The Body Remembers

Untitled ( working title: The Body Remembers) Silk flowers, scavenged flowers, crystals, sap, porcelain “Mary,” figure, HubbaBubba, gum, colored smoke, fabric, false lashes.

Untitled ( working title: The Body Remembers)
Silk flowers, scavenged flowers, crystals, sap, porcelain “Mary,” figure, HubbaBubba, gum, colored smoke, fabric, false lashes.

Friends, in this post I talk openly about my experience with depression including thoughts of self harm and suicide. Please use precaution and stop reading if these topics are harmful to your mental health.

Christians teach that the body, the flesh, is inherently evil and destined to return to dust anyway. But the soul is eternal and therefore needs saving. The theology of saving the soul not the body (see also: love the sinner, hate the sin) was adopted by white American slave owners in the United States because they felt it would keep slaves docile and less likely to revolt. In short, saving the soul and hating the body is really a brain washing tool: what happens to you physically isn’t important.

The year I started thinking about hurting myself was the same year I lost all my friends, the same year I started struggling in school, the same year I was molested. I was extremely depressed, and I was lying to everyone about it. It went on like that in secret for three years before I landed at a Christian performing arts camp in Pennsylvania.

Sitting in the gathering room, I furiously scribbled on a piece of paper. We were supposed to write all the sins we could remember committing on that sheet of paper, but I felt so horrifically disgusting, vile, and unlovable that I couldn’t think of anything, I just colored it completely black (that’s called trauma folks, not conviction). “God… I don’t know what I did. I don’t know why everything is the way it is, but I’m sure I deserve it. If you don’t save me… I’m not gonna make it.” With that, I stood, folded the paper, tacked it to the large wooden cross in the middle of the room, and sat back down. The next morning, the staff had replaced every single piece of paper with a clean sheet of new paper. I cried and I believed my soul was saved. That was that, and I stopped thinking about suicide.

Setting up an outdoor studio for still life.

Setting up an outdoor studio for still life.

But what about the body? What about the place where my trauma lived? I colored that page black because I believed I was an inherently awful person and no one in that room second guessed it. I shoved all that trauma down the moment I saw clean white sheets of paper because it gave me a way out of my body and my mind. I could move on and be, “free.” But the body. fucking. remembers.

So instead, my trauma seeped out of my pores slowly, and I’ve dealt with it as it’s come. When I posted New Saints, all those years of being, “free” rolled back, and I realized I hadn’t come as far as I thought. Like a thawing cryogenic chamber filled with sickness, coming clean loosed the despair I shoved down, and I started having intrusive thoughts about killing myself for the first time since I was thirteen. In short, my body still believes this pain is all my fault. It still believes I bear the burden.

Thankfully, I’ve been in therapy for six years, and I started back on medication several months ago. I’m in a healthy place from which I could objectively connect the dots in my mind. I was able to get calm, look for the source of the pain, reach out, and make a plan for myself should things escalate (Thank you to every therapist I’ve ever had). So, I’m okay. But I know that’s not the case for every person going through this.

A few days ago I found a small statue of Mary at a thrift store, and I bought it for a dollar. I began intuitively gathering objects to create a symbolism around her so she could speak to the things I’ve shared with you here. For those with bodies that remember.

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Monstera Deliciosa: suffocation
Blue Agate: trauma release
Poppies: remembrance
Amethyst: clarity
Daisy: rebirth
Thistle: bravery
Peach Tree Sap: eternal life
Orange Smoke: abundant joy
Chewing Gum: new ways of thinking
Buddleia (Butterfly bush): resurrection and new beginning
False lashes: protection