We each have our own way of connecting to our power. I have truly enjoyed hearing from many of you and discovering the unique ways people face their monsters. In child-centered play therapy, I get to interact with children who create entire worlds with toys, sand, puppets, and imagination. In their realm, they reclaim mastery over their own body, defeating those who took their power away from them. An excellent beginner’s guide to understanding how traumatized children play can be found here – Paris Goodyear-Brown TEDxNashville
For some, like Bruce Owens Grimm, words are the ingredients in the potions we concoct to banish the ghosts from our memory’s graveyard. Here is a link to both parts of an essay he shared with me – Ghosts in the Graveyard (Inventory of a Haunted House No. 2) and Inventory of a Haunted House No. 2 (Part II).
Another way some of us dispel the ghouls and goblins which reach out from our past is through the wonderful world of art. While you may not know Nicole Verone personally like I do, if you’ve followed my blog at all, you’ve seen some of her haunting creations. I recently sat down with Nicole from Mood Swing Art and asked her to share a bit about her amazing ability to create windows into her soul.
“You have clearly tapped into a vein of creativity when it comes to expressing your perspective about mental health and the way our health care system treats those who struggle. When did you first discover this ability within yourself?”
Nicole - In May 2018, I was in the hospital for my symptoms related to my PTSD and bi-polar diagnosis. At the facility, they hold art therapy classes where sand art, pastels, watercolors and acrylics are available. My medium was pastels. The art therapist noticed something different about my artwork. She would frame some of my pictures and people would trade gum or cigarettes, for a picture here and there. When I came home, I was given a box of pastels by a family member. From that time on, my artwork has become therapy, expressing my moods.
“You mentioned the art therapist noticed something different about your art. I completely agree. I fell in love with your unique ability to capture emotions and other difficult-to-express constructs from the moment I first laid eyes on one of your drawings. They are anything but typical, and yet they communicate things so many of us feel on a visceral level. Do you think this is what she saw in your work?”
Nicole - When art is represented in pictures with cute babies, or couples holding hands, everyone appreciates the feelings these pieces evoke. But……the hard part is looking at art when it represents trauma and mental anguish, past events and the unknown future. Scenes like this need to be represented, need to be seen and discussed….as a way of healing for the artist and the art lover. I think this is what she saw in my hospital series.
“Well your work has resonated with my own traumatic past in ways I can only describe as supernatural. When I received your gift in the mail last week, the image of my childhood nemesis, the Sparkly Man, was staring at me. It raised the hair on the back of my neck! I was so shocked when you told me I hadn’t said anything about this part of my memoir to you.”
Nicole - Oh my god, that is so awesome. You were meant to have that painting! I wanted to surprise you with a gift, and this just came to me when I was trying to connect with what I know of you. I was thinking about how your Monsters Beneath Your Bed theme represents past traumatic experiences lurking in the present. The monsters are always there, in the forefront of my mind—in the not-so-subconscious. I’ve participated in EMDR like you’ve mentioned in your blog, and now I’m also in [a type of therapy called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy] DBT to work on my “triggers,” to confront my “monsters” and hopefully get a handle on them. It’s certainly a process, and one that will take years to fully master.
“Well, your work has been a wonderful gift to me and others. I know you were featured in a local art exhibit last year, and many have commented on the two series you did for my therapy office earlier this year. I so appreciate you sharing your talent with the world. It takes courage to be vulnerable with the experiences you’ve had. Thank you.”
Nicole - My artwork has been therapeutic. It allows me to express my inner world—my feelings, fears and worries—in a non-judgmental framework. Others may benefit from looking at my art, and that is a bonus. For me, physically transforming my racing thoughts into a pastel picture is the greatest gift I have ever given to myself.
Please visit Nicole's Facebook page - MoodSwing Art in order to purchase any of her works or just to say hello and let her know you appreciate her work.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside.” - Maya Angelou
Whether it is a young child who uses an entire roll of tape on a stuffed animal to communicate how he felt in the hospital after surgery, or a young woman adeptly transferring her racing thoughts onto a canvas, we must release our inner monsters from their prisons or they will destroy us from the inside out.
If you’d like to share about the monsters beneath your bed, please contact me. I love to feature artists, writers, and anyone who wants to share their journey with me. WillKoehlerLCSW@aTraumaInformedLife.com