Journey’s End: The Final Pastels

I’ve been sharing the series of pastel drawings I made that jumpstarted my writing the memoir manuscript Autobiography of a Sea Creature, in which I uncovered the impact of my infant surgery for pyloric stenosis (PS), a life-threatening blockage between the stomach and the small intestine. Please see previous posts for the progression so far. 

The surgery interrupted my breath pattern. As a baby, I tried to control pain by holding my breath or breathing shallowly, for when the diaphragm expands, it presses internal organs. Holding my breath became an unconscious pattern, my natural breath subverted. 







In the pastel above, I drift without grounding. As a baby in recovery for over ten days, I was only touched by nurses who administered medical care. They were not allowed to pick me up or comfort me. Germ theory ruled the day–only necessary contact. Besides, back then the tubes were thick and heavy. No hugs. No visits by Mom or Dad.

The operation was a success. My abdomen had been opened and my pyloric muscle cut to expand the passageway so food could get through. A part of me had died though. In the pastel above, I am a dead insect lying in a coffin. My agency had been stripped and my connection with others severed. In researching the PS operation for my memoir, I learned that I was probably given a paralytic and therefore conscious for the surgery. Back in 1952, medicine actually believed babies didn’t feel pain. Moreover, I may not have received pain medication in recovery. Life was hell. (Read Dr. Chamberlain’s essay “Babies Don’t Feel Pain: A Century of Denial in Western Medicine”

As a teen-ager and young adult, I was depressed and, at times, suicidal. I had PTSD, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, from the early trauma but didn’t know it. 

Through pastels, I was able to create a platform from which to dive into and write about my early experience. I began to tell the story from my point-of-view and not regurgitate what I’d been told by others. Without these drawings, would I have been able to write the story? And so, I began the journey of healing through writing.

Here’s one of the pastels, titled Hugged by the Universe, that I drew after finishing the memoir manuscript: 

This pastel speaks for itself. Thank you for taking this journey with me.



































Hugged by the Universe

Brown arms encircle me and hold me in a warm embrace. Safe, I am held by all that is. I am a Sufi baby, floating like Moses toward my destiny. All that is supports me–the waves, the sun, the air, my magenta body wrap and cushiony head wrap. I drew these pastels at the beginning… Continue Reading

To Write, To Draw, To Feel: Accessing Pre-Verbal Trauma

There are many ways to get in touch with trauma that we have experienced before we knew language. And accessing this information is key to beginning to heal from early wounds. Many of us will need therapists to help us access and process this material; we will need support in healing. There are many things… Continue Reading

Images of Healing

Drawing and painting have allowed me access to inner images. The original title of this piece is “Parts.”At age twenty-six in 1978 and in therapy with Lee O. Johnson,¬†I watercolor-painted this snow-woman. I was starting to find some balance in my life. Even though I was wounded (dab of red), my body parts are neatly… Continue Reading

Draw what bubbles up

I was 25 years old, lying in sand by the Pacific Ocean. I had come to the sea to kill myself, depressed again after so many years of trying to make my life work since my suicide attempt at age 21. But I just couldn’t bring myself to harm; I had grown. So I drew… Continue Reading