Art therapy project – past/future

Okay, have to get into the mindset of writing this post. Right now I am just plain angry. Yesterday I didn’t do so well on my meal plan. Today, after grocery shopping, I was utterly exhausted so decided to give my meal plan a try again and eat carbs. For some reason, complying, or maybe it’s just eating, makes me angry. I don’t know why. Eating also means feeling. Let’s see… sitting with the feeling… I think it’s covering sadness but why does eating make me feel sad? I wonder if it is a result of being resigned to being abandoned. If I eat, I will be considered well and the treatment team will abandon me. The idea that I get well and no longer need the treatment team doesn’t compute. The idea that I will continue to see my treatment team ongoing but perhaps not as often also doesn’t compute. I think this feeling was probably intensified by being discharged from the treatment program, earlier this year, too early.


My inexperienced art therapist had us do an exercise to look at our past and our future. We had to trace our hands. That was the first problem. I tried and tried but my hands are fat to me, fat, fat, fat so I started having a wee bit of a panic attack. She finally said, “you don’t have to do it then,” and my reply was, “that isn’t the point.” I finally traced, in very light pencil, an acceptable version of my hands. When I talked to my therapist about this, who has decades experience with eating disorders, she said that we should never have an assignment to trace any part of our body. That validated how hard this was for me. Next, we need to decorate one hand with the past. Um, really?! The was the next problem. I’d need about fifty-two hands to sum up my past. Plus, some of us are trauma survivors so to have us focus on the past was, well, horrible. We weren’t in a program setting for support. iOP is three hours, three nights a week and art therapy, the only time to process this, is a little less than two hours, once a week. That leaves one hundred sixty six hours to ruminate without support; subtract forty two hours for sleep and that’s still one hundred twenty four hours. Somehow I managed to come up with a some feelings of the past. There are simply too many events and pictures aren’t my forte.



She thought the singing and dancing was a positive, she was wrong. My mom never let me develop into whatever it was I wanted to do. She enrolled me into singing, dancing, acting and started me with a children’s musical comedy theater. I can’t sing, I felt like the fattest dancer, and I was way too shy and vulnerable to act. I was in school, studying of course, going to rehearsals and classes all week. This meant the end of having friends. My little brother was born during all this so I also had to take care of him for hours, oh and do all the cleaning. No wonder all I wanted to do was disappear. I spent whatever free hours I had voraciously reading science fiction books, escaping the world, the galaxy, the stars.

The flag represents being in military where my eating disorder officially started. That in itself is a story. Recently I looked back at my performance reviews. All tens, highest score. When I wasn’t working in my field I volunteered to help everyone else. I never stopped moving. I worked on jets. It was massive pressure, so much pressure that many of us started getting little strands of grey hair. Our average age was 22! I handled it though and excelled, why? I was eating disordered. However, I felt like the biggest failure there. I felt like I was never good enough, that I’d never measure up. That all of them would figure this out at some point and declare me a fraud. None of that showed on the outside though. I did eventually catastrophically fail and was discharged with a medical retirement and shoved out the door. I thought that last year in the military was a nightmare and nothing could be worse. I was wrong.


The following week I was working on my future hand. I had talked to my therapist about what to do. She gave me some suggestions. I was consulting one of the other group members about it and that’s when the “Art Therapist versus Lexy” situation happened which can be read here. Originally I had put a guitar, horses and some other things on there but after that I took white paint and completely covered the hand. It was blank again. I couldn’t even look at it for days but knew we were going to process it the following Wednesday so pulled it out the following Wednesday morning. Up till then I had planned on saying “I’m nothing.” However, I knew it would make me feel worse and antagonize the art therapist. Then it came to me, maybe I could say that my future is a blank canvas full of possibilities. Ahhhh, possibilities so I decided to write that on it, then “unknown”. I had to think way, way back to what it was that I wanted. Except for the “unknown”, the rest doesn’t hold true yet. I’m sure it is only because I’m currently dealing with ED behavior and shame which over-rides everything. The thing is, this future hand would be acceptable in group and minimize questions. People would feel good about it and drop the subject. I wasn’t able to add “love” but as an afterthought I put it underneath. This isn’t like relationship love, it is love period, a word I absolutely hate. I mean, I love others but the idea that anyone can love me, the real me, doesn’t seem possible. I know intellectually that people do like me even maybe love me but the shame is so much of my core that I can’t feel it. I may never have felt it. Sometimes I wonder what it does feel like. I look at peoples faces to see if I can get a clue but I can’t see it. I don’t understand it, I simply don’t know. So I don’t think about it.


3 thoughts on “Art therapy project – past/future

  1. Thank you for sharing this, and for being so honest and open about the past, especially concerning your time with growing up and then with the military. Quite an interesting exercise to do, do you feel it was beneficial in any way? I read how you feel shame and the belief that no one could love the real you and it made me so sad. I really hope that in time you can see yourself the way others will, and that you’ll be far more gentle and compassionate towards yourself because you deserve to be happy, to be free to live your life, to feel like the beautiful and valued human being you are. ♥ xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I didn’t find it to be helpful. I would have preferred a project that dealt with tools of recovery or dealing with food or something. I’d make a suggestion but I don’t want the art therapist to think I’m somehow controlling what she does. My therapist recommended I go with the flow of the program however it is run. She said it is like a microcosm of real life and life isn’t predictable so that’s what I’m trying to do. Since I’ve always had to take charge of my life, this is an excellent challenge for me. Perhaps it’s a step toward being less guarded in every situation.

      Liked by 1 person

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