Picture an eighteen-year-old me, hiding in the basement of my family’s house. I have magazine clippings surrounding me and a blank piece of black paper on the floor in front of me. I feel overwhelmed, misunderstood, passionate, and angry. I feel smothered and silenced to the point of eruption. I am terrified.
I don’t know what the catalyst was but that day I grew braver in my art. I found an image of a man holding a sign saying, “What am I hiding?” in a magazine. It grabbed my attention and soon I uncovered a blonde girl whose body fit with his sign after I cropped it out. I glued without thinking, letting my heart guide me.
My collage needed something more, but before abandoning it for more materials I turned my piece upside-down on the carpet so no one in my family would see it. Then I flew upstairs, typed out a few phrases that came to mind and printed them out in different fonts. I grabbed a bottle of red acrylic paint and a paintbrush and ran back downstairs.
As the red paint dried I felt that the girl wasn’t as silenced as I felt. I snuck into my dad’s workshop and grabbed his duct tape. A final X over her mouth did the trick. Lastly I added my fingerprints on either side of the girl’s body.
I didn’t even look at my collage for years after doing it. I just added it to my folder of collages and continued creating for no one but myself.
It wasn’t until working with mindyourmind that I showed my art to anyone. They liked my work and have some of it on their website (here). I didn’t reveal this piece, however, until the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health contacted mindyourmind in seach of stories from youth growing up in Canada’s mental health system.
I forget which came first, sharing my story with CAMH or sharing my artwork, but before I knew it, Hema Zbogar, the editor of CAMH’s journal, CrossCurrents, was telling me that my art had been chosen for the cover of the upcoming issue on teens transitioning to adulthood. She worked with me on my article as well. For the first time in my life I worked with an editor! It was really awesome. And it was also my first time getting paid for my art and writing, which is a huge milestone for me.
Getting paid was more significant to me than just making money. It was indication that my story is valuable to the world. I could have spent that money on many things but I choose to spend it on something that would give me joy, the complete opposite of my pain. With that money I bought my puppy, Digby.
It’s really hard for me to give myself credit or feel proud of myself, but I’m trying hard to acknowledge this success. It is a small achievement in the grand scheme of things but it’s big in my little life. Most days I feel like I have no clue where I’m headed in life but I can look at the cover of the CrossCurrents latest issue and feel like I’m making a difference. That’s the direction that I want to go.