That didn't change me, it didn't bother me that much: what stuck with me the longest was when I wrote them a note telling them how it effected me, my Mom telling me to stop crying and to tear up the note. It was the look on her face and the message "don't give them the satisfaction" and then something deeper... "how can she be so weak?"
My Mom is a strong woman who had a hard life. She cries for no one while they are alive and the only times I've seen her cry was for a pet, her brother and my Dad when they died. She has the hardest time crying (when she does) and her whole body shakes as if in a panic attack. So this is evident in her fear response towards anyone else's vulnerability. Cry if you fall down, sure, but the rest? Suck it up.
I'm not alone and neither are parents in these messages, given or received. So, that is how life went for me for 30 years. I never could understand why someone just couldn't be honest with their perspectives and perceptions and so I was completely conscious of keeping "it" all in. My art was the only release for the real me underneath so much so that I forgot how to talk about it. I had a realization something about me felt different from how everyone else appeared... and I wanted something unintelligible. Life felt like it had been inhabited by hard-shelled hostile entities, but I didn't know why. I felt de-skinned, ultra sensitive and exposed.
Fast forward. Not only had I been dealing with invisible constraints and saw them in other people, I had also been dealing with a mild to moderate depression since graduation in '03, in '05 Katrina hit. The depression until then had taken the form of anxiety and agitated depression also known as mixed state or mixed episode (a very dangerous kind that infiltrates your thoughts, behaviors but with an anger and anxiety that makes one very scared of one's own capabilities. Most depressed people would kill themselves if they had the motivation, with mixed episodes, you have the energy, PLUS rage.)
Anyway, after Katrina, the need struck everyone everywhere and I couldn't help. People died, families were without anything, children didn't have homes, food, toys, anything. (I cannot stand suffering and have to do something.) At the time, I had JUST gotten into therapy. My father had just had a quintuple bypass (yes, quintuple. 5 arteries!!) and had lost everything in his home that had gotten 4-5 feet of storm surge.
The stress was too much to bear. One day, my Dad walked up to me in the kitchen while I was cooking chili for my whole family and instantly a tape played in front of my eyes in my mind of a scene of him with that expression, and I, when I was 3 years old. Front to back in complete clarity of me trying to talk him out of killing himself and trying to talk him into living. The "movie" included the sights, smells, sounds and emotions of that time. I was three, helpless, had no idea that the world existed outside my front door and that my dad's life--- and mine- were about to crumble.
That, my dear, is a flashback. And not the post-acid induced kind (which I never took, btw) or the fluffy, fuzzy flashbacks of romance movies. Its also symptom of PTSD.
For the first time since my teen years, I had been put in the position to care for my father. The first time was an unhealthy, parasitic version of exploitation in which I cared for his emotional health when I was only 3... the second was a natural progression of his own age and mortality, but the similarity was there enough to trigger the flashback.
I caught my breath, said nothing and finished dinner. It wasn't easy, but i did it. Throughout life in other areas, things had gotten progressively worse. People don't know that depression filters EVERYTHING that comes through your senses into your thoughts and heart and then filters everything that comes out of you into the world. It is like a black filter.
Something as simple as walking down a dock can be turned into an Alfred Hitchcock scene. As I was walking down a dock (we were looking at hurricane devastation), we encountered some fishermen on what was left of the dock. (what the hell???)
Instantly, I had the painting of Edvard Munch's The Scream flash before my eyes-- and I understood what he felt like. The people looked hostile (probably dealing with depression on their own, too, from Katrina) and had no friendly expression whatsoever. I got home and painted "Velveteen Scream". It was the pictoral expression of what vulnerability, and the lack of, feels like. Disconnection. Click the picture for more information on the painting and its symbolism.