Mental Health- DBT, Therapy & Healing My Inner Child
(Full Pictorial Series at the BOTTOM of this post)
I recently teamed up with my friend and fellow creative @goodeggproductions to breathe life into a creative idea that I have been crafting for months. I wanted to do this project specifically, as an act of self-love. In my career as a professional model, I have the honor of making a lot of other people’s visions come to life, and I LOVE doing it. But this project is for myself, inspired by a very personal journey I am currently embarking on.
This series is meant to be open to interpretation. I imagine that it will be different for each person, and this is what I hoped for. I wanted to create something that allows the viewer to see themselves in the art. I am hoping to stir something deep and personal within your soul.
The inspiration for this project comes from something I’ve been working on with my therapist in my regular weekly sessions. Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve noticed certain patterns in my behavior. While I have many healthy, functional behavior patterns that I am proud of, I have others that I would like to change. There are times where I don’t react in the way I wish I would have, there are times where I am in a stressful situation- and even though I know the way I am reacting is not ideal, I can’t seem to help it. It happens the most when something reminds me, in some way, of a past traumatic situation. Almost like someone else takes over the wheel and drives my brain, in situations where I feel triggered, I feel as if I revert to a version of my younger self and react involuntarily. In those moments, I feel helpless and small. I can’t pause and breathe, I can’t rationalize or think logically. I feel threatened and overwhelmed and afraid and alone in those moments.
Upon doing some research, some introspection, and discussing my feelings with a professional over the course of many, many sessions, I discovered that this is a fairly common phenomenon for people who experience trauma at a young age. In a layman’s way of explaining it, certain things never got completely processed when the person (in this case me) was younger and in the middle of a traumatic situation, and so when surrounded by circumstances that remind the person of the original trauma, they are mentally transported to the mind-state of the original trauma. This feeling is illustrated in the first 2 images of the series- the distressed, lone figure is meant to represent my inner child.
It is important to remember that the circumstances to trigger someone do not have to be related to the trauma in an obvious way- sometimes the relation between the trauma of the past and the current situation can only be understood by the person who experienced both situations.
This feeling of being brought back to past traumas can help explain why people who are experiencing being “triggered” are usually not handling whatever situation they are in, smoothly. For me, it usually leads to a total meltdown of tears and not being able to fully verbalize my thoughts. Much like what would happen when I was a young child, and scary things were happening around me that were beyond my comprehension- all I knew in those moments is that I was terrified and didn’t feel safe. When I feel triggered, I’m brought back to a place where all I can feel is blind fear. I feel unsafe and panicked. I can’t think logically- it's like I am in some sort of instinctual survival mode, but one that is so emotional and scattered that it doesn't actually help me. Trying to navigate my complicated adult life and stumbling on random situations that trigger me, feels like playing a game of "mental health minesweeper" sometimes.
Through a process called dialectical behavior therapy (or DBT), I have been working through my past with my therapist to relieve some of my triggers, and to give me more space from my traumas in order to live a more peaceful and happy life. DBT is an intense and cathartic method of processing trauma, and replacing dysfunctional thought patterns. It focuses on emotion management and self-acceptance, and incorporates mindfulness and self-soothing techniques. My therapist and I work together to "reprogram" my brain by getting to the root of each individual trigger, and comforting my inner child during those triggering moments. It has helped me immensely and while it is still a work in progress, I feel much lighter than I used to.
This series was inspired by that process. The third image in the series is an illustration of healing and comforting my inner child- the confused, angry, terrified little girl who is still there, stuck reliving those traumatic moments (some of which happened over 20 years ago). My inner child has been trapped for so long, just wishing someone would save her. Well, with DBT, I can be the one to do that. I am able to save myself, comfort myself, and heal myself in a way no one else ever did.
DBT can be really intense and should definitely not be tackled without a professional’s guidance. But it can really, really help. You essentially rewire your brain to remember painful memories that you may be “stuck” on, in a different way. For me, this has been a lifesaver and a second chance. I am learning to forgive myself for being imperfect, and learning to show myself some love and forgiveness. (I have an abundance of those things within me, naturally- for everyone in my life, but me, it seems.)
This series can be whatever you, the viewer, feel it to be. I hope it makes you feel something, I hope it reminds you that love (especially self-love) can cure even the deepest wounds. If you can relate to anything I have said, I hope you know you are not alone!
To me, this project signifies the journey of self-acceptance and comforting my inner child, and represents a huge milestone in my journey of self-love and healing. Healing this kind of deep trauma, which has shaped who I am for over 20 years, is such a huge energetic shift. A disclaimer- this process is not something that is a quick and easy fix. It takes my energy,, it can feel very uncomfortable at times, and it makes me cry for hours about things that I don’t have the words to explain. I work on this aspect of my healing every single day, and in almost every one of my weekly. therapy sessions. It takes time, effort and patience (as most good things do!)
But then- after all of that- something kind of incredible. For the first time in my life, I can finally put it away for a while. I finally have some perspective, to help me navigate certain situations in the everyday world and avoid situations that trigger me. And perhaps even more importantly- in the case of situations that trigger me that cannot simply be avoided, I am learning to better navigate and handle my emotions, without just repressing them and trying to avoid them- which never seemed to really work anyhow. I don’t want my triggers/trauma to limit my opportunities in life.
I am taking back control, little by little, by working through my trauma and healing age-old wounds. I can feel myself loving myself a little more more everyday. Because I am a survivor- which is pretty badass in itself- but even more importantly, because I am a warrior! I wear my war paint in the name of self-love. I am on a mission to heal, and not only will I heal myself, I will use my experience to help others along the way.
Images by @goodeggproductions (muse is myself)