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Childhood Abuse; Processing Traumatic Memory

This series explores childhood trauma and the memories and reality distortions it produces over the course of development through motion blur. I photographed at locations that have significant embodied childhood memories such as my neighborhood park, the routes to my elementary, middle, and high school, and inside my childhood home. While the images captured are of innocuous scenes, the residual effects of CPTSD from childhood abuse are omnipresent in the objects, locations, and in my own body and mind as I observe these spaces and wander through them having more distance as an adult undergoing the healing process.

I first visited my favorite neighborhood park of my early childhood where I later worked for 2 summers as a wading pool attendant. These images show the innocence and play of childhood experience within a public space; the prototypical American Dream of a middle-class suburban neighborhood where child abuse or domestic issues are far removed from community discourse.

I then walked the old familiar route to my middle school that I had not traversed since adolescence. Walking that route, I remembered how I felt when the trauma began at age 11; the shameful loneliness produced by alienation from my peers and family, a sense of anxiety, dread, and emptiness from a loss of understanding and meaning in the universe, and the physical exhaustion of sleep deprivation as I wearily traveled to another miserable day of school in the cold of early morning. This was the beginning of the trauma state at age 11 that would continue until age 22.

I made my way past the middle school and further along to the dread hell of high school. When I parked my newly adorned FunkGod car in the school parking lot, I was gleeful at the knowledge that I had survived those suicidal teenage years and was arriving back in the parking lot only to reminisce on how far I had moved on. All those days spent eagerly waiting outside the school to be picked up so I could leave that facade of success and socialization felt sickening to me now walking around the campus as a 24 year old who didn’t give a fuck what a single person around thought of me and my camera.

I returned to my childhood home where I lived 23 years of my life, having only just moved out 4 months previously. Even with only a short amount of time away, the toxic and disgusting energy of the house mixed with visceral pleasant childhood nostalgia was potent as I moved throughout each room. These scenes may seem pedestrian but to those who have adverse childhood experiences, there are deeper messages encoded into the everyday objects, spaces, faces, and even absences.

At last I viewed myself in the present through the lens of retrospect, having undergone a paradigm shift of healing and inner growth that started to give acceptance and nurturing to my inner child. The last two images of the series represent a disruption of the cycle of abuse with me now reflecting and healing as an adult, and a more graphic representation of my wounded inner child in the final photo.

This work was not only healing and contemplative for me in my own journey, but it speaks to a larger societal issue of child abuse and trauma in America that is often undiscussed and hidden underneath other problems like mental illness, crime, addiction, and so forth. The consequences of childhood abuse and CPTSD are not to be understated, but neither so is the light and joy at the end of the tunnel found through enduring the healing process.

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