I have been debating for a long time as to whether or not I was going to share my story here. I suppose I have feared that by doing so, it would come off as unprofessional, or distract from what I've wanted my work to prove on its own. However, It is important to note that I somewhat feel like my work and my story are often one in the same.
You find your bravery when the rugs are ripped out from beneath your feet -- when accidents happen. They make us who we are. They also make us who we never necessarily asked to be, and we are expected to take the remains and "make it pretty" in spite of the piles of...well crap we are given to work with.
A few months after I turned twenty, I was in a life altering car accident. Even seeing the words on the screen 5 years later pause me for a moment, which is remarkable considering I don't remember most of it, and if I'm being honest, a lot of my life.
"Repressed memories are memories that have been unconsciously blocked due to the memory being associated with a high level of stress or trauma. The theory postulates that even though the individual cannot recall the memory, it may still be affecting them subconsciously, and that these memories can emerge later into the consciousness"
What I know as fact is - my small car collided head on with a truck at the top of a hill on a back road 1 mile from my house. It was 8am. He was not drinking, I was not texting. I was broken in 14 places and thought I was fine. The engine of my car was pushed through my dashboard and jolted into my legs. I had a bunch of metal put into my hip and I healed remarkably fast... physically. Mentally has been a much different journey.
With PTSD it is incredibly easy to be pessimistic. I am optimistic by nature, but my trauma has opened up a whole other world of reality, and sometimes the people I love dearly can forget that when the "inspirational speech" is over, I go home with the grief. PTSD can feel like being punched so hard in the face that you wake up an entirely different person trapped in your old broken down body. And you're just expected to navigate it silently and "keep things normal" for everyone else's benefit so you don't, God forbid, make the one 4 minute window of time you've seen them in the last 5 months, awkward..? How will they go about their day? Or the next three weeks before they remember to call you and make brunch plans? - It's funny, really. PTSD is so socially misunderstood that it becomes nearly impossible to even speak about.
I would love to make this sound more spectacular but honestly I'm in a place in my healing where I'm just exhausted by always feeling so different. There is never enough justice sometimes and I have to let that be okay for the sake of moving forward with whatever time I have left.
But what I do know is this - This painful journey is leading me into the understanding that it is in the deepest moments of grief that I have found my voice in my work.
In developing my own style, I have begun to religiously protect it with a purist mentality. I don't plan pieces before I begin. My choices are led purely by emotion and I follow memories and feelings until I believe I've said it all with paint. The theory is that by doing this, I am subconsciously working through my trauma in a form of healthy catharsis, thus relaxing my brain and releasing repressed memory. I worked very hard to find the right team of therapists to help me along this adventure to find myself, to remember me.
I can see myself getting better in my work. Since I took the leap and got help, I've been painting in color. I used yellow this week - like what? I'm working to free myself from this heavy event that I had been forcing myself to carry, and expressing it in a way that is a physical, beautiful reminder that I am continuing to survive for a purpose.
I didn't just survive once, I'm still doing it. And maybe, if I'm lucky, I can help others survive with my work too.
by : Emily Kay Rice - November 2015 - Solo Gallery Exhibition at Missouri Baptist University
**recycled license plates and oil paint.