The Language of Artists

I want to build a home in my body.

I want not to twist my face in front of my phone screen. My cheeks are so fat. I hate my nose. I look like an idiot. I want to not hide behind filters, strategic lighting, and false angles. Sure, everyone has a good side, even me.

I feel fat. I feel ugly, I think on a daily basis. I want to feel beautiful. Is “fat” really a feeling? What is behind the constant criticisms of my body? It is only on days when I feel as though I don’t measure up in other ways, when I feel as though I’ve disappointed someone, or failed in some way that I go back to the decade-old feeling of “fat.”

I can change my body. I can gain or lose weight, get a new piercing or tattoo, alter my wardrobe, cut my hair… But underneath any superficial change, I’m still me.

And it is this “me,” this self that I find so uncontrollably tumultuous, so desperate for constant stimulation, action, creation, and even turmoil.

What do you do when things are going “too well?” This is the best I’ve felt in years. Yes, I still have a lot of anxiety, and some days are better than others. But I am functioning. I go to work and all of my appointments that are required for the care and keeping of Katherine. I am in a happy, healthy relationship. I have a handful of friends who care about me. So why do I feel as though I want to rip my life apart at the seams?

Next week, my mom and I are going to Minnesota so that I can have a psychiatric evaluation at the Mayo Clinic. I do not know what to expect (other than frigid temperatures), and I am a bit nervous. I’ve heard the saying, “If you have one foot in the past, and one foot in the future, you’ll piss all over the present.” Crude though it may be, the idea holds value.

When I have an idle moment, I worry about the psych evaluation. I worry about talking to the clinicians about past trauma. I worry about whether they’ll believe me–whether anyone will believe me. I worry about if I’ll ever have another piece of writing published, if anyone will ever give a damn about my art.

I have a friend who speaks the same artistic language as I do. When I send them photos, asking, “Is this bad? Is this too much? Is this over-the-top?” they respond with encouragement, helpful suggestions, and excitement. This friend inspires me to keep creating, no matter how many people do or don’t interact with my art.

Mainly, I use photography to capture emotions I cannot describe in words. When I am alone, I am not afraid to get in front of the camera. I do not fear ugliness. In fact, sometimes I strive for it.

My eleven-year battle with self-harm has, quite literally, left me scarred. Just like the cycle of any addiction (food, gambling, sex, alcohol, drugs, etc.) self-harm is progressive and addictive. I keep telling myself, “Just wait until Wednesday. Wait until you can talk to your therapist about it ,” as if I haven’t had nearly a decade of therapy, treatment, and hospital stays to talk about it.

I want to break the cycle, and I know that a bad habit has to be replaced with a better one. When I Google search “self-harm coping skills,” none of them appeal. I can’t figure out why I feel this way, though knowing the reason behind a feeling doesn’t change the actual emotion. It’s not as if I can simply remove the cause of the feeling and make it go away.

“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”

Cesar A. Cruz

I have reservations about posting these photos here. My family will see them. What will they think? What will my coworkers think? What will random strangers think? “She’s crazy. She’s doing this for attention. She’s so dramatic.”

And then, I ask myself, “What would Allen Ginsburg do?”

“Writing poetry is a form of discovering who I am, and getting beyond who I am to free awakeness of consciousness, to a self that isn’t who I am. It’s a form of discovering my own nature, and my own identity, or my own ego, or outlining my own ego, and also seeing what part of me is beyond that.”

Allen Ginsburg

Ginsburg was a Beat poet, most renowned for his epic poem Howl. It is laden with obscenities and sparked a lawsuit about whether it was too obscene to publish. Ultimately, the presiding judge ruled that Ginsberg’s foul language was necessary to make the point he was trying to make.

While I am not the activist Ginsberg was, I also feel that sometimes, to make the art I need to make, I have to get my hands dirty, so to speak. He didn’t back down when faced with criticism. He fought for his right to be heard.

I am not afraid to be ugly. I am not afraid to take up space. I am not afraid to be loud. I am not afraid to be me.

One thought on “The Language of Artists

  1. I’m sorry you have reservations about posting these photos and, at the same time, I get it too. I’m your family. Please know that I see you. I see you for exactly who you are, and I love you always. I’m glad to hear you’re not afraid. I hope you know that you can’t scare me.


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