In January 2021, I was assaulted twice in a four-day period, which resulted in trauma and changed how I view myself, my life, and those around me. These two incidents weren’t the only traumatic ones I had experienced recently. Before January, I had also suffered a miscarriage, made worse by isolation (due to the pandemic) and abandonment. Shortly after, my step-grandfather passed away from Covid. But what occurred in January was a catalyst for a personal breakdown. I lost myself.
Being a woman is difficult enough. I always feel as if I am battling my femininity, always measuring myself against a distinct, un-feminine standard that I can never quite reach to have a voice and place in this patriarchal society. To love something about yourself that can so easily be used against you is hard. And the man who assaulted me used it against me in the worst way. Self-hatred and dissociation resulted. But I have worked hard to regain a sense of purpose.
Recovery is a choice but not an easy one to make—a confusing process with no map. Getting lost is easy and I do not judge anyone who gives up or takes detours along the way. I often feel that I am trapped by walls that I cannot go around or climb. I cannot break them down. But my art allowed me to glimpse through these walls, as if making these comics has made them transparent. I can see more clearly what happened to me and how and why I have reacted the way I have. I may not have a found a map that can take me through my recovery process, but I can see my next steps.
Making this comic, and the art that came before it, has allowed me to make sense of my recent past. Comics are a technology for coping with myself and my realities. Making comics has calmed me. I wouldn’t say I found happiness (and I’m not much interested in the pursuit of that emotion), but I do, at times, feel good. I have found a voice. I feel pleasure and a sense of relief, in sharing my voice with you in this comic.
I would like to thank my editors Kay Sohini and Jeanette D’Arcy, as well as Lauren Chivington (2021), Henry Barajas, Andrew J. Kunka, and Rachel Miller, who all looked over several pages of this comic (several times) and gave me feedback and support.
I first came across poetry comics at a panel at the MSU Comics Forum in 2020. As someone who enjoys both comics and poetry, I was intrigued. I started writing poetry and drawing to deal with the trauma of an abusive relationship but didn’t decide to put the two together until after I was assaulted. To write down exactly what happened was too difficult and often impossible. Creating poetry, in both image and word, allowed me to convey the truth of what happened while still grappling with the very facts of it. I sometimes fail at executing the form, but it started me on the journey and let me come forward with what happened.
The empty speech balloon sequence was inspired by a conversation with Lauren Chivington and their work on the speech balloon.
This work is part of the Comics in and of the Moment Special Collection, edited by Jeanette D’Arcy and Kay Sohini with Ernesto Priego and Peter Wilkins.
The author has no competing interests to declare.
Chivington, L., 2021. Signifying Silence: The Empty Speech Balloon. Image Text 12. https://imagetextjournal.com/signifying-silence-the-empty-speech-balloon/