determined to get there someday.

how i am now

how i was in the past

explanation of the transformational self-portrait

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

thoughts on art and life

Self-Portrait, Leonardo da Vinci

one of my favorite things about my iphone is the marvelous e-reader i have. (in case you're wondering, it is the stanza app.) i've already read several books on it...some i'll own up to reading (like the outlander series, seriously love them) and some i won't, so don't ask. last night (more like this morning...while nursing a baby...) i decided i wanted to start a new book. so through project gutenberg (a place where you can download free ebooks) i downloaded a book called "thoughts on art and life" by leonardo da vinci. i am still in the foreword but i ran across something that really struck me, half-asleep and all, and i wanted to share it with you. this is exactly how i feel about art.

"He (da Vinci) maintained that art was of slight use unless able to show what its subject had in mind. Painting should aim, therefore, to reproduce the inner mental state by the attitude assumed. This was, in other words, a natural symbolism, in which the symbol was no mere convention, but the actual outward projection of the inner condition of the mind. Art here offered an equation of inward purpose and outward expression, neither complete without the other."

painting should reproduce the inner mental outward projection of the inner condition of the mind.

i just love art.

Monday, May 10, 2010

transformational self portrait: how i am now

i had an easier time with this self-portrait than the last. i think it's because i have been spending so much time thinking about my life lately, about how i am, about how the abuse continues to affect me.

i float around in a bubble. a very fragile bubble, drifting slowly up and down, in no real direction. occasionally a breeze comes by and pushes me, or spins me in a circle, or turns me upside down. occasionally the bubble bursts.

this bubble represents many things. including, i think, my ability to cope. my sanity. my protection. my fragile happiness and self-esteem.

i am surrounded by these straight pins ready to pop my precious bubble: conflict, self-hatred, invalidation, anger, frustration, depression, loneliness, the nightmares i loathe. hopelessness. and more often than i'd like to emit the bubble bursts and i begin free falling to the ground, completely out of control. i lash out, in an attempt to protect myself, my soft and vulnerable inner core, but instead end up hurting the ones i love most--and myself in the process.

someday i'll have something stronger than a bubble surrounding me.

how i was in the past

explanation of the transformational self-portrait

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

transformational self portrait: how i was in the past

i wasn't quite sure where to start with this, and to be honest it ended in a much different place than i thought it would. i knew i wanted to do a self-portrait of me as a child, so i went looking through my childhood photos and found one that spoke volumes to me.

i was six...the abuse had started, but i don't know how long exactly it had been going on. it was a candid shot, my grandmother took it. and the look on my face is the one portrayed here. sadness, loneliness, a bleak sort of numbness--detached. the next photo in the pile was one taken on the same day--a smile plastered on my face. a mask. that's what this drawing represents...the mask i forced myself to wear, i was forced to wear, to cover up what he was doing to me. surrounded by tangles of lies, of hurt, of pain, of confusion, of anguish, of darkness--webs of destruction that were wrapping themselves around me and sucking me down. hands waiting in the darkness for me. and all the while, he was telling me it was a game, it was okay, it was our little secret...and i wanted so badly to be cool, to make him happy, to be his friend instead of his obnoxious little niece. what i became was his object, his toy, his tool for his own sick mind.

this is me, in the past. this is me, six years old. this is me, what my child self still looks like inside.

explanation of the transformational self portrait

transformational self portrait

recently paula, on her blog recovery in art, posted an art therapy exercise based on transformational art therapy. she called it a different kind of self-portrait. she got the idea from art therapy blog--which is a great blog as well. make sure to check out both paula's blog and the art therapy blog. (paula has written several posts about her self portraits already. i just love to read her blog, definitely link over to it!)

Coming Up With the Concept
Think of an experience or event from the past that still has a negative impact on my life today. It could be something big or small, recent or long ago. About what happened, how the event(s) played out, and how it affects me today. Maybe even writing down the thoughts and emotions connected with. mental/emotional state, etc.

Getting Started
This will be a little different than the typical self-portrait though. For this art therapy activity, I have to create a transformational self-portrait mural. This can be a painting, drawing, collage, whatever emerges. Any material, any form is welcome.

The First Piece of the Transformational Self Portrait Art
Based on the concept above, the first piece of the transformational self portrait will show the effect this negative event had in my life and how it transformed me. This first piece will be a self-portrait based on how I was in the past. It could be e.g. based on the details of the experience/event, or something based on one aspect of the experience that might be the source of the negative impact, or an overall reflection of the “self” at that time.

The Second Piece of the Transformational Self Portrait Art
Another self-portrait, but it will more of a traditional self-portrait in the sense that this creation will reflect ME “self” as I AM NOW. This middle piece should represent the impact of this negative event till today.

The Final Piece of the Transformational Self Portrait Art
The final piece of my transformational self-portraits looks toward the future. This particular activity doesn’t have to be a reflection of the immediate future or any specific date. Imagining how I wanna be, how I WANT to change my “self” because of this past negative experience. MY "ideal" future self.

The Transformational Self Portrait - Putting It All Together

Look at your 3 pieces and put them together to see your final product. Look at what you’ve created and see if you can notice elements in your creation that reflect the transformation that occurred and the transformation you want to happen. And now that you’ve created an image of your ideal future self, you can work on becoming the image you created. Certainly, this is easier said than done, but hopefully this will be a good start, and a reminder, to work on your future transformation!