"Normal" - "Hang in There" - "The Monster" and other work
Monika Filipiak Peszek
About two years after my daughter was born, I was depressed. I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything. I could feel myself growing heavier and heavier, and angrier and angrier. I was mad at my husband all the time. I blamed him for the way I was feeling. I was afraid for my daughter as more and more people told me how beautiful she was and what a heartbreaker she would be. I started to think that people in my life would be happier without me.
I knew I had to get help.
At the first session with my therapist, I told him I was there to talk about my husband. Instead, out of nowhere, I started talking about the sexual abuse.
As the sessions continued, I realized it wasn’t my husband I was angry with.
When I began therapy, I wasn’t painting. My dreams of being an artist were gone. As an immigrant and a new mom I was doing whatever I had to do to survive in my new country. My therapist asked me, “What did you want to be when you were little?” I couldn’t answer him. He had some wonderful prints of Chagall paintings on his office walls, and all I could do was point to them. “Next time,” he said, “why don’t you bring me a painting of what you feel?”
That first painting wasn’t very good. I think it was of a dark room, with a door opening up into a beautiful, sunlit garden. My therapist asked me to dig deeper. I began painting more, and usually brought one or two to each session.
Later, as suggested by my therapist, I took several of these paintings to an informal meeting with an admissions counselor at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. I was told that if I could bring in 15 paintings “just like that,” I might have a chance at a merit scholarship. The deadline was three weeks away. I put together a portfolio of my work, submitted it in time for consideration, and was accepted. Putting together this body of work—dealing with my demons, fighting the fear and shame—helped me put my life back on the right track. It was a scary journey, but I learned a valuable lesson: "Always do what you are afraid to do.”
I now see the entire process as a big circle, where everything came together in the end and made sense. I hope you can see it too.
Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 24
You don’t have to live with an open wound forever. There is strength within you might not be aware of. You need help—but you have steel inside you, holding you together. You can’t see it, but it’s there.
MONIKA FILIPIAK PESZEK's art is currently on display at the Awakenings Foundation Center and Gallery in Chicago, Illinois. If you need additional information about her work and are interested in purchasing or exhibiting it, please contact Jean Cozier, Awakenings Foundation President.
The Awakenings Foundation Center and its founder, Jean Cozier, are also featured in this issue. Read more in "Healing hidden Wounds"