This is some of the work from my art therapy sessions. When I look at them all together, I get the sense of a scratchy and at times regressed state. I used pencil a lot, I think because it felt safer and more controlled. Pencil is non messy and can be erased. In the art I produced it seems chaotic but contained, always contained. In almost every picture the chaos is fenced in by a drawn box. In the third picture, there’s a chaotic messy scribble and shards of glass and it’s all contained within a jagged border. The point of the jagged border all face inwards, so it serves as a barrier to anyone getting in but also doesn’t let the chaos of my feelings out either, it’s stuck inside with nowhere to go.
The fourth picture is interesting to me and it was done near the beginning of my therapy. It shows a faceless torso floating mid-space and smudged as if almost not even there. At the time I drew this I was deeply traumatised and recovering from a breakdown and felt completely dissociated a lot of the time. I didn’t feel real and I felt like people couldn’t see the real me, I didn’t even know what the real me was. I felt worthless and like a ghost, never really knowing who I was or what I should be. I felt so fragmented. I felt like I had no edges and I literally didn’t know how to be anymore. Everything I used to know about myself had been called into question.
A lot of my art from the sessions contained separated shapes, scratches, boxes and scribbles depicting my feelings of isolation and fragmentation of my personality and of my thoughts and feelings. The confusion of feeling lots of different and conflicting emotions all at once and never knowing why, nothing inside matched up. My feelings and thoughts all a jumbled mass of contradictions.
I really struggled to produce anything in art therapy. Often I couldn’t even pick up a pencil; the act of reaching out for anything didn’t feel safe. It was really hard to just let go and do what I felt like doing. Very often I just felt frozen in place, feeling watched by my therapist.
We talked a lot and I seemed to find that okay for the most part. But I couldn’t talk and draw at the same time and if my therapist was just quiet, it unnerved me and I froze. So in a year of art therapy I really didn’t produce much.
On reflection, I think there was fear in letting go and letting my subconscious speak, and if I let it speak, I was scared what it would say. I tried to control myself, control what I said, too fearful of what might happen. I was also scared to leave the work I did in session behind. It felt like a paper trail to my pain, proof it existed. Proof that I’d told. To externalise onto paper the pain I was feeling inside, made it real, made it punishable or something.
I found it much easier to express my feelings through art at home, and did so often. At home I was alone and safe. And no one need see my art if I didn’t want them to. I suppose I was self-censoring.
The following pieces are some I did at home. Some of them I took in to therapy to be discussed. It felt better to do them at home and then decide if I wanted to talk about them. That way I was in control.