By: Jenna Rose Simon
Instagram: @AGentleTouchOfArt and @JennaRoseSimonFacebook: A Gentle Touch of Art - Jenna Rose SimonTwitter: @JennaRoseSimon
Over the course of my life, I have regularly been told that I take things differently then others. My mother has always said things such as "My other kids don't react the same way to situations as Jenna does," or "my other kids haven't developed the issues Jenna has." It seems hard for people to understand why we, as individuals, all react to situations differently. Additionally, it can be hard to know where to "draw the line" with the things we voice to others. How will they take it? How will it make them feel? Will it bring up their biggest insecurities? Or will they just shrug it off as though it had no effect on them? These are questions most people do not ask themselves before they lash out at others with their words, and that, in and of itself, can cause the person in question pain or discomfort.
I, myself, have heard a lot of hurtful and negative things in my lifetime that have affected me in various ways. Primarily, I developed a very dangerous eating disorder that lasted over 12 years. I have been in recovery now for two years, but there has not been a single step of it that has been easy. At times, it has barely even been classified as tolerable. As a child and teenager, I was always told that I had a gift for art. I loved to draw, but until recently, I mostly drew portraits of well known public figures, or commissioned drawings for friends and family of their children, typically given as gifts at the holidays. After doing my first self portrait, which showed a very sad version of myself pulling down a mask of a happy, smiling version, my therapist, Allison Lansky, told me that my art could change the world. She explained to me the depth of the ability to help both myself and others heal through my art. "Keep going," she told me at first, advising me to continue trying to express myself and my experiences through my art. As I drew more and more, Allison told me that I should share my art with the world, and promised to help me every step of the way. I was not yet ready to share my work in galleries, so I began an Instagram account solely for my art (@AGentleTouchOfArt).
Shortly after sharing my art online, the drawing you see here was taken from me and posted on someone else's Facebook account, receiving over 300,000 shares. It was at that point that I decided I was on a mission to help people through my work, and that I was willing to share even my darkest drawings in an effort to achieve that goal. This drawing represents the impact of verbal abuse on children. In the drawing, it is the child's mother who is screaming at her, however, verbal abuse can come from anyone. It can be the parents, brothers and sisters, extended relatives, or as we get older, even our friends can be verbally abusive. I came about the concept when I found a digital composition on google images of the child and the hand pulling at her hair with multiple negative words in it. It was for an unknown verbal abuse campaign, and I found the idea to be wonderful. I wanted it to be more clear and obvious to the viewer, so I googled searched to find a profile of an adult screaming to add in to the drawing. I also changed the words in the hand to be things I've heard in my lifetime, from various different people I interacted with as a child and teenager. I feel that the drawing was possibly shared more than the original digital art part due to the fact that adding the parent in made the message very obvious. I also feel that a lot of people can relate to these feelings and the idea that even though you don't leave a physical mark, your words leave scars on the inside. What isn't visible to the eye isn't necessarily unbreakable.
Now 28 years old, I am still far from finished in my quest to learn how to get past the negative things people say to me, but with the help of my therapist, I have come farther then I ever thought possible. I hope this drawing helps validate the feelings of others who haven't felt that anyone understood them. I was once that person... alone and hurting with no ability to even voice my feelings, let alone hope that someone would listen to and understand them. However, I can tell you from personal experience, that feeling does subside, and eventually, it will go away. When your voice becomes the most important one in your head, and you heal from the old wounds, you will be able to take the negative comments from others and see them in a different light. It would be amazing if as a race, human beings could learn from the past and evolve to the point that childhood verbal abuse does not happen at all. Logically, it seems so much easier to treat children properly in the first place, rather then try to mend their broken hearts and correct their thought processes when they are older.
I can't change what may have happened to you, nor can I understand completely because every situation is different... every person is different. What I can offer you is support, compassion, and hope that you can get past whatever form of abuse has held you back. With proper help and a lot of hard work, anything is possible. It shouldn't have to be your responsibility to fix the mistakes of others, but if you work to heal, you can take all your power back. This is a concept that I am still learning and understanding, and I cannot say that I feel confident or strong every single day, because that would be a lie. I do see glimpses of those feelings though, and I know that the end of this difficult chapter in my life is coming, whether I can see it every day or not... it's coming, and I will stop at nothing to get there. For any of you out there who have been abused or hurt, you have my heart and compassion. You have the full right to be pained, feel angry (or any other emotion you might feel), and you have the right to feel deeply affected by your situation. You also have the right to stand up to it, and more importantly, you have the right to be happy.
By: Yhazmin Cardona
When memories suppressed finally emerge
With a vengeance
I was not prepared for
These memories....or dreams
I could never tell the difference
The little girl that I've kept
Hidden deep inside
She cries for acknowledgement
Wants to be heard
I wonder if it's exactly what I deserved
Under their thumb
I didnt know to what extent
They crushed her soul
Leaving her stuck in between
In between remembering and forgetting
Forgetting the threats he made
How scared I was
Not realizing just how much damage he'd done
Still, bits and pieces of the story remain
That one time he told me to touch it
Or how he forced upon me my first kiss
And I projectile vomited
Or when the other one
The other one started touching me
He knew just how much pain the other left me in
Leaving a trail of insecurities and tears
My mother working to feed me
I did it to protect her
Because she did everything for me
These memories that I cannot seem to plug
They give me lessons about life and love
About strength and growth
I REFUSE to allow them any more of my SORROW
Art by: Yhazmin Cardona
By: Kevin Rosario
A Voice Hidden Away
Edited by Chelsey Rose
As we walk through life we are faced with obstacles, but sometimes those obstacles can be emotionally and physically painful. Who do we turn too, but if not our own family? What judgments will they place upon us in the aftermath? As I spoke to Marial aka La Mayimba about her life, I could not help but to feel a sense of sadness for her. The sexual abuse she endured throughout her life must have been a terrifying experience. Additionally, if that wasn’t bad enough, it started at the young age of five. A Childhood innocence shattered forever! Close to being a baby, but what had my mind blown away, was that the perpetrators of the abuse were the very people that were supposed to love and nurture her. As her mind went back in time and as she went through specific details of her childhood, I had noticed that she kept looking down, as if she wasn’t allowed to look at me and making hand jesters. Some would say that is a sign of being abused. For example, the editor of this article, Chelsey, suffered a total of 10 years of abuse by family members and foster parents. She stated "for years following the abuse I would refuse to give any human direct eye contact. Upon working through the abuse with a therapist, I learned that giving direct eye contact no longer has pain repercussions," (Chelsey Ross) I know sometimes it can be easier to keep your mouth shut and let the past be the past, and I understand that there are moments where a simple movement in time takes you back to a dark place, and you can’t help but to think about it. Unwanted memories that will forever be a harsh reality. What do you do? Who can you turn to? I feel in my heart, if there is no one you think you can trust, or if you feel you will be judged. The Mayimba Project is a great source that allows you to be yourself. Allowing participants the chance to open up about their inner demons, without any judgment. It starts with your voice and ends with your story. Help save someone’s life, and remember, "The struggles that we endure does not shape the outcome of our future.
Poem by: Stephanie Ferreira
Living in a society where people bottle things up inside to the point that sometimes all they want to do is hide. Feeling like there's no way out and nowhere to shout, and just let everything out. Depression, feeling at the lowest point, feeling like a nobody. You reach for a sense of meaning, a sense of being. You think the easy way out is to not exist, I man no one will believe your story right? He touched you in a place he shouldn't have, you trusted him and he broke your trust with his forbidden touch. Fighting, breaking, feeling alone, all you want to do is crawl back into that hole of darkness, desolation. Where you can make up a better life in your head, too bad all you want is to be is dead. Seconds, minutes, hours pass you by and thoughts are burning through your skull. Should you do it, is it worth living? You reach over for the knife that will make you feel better, I mean you'll be in heaven right? You hold on tight with all your might, you let out a shriek and take your last breath, you are finally at peace because your life was just tearing you apart, now you are dancing with angels, up in the sky. He cant touch you no more, now you can fly.
Counteracting negative thinking…
You’re fat. You’re beautiful just the way you are… you may not see it yet, but everyone else does- so believe them when they tell you how gorgeous you are, they mean it.
You’re ugly. Just because you don’t look like anyone else doesn’t make you any less beautiful. In fact, looking different is what makes you even MORE beautiful. Embrace your differences. Embrace the fact that you are just as, if not more, beautiful than all those other girls you see. Stop comparing yourself. Be your own kind of beautiful. No one loves you. They do love you- very much. You just aren’t allowing yourself to be loved by them. Yes, it’s scary to have people care so much about you… but you’re an amazing person with SO much to offer. And they love you just the way you are.
You’re crazy. Since when is this a bad thing? You’re different. You’re random. You’re quiet sometimes and loud at others. You enjoy being upside down. You have passions that lead your life. You actually follow your dreams. You’re not afraid of the same things everyone else is afraid of… you have different fear. There is nothing wrong with you. You’re going through a lot… and you may not always know why, but you’re going to get through it one day.
You’re worthless. Since when is the girl who selflessly helps everyone around her worthless? You’ve inspired adolescent girls to get up on stage and not be afraid to express themselves. You’ve been an inspiration to girls and helped them to realize that you don’t need to have a certain body type to be a dance. So many kids look up to you. They want to grow up to be just like you… you’re a role model. You must be doing something right.
You’re stupid. So what if you’re bad at math and English and history and science. You know everything about the things you’re passionate about. You know about dance, Pilates, anatomy, kinesiology, mental health… THOSE are the things that are important to you. Who cares if you don’t know anything about anything else… you know what you need to know. You know what you’re interested in. And you’ve gained knowledge from experience. You don’t have to be “book smart” to be smart.
You’re disgusting. So you have some scars? So what? Everyone does… maybe not self inflicted like yours… but think of them as battle wounds. They don’t make you any less of a person. They don’t change who you are. They simply show that you went through a lot and had to fight a war with yourself to get to where you are today… and where you’ll be in the future. Yes- you may get some more… but without struggle there’s no progress. And one day you’ll find someone who loves you for who you are and who doesn’t give a FUCK if you’re body is covered with scars.
You’re a freak. No you’re not. You’re just struggling right now. It’s okay to struggle… it’s also okay to ask for help. No one is judging you. No one else thinks this of you… it’s all in your head. There is NOTHING wrong with you. You’re going to end up alone. Says who? Maybe it’s just going to take me longer to find someone who will love me… I don’t want anyone who’s going to treat me like shit anyway and I’m not about to waste my time with guys like that while I wait for the right one to come along. I’m not going to put myself through that.
A lot of us think that by expecting the worst, we can protect ourselves from feeling hurt and disappointed. We think that if something bad happens, we will be prepared for it, and if something good happens it will exceed our expectations. It seems like a win-win scenario. What we don’t realize however is that in our attempt to prevent ourselves from experiencing something bad, we are simultaneously preventing ourselves from experiencing anything good. Because we have already decided that nothing good is going to happen, we put in less effort and give up more easily. Our negative attitude becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in which we create the very outcome we feared would become a reality. In the moment, it’s easy to think that the bad things have happened because we’re inadequate or incapable. And by allowing those negative perceptions to become our truth, we perpetuate the self-sabotaging cycle. In order to find freedom, we have to recognize that the problem isn’t who we are, but our outlook. It’s our defeatist attitude that causes our defeat—not our authentic selves. The truth is that life isn’t perfect. Bad things happen all the time, to everyone. Not because we’re bad people, but because life is strewn with obstacles and hardship. We may not be able to avoid certain struggles and unfavorable outcomes, but the one thing we always have control over is our attitude. We can choose to assume the worst and admit defeat. Or we can choose to recognize our struggle as an opportunity for learning and growth. We can choose to fixate on all of the bad things that have happened to us and allow them to discount the positives in our life, or we can choose to focus on all of the good things and use them as a reminder that more good can come our way. We can choose to give up when things get difficult, or we can choose to do our best and continue to pick ourselves back up, no matter how many times we fall. Our bad experiences may be uncomfortable and painful, but they are not without purpose. Instead of trying to avoid hurt and disappointment, choose to redefine them. Remind yourself that without the bad times, you wouldn’t be able to truly appreciate and cherish the good ones. Without struggling, there would be no growth or self-discovery. Without being wounded, you would never recognize your capacity to endure, overcome, and survive. So have faith in yourself and your abilities. Don’t allow your fear of being hurt to prevent you from experiencing happiness. Trust that as long as you try your best and don’t give up, you can make it through anything.