I lost it.
I cried and I couldn’t stop, I woke up at 3:40am with tears in my eyes. I cried in my sleep and the next morning I cried more.
I think it was everything.
It was the move during a time of concern that even rest stops wouldn’t be open as I made my way from Michigan to Texas It was picking my key up on a rug that stated, “welcome”
It was getting wrongfully towed, chasing and catching a tow truck that wouldn’t stop within less than 24 hours of arriving to my new apartment
It was the first night trying to get my jeep back in a place new to me
It was ending up in a scrap yard at one point It was being laughed at and called a liar
It was concern so much inside of me that I felt the need to lock myself in a rental van and hold my pocket knife blade out in my hand
It was the puddles on the floor from a broken refrigerator and freezer It was the microwave that I couldn’t use
It was the arguments on the phone for hours saying why having food is an emergency
It was the 23 fraud charges on my card I had to dispute for over four hours
It was closing my cards
It was having no friends or community It was feeling lost
It was not knowing which mailbox was mine
It was bringing up past feelings of abandonment It was sleeping in a sleeping bag on concrete floor until I could find a bed
It was not having almost anything of mine here to remind me of who I am
It was the car break ins and thinking goodness it wouldn’t surprise me if one of those eight were mine and running to my jeep to find out (it wasn't phew)
It was not having my coping skills accessible
It was the judgement I felt as people stared at me as I purchased a lot of things at the grocery store-no I didn’t purchase out of panic as I felt the need to explain to every cashier I encountered I needed these things I just moved here
It was my internet modem that I was told was stolen
It was chasing a UPS truck and catching it -apparently this is a hidden talent of mine
It was trying to get a health assessment in 24 hours and find someone to print my papers so I can work
It was a phone call finding out three days before that first day of work that I was not working
It was my mind on those who I know who are fighting addiction, those living with anxiety, abusive situations and my thoughts of the number of increased suicides that were going to result from this situation in our world.
It was not being able to receive and give hugs to people I couldn’t say bye to back home
As a hugger I had no physical contact for five weeks.
It was listening to people share excitement about going back to their groups of friends, coffee shops, running groups etc. And realizing I don’t get that when this situation gets better. I don’t get to go to PaLatte and say hi to Michi, or to grab ice cream at Love’s with friends, or compete in CrossFit comps this summer in Grand Rapids, or go to my box, or to some of my other favorites some including Mokaya, Fox Naturals, and Martha’s Vineyard. I don’t get to hug my friends again…well not for a long time at least. And I know I have new things to look forward to don’t worry I started a wish jar for that but still not having this is also a loss for me and I’m sure that wave will hit down the road too. Seeing everyone get together again celebrating connection-I don’t get that. I don’t have that to look forward to.
It was everything.
I focused on so much I was grateful for, the angel who showed up at 10pm at night to help me with new appliances, the leasing agent who printed my papers, having Peanut with me, finding a bed, and of course toilet paper and groceries. In addition I even made a friend who has been a God send. Then also being able to have a contract to work and I thought I am the luckiest girl alive I have everything I need. No one has hurt me and I am so blest.
Then it hit me.
One day, I received a plate of amazing food from a friend who had prepped a meal for guests, and I was lucky enough to be given and enjoy some of the extra food prepped. After receiving the food I walked into my apartment, looked at my food, looked around and thought now what? And the now what got me. And I cried.
When I grieve I tend to lose my appetite. I placed all the food in the fridge and I couldn’t stop crying. I had not cried once since arriving and it got me. When we are in a place of trying to survive to receive our bear minimum needs our minds go into survival mode you may recognize this as a fight, flight, freeze mode. Our brains do this thing to keep us alive where our emotions go on the back burner because it takes a lot of energy to process them and our energy needs to go towards keeping us alive. Our brains make things a priority and my priority was shelter, food and work because our brains have one job-to keep us alive and these things are a requirement for me stay alive.
And that’s exactly what my brain was doing.
Making sure I was alive.
Of course it showed up in my art…
An image of Prague a place I dreamed of going to and recently was there, a place also foreign to me as well of course still even after visiting. I noticed I used materials that what I would consider to be very controllable: ink, pencil and colored pencil. I tend to use watercolors which would be a material that is on the opposite side of the spectrum one out of control. At the end I felt the need to add watercolors but I noticed how controlled I kept them even a material I often use and throw the paint was no longer something I felt comfortable doing. I saw the path, open clear not knowing what’s ahead. I saw no ground and thought how ungrounded I currently feel now.
Then the tree outside of my complex kept drawing me to it. I saw the controlled materials and a little more watercolor as well but I was still trying to control the movement of the paint with the wet on wet watercolor technique only allowing the paint to go where I felt comfortable. Clearly in a world where things felt out of control I was desiring some sort of control in my own life. As I finished the tree I saw it-the stability and strength and connection on the left and the branch on it’s own to the right, a progression of my transition from Michigan to Texas.
Then there were bubbles. I was using this material in a variety of ways related to work and the day I came in with my food I kept looking at the holes in this one piece and the heart shape I kept seeing with the person near by. I clarified it with a marker and I kept looking at the holes and the two images. Again, I saw it. I saw the empty holes, I saw the disconnection between the heart and the person something that can be seen but not reached. I saw the empty holes and thought of the emptiness within myself. This was the night I cried. The night I woke up at 3:40am in tears and the morning I cried twice before noon.
The next day, I looked at the holes in another bubble piece and it craved yellow. I added touches of it and started laughing. Red, blue and yellow are the three primary colors they are essential for all other colors to exist. They were like my survivor mode, my essentials and necessities. Immediately I noticed I was filling the holes in with yellow which reminded me of light and keeping my inner light glowing. They aren’t filled yet but they are getting there.
As I walked by the tree again another branch was reaching out to me so I spent some time with it and drew it out. The watercolors I noticed this time I was getting a little more back to a previous style a bit and throwing the paint more letting it fall where it needed to flicking my wrist rather than tapping the brush as I had done in the previous branch piece.
I listened to this tree and I thought-you get me.
I’m your grief line.
It started up at a high point.
We then had a pretty big decline with loads of pokey branches in the way you couldn’t even see what was coming next it was one branch after another.
You were just trying to get through.
It felt perhaps it was only going to continue to decline.
But don’t you see- I gave you enough for a quick recovery and things seemed alright.
I know we plummeted down to the lowest point at a rapid pace.
And we sat there a bit.
But don’t you see what’s ahead?
It levels out a bit and you see that branch that one has growth coming from it.
This post is not here to demonstrate concern for me, but rather show you that even your therapist cries-sometimes a lot. This post is to show you how my background in art therapy has guided me in my own grief journey during this time. Also yes, I did share this with another therapist during a supervision session as well. Yes, there is also a lot more detail with each piece and this is just to give you an overview (I could go on about breath with bubbles and impermanence of course and surprises with not knowing when it will pop but lets face it this blog is long enough already).
Hopefully my vulnerability in sharing my visual grief story here recently will help you see how art therapy may be able to help you too if you are ever feeling lost or stuck. I’m not saying I’m 100% better as I’m sure that grief wave will come back and I will cry with it. As I mentioned in a previous blog I will greet it as an old friend, try and drink some peppermint tea, cry with it and connect with it which is where I will find fulfillment and joy too.
I know my bubbles aren’t filled yet it may take some time, and I don’t have the entire tree together yet…but I’m getting pieces together…one day more holes will be filled and there won’t be much empty space anymore and the tree…yeah it’s is coming together you just wait to see how this piece unfolds.