I’m learning how to channel my mess into a beautiful message. That’s what Courageous Color is all about. So, I want to share a very special painting today and the story behind it.
I’ve experienced some heavy stuff over the past 2 years. My twin boys were born 2 years ago today. They were 7 weeks & 2 days premature. They spent a few weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) so, I wasn’t able to take them home, like I had planned, right after they were born. Leaving the hospital without them was indescribably painful.
They’re my 4th and 5th children so, you can understand that I was used to having my baby, connecting with my baby and then bringing my baby home. In this case, everything was different. I had never had surgery, never had two babies and never had any experience with the NICU. Going through all of that at the same time resulted in postpartum anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder.
I didn’t wake up on week 3 of having 5 kids and say, “this is a problem”. The difficult diagnosis, I later received, actually crept in slowly while I was learning how to manage a family of 7 people… while I was learning how to care for 2 infants and how that affected my 3 older children. I struggled with paying attention to everyone. I struggled with the family schedule, leaving the house & getting everyone in the car. So many little things seemed like mountains that couldn’t be moved. I remember feeling so misunderstood and falsely praised for raising all my kids effectively. I wasn’t ready for any of it and I was doing it all wrong. In September of 2016, I sent my three older kids back to school with half the supplies they were supposed to have and maybe one new t-shirt. I felt like a complete failure.
Two months later, my Nana passed away. She had been struggling with dementia and then Alzheimer’s. I wasn’t able to leave the state for her services because I had so much going on at home. I wanted to go to support my Dad and to honor my Nana because I loved her so much but, it wasn’t possible.
In February of 2017, I developed a cyst, in the bone around my mouth, that required extensive dental work… months of scary mouth surgery that effected my front teeth, the appearance of my smile and, consequently, my self confidence.
The final straw was having to say goodbye to my beloved pup, Frankie. He loved me but, he was aggressive to everyone else. I tried desperately to get him to love the kids but, I failed (again). I found a woman who takes aggressive dogs but, she wasn’t interested so, my husband helped me make the tough call to put him down.
I was lonelier than I had ever been in my life. I was living with six people who love me to death but, I was detached. I felt like I had so many responsibilities that I couldn’t even take a short walk outside without planning it first or giving myself an hour long pep talk. I knew that I had to find peace.
At first, watching Bob Ross on ‘The Joy of Painting’ was my saving grace. I would binge watch seasons just to hear him talk, laugh and be happy. This was the first episode I found (on hulu).
Then I started painting again. That helped A LOT but, eventually, the fear and loneliness would return with a vengeance. I was more than just stressed with my “new normal” and I needed help from a professional. After 13 months of trying to handle it all on my own, I started seeing a counselor.
At my very first session, I made it clear that I needed a “take away” each time I went. I needed to know it was working. So, if you’re in that place right now or you are unhappy with your personal progress, don’t be afraid to speak up and set expectations. I vented a lot. I repeated myself a lot. I asked a ton of questions and then I started making progress.
Recently, I did an EDMR technique (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) called “the container”. It was so powerful that I had to paint it and bring it back to show my counselor. It was very symbolic because I had been painting my emotions in different colors and shapes but, it wasn’t appealing at all.
When I layered more paint over what I already had on the canvas, it became a very satisfying piece. The container painting had done for itself what it did for me… covered all the ugly surrender of emotion and contained it. Now, I can use this visual to contain any other thoughts, feeling & memories that I want.
It wasn’t just this painting that made me decide share my process and start helping people. It was this whole experience, the entire 2 years that I’ve been through.
I know that I’ve had to deal with these things for a reason because, God wouldn’t allow me to endure this struggle in vain. I know other people are suffering, like I did, right now. I believe that creativity has the power to heal. So, it’s on me to spread the word.
I’m not a therapist. I’m not a master of the fine arts. I am a broken person with a lot of stuff to work through and art has always been there for me. I’m tired of my life being overwhelming and confusing. From this point on, my life will be about helping people surrender, create and be free. This painting is proof that I can do it.
Are you going through a hard transition too? Tell me what helps to relieve your stress.
Peace & Love, Sarah
***foot note*** The container painting is now hanging in my counselor’s office and it has already inspired some of her other clients to create pieces of there own. That really makes it feel like the struggle is worth it.