maanantai 23. maaliskuuta 2015

Nightmare before graduation

Hello blogging world

In my previous post I wrote about my current project to make art from subjects and things that I've personally found very difficult to talk about, handle and to understand. I hope to get inner peace by doing this kind of personal art therapy by writing and painting.

Also things that I love, respect and need. People I love and people who I miss and people who have made great impact on  my life.

Looks like this spring theme is bullying and how it has affected on self-confidence.

Something quite unfortunate happened few days ago. In my previous school I was very badly bullied by the teachers and school staff. So I sent an e-mail to my previous group leader. In good spirit I told about my current life situation and also asked why she didn't took any actions back then. She e-mailed back to me and denied the whole thing.

Needless to say I was very dissapointed to her behaviour.

When I was in elementary school I was very shy and introvert.
In school drawing was my favorite past time.

It easily took 5 recesses for me to finish a spread like this :)

Me and my small circle of friends was bullied at school. I wasn't never physically bullied but emotional bullying was just as bad.

One particularly nasty girl bullied pretty much every person she didn't like. I remember once there was a running contest in the school and she made my friend trip. There was bunch of teachers in the audience. They all saw it but nobody cared. I was so pissed.

There also was notebooks where the "mean girls" wrote lists like who are the most ugliest girls in this class , who is the girl you don't want to make friends with and so on.

It was really hurtful.. especially when I heard that my name was there quite often.

When I was 10 my father died. If I had been shy and introvert before I became even more shy and introvert after that. I never had very close relationship with my mother and after father died we became even more distant with each others.

I vividly remember going back to school after my father died and I have very clear memory standing in the school yard and all the kids were looking at me and whispering with each others that her father is dead  I didn't get any help at school. I don't even remember being offered any help.
We also got a new teacher at that time. When the previous teacher was always very supportive towards my drawing hobby and let me do drawings on the recesses this new teacher always told me to stop daydreaming.

As the years went by I became more and more anti-social and I tend to block all the negative things from my mind. It was a survival mechanism. It did fail eventually because I started to have panic attacks when I was 15 and that lead in to deep depression.

Here in Finland there has been lot's of suicides done by teenagers because of bullying at schools. Just last summer Finnish police shared story of one 14 year old girl who had committed suicide because of the school violence and bullying. Note she had left said: At least I wont be bullied anymore

Such a terrible thing and It was very close that I didn't end my life when I was in that age.
Panic attacks got so bad that eventually I started to be afraid going to school. It became fear of social situations. If I went for a walk outside I used to think all those people who are passing by think bad things about me. Of course that wasn't true it was all in my head. Painting was always helpful way for me to express my thoughts. There were times when I couldn't paint or draw and those times were the most darkest. I suffered from constant headaches and insomnia. I was also addicted to painkillers back then.

Here is one of my paintings I did when I was 16. This one is called Lullaby and I think it's one of my ugliest paintings.
Girl is a demon and she has killed her human-self. When I was suffering from deep depression I saw the world as one big black hole. Only feelings I felt were anger, hate and sorrow.
I stopped exist and I was only a shadow.

After looking at this 12-13 years later I think it captures the essence of depression very well.
Colors are so bright they are almost toxic. 

I started therapy when I was 17. I didn't really get a long with my first therapist. I didn't find good connection with her. Afterwards I think I should have started with art therapy straight away. That would have probably been more helpful.
I think when I was 18 I spent a month in a hospital and that's where my healing process began and I started to see things in more positive light. Eventually I started to pursue career in the arts and I've been on that road ever since.

Then few years ago when I was studying to become an art and craft instructor history started to repeat itself. School lasted two years. In the first year there was one teacher who I didn't get a long with but other than that school went fine. Then the other year started and I heard that particular teacher had gone into another school I was like yes!

But the second year was the most horrible experience. When I started I listed my ideas about instructing and teaching and all that. I really believe that if I work as an art and craft instructor I will focus on the subjects  that I know  by heart. In that school we were supposed to study every possible handcraft technique there is from metal work to crocheting and the shortest courses lasted one week. We were expected to become masters in every technique and create perfect products for teachers to judge.

You know what was the most common comment I got from every single reviews?
I always got complains about being too creative.

Sounds ridiculous especially since if I teach art and handcrafts I want my students to embrace their creativity. It's extremely important especially here in Finland where people overall can be very harsh on themselves and I've heard so many stories people giving up pursuing artistic careers because lack of supportive feedback.

There was also very unprofessional behavior among the teachers. One of my classmates was on working period in a place where her boss was giving her jobs that weren't really meant for her to do. She sent tons of e-mails to our group leader who didn't reacted to them. In my class 4 people beside me got sick with exhaustion and 2 ladies stopped the school completely because of the teachers unprofessional behavior.

At one point I had enough and sent a note to the educational government of that area and wrote about all these things. I got into interrogation because of this note (which was very politely written). 
Vice principal was doing the interrogation she was know for her very sharp tongue so I wasn't very exited to meet her. Another of my classmates had huge stress because of the school. Once this vice principal had called her and on the phone called her names and complained about her attitude.

So I got into interrogation and she criticized my attitude, my actions, my previous studies on art subjects. After 10 years without any panic attacks I got the worst panic attack of my life and started to cry like a waterfall. 
I was so mad. I sent the same note to all students that studied to become art and craft instructors and all the school staff and teachers and left just few weeks before my graduation.

I got sickness break because of exhaustion. I went to see a therapist few times. He thought I was in my right mind so to speak and it was justified to feel hate. Still it was very hurtful experience. I had very bad nightmares from the vice principal. In one dream she executed me. Sometimes If I met women who looked just like her I easily started to feel anxiety and quickly left that kind of situations. This happened once in tax office. I actually had to change the clerk because she looked just like that terrible lady. This happened in the summer 2013.

Because of what happened in that spring I also contacted this girl who bullied me in the elementary school. I told how bullying had affected me. She did apologize and told about her life back then and bad family situation.

You know what. I forgave her. Because she did regret her behavior.

Then few days ago I contacted this previous group leader of mine. I told her about my current life situation and asked why she didn't took any actions on the bullying incidents. She denied the whole thing. I think I deserve an apology from them as well but I don't think they are brave enough to do it.

 I don't think it is acceptable that small group of teachers and people working in school environments use mental violence on students and use their autocratic position as excuse for it or that other people silently accept that kind of behavior. Teachers are the ones who should understand that students are all different and all are individuals.  That is why I share  my experiences and relies all this negative energy away and really hope no one needs to go trough similar experiences. 

This is my mixed media painting called Vereslihalla.

(In Finnish when it's said that someone is  vereslihalla it means that person is in the most vulnerable state both mentally and physically).

This one represents a personal journey.

All those who know me know that I never wear any mask or pretend to be something that I'm not.
What does it takes one to become themselves?

Trough art I can handle feelings of hate, my past and present, my good sides and my dark sides
and I can forgive.

Submitted to Paint party friday and Teemakuu

I wish lot's of strength for those struggling with the same issues

Love and light to you all

16 kommenttia:

  1. I had a similar experience in high school and back in the university. My class mates were nice people but two teachers really hated me, because I was not as gifted as other students. I had panic attacks as well but no one would even think it were a reason to complain. I still feel sick when I hear the names of those teachers and the come in my nightmares... altough ten years have passed since that time.. People are so ignorant about the сonsequences of such actions as dicouraging and bulling ...:(

    1. Thank you for sharing your experiences Janna. It's so terrible when teachers become bullies and because they are authority figures it's really difficult to solve situations and ask equal treatment.

  2. Hello Niina - I've come across your entry because a friend directed me to it (sort of, she posted about it :)).
    I'm sorry you had to go this journey, truly sorry - I can relate to teachers being bullies, though luckily back then it didn't cause me panic attacks etc. But I became absolutely introvert and super shy and going to school made me sick. There were several teachers who behaved inappropriately. One of them clearly disliked foreigners (I am a foreigner in the country I live in, so that's why it affected me) and treated them as such though in a hidden way. In the end he downgraded my, well, grades in order for me not to get into the school I wanted to go. He told my mum that as a foreigner a "lower" school was better for me. I did the entrance exam to the school I wanted to go to and passed, so yeah. But I'd had this teacher for 3 years, added to that some bullying from a 2 class mates... that had had its effect, specifically on my self esteem. I didn't understand back then why I was treated like that. And on a side-note, I've always been drawing etc. too but that had been dismissed right from the start. I was told over and over again that art is useless and a waste of time and me drawing and loving to do that was only sneered at.

    Next came my class teacher in the next school who specifically chose one pupil per class who he bullied. And that would have been me.
    After those 3 years when all this happened I was so done. I was a shadow of myself when I went to school, my self-esteem had gone out the window, because again, there was no *reason* to mistreat me like that, yet it happened. And of course nothing and nobody helped.
    It took me years to get out of this and I had to do this on my own and thanks to a loving mum and a handful of very true and wonderful friends I'm fine and happy.
    But I do have trust issues and if I met those teachers again, I would have the urge to shake them. It makes me wonder how many pupils' emotions and self esteem they destroyed. :(
    As a teacher you have an incredible power and influence and the idea is that you live this properly, that you care about your students and not that you mistreat your power and in the end don't take responsibility for what you've done.
    That group leader of yours... shame on that person. I guess I would write her a final note saying it's a shame she can't even be honest.

    A lot of strength to you and a light-ful journey onwards!

    1. Thank you from your comment Marta. Your experiences sounds similar to mine. I'm very glad that you've overcome it. I know it's impossible to forget but it's possible to become a stronger person. I know that after being bullied as a child I won't tolerate it as an adult and I know I did right thing by sharing my experiences.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story. I too was bullied by my math teacher. In this day and age. I could have reported him. So it does set you back as if I am bad in one thing. Can I accomplish other things I love to do? Mind you the Math was my worse subject. He had no right to hit my face with the blackboard brushes covered with chalk on side of my cheeks.. Then to tell the students I was a dumbell. The kids laughed so hard. I must have looked like a ghost face. I character. Then I screamed I hate you and walked out of the class that day. To this day.
    All things are possible. I respect people's accomplishments or even if they have tried. And their disabilities more. I applaud Justin being in a wheelchair to go for his dream. I suppose kids who ever teased him. Now realize Justin has accomplished his dream sitting in a wheelchair. So you have accomplished. Your art is lovely. And you have shown
    through it. How you feel.

    1. Thank you Carolann. One can accomplish anything when they put their minds to it. Very often those subjects we dislike are related to the teachers we had in those subjects. It takes courage to say "no" for unprofessional teacher but once you've said it you know it was the right thing to do.

  4. Very powerful story and art. I think your Lullaby painting is very powerful. Sometimes I think we spend our entire adult years getting over our childhood and the competition of middle and high school. It's shameful that teachers bully the children and each other. One thing I have learned from exposure to meanness and violent people is how to be on guard and how to really appreciate those who are kind and compassionate. We must encourage each other. We also must forgive those who hurt us, but not forget. The forgiveness sets us free. They can no longer hurt us or touch our souls. I think our souls gain strength with our creativity and our ability to forgive. Keep making art. It will help you soar.

    1. Thank you Joy. I think it's very true what you are writing. I recently found out that I'm a highly sensitive person (you can google hsp to read more about it ). I've always known that I'm a sensitive person and that has been something that teachers haven't understood or they have thought it as a weakness when it actually is one of my best qualities. Trick is to turn the old way of thinking upside down that is when it's possible to heal and forgive.

  5. this is such an open and honest post and you share so much that will touch many people. I am sure ti helps to share it and to use your art as therapy. I have used my work as therapy for many years and it has helped me through some very tough

    1. Thank you so much Tracey. I love your artworks by the way :)
      Now that I've shared my experiences many of my artists friends and other creative souls have shared their own stories. It does help.

  6. Hei Niina! Titania täällä!
    Kiitoksia, että jaat kanssamme tarinasi. Onpa kamala aika.
    Surullista kuulla, että olet kokeilut tuo pahat kokemukset. Sentään et ollut yksin. Minusta, että kaikki meidät ollut kiusattu. Jos olimme ainoa tavaneet aiemmin...
    Lukiossani Yhdysvalloissa, tykkäisit minun taideopettajat; olivat hyvin ystävällinen, ja ottivat taide vakavasti ja rakastoivat paljon. Olin yksi heidän lemmistä opiskelijoista! Mulla on todella ikävä heitä. :(
    Anteeksi jos mun Suomea on vielä virhellistä, LOL.
    Haluaisin jaa tarinani myös taidella jonain päivänä.

    1. Kiitos Titania.
      I've also had some great teachers that have been very supportive but I've also had really terrible teachers. You remember when I told you about it when we were in the painting course. I don't think people who can't face their personal problems shouldn't work as teachers. I hope all is good with you. Will do a skype chat again someday.

  7. Niina, I read this from your link on Creative Tuesdays. So glad you linked to it so I could have a better understanding of all you've been through. I am so sorry and my heart was breaking for you, you a tender young woman still. Being real with yourself about these things is a good start adn art definitely helps.

    So, do you think you can go back to school to graduate as an art teacher since you were so close? Maybe somewhere else?

    Regardless, I can tell you from experience and from my wife, Alexandra's experiences that when so alone, depressed, you have to get to a point where you let it all go and forgive. ....even when they SOOoooo don;t deserve it. Why? Because otherwise, as we say here, you are letting those who hurt you rent space in your head and heart for free. Holding on and not forgiving even the worse, is like drinking poison and yet expecting the other person to die!

    I strongly encourage you to talk to my wife who is actually slowly in the process of getting her psychology degree then moving on to teach art therapy as she has done for the homeless prior, etc. She had one of the worst childhoods and young adulthoods but through her domestic violence counseling was not only able to become a survivor but even an overcomer! You can read her very personal stories (like yours) that are posted on her site as a way to reach, help adn encourage otehr women, children adn men who have gone through hard thing that they too can overcome. Please go to her site, Alexandra said that absolutely if she can help at all, shed be happy to talk with you online. I actually met her when I was at my lowest point adn without her wisdom, am not sure I myself woudl be here today. So, just know this, dear dear Niiina, you re not alone. You have friends and people who care for you...even across the blog world far way. We care and will be thinking of you and praying for you, dear one.

    Let me end this comment with saying, how honoured and even more appreciative I am now that you are doing Creative Tuesdays with us. I hope that this mutual art co-op brings continues to encourage you in your creative pursuits and even brings healing along the way. That is why I started it..for myself too!

    1. Thank you Michael from your kind words.
      I will definitely check your wife's web-page.

      It was very difficult situation to study teaching and instructing and being bullied by the teachers and it's been difficult journey overcome it.
      I've also become more interested on healing aspects of creativity.

    2. Yes, that is really horrible to come from the teachers, no less! They should be there to you mentioned. And I quite agree with you that it is crazy to think any future art teacher should be a master of every craft! I've yet to meet one and I graduated with an art degree from university! They all have their specialties. I can tell you, there were just a "few" teachers who were rather unkind or domineering especially to some people. Most here though were great. Best of luck to you in your future endeavors, Niina!