December 22, 2012

Post Secret

I just saw this on the Post Secret website ( It's an email that someone sent:
I was at the PostSecret Event in London. I didn't find the courage to go up to the microphone, but if I had been able to, this is what I would have said.
I spent so long feeling guilty, feeling ashamed of my sadness, and you know what? It just made me sadder. You are allowed to be sad, you are allowed to be angry, you're allowed to be depressed. We all deserve to feel our own sadness in our own time.
Something you will have heard before - you deserve to be happy. That, of course, is not always easy to hear, especially in the depths of depression - so let me add something. You deserve to be happy - but you don't have to be happy right now or all the time.
It is okay to be sad, it's okay to not be ready to be happy yet. One day you will be ready to recover - that day doesn't have to be today or even tomorrow, as long as you know and trust me that it will come.
It's okay not to be okay.
Thanks for everything Frank,
Holly, London
P.S My secret is that I decided last night that I'm ready to recover and it's going to be incredible.
I like everything about this email. I've always had a hard time feeling like it's OK to feel sad or depressed - so when people told me that I deserve to be happy, it just made me feel guilty that I didn't feel happy. I think it should be required to add that it's also OK to not feel happy at the end whenever you say that.

December 19, 2012

The Power of Manipulation

I had a little bit of insight into how distorted my thoughts were - especially as a child - because of the manipulation I was subjected to... I remembered something the other day that is a despicable example of how I was manipulated. Even though I don't have the best perspective on my own distorted thoughts, this example is just so completely illogical that it's clearly wrong.

So here's the story: I have been getting some laser hair removal treatments on my legs and it can be a little bit painful, especially for the first few treatments. I had an appointment the other day, and the technician must have turned the laser setting up high and she was being very thorough so it was much more painful than usual. It was so painful, in fact, that my legs would involuntarily spasm every once in a while. I was so embarrassed that I kept apologizing. It felt really familiar for some reason, and then I remembered having a similar jerking reaction in response to the pain of being raped. What's weird is that I also remembered being embarrassed when it happened then too. And this is the messed up part... The reason I was embarrassed is because he would get angry with me for jerking my leg. Let me say that again in a different way: I felt guilty that I couldn't control an INVOLUNTARY response to the pain that HE was causing ME.  

Most of the time, I find it hard to feel angry at this particular person because I'm still pretty emotionally detached from a lot of the stuff that has to do with him because it's hard to think about. This probably isn't even the worst manipulation I was subjected to, but when I remembered it, it was just a "what the fuck" moment. I think this might be the type of disgust that other people feel when I tell them things that have happened. Usually I'm embarrassed because I feel disgusted with myself - but I'm (pretty) sure that they just feel disgusted with the people who did it to me.

December 8, 2012


I can't really tell if I'm doing OK or if I'm just detached from my emotions... maybe a little bit of both? If that's possible? It's like a lot of the time I feel fine but life feels a little surreal, which actually makes being at work easy. Then in the evening I get flashbacks and obsess about stuff that's happened or feel really irritated. Then at night when I'm sleeping I have crazy dreams where I have super intense emotions to make up for the lack of emotions during the day.

The epic battle that goes on in my head about whether all of my memories are true or not is still ongoing. I had this memory that somehow made me really accept that what happened is real. Then a few days later I happened to drive past someone who abused me and suddenly I doubted myself again. Why do some perpetrators have to look so normal?? I feel like he should look like some big scary monster...

Sea of Shame

November 25, 2012
This drawing is my shame in a nutshell. The black/grey "sun" thing in the corner is where I want to disappear into when I'm feeling really bad about myself. It would probably make more sense to describe it as a black hole. A sense of humiliation makes me wish that I could just shrink so small that I don't exist anymore. The sea of green represents the vastness of the shame that I feel. Sometimes it feels like I'll never be able to deal with all of it and convince myself that I don't really have to be ashamed of all of the things that happened when I was young.

November 27, 2012

Red Is For...

I finally scanned in some new artwork to share. I've been struggling a bit with feelings of anger and shame recently. It's been especially hard because of the holidays, which means too much time for me to think, staying in the room I grew up in where some abuse took place, and thinking about how alone I felt as a child at this time of year when I wanted to just tell someone what was happening but was too afraid to. It's strange because there's so much about this time of year that's hard for me, but it's still my favorite holiday season. I absolutely love everything about Christmas, so I guess maybe next I'll have to draw something uplifting about it.

These first two drawings are expressing some of the anger that I was feeling last week.


November 2012
This one felt good to draw. I wasn't trying to be careful while I was doing it - I just scribbled a bunch of black lines and then drew fiery colors around them. It kind of helped relax me while getting some of the anger out at the same time.

November 24, 2012

This drawing was more of an experiment and it didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. I wanted to try to mix the red and the blue in an interesting way so I drew an angry red sea, but I didn't really plan ahead with everything so when I decided to add some yellow in, there were already smudges everywhere that made the yellow hard to work with. I got really frustrated with it and ended up giving up on trying to make it look nice. I called it "Primary" because I realized after I finished that I used only primary colors, and it also looks pretty simple.

November 24, 2012


What with Thanksgiving a few days ago and all, I thought I'd make a little list of things I'm grateful for. It seems like a good DBT-type-thingy to do - think of all of the positive rather than only focusing on the negative.

Things I'm Grateful For

1. My parents and brother - I know that all three of them will be there for me no matter what happens. I'm know how lucky I am to be unconditionally loved.

2. My friends - they put up with me being a boring/selfish/tired/crazy depressed person for a good while and yet still seem to like me ;). (Especially my poor roommate...)

3. All of the therapists, mental health workers, psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, and doctors who have helped and are helping me through all of this. I can think of so many amazing things that each person I've met has taught me or done for me that it would be almost impossible to name everything. Five years ago, I never thought I would be where I am now, and I wouldn't be here without the help of so many caring people.

4. My job - the fact that I have one; that I can afford to put a roof over my head and feed myself because of it; that I do something that I really enjoy; that I no longer have an insane boss; that I have so many unbelievably nice coworkers; that it gives me amazing health benefits; and that it allows me to take graduate classes practically for free.

5. My resilience and strength. I have no idea where I would be without it - but I'm sure it wouldn't be a very nice place.

November 16, 2012

Identifying Underlying Emotions

I'm taking a clinical psychology class right now and realized that I made a very wrong guess about what type of therapy I've been receiving as my primary individual therapy... I didn't realize until taking this class that psychodynamic psychotherapy is actually very close to Freudian psychoanalysis... which is definitely not what I have been doing in therapy. So, I'm still not really sure how the various therapists I've had would define their style - but it's probably closer to some sort of cognitive therapy style. In view of that, I rewrote parts of the "Treatments" page of the blog (found here).

In other news, my CBT therapist pretty much destroyed a bunch of my defense mechanisms that I was using to protect myself from myself. Basically, sometimes my thoughts or feelings are unacceptable to me (even though they are actually probably normal) and I need to pretend that they aren't there so I have defense mechanisms so that I can avoid them. When my CBT therapist made me face those thoughts and feelings that I was avoiding, I had the most confusing mix of emotions. I was embarrassed, scared, angry, sad and completely exposed and vulnerable, all at the same time and all I could do was sit there and cry through most of my session with her. Afterwards though, the anger took over and at first I was angry with her for making me feel like that, but then it shifted to just being angry with life in general for putting me in this position. And that's where I still am. 

According to my primary therapist, anger is a more "acceptable" emotion to feel but if you narrow it down, there is often some other emotion that is creating that anger that is harder to accept or identify. For example, fear may be expressed as anger: a parent who yells at a child because they lost sight of them for a moment and were worried about their safety. Other emotions may be guilt, shame, or sadness. I guess now I need to figure out what other emotions I'm feeling. I think that a lot of it is probably fear and maybe feeling a little bit alone and sad. I don't know. I'm probably also just plain angry about having to deal with all of this.

November 8, 2012


I learned a fun new math equation this week...

Anniversary of a difficult termination with a therapist
Unexpected visit to the hospital that I was at when it happened (this time was for work reasons)
Current therapist telling me that she has to take a leave of absence for 4-6 weeks
Fastest spiral into negative coping ever.

So yeah. Bad news is that I went from being pretty OK to being in a horrible cavern of despair in a matter of hours. I lapsed into some bad habits that I feel incredibly guilty about. However, the good news is that instead of letting myself sink past the point of no return, I actually reached out for help by calling the on-call service at the mental health clinic I go to. I was completely terrified of doing it but I ended up feeling so much better for having done it. The person I talked to pretty much convinced me that I'm not a complete failure and that I'm not overreacting about something that seems really stupid, and she set up a little bit of extra support for me for the next week. And on top of that I felt pretty good about myself for reaching out for help like everyone always tells me to... 

I guess that even though this situation felt pretty shitty, it was still another learning experience that I can use to help me next time something like this happens. Luckily, I think there's very little chance that this particular equation will ever repeat, since it was pretty much a bunch of really bad timing. But it will definitely not be the last time that I have to deal with sudden overwhelming feelings, so I hope that I will remember this situation and think more about what to do and what not to do.

November 4, 2012



October 29, 2012
This drawing is actually based on another drawing that I did a while ago, which is the first drawing that can be found in this post. The previous drawing actually had a double meaning. One of the meanings is what I wrote next to it. The other is that it actually represents a specific memory as well. It's too disturbing to write about what it represents but the pink/beige line represents me as a vulnerable child. The grey spikes (which my roommate said look like nails ripping into flesh... an excellent metaphor for the picture and inspiration for the title) represent one of the people who abused me. The brown represents another one. The black space is pretty much pure paralyzing terror. This is one of my worst memories and images from it have been following me around and popping into my head. I thought that maybe drawing it could help me get those images out of my head for a little bit. It did actually help, so I'm glad I made myself draw.

October 22, 2012

Good News!

First piece of good news - I have a guest article about art and trauma on Michele Rosenthal's PTSD website and blog:

Aaand  second piece of good news (with excellent timing in view of the first one) - I started drawing again!!

Desperate Pain

October 20, 2012
This drawing was a release of some of the strong emotions that I have been experiencing after some of my memories reintegrated with the feelings associated with them. Many of the memories I have are detached from many of the overwhelmingly strong emotions that I experienced when they were happening. Through various coping mechanisms, I managed to avoid feeling anything too scary for me, either at the time or after the fact. Though this was a good survival mechanism for a child, it turned into unhealthy coping and now it only does me harm. So even though it doesn't feel very good right now, it's actually a positive thing that I've started to feel the full extent of all of the fear, pain and helplessness associated with some of the memories. But I definitely needed a way to get some of it out of my head, so I'm glad that I finally listened to my therapist and picked up my pastels again.

October 11, 2012

Re-experiencing Feelings

I forgot to make a little celebratory post last month... It's been over a year of no cutting!! Something I'm actually kind of proud of... I still really really miss it sometimes and get urges, but I think of how long I've gone without and I don't want to start over. I can also see how not doing it has really improved my self-view in some aspects. I used to feel so horribly guilty about cutting and I would beat myself up about it and then that would make me want to cut more - it is just a really vicious circle of self-hatred and punishment.

I was actually struggling a lot with urges to hurt myself in the past month. I was feeling so helpless, not in control, and confused. Part of me kind of knew that I was going to remember something but I refused to accept that idea so I pushed it away and ignored any scary thoughts that I was having. But these memories always find some way to sneak   their way in... They wait until you're not expecting it and your walls are down - this one waited for me to be in the process of falling asleep to attack. Strangely though, once I remembered and figured out that the feelings I was having were my childhood feelings being re-experienced, I felt more in control and therefore I was having fewer urges to hurt myself. My therapist also had me think about what happened from an outside perspective so that I could see that it makes sense for me to be feeling trapped and confused because what happened is just too much for a child to handle. So even though I hate having this memory in my head and it makes me feel horrible, I can tolerate having it because I understand why it's making me feel bad and I can recognize what I'm going through emotionally.

I am thinking about starting up some art again. My therapist has been trying to convince me that I should because it has always been a good coping skill for me. It would probably be a good thing at this point to find an outlet for the scary feelings.

September 29, 2012

The Void

I don't really have much to say, but I haven't posted in a while...

I've been trying to pay attention to what triggers this feeling of emptiness that I have sometimes. It's a really strange feeling - I don't feel incredible depressed, it doesn't make me want to curl up and never move - but I still want to just disappear because it's a pretty unpleasant feeling. It feels like nothing can fill the void so when I feel like that I just move around from one thing to the next trying to do something that will make it go away. I did a lot of cleaning last week, and it helped to distract, but it always comes back when I run out of things to clean.

It definitely gets triggered by being by myself - it's like the emptiness of being physically alone triggers the feeling of being empty inside. I also notice it sometimes when I get triggered with trauma stuff. I'm not really sure what it is - sometimes it makes me feel like my life isn't entirely real... so does that mean it's derealization? Am I dissociating a little bit to deal with anxiety? I don't know, it's confusing. I've tried to talk about it in therapy but I got even more confused because I couldn't describe how I felt.

When I was little, before anything bad happened, my family went on a vacation to California and we visited Alcatraz. I was completely freaked out by it - there are pictures of me in a jail cell and I look completely miserable. I remember that afterwards I had this weird fear that I was still really trapped in one of the cells and I was just asleep and dreaming my real life. It's kind of a good analogy for how I feel now. I'm trapped in the jail cell of my mind and the rest of my life is just a dream.

September 14, 2012

Feeling Progress

Wow. My most ridiculously stupid post, in which I tried to say post as many times as possible, is already one of my most viewed posts... Kind of strange. I'm not usually that crazy! I swear!

On a different note, I talked a bunch this week with my therapists about how I've been frustrated about talking about trauma stuff and feeling like I'm not making progress. It helped me realize that just saying what happened isn't really enough - I've been trying to avoid facing and dealing with the feelings associated with the memories. So I ended up asking my therapist to help me talk about that part more and I also asked her to kind of validate what I talk about in a way that might help me stop minimizing what happened. I was so nervous about asking, but my other CBT therapist has been encouraging me to ask for things that I need. So I tried to ignore all of the thoughts that tell me that I don't deserve to ask, or that she would think that I was criticizing her or that I was being indulgent, or even that she would just reject me, and I asked her. It turned out to be so empowering and positive. She was glad that I had asked and told me that I should always bring something like that up because she wants to know how to best help me. We also talked about progress and how sometimes it's so slow that I feel stuck but it helps to look back a year and think about where I was then. This time last year I was between hospitalizations and I was just reacting and not really coping all that well. Now I am making choices about what to do, I am coping, and I am (with the help of medication) not feeling so horribly depressed and anxious. I felt so much better after our session and I'm now feeling really positive about how things are going.

September 10, 2012

Just Some Thoughts

I've been feeling pretty frustrated recently about what to do with my traumatic memories. A lot of things keep triggering me into having intrusive thoughts - the meds keep them from being all-consuming and overwhelming, which is a huge relief - but I don't know how to process my past, so I'm feeling a little bit lost. The same memories play over and over in my head and talking about them helps a little but I feel like I shouldn't talk about it more than once because that just seems indulgent to make someone listen to it multiple times. I know that's probably not something I should be worrying about, but I feel ridiculous bringing the same crap up all the time.

On a completely unrelated note, I've noticed that my body has become really good at keeping me from getting too drunk. For a while after my suicide attempt, while I was doing really badly, I wasn't really interested in going out with my friends at night. Going out and not drinking made me depressed because watching my friends all having a good time while I was feeling like shit wasn't really all that fun. And if I had gone out and had a drink, I would have become completely suicidal. But since I've been doing really well recently, and I'm off of the medications that were dangerous to mix with alcohol, I've been able to enjoy a few drinks. I don't know if it's because of the medications that I'm still on, but I'm no longer able to have more than a few drinks before I feel sick. And I'm totally incapable of taking shots without gagging and having to suppress the urge to throw up. I'm actually mostly happy about that because it stops me from getting too drunk, which would still probably be really bad for my mental health. And it also means that I don't have to suffer through horrible hangovers,  which is great.

I don't have any art to share because I haven't felt like drawing anything recently. I have a few ideas in my head, but for some reason I don't really feel like putting them down on paper. So I guess for now I'm just going to write random thoughts and ideas down until I can bring myself to draw again.

August 31, 2012


So after the last post I did end up feeling like posting, however a ghost decided to take over my computer for a few days and so I had to take it into the store to get it exorcised. But I have it back now, and there's no more random mouse movements or clicking, so I am finally going to do a real post.

As a follow up on my medication situation: I have been feeling a lot better again, so I think that the med that was reintroduced has started working again. It's amazing that one tiny little 5mg pill is the difference between being a horribly anxious person and being just a very stressed out person. It's bizarre knowing that without that tiny amount of drug, my soul would be slowly dying under the pressure of all of that anxiety and depression (not to be melodramatic or anything...). I'm just happy that I finally have some meds that work and make life seem pretty OK.

I have some art to post. My therapist and I were talking about how I could go through all of the trauma and yet still act like a normal little girl. There was definitely some dissociation going on; I would just think about other things so that I didn't have to feel what was happening. I think I also separated myself into two parts - one part dealt with the abuse and the other ran around dealing with normal life. I'm not talking about dissociative identity disorder (multiple personalities), I just think it was a different part of me that had to deal with that stuff so that I could then go on afterwards and act normally. It's kind of like I compartmentalized the abuse so that it didn't affect the rest of my life. After something happened I could just tell myself that it wasn't real or it hadn't really happened to me. I remember telling myself that it was Katie that did the bad stuff, and I've always hated when people inadvertently call me that because I guess I associated that name with the part of me that experienced horrible thing.

August 2012
This is supposed to represent the dissociative defense I used while bad things were happening. The pinkish semicircle at the bottom represents me and the greyish color on the outer part represents the dissociation barrier between me and the abuse. The red-orange is the pain and the black represents how it seemed like there was nothing outside of the abuse while it was happening. The three grey, brown and green spike-things represent the three main abusers. They are mostly blocked by the dissociation, but they still manage to pierce through and leave their mark. I tried so hard to pretend it wasn't happening, and later that it had never happened, and yet it still managed to push its way in and hurt me.

August 23, 2012


AAAHHHH!!! I'm feeling so guilty about not posting! But feeling guilty is making me feel pressured to post! And feeling pressured to post makes me want to do anything but post! It's a terrible cycle. But it's possible that posting this will make me feel less guilty about not posting so then I will be able to post something real. 

How many more times can I say post?

So post-medication-reintroduction (aka after I started taking one of my meds again), I am still waiting for the chemicals to kick in fully, but I think I'm feeling a little better again. But that might just be the post-work-relief feeling so I don't want to speak too soon... It would be better if I knew I was definitely feeling OK and then I would tell everyone post-haste.

Hopefully there will be more art and less crazy in the next post...

August 11, 2012

The Sea

I've been struggling with anxiety a lot in the past month. My prescriber tried to take me off one of my medications (an antidepressant) and as soon as I stopped taking it my anxiety shot way up. I've gone right back to judging myself for everything I do - I feel like everything I do is stupid and people are probably just pretending to like me. I know that this is just the anxiety talking, but it's a really difficult feeling to fight. A lot of PTSD symptoms have gotten much stronger and more things are triggering me. I have intrusive feelings and thoughts about the abuse all the time. I've also been dissociating a little bit when I'm particularly anxious, which hasn't really happened in a while (apparently one of the meds I'm still on helps prevent that - interesting info I just found out yesterday). All of this has made my self-harm urges a lot stronger. So obviously we are putting me back on that med... I'm hoping that's the reason I got more anxious and that once I get it back in my system, the anxiety will lessen again.

All of this is making me wish I was back on the beach...  


August 4, 2012
During my vacation we went to a beach in a different town on the one rainy day and I took a picture that this drawing is based on. It seemed like a pretty simple landscape to draw and I liked the sandbar that all the birds were sitting on. I find the sea very calming to watch and listen to. I always imagine my safe place to be on the beach at dusk. I brightened the sea up from the original and took out a boat and some of the people on the beach - I liked the idea of a lone person walking along. The original photo is below.

August 3, 2012


I have not forgotten about this blog - I am currently on vacation. Relaxing at the beach, eating delicious food and getting awkward sunburns is exactly what I needed right now. My family has always gone to the same town for summer vacations since I was little and so it has tons of good memories attached to it. I am trying to take a vacation both from work and from all this PTSD crap and it's actually working so I'm pretty happy about that.

I'm posting a drawing that I did a couple weeks ago just for fun. I wanted to use something different than my usual pastels and decided to just doodle with markers. I was going to fill the whole page with color but it turned out to be incredibly time consuming. And then it was really hard to cover most of a piece of paper with black marker. Crayola markers do not last long at all - I used a brand new black Crayola marker and it couldn't even finish off this drawing! But anyway, there's nothing to this drawing other than relaxing and doodling with as many colors as I could.

Stained Glass

July 17, 2012

July 25, 2012


This post is going to be a continuation from a previous post (that can be seen here) of what I took out of the last few sessions of the POWER group. It's going to be a long post, so I apologize in advance.

One of the group members gave me in writing what she shared with me about the progress she saw and suggestions she would make for me. I hope she doesn't mind me sharing what she wrote here!

I've been so impressed with your courage and commitment to yourself and your healing. I've seen you go from engaging in self-harm* to setting an intention to not self-harm; then working with yourself to gradually reduce the type of self-harm and then through your commitment to yourself the urge to self-harm becoming less intense and less frequent. I thank you for sharing your artwork and your blog with us. While I'd recommend to you a DBT or CBT group to continue to support your healing work; because you have so much to offer, I also see another next step for you as perhaps finding a program where you might volunteer with students to encourage their artistic abilities and their self-esteem.

My parting, symbolic gift to you would be an alchemist who would transform the guilt and shame you carry because of your suicide attempt and transform it into courage and wisdom that you were the one to save yourself and that you are definitely more than worth the effort.

(*I just want to clarify that the self-harm behavior she was referring to was not cutting or anything else that breaks the skin, but more minor forms of self-harm such as pinching or digging my nails in. I'm about 10 months cut free!)

I especially appreciate her symbolic gift to me. That is something that I would like to work on believing and it was really meaningful to me that she feels that way. I also appreciate her suggestion to find a way to volunteer to help students. One of the group leaders also expressed that she thought that I was a good student but would probably also be a good teacher and I would be able to help a lot of people. That was nice to hear from both of them since it's something that I want to do but I'm afraid that I wouldn't be good at it.

The other symbolic gift that I was given by another group member was an everlasting Sennelier jumbo pastel. It changes to whatever color that I want and allows me to embody my emotions on paper. If only that pastel could really exist!!!

Another member gave us all a card with something she wrote that was based on Mary J. Blige's "Stay Down".

We didn't expect all this drama and stress. We've got a lot more work to do but we're almost to the very best part.

We've been strong for so long, we can pass these tests if, "We Stay Down." We're almost to the very best part, this won't last forever. One day we will look back on this and smile because in the end, "We Stayed Down."

We are all in this together, your healing is in me and my healing is in you.

You will ALWAYS be in my heart and prayers.

I think it's a really amazing adaptation of the lyrics so that it applies to our healing journey.

One of the leaders made some suggestions for what she thought I should focus on next, which I found really helpful. She suggested that I look for a group that focuses more on narrative and grieving the past. She recommended that I work on becoming more aware of my inner parts (like in Internal Family Systems (IFS)) and listening to and being a voice for them. She also suggested that I try to allow myself to be more vulnerable since I still have difficulty being OK expressing emotions, particularly sadness, around other people.

I think that pretty much sums up the main things I got out of those last two groups. There is a lot more, but I just can't get it all down!

I'll finish this post off with something that I drew that represents hope and growth.


July 21, 2012
I realized in the middle of drawing this how similar it is to a previous drawing I did (that you can see by clicking here). I was just trying out the new pastels that my roommate got for me and I wanted to try all of the pretty bright colors... but I guess it has turned into a theme that represents growth as a result of therapy. As well as the personal growth that I've experienced during therapy, I've found that, though terminations can be painful and sad, there is always something that I learn about myself and the world and I can grow even more from them.

July 21, 2012


I am actually planning on writing another post about group termination because so much came out of it, but for now I thought I would post some art (since this is supposed to be an art blog) to make up for the lack of it yesterday!

Also, I just realized something yesterday that is actually pretty cool. When I first created this blog, the timing was partly due to the fact that I was stuck inside because of a hurricane. Then, two months later, I decided to give myself a pseudonym for a last name, which turned out to be 'Storm'! I wonder if there was some subconscious thinking going on there when I chose the name... but maybe it's just an interesting coincidence! 

Another cool fact: My blog pageview count as of writing this is 2345! Consecutive numbers!

Color Explosion

July 7, 2012
This picture looks far more pretty than what it represents. I drew this picture based on a memory of when something that happened hurt so much that I started seeing explosions and designs of color. It was either from the pain or because I was closing my eyes so tightly - but either way the colors helped me dissociate from what was happening by giving me something to focus on. I guess it also kind of shows how colors have always been helpful to me: at that time they were a distraction for me and now they are helping me heal!

July 20, 2012


For the past two weeks of group we have been doing termination. That word sounded so negative to me since the last time I terminated in therapy, it was not a very enjoyable experience... But this one was actually really really nice. We spent time on every person, talking about what we got out of group, the progress that we made and what we hope to be our next steps. So I'm just going to share some of what I got out of the two sessions.

One of the things that really meant a lot to me was how many people told me how much strength and courage I have. One of the group leaders told me that I have a "steely determination" in facing this journey of healing. Another person said that I have a gentle nature that is balanced with strength. I was told that I was courageous and frank when sharing my fears with the group. And those were just the things that I wrote down.

I realized while talking to the women in the group about their courage, how much I believe in their strength. It made me think about how I didn't really believe in my own strength and generally would dismiss it when people told me that I was brave. But I truly believe that the women in my group are extremely courageous and strong and so, if people can see that in me too, maybe it is true that I am brave. So now I've been thinking about all of the things that people have told me about what they see in me. I reread all of these encouraging things that people have said to me that I put together last year after my first hospitalization. A lot of it is emails or texts from my old therapist who was so supportive and told me so many times how courageous and strong I am. I also have emails from family members telling me how much they love me and that I'm a good person as well as things I wrote down that friends, other patients or clinicians said to me. When I first read or heard those things, though I appreciated their belief in me, I was sad that these people saw so much in me while I "knew" how weak or bad I really was. But this time, when I looked through all of it again, I considered that all of those things could possibly be true. Though it made me really sad to read those things, both because a few of the people who said them are no longer people that I talk to, and because it's emotional to read nice things about yourself that are hard to believe, but it was also very nice to be able to look at those things in a different way and to feel better about myself. I hope that all of the ladies from the POWER group can eventually believe all of the wonderful things that I and others believe about them. They are all strong... or I guess I should say, we are all strong, courageous, good and worthy women.

July 13, 2012

Too Literal

Of course, right after I wrote in the last post all about how amazing it is that I hadn't felt a lot of cutting urges and how I was getting less afraid of falling back into depression... I got a little bit depressed over the weekend and even more anxious over the past week. Not that I'm going to take credit away from myself for having fewer and less intense self-harm urges. It's just ironic that I wrote all of that and then had a tougher week with regards to self-harm thoughts and mood issues.

I have some drawings now!

June 27, 2012


I'm not exactly sure how to describe this picture. I guess I was trying to draw some of my disgust at specific memories and it turned out WAY too literal for me. The middle pink area is hairy skin on a naked person. But I really couldn't even bear what I had drawn so I had to scribble at least parts of it out. I hated that it even existed on paper so I had to hide it. I even hid the picture behind another one in my portfolio so that I don't have to look at it and anyone else who looks through my portfolio won't see it. I didn't want to post it here, but I try to be as honest as possible here and it didn't feel right not to post it.

July 5, 2012

No Drawing :(

I've been so busy recently that I haven't really done much drawing and therefore not much blogging either. I have basically been taking full advantage of the fact that I don't want to constantly isolate anymore. 

I realized a couple of exciting things this week. First, I've stopped waiting for everything to fall apart. I'm still nervous that it will happen, but I'm no longer expecting it to happen all the time. Second, I noticed that I haven't been having urges to cut recently. Somehow I replaced that urge with the urge to just chew on my thumb, which I haven't been doing because I don't want to hurt myself in any way, so I have been chewing a lot of gum instead. That's really amazing for me. Since I was in high school I pretty much have had cutting urges every day, and usually multiple times a day. There are probably a few exceptions in there, but I can't really remember them. So I'm really happy about those things. And then I'm also really happy with my new job. It's only been a few days, but I already feel much more comfortable with my job than I did before. I'm not bored out of my mind, like I was before. And I'm not constantly worried about bumping into my boss anymore. My new boss is a very nice, mild-mannered guy. I don't have to go into a meeting cringing because I'm either expecting to get my head eaten off or to have to listen to an hour-long rant about conspiracy theories or juice diets. So all in all, things are pretty good right now.

I will try to get some more pictures up soon. I will hopefully get to do some drawing this weekend. And happy day-after-July 4th!

June 24, 2012


Something awesome happened this week... I got transferred to a different part of my department at work! Which means that I'll have a more interesting job AND, even better, I'll have a different boss!!! My current boss is a crazy pants who is triggering for me to be around because he's pretty much an arrogant, condescending asshole. The only bad part is that I wont be able to hang out with my awesome coworker all the time any more. But I'm still extremely excited and I'm feeling pretty good right now.

My therapist and I were talking about how feeling good is something I'm not really used to so it's kind of uncomfortable for me. For a lot of my life I've felt dead inside, numb, depressed, anxious, scared, overwhelmed, or out of control. I've had times of feeling good, but it's never been as consistent as it's been for the past few months. I still feel all of those negative feelings, but they're less intense, more tolerable and don't last as long. I guess anxiety is the one I feel the most still - thus today's drawing.

Teeth Clench

June 5, 2012
One of the most annoying physical manifestations of my anxiety is teeth clenching. It's the worst while I'm driving since I have so much time to think, especially while I'm going to work (a whole hour). If I'm really anxious I'll find myself lightly grinding my teeth and it will get to the point where my jaw starts to hurt from clenching so tightly and for so long. Sometimes I'll wake up doing it during the night. I even have bad dreams where my teeth are all breaking and falling out. I think that's actually a pretty common dream... but it's still gross. This picture shows how I feel like I'm cracking all my teeth by clenching so much.

June 17, 2012


One of my ongoing fears has been whether all of my memories are true or not. I'm scared that for some reason my brain created new memories. My reasoning is kind of convoluted.... I minimize what I know really happened to me so I feel like my feelings aren't valid - so I'm worried that my brain made up even more stuff so that I don't feel like I'm overreacting. Except that having these new memories obviously don't make me feel better so I'm not really sure why I think I would make them up. 

I spent some time thinking about why I question it so much, even after three different therapists have heard at least parts of my story and how I recalled it and have told me that it's likely that my story is true, even if I don't have all of the details exactly right. I realized that I spend so much energy on questioning the truth of my memories that I don't have to spend any time thinking about what it means if they're true. Sometimes it takes so much energy that I don't even have to let myself process the feelings associated with what I do know is true. So I'm sort of starting to believe that it could be a defense mechanism against accepting what happened to me. For now, I've decided to try to let it sit in my head as something that happened and try to accept it rather than constantly question and worry about it.

Yes or No?

May, 2012
The grey line through the middle of this drawing is the confusion about whether the memories are true or not. The top half of the picture, above the grey line, represents the feelings that are involved if the memories are true. The reds and oranges represent the pain, anger and hurt that I would have to start accepting. The browns and greens represent the humiliation, shame and guilt that I feel when I think about what happened. Below the grey line is how I would feel if I found out that my memories aren't true. I would feel like I was crazy, thus the jagged lines that go all over the place. I would also feel really horrible about myself for making something like that up, which is portrayed through the colors I used. Both sides are really scary so it's actually easier to stay in the middle in the grey confusion.

June 11, 2012


It has been about 9 months since I last cut and 16 weeks since I hurt myself in any sort of serious way!! I still get urges to do things pretty often, but somehow the time since I last did something helps me stop myself. Of course, I'm using other skills to stop myself. But mostly I just think about how I want to make that length of time even greater (I don't want to break my streak!!) and I think about how short of a time the relief from cutting lasts before the guilt and the shame kick in and make me feel even worse than I did before.

For the first time in a while, I actually feel like doing something with my future. I'm motivated to look for a better job and to go to grad school to do a social work degree. I enjoy research (my current job) but I want to do something that directly helps other people. I have been inspired by how the connections that I've experienced with my own therapists and with other mental health workers have helped me so much. I want to be able to give that to other people. I think it will mean facing some fear, but I believe that doing so will be worth it.

On a completely unrelated note, I made some cool little cards that I illustrated and then wrote my blog website on the back. The group leader asked if I wanted to share my blog so I decided to just write the site down on some pieces of paper and give one to whoever wanted one. But then I was having a hard time a few Saturdays ago, so I made it into an art project.

"Business" Cards

May 19, 2012

June 3, 2012


I went out of my normal range of style and drew some "self-portraits" that represent the inner me rather than the outer me. One of them is based on something we talked about in the POWER group that I mentioned in the last post.

May 6, 2012


When I started this, I wasn't even going to draw a face. I'm not a huge fan of drawing realistic things since I'm a bit of a perfectionist and it really bothers me when things don't turn out how they're supposed to look. That's why I'm not a big fan of this picture but I'm trying to think of it as more of an abstract picture that doesn't really need to look realistic... I chose to make the skin blue to represent the depression that is always at least kind of there. Outside of my head is the confusion and overwhelming feelings that go along with PTSD.

May 6, 2012
Traumatized Mind (Self-Portrait 2)

This picture was inspired by the POWER group. We were talking about how there are two sides of reactions to trauma. There is the avoidant side - the one that finds ways of not thinking about the trauma. It is the dissociative half that makes it possible to become numb and to avoid or detach from difficult emotions. This half makes it possible for the person to function. The other half is the hyper-responsive side. It is the side that is hypervigilant and experiences strong emotions. This half experiences traumatic memories in intrusive and overwhelming ways. Because of the strong emotions, it may make the person impulsive, creating conflicts or self-destructive behaviors. These two halves are represented in the picture by the blue face - the numb half - and the red, fiery hair - the reactive half. The hair flames out because it feels uncontrolled and hard to contain. I like this picture more as a self-portrait. I think it represents the two sides of PTSD well.

May 26, 2012

The Wave

I am currently in a group called POWER 1, which is based on DBT but with more incorporation of the effects of trauma. A lot of the group is psycho-ed, so we spend a large portion of each session talking about the effects of trauma, coping and skills. One of the things we talked about is how emotions can be visualized as a wave. By realizing that emotions are like a wave - they peak and then will eventually subside - it can be easier to tolerate the emotion without turning to harmful behaviors. I really like this way of visualizing emotions, so I was inspired to draw something based on it.


May 5, 2012
I drew the shoreline because that is the part of the wave that I visualize. The colors in the water represent the many different emotions and mixtures of emotions that one can experience. I love that feeling of standing on the sand where the waves break and feeling the water push your ankles and then pull them as it recedes again. It seems like the perfect way to imagine emotions - sometimes you get a strong wave that almost knocks you off your feet and sometimes you get a weak one that tickles your feet as it goes by. Tough emotions can be very intense and they may feel like they could push you over, but the feelings always recede again. Even if the tide is coming in and you keep getting hit by more and more intense waves (maybe like when you're dealing with a bout of depression), the tide always goes down again. When you're really suffering and feeling a lot of pain, it can be hard to believe that you'll ever come out on the other side, but you really actually do, so it's very important to me to remember the wave and know that it doesn't and can't go on forever.

May 22, 2012

ART!!! (And Strength)

I'm posting something that I drew just for the hell of it. I wasn't really trying to express anything particular but I guess things still come out in my drawings whether I'm being intentional about it or not.

Fire Lily

April 10, 2012
This started out because I wanted to draw something fiery and then I wanted it to be something beautiful, like a flower, so I turned it into a lily pad. To me it looks like pain but also strength. It is something alive despite the darkness that surrounds it.

It's really strange to be on the other side of a bad period of depression. I can see how irrational my thinking was and I actually feel like I learned a lot of things from it that will arm me for my next encounters with those thoughts. I hope that I am like that flower - blazing stronger than all the darkness of depression and the pain of my past that presses in on me. 

I had this horrible dream a few days ago that was very painful but also gave me added strength to fight my irrational thoughts and suicidal ideation. In the dream, I had just tried to kill myself and I was watching from behind a locked door as my parents sat with my body and desperately tried to get through the door because they knew that my spirit was there and they needed to get to me so that they could save me. As I watched them I became incredibly sad - a deep grief that I feel a lot in my dreams that makes me feel like sobbing forever. I changed my mind and floated through a window in the door to get back to my body. I became really scared because at first it seemed like it was too late and I was already dead but I refused to accept that and I forced myself to be alive and in my body and my dad helped me stay there. I felt horrible the next day, thinking about what I had put my parents through when I ended up in the hospital because of a suicide attempt. But I also think that this dream showed me almost first hand what the consequences of that kind of choice are and gave me more strength to not make that choice when those thoughts attack.

May 18, 2012

Thoughts About Medication

I'm really droppin' the ball here on posting... and this post isn't even going to include artwork! Oh no!! I do have some - I just haven't scanned anything into my computer yet. Laziness I guess. But I am at work, nothing to do, so I have decided to post something.

I have been pretty stable. Which feels kind of weird. I'm still sort of waiting for it to fall apart... but it isn't! I think it really really helped when I got off most of the million medications I was on just a few months ago. I am all for treating mental health issues with medications - I think it can be extremely helpful - however my treatment team and I believe that I was being over-medicated and it was having the opposite effect of what it was supposed to be doing. SO, I would encourage anyone who feels like they are maybe on too many medications to talk to their doctor about it. Maybe you're on the right meds for you, maybe you're not, but either way talking to your doctor isn't going to hurt. For a while I was just going along with everything I was told to take, without questioning it, because I just wanted to feel better and I felt like the more the better... NOT TRUE. I now have a nurse practitioner who is really great and I feel like she's being careful and really thinking about what medications I should be on and she's listening to what I have to say. I don't feel like I'm being rushed while I'm in her office and I don't feel like I'm disappointing her when something isn't working (a past problem). She also communicates with both my general practitioner and my therapist and I have to admit that it's been pretty helpful and has increased my safety in a couple situations. 

My primary therapist, CBT/skills therapist and nurse practitioner are all proud of my progress and I guess I am too. I'm definitely not saying that I'm all better - but I haven't felt this OK or in control in a while and it feels really good. Yay!

May 6, 2012

As Is

This is the third picture in the series of drawings I did on particular memories. I've been putting off posting this because I've been debating a lot in my head about how to explain what I drew, but I don't think I can say anything to explain it without getting way too anxious about it. So I'm just posting the picture as is...


March 10, 2012

April 27, 2012

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things!

I made a list of 25 things that make me really happy. I'm talking like, exhiliratingly happy. Like when you get that bubbly feeling that starts in your stomach and turns into a giggle when you're really excited about something.

25 Things That Make Me Super Happy

1. The smell when it first starts raining on a warm day.
2. Getting into clean pajamas and snuggling into bed with freshly laundered sheets.
3. Joking around with my brother.
4. The smell of wood fires.
5. Listening to pouring rain while falling asleep.
6. Being a secret dork with my roommate.
7. The quiet feeling outside when it's snowing a lot.
8. When my mom does something nice for me just because.
9. Sitting on dunes at dusk and listening to the ocean.
10. Being really goofy with my coworker.
11. Playing with dogs.
12. Knowing that my dad is proud of me.
13. Skipping outside or down a really long hallway.
14. Having chicken ramen noodle soup with chunks of cheese in it when I'm craving comfort food. (I know it's weird...)
15. Going out for coffee with two of my friends.
16. Coming up with something witty to say.
17. Finding someone new that I enjoy being around.
18. Reading a really good book.
19. Rehashing a funny drunken night with college friends.
20. The beginning of spring when it starts getting warm and the first trees bloom.
21. Walking through the woods in the fall.
22. Running in the rain.
23. Going to the movies with my family.
24. The feeling on Christmas morning before anyone has opened any gifts.
25. Talking in a group and realizing that you're not alone in how you feel.