On September 10th, 2012, I was still in my first month at Tranquil Shores and (surprise!) was not having the best day. In that morning’s group, we each had to come up with a question to ask and then we had to draw an “animal card.” Each one had some quality on it and some relatively generic mental health stuff that we would then, as a group, figure out how to apply to our question. I was emotionally exhausted. Playing with animal cards was not at the top of my “things I’m excited to do” list. I asked my question – “Why do I even try?” – and drew a card. It was a turtle. And in bold letters at the top of the card it said, “STOP TRYING.”
Two and a half months later, I went into art therapy group. The theme for the week was emotional and spiritual healing. For some reason, I had the turtle in my head. I forget the context but, before we started, Marcia said something about “having yourself [over] for dinner.” Because my brain receives all messages through a pop punk filter, I immediately thought of a Turkish Techno lyric, “I wanna eat you so I can shit you out.”
Turtles and fertility, the new year just days away, spiritual healing, and eating/shitting people. That’s where I was coming from.
The idea is sort of two-fold. First, that I had been destroying myself for (at least) the last two years. Second, that I was going to take all of the bad in me and transform it into something new and better. Or – in a metaphorical sense – eat it and shit it out so that it could grow into something better. (Look at my shirt – it has the word “soil” on it).
So why did I choose my flesh to represent the “bad parts” of myself? Eh, I didn’t really. I’m just fucking fascinated with krokodil and I like to throw in an allusion to it every chance that I get.
Obviously, in this instance the turtle stood in as symbol of fertility rather than retreat, but I also thought it was appropriate as a symbol of the walls I had put up to protect myself, as well as the slow speed at which I had been getting better. (Even though I had checked into rehab more than a year prior, I made this piece just sixteen days after what I consider to be the turning point in my recovery).
I chose to draw a stage as the backdrop as an acknowledgement that much of 2012 had been a performance of one kind or another. I had a script memorized and I turned to it often.
Fun fact: I remember holding my arm up to my mouth every so often while drawing this so I could figure out which pieces of it I could conceivably chew off. Obviously I can’t bite the flesh directly off of my face, but I chose to have half of it missing to create a sort of two-face thing in reference to my mask, which (in terms of emotional healing) had been really significant for me.