photography by Daniel Love
This photo series may cause discomfort as it details my personal experiences with trauma as a child. Each image is paired with writing in the description. Please continue with compassion.
As a child, I endured physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse. My mother is mentally and physically disabled, my father is a long-time drug addict, my grandmother had Alzheimer's, and my mother's military veteran brother has many issues and is currently in prison for soliciting a minor for sex. That minor turned out to be a police officer in a sting. He did the same to me as a young teen. but, before the sexual abuse, he beat me. and after the sexual abuse, he beat me even worse. I was cussed at by my parents, grandmother, and uncle.
I was threatened with a shot gun. I was threatened to be beaten to a bloody pulp at any sign of disobedience. Grandma pinched me and called me names. Mom would tell me how much of a drug addict loser my father was. I was a lightning rod for negativity at a very young age.
A friend, her mom, and the State of Missouri saved my life at age 15. Foster care may have bounced me and my little sister around for years, but I was no longer in danger of dying by the hand of a family member and their illness. Bruises, cuts, and scrapes heal. Blood dries and wipes away. The mental impact of my childhood has stayed. I developed PTSD many years ago, and each trauma I've endured since has piled onto my plate. Sharing, helping, and raising awareness are the only positive outcomes of my abuse.
Please study the images of my pain and ensure that a similar pain remains far away from your world. I did not harm myself in these images, but tools were used to recreate my truth.
children find guns
Adults aren't always responsible. I found a pistol in my grandmother's closet. Playing with it, flipping the barrel spinning and looking through. No bullets.
What would it feel like to shoot myself?
I wanted the rush. I was no older than 10. I pulled the hammer back, pointed it at my right temple, click. WOW that felt scary. I wrapped it back in the handkerchief and placed it back in the closet. Then, I told grandma what I had found. But never what I had done.
The next day, we rode out to the country
she tossed the handkerchief-wrapped gun over a bridge into a river somewhere in Eastern Jackson County. I have shot them since, but the fact remains that guns make me feel terribly uncomfortable.
Beneath the stairs was a coat closet
Behind the closet, beneath the lower stairs, was space. My space. My hiding spot. They never found me in there.
A false wall in the back of the closet
slide it to the side, enter. Darkness and cement and the smell of timber. No spiders or bugs, just safety.
Hollering for me throughout the house
Grandma and uncle could never find me in here...
...the closet was my safe place.
I liked being alone.
Traditionally, monsters hide in the closet
but my monsters were walking around outside.
I wanted to live in the closet
My bedroom had been infiltrated by the monsters. I brought in word puzzles, drawing materials, and a little light.
...for the nightmare to end.
I was good at hiding
and remaining silent. I didn't want the confrontation. I didn't want to be yelled and cussed at and hit and threatened.
No more, please.
I hit puberty
while living at the farmhouse.
and still my uncle hit me
but his interest had changed.
Uncle dropped his towels around me
Uncle offered to pay me for a thigh massage while grandma and sister were gone. Up, up, higher, a little higher. No, I didn't feel comfortable. He flipped, higher, higher, please. Car door slam, saved by their return. Here's money, I'll give you more later. Ok. In my room later, he came in while I watched tv. He sat on my bed. He said he had the rest of the money. It was dark and a storm was winding up. He pulled something out of his pants and said 'reach into my right pocket'. I glanced quickly, his penis was wrapped in money. I shot back to the tv and hoped he would put it away and leave me alone. The power shut off and I ran into my other uncles' room at the front of the farmhouse. The same uncle who never stepped in. The same uncle who told me later on that I needed foster care or I would die.
but the beatings were always worse
than anything he tried to get me to touch or view.
The worst beating was towards the end
and because of dial-up internet. Grandma needed the phone and I wanted to continue talking to my friends on the computer.
Next thing I knew, she hollered his name
and he ran in. Tore my computer apart and threw me on the ground, knee in my back. I was a freshman in high school.
by my hair, rubbed my face into the carpet
I couldn't breathe. I thought I was going to die that time. My sister screamed trying to pull him off, even my grandma was screaming, but it had been no use.
My little sister tended to me
with a warm washcloth while I laid there drooling and unable to move after he was finished.
I hadn't truly feared for my life
until that day.
He could have hit me
until all my bones were broken and rubbed my face into the carpet until I had no skin left, but he still would not have broken my spirit.
I stopped cutting myself
at 24 years old, summer of 2014. I decided leaving marks on my body was not attractive. Bleeding wounds to cover the mental anguish would not be much of an answer. I didn't want to appear crazy to anyone who saw them, either. I already have many scars from cutting myself, why do I want more? I had pierced my ears a dozen times, sliced my leg, my arm, finger, ankle, pelvis, etc... I used all of that to push out the mental/emotional pain I suffered from this and that. My scars have memories attached to them and I am now covering them with beautiful tattoos.
I was hurting myself to overcome deep sadness
I was 12 or 13 when I discovered physical pain blotted out mental pain. Piercing my ears felt good, and looked good when the swelling and bleeding went away. Every time my grandma would sick my uncle on me for disobeying her, I hurt myself. He hurt me, then I hurt myself. The physical and emotional pain he inflicted on me caused extreme mental anguish. I felt like this man's personal torture subject. When he got mad, he took it out on me.
Between my uncle trying to trick me
to touch his private parts and the beatings, I was always upset. When I became upset, I acted out. Cutting myself wasn't my only way of expression at that time. No door in that house would close, because I slammed them broken. My bedroom had holes in the walls from my fists and feet. Paint was on the walls where the holes weren't.
Foster care at age 15
as a freshman, hopping around four high schools and a freshman center, in and out of several homes was terrible. I pierced my ears until I was threatened with a group home or psyche ward, since it was considered self-mutilation. One foster parent cut my fingernails since they 'cut my skin' once, but in reality it was a safety pin.
I had too much fun
during art class my senior year, and was constantly in trouble for talking and laughing with fellow classmates. One day, the teacher placed me at a table away from everyone. I was so distraught, I used my mechanical pencil to dig a bloody line into my finger. Knuckle-to-knuckle on my left middle finger, it's still there.
At 18, in a rage
a boyfriend broke some of my art I made in high school. He took a knife to paintings and broke my easel. I grabbed a shard of pottery and went at my thigh to make him stop. Those are the most noticeable scars on my leg.
My favorite spot to cut myself
was my inner right thigh. That area has bled and healed so many times I don't want to try to count. Issues with boyfriends to family and school, I used scissors to safety pins and knives to numb the pain. If you've ever suffered from anxiety, grief, depression, etc... You know what this pain is to which I'm referring.
The pain no one can see
No one will ever know how it feels inside. How can an experience leave me with invisible pain burning so hot that I felt the need to physically suffer and bleed to relieve my mind. A pain behind the eyes, tied to a gear twisting inside tightening all the threads of my being until my thoughts are wild, eyes blurry, chest tight, teeth grinding, screaming inside and sometimes out. A blade grazing the skin making the hair stand on end, gives me goosebumps. Skin heals; the perfect redness slips out, the nerves affected somehow wash over the emotional turmoil, it's over. Clean up. Heal up. Move on. No.
I couldn't do it any longer
I didn't want more scars. I don't want more scars. I can be better, I can teach myself, train myself to not hurt myself. Harming my body is letting the pain hurt me twice and I can't let it control me. The summer of 2014 was the last time I cut myself. I have cried many times, since then. I have laid in a ditch wishing God to take me, since then. I have screamed my lungs out in my car, and cried myself to sleep, since then.
But I have not cut my body
I wrote about the worst beating
I received in detail for a paper in English my sophomore year of high school. It felt amazing to share my horror after it had been discovered. Sitting in the principal's office the year prior, with a handful of administrators, police officers, and detectives was nerve wracking; however, telling God and everyone in that office who put their hands on me, where, and how many times was my liberation.
I was diagnosed with severe PTSD
This came much longer after the childhood trauma and bundles with the traumas of my adulthood.
I am easily triggered
by things which refer back to my traumas. I cry often. I am angry often.
The damage is permanent
my PTSD rears its ugly head
multiple times a day, and sometimes I feel like it's easier to just stay home and shut myself off from the world. People are mean. People are rude. People do this and that. People People People.
This time, hiding will only make it worse
I push myself to get out of bed. I push myself to talk to people. I push myself to interact with the world. I push myself. I work constantly on myself.
But I still always wish
I hadn't been beaten as a little girl.
I wouldn't have been touched inappropriately.
I had a healthy mom and dad.
I could've had a stable childhood.
I wish the pain would disappear
but it won't. I can only do my best to push forward and have a better life.