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Visual Journaling + Reflection + Time Travel

CW: Suicide

Support IS available for anyone feeling suicidal or affected by suicide. In Edmonton, the Distress line is there 24/7 every day of the year @ 780-482-HELP.  The  Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (Canada) and the American Association of Suicidology (USA) both also have listings of regional ASS-accredited crisis centres and bereavement resources.


The other day, while looking for something completely unrelated, I came across the following two sketches from exactly two years ago:

It was jarring to come across these images, as they both symbolize things that have shifted and manifested themselves in a very real way for my life today. The first sketch became a real-life two-dimensional string art piece that is now on public display. In the second, I illustrated myself drawing a portrait of someone who was, and remains very important to me, and some of the complex feelings that revealed themselves during that process.

I have been drawing and writing all my life, and  journaling visually for ten years. It is a nostalgic, entertaining, and sometimes painful process to take a look at my old sketchbooks. It is interesting to see which ideas transformed themselves into finished works of art, and the many others which were rightfully abandoned. There are also  symbols and patterns that re-emerge cyclically. Sometimes looking back at these, I can now see what events and relationships were impacting me then more clearly than I could at the time. Other things are kind of uncanny.

In 2008, one of my very good friends was in a devastating car accident. Although this is not something I talked or wrote about much, I can now see how this event swam its way through my doodles in covert ways. Also about a decade ago, I developed an obsession with pills as visual objects that preceded my life-long diagnoses of mental illness, chronic illness, and overall spoonie existance. Suicide is a big one, too,  both from personal experience and then from a year being involved with the Canadian Mental Health Association- first as a volunteer Distress Line Listener and then on staff as a Practical Support Worker. It is so so real, and I just can’t get away from it.

It is so strange, the stuff that comes up. A sketch of my introductory statistics classroom re-emerges in a dream painted during a session with an art therapist. Attempts to capture  the mundane and beautiful mix in with flippant comic doodles. I don’t know if I really have an insightful conclusion for this other than gratitude for art as an outlet. It makes me feel like there is a case to be made for sublimation as a psychological concept, in which unwanted impulses and internal dissonance are transformed into something less harmful.


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