Art As Resilience and Another Form of Therapy

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Taylor N.

When I was little I would stay up at night watching my mom draw. I had really bad insomnia, and I’d love seeing what my mom would do. I love that image of her — of when she was healthy. It’s much better of the last image I have of her, all sucked up, tweaked out, and crying. That was Oct. 10, 2014 — the last time I saw her.

Before all that, my mom and I were homeless, going from house to house, couch to couch. I really didn't care as long as I was with her. But in reality, it wasn't her. It was her voice, her body, but not her. My mom was addicted to meth and would go wherever she knew to be able to get a hit, even if it was unsafe for me.

I lost the mom I knew, the one who would let me sit with her till I fell asleep, when I turned 10. That's when things started getting worse for us, my two brothers, my mom and I. Although my brothers and I had different dads, all of us were always with our mom — that is until I turned 10 in 2010, when her addiction spiraled out of control and DCFS broke us apart.

Mom tried her best, but at the end of the day she couldn't have us house jumping forever. She decided to run away, not just from her boyfriend but from my brothers and I too.  While she was M.I.A., she got pregnant with a little girl, Mary Catherine, who was born premature and lived for just over two hours after her birth.

At 15, mom and I finally got to be together again after being separated. But mom still wasn’t ready to be my mom. I was trying to take care of her and trying to take care of myself, but it could only work for so long.

I never ate much cause most of the time mom was high on meth. When she ate is when I’d get to eat. Mountain Dew and Seven 11 cookies is what I got used to living off of. I got abused a lot no matter where we were by a lot of people mom called “homies.” I was raped by people she told me I could trust, put in fights with her “homies,” and one fight even caused me to miscarry a baby I wasn't even sure I’d be giving birth to yet.

Meth is a horrible drug. It kills the piece of a person that is them and hides it. It turned my mom into a monster. As her little girl I sat and watched a piece of mom die in front of me. Meth didn’t allow mom to protect me or any of my brothers, the way moms are supposed to.

In 2014 my mom and I both got locked up after a fight with her boyfriend. As I was taken into custody I prayed to be sent to adult court just so I could see her. She was the only one I had left. Instead I went to Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall where I would fight my case.

When I heard that she could be facing 25 to life for what happened, I thought I would be, too. My girls in the halls called me the unfit-in-training, unfit meaning that I wouldn’t be fit to stand trial as a juvenile, instead facing time as an adult. The unit I was housed in was full of girls facing a lot of time, and many of them were already there for a year or longer. Half of the girls we'd see fighting their fitness would either lose their standing as juveniles or take a deal.

Eventually I heard from a few attorneys that my mom could be getting hit with the death penalty. Then I heard that my eldest brother tried to commit suicide. I cut, purged, refused to eat, and even burned to cause harm to myself because I didn't know how to express what I was feeling — or to whom. Things got worse when others around me accused me of doing it to get attention. But kids don’t self-harm just for the hell of it. It's a way to relieve what is going on inside when we feel most alone.

In late 2015 I won my fitness and stood trial as a juvenile for my part in the fight. From there, I realized I had to do something, anything to make my time worth it. I set my sights on graduating from school. I worked at earning credits while I was inside and in 2016 when I was released into placement in, I kept at it. I was two years behind in my high school education, but this June I’m graduating with my high school diploma just in time.

Throughout all of it, my mom’s been inside, but she’s rediscovered herself too. Mom was sent to prison in the last week of April this year. She got time, but not the death penalty or the 25. She’ll be coming home eventually.

When she does come back, I’ve made it my mission to be an art therapist. Ever since watching mom do it as a kid, and throughout all the drama over the last few years, drawing has been a form of therapy that no one’s been able to take from me, and I intend to keep it that way.

When I become a professional at it, I want my place to be somewhere safe for kids to be safe and express themselves in a positive way. I want my space to be a way to slip into a zone that lets you only focus on that: to forget everything and do what you feel expresses you. Like when I'd see my mom draw and it’d put me someplace else.

To this day, art gives me something to focus on — something other than the moment. Drawing helps me forget at the same time that it takes me back to a place I enjoyed. Moments I won't be able to share with my mom for some time to come.

When she's not writing or drawing in her notebook, Taylor, 18, is preparing for her first semester at Santa Monica City College.

  • Kristy

    You are an inspiration to other young women going through similar struggles. Keep working hard and don’t give up on your goals and dreams.

  • Kristine Lane

    Resilience is a buzzword in mental health these days- and you certainly have it nailed! A powerful story from a clearly powerful woman. Best wishes to you on your journey