I love this self-portrait I made with colored pencils and magic marker thirty-two years ago this month. I am soft and peachy, vulnerable and open. All my features are accounted for (in previously posted artwork, parts of my face are sometimes either missing or in shadow). And my hair is like a golden crown.
This ‘photo’ was taken after having been in therapy with Lee O. Johnson for two years. When I first arrived on her doorstep, I was in turmoil. I didn’t want to try to kill myself again, so I showed up at the Berkelely Women’s Center where she was womaning the phones. Seeing my distress, she clicked on the message machine and ushered me into another room.
Oddly, she had me sit on the floor between her legs so that my back was to her chest. That was weird, but it made it easier to talk since I didn’t have to look at her face. “I need to cry, but I’m afraid my stitches will burst,” I said. “I had an operation on my stomach when I was twenty-six days old. I know it sounds crazy.”
She pulled me gently to her, and I leaned against her chest. “Go on and cry,” Lee said in a soft and motherly tone. “You’re ok now. The stitches won’t break.” She hugged me to her and I wept. I sobbed. I let myself have my tears. Hardened to my pain and grief for twenty-six years, I was able to find relief. The picture is evidence of my opening to myself. I had come home emotionally after all that time, one of the lucky survivors.