By Dwayne Mayes
I have this piece hanging in my office as a constant reminder of my recovery journey. This is a pencil piece I drew in 1993, when I was in an art therapy group as part of my MICA Day Treatment Program. At the time, I was completely non-verbal and unable to express the emotional pain I lived with. As a survivor of extreme physical abuse by my birth mother since I was a toddler, I had learned how to suppress my feelings and simply gaze out at the world, always expecting pain and hardship.
In this piece, I was able to show the three components of myself (Id, Ego, Superego), depicted by the hand of the person looking through the leaves, the person attempting to rise above the trauma of life, and the actual hidden secrets of what I was really thinking and feeling, which nobody would ever discover (but could erupt at any time). The various images within the submerged cube were depictions of concepts most important to me, or which I was most obsessed with thinking about: chemical dependency, a sense of broken self, the injustice and unfairness of life, indiscriminate anonymous sexuality, spiritual or demonic influence ending in death, constant pain which my skin would always remember, time slipping away, and always being watched or watchful. Of course, there was always the question of ‘why,’ which haunted me for decades.
In my current work, I share this piece with my clinical staff to help them understand just how much more there is to the individuals with which they may be trying to engage; people who may seem to be recalcitrant or evasive in their responses to therapy. Each person has so many hidden parts of themselves, and the key is finding the medium and, perhaps, creating the safest space for expression. Since the time of this drawing, I have grown tremendously.
Dwayne is currently the program director of the Recovery Network and Peer Training for MHA-Westchester, and he has worked in the mental health peer industry since 1998. To learn more about Dwayne's work, visit his Facebook page.