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The Role of Visual Art in Writing about Trauma

To write a memoir about infant surgery as I have, one must often ease one’s way into the material–find a less direct way to crack through: Take the story by surprise. In my case, I chose art. Here are the pastel drawings I made before I wrote one word of the story.

The first pastel I drew was of my face and then my torso, tracing the ropes of tension I feel in my chest and belly. Drawing my scar onto paper, the rest of the story gushed through the floodgates–the slicing, the scream, the pain, the shock, depression, numbness.

The pastels as positioned here in the photo are not in left-to-right chronological order, but in the next posts, I will present them one by one as representative of a timeline, accompanied by short bursts of prose. 

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