PTSD and Art Therapy



When I went to bed last night, I was tired.  I am always extra tired on therapy days…The thinking and processing are emotionally exhausting and I feel it!  I also worked, so was physically tired too.  I was actually relieved to finally have it be bedtime and was ready to sleep when I got into bed.

But I couldn’t sleep.  After tossing and turning for a while, I realized that I was feeling anxious.  And every little sound (the house creaking, the dogs stirring, etc) made me just jump out of my skin.  That’s when I realized it was going to be one of those nights.  I feel like I tossed and turned forever, and then I slept lightly and fitfully all night.  I am really tired this morning.

I did have a dream that I sort of remember…It was about being in danger and walking on an ocean island to get away from some people I had made mad.  It was winter and the island was snowy and I was walking with a friend of dh. (Not at all sure why he made it into my dream!).  We were walking on the very edge of the island…literally.  It was icy and we had to be careful not to slip into the ocean.  The snow was deep and wet and it was super slow going. The same route we were on had been taken in the night by a wolf and we were following the tracks around.  We got to the top of the island and the dream switched a bit…But there was more danger and more of me trying to get away.

In the grand scheme of things it was a pretty mild dream considering that I was in triggered PTSD mode. And honestly, I have been having the recurring dream theme of being in danger for as long as I can remember…so it doesn’t phase me much…They aren’t even scary anymore, they just sometime leave me with a feeling of unease.  Of course, I live each day with that same feeling of unease and lack of safety…so really, it is just my baseline.

When I was tossing and turning, and putting my hands under my pillow to get it fixed right, I felt my stuffed bunny…The one who has been keeping me company in bed since the kidnapping/sex dream.


I have been doing better in regards to her…I haven’t had to have her clamped right against me like the first week after that dream…But my hand often finds her and holds her ear or her paw.

Art Therapy

Yesterday, in Art Therapy, the therapist’s stuffed animals came up in our discussion.  He has four soft toys on top of a shelf across the room. One is a purple Teddy bear named Joey, one is a pug named Amy (?!) and the other two are smaller, maybe even puppets? One is a duck and I forget what the other is.

So, the AT had asked me to do some free drawing/art.  I hate free drawing/art.  I never know what to draw, and I am afraid I will draw something meaningless and pointless. Also, if I had my choice of free art, I don’t even know if I would paint or draw…I would probably pick collage…layering, gluing, ripping, placing…much more my style.  But the Art Therapist has no materials for this.  Or at least I haven’t seen any.  He has some magazine pictures in a drawer, but that’s not the kind of collage I do.  But I digress…

It may have been after that directive that I asked about the stuffed animals. (Yes, I do like to distract him sometimes.)  The AT explained that the stuffed animals are his co-therapists and that sometimes they come down and people hold them and hug them and are comforted by them.

And then the AT gave me a choice, art or stuffed animal.  I panicked.  Nope, nope, nope. NOT going to hold one of those stuffed animals….All my danger signals went off.  So, I went to the drawing table.  Actually, I think at that point I had gotten him to tell me an actual directive that wan’t totally open-ended.  Art seemed like the least painful option….So, with the directive of representing “Freedom”, I painted a picture in blue on blue of the wind.

Why did I balk at the stuffed animals?  For two reasons…The first is that being tender with a Teddy bear (that’s what I would have chosen) in the presence of the Art Therapist seemed very exposing to me.  Plus, it would soften my resolve and I would feel something and I can’t do that.  The second reason is that I was afraid the child-me would want to come out and be with the bear…and right now, that is not allowed because I have banned her from therapy.

BTW, my painting of the wind got me a homework assignment.  I am supposed to make an art representation of the wind in four dimensions. I have a good sense of how I want to do it…Today, I will see if I can make it work.

6 thoughts on “PTSD and Art Therapy

  1. My art therapist was never directive with me and I really struggled to ever do any art, I got easily overwhelmed.
    I wondered why you said you’d resolved not to feel anything and also why is your inner child banned from therapy?

    • The child-me is banned from therapy after last Thursday’s session when I got totally overwhelmed. (Blog titled” Art Therapy:Another Way to Fail”)
      Not feeling is really about being overwhelmed too…Yes, I know it is counterproductive. It’s just hard to manage it all.

      • You remembered that it was on Monday. That made my heart smile. Thank you. It went well, actually. We talked over the craziness that’s going on at work and she offered to write a letter in support of the “medical necessity” of me remaining on my current night shift, despite how adamantly she believes that night shift is terrible for your health, which was really awesome and showed me that she’s truly in my corner.

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