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Work in Progress: Notes from an Artist

By Victoria Kelly

The entire Display, “WORK in PROGRESS” was constructed of 3 pillars made from cardboard boxes which were at three different levels. On top of each pillar sat a styrophome head which I had decoupaged words on. One was entitled “victim” the next “Survivor” and the tallest one was “GODDESS” which was painted gold with a crown of plastic fruit upon her head, as a blue glass teardrop fell from her eye, she gazed down upon the other two.

The abstract composition shown here emerged from my fragmented memories which were revealed during many of my flooding flashbacks, as vivid details of my tragic childhood unfolded memories as well as appeared in my confusing dreams.


Words that seemed to jump at me off the pages of magazines and newspapers were cut and glued on the piece. They jolted my memories back into my past and I cut them out in a frenzy to try and tell what had happened to me.


Collaging helped me to tell my truth through piecing together the images of my past which I had found out  was separated from my consciousness. Fragments, moments in time, trying to express the trauma through words was not an option!

I was creating visual art which was a new way of telling my story. While I was constructing it, I was hoping that those who viewed the display as either victims, Survivors or THRIVERS could relate to some part of it. There were many people who told me that they identified to many aspects of my work. It also had educated those who desired to understand a child's pain and those who also had the desire to help adults that have had the courage to continue to live despite the struggles it takes to even survive on a day in and day out existence which is a direct result of their trauma, as they continue their Healing Journey of survival and for others who just continue to exist.


Art has given me a means to express my thoughts and feelings and helps me to create something tangible when my feelings and confusing images overwhelm me. This was part of the total arrangement displayed at the Government Center in Minneapolis MN years ago when I belonged to a group for people with mental health issues called "The Artist's Way Dream Cafe" which was based off the book "THE ARTIST'S WAY" by Julia Cameron.


I was diagnosed with MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder) these are two of my Altars along with some of my poetry and other words and images which were decoupaged to the side of the cardboard pillars.


The Alter Carol is on this piece, when I found this school photo, I looked at her face and saw that her face had faded, and she seemed as though she did not even exist. I had no memories at all of myself at all at this age. As time went on her story was finally revealed to me. She was the one who had been molested by a neighbor man.


Annette, another Alter, who was a year old in the photo had already been sexually abused. “We” were diagnosed with a combination of 31 Altars and some fragments. 13 years of intense therapy with remarkable Psychologist Gail Richards allowed each of the Altars to tell their stories, experience their pain and share with someone who cared what their experiences were. She was trained enough to help me to heal and understand my trauma and the choices which I had made for my life as a result of my abuse.


I no longer have the diagnosis of MPD, and I no longer split into those parts. I still have days occasionally when I "space out" but these times are few and far between.   I cannot explain the amount of shame that has left me since I began sharing my stories of childhood abuse.


I am not ashamed to tell anyone today that I am currently diagnosed with CPTSS (Complexed Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome), depression and bipolar disorder. These are just diagnosis! They are not who I AM! I am so much more! I am a Warrior, Advocate and an Activist!

I am also the founder of the Grassroots Organization AHHHS (A Helping Hand for Healing Souls).  I started this Organization in the hopes of helping others who are hurting and healing and in addition join with those who are helping others. I am grateful for the many people who came into my life at my darkest hours. My hope is to give some wisdom through the sharing of my own experiences and in addition giving help that I wish would have been available for me in my time of need.


Today, I live my life to its fullest and find joy in the smallest of things. I do not live one day at a time… I live one moment at a time. When I have bad days, I know now that they do pass…


I learned to reparent myself with positive affirming messages. I am continuing to heal my mind, body, and Soul! I have found many avenues to do this.


I have also learned how important self-care is and I practice it daily. Most importantly today I enjoy living! I do things now that make me happy! I still have some bad days, but today I have support and trusted people in my life who want the best for me. I know I will be on my own Healing Journey until the day I take my last breath! Because I never want to stop learning and growing!

*The DSM-IV, published in 1994, renamed MPD and it changed it to DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) to reflect what experts came to understand: DID doesn't actually involve different personalities, but distinct identities splintered off from a person's core self.


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