re·store |ri-ˈstȯr \
1: GIVE BACK, RETURN
2: to put or bring back into existence or use
3: to bring back to or put back into a former or original state : RENEW
Throughout our lives, things happen that change us. We become beat down, let down, abused, abandoned, neglected, broken. Life has a way of breaking us and changing us, with every heartache, every loss, our trauma has a story to tell. It’s not often that we feel brave enough to tell it, but when we do, part of us heals. For some people, the scars are physical. For others, there is no physical evidence, but the scars still remain on our hearts.
The japanese art of kinstugi takes broken objects and repairs them with gold. Instead of throwing the object away, it’s made into something even more beautiful, showing that the flaw is a unique piece of the object’s history. I stumbled upon this concept a year ago and I knew I needed to showcase the art of kinstugi on people. So when Tatiana so bravely shared her story with me, I knew that I could finally bring this vision to life and the restored project was born. It’s important to me to show people that just because the world makes us feel broken, our flaws are our own, they’re an important part of the story. They make us who we are, but it’s up to us to decide what to do with it. We may never return to who we were before the incidents that shaped us, but I believe that we can be renewed. Giving ourselves grace and being brave enough to tell our stories can allow us to become even greater than we were before. We’re all human, all flawed, and all broken.
Your brokenness is welcome here.
Our scars and our stories don’t make us any less valuable. They don’t make us unworthy, unloved, or undesirable. The art of kintsugi shows us that our cracks and our scars can be beautiful too. Your trauma and your past don’t define you, they’re just part of the story. Don’t be afraid to tell it.
Tatiana is the first of hopefully many who will be brave enough to share her story in our restored project. Below is her story.
Please be aware that there are mentions of self harm, eating disorders, sexual assault, and mental illness. Self harm scars ARE visible in these photos; they are painted gold for symbolization. Use caution in reading if any of these topics may trigger you.
Neurotypical people love to consume mental illness. They watch movies, listen to music, appreciate art, and enjoy media made by neurodiverse people who are expressing themselves differently. Sometimes when you are mentally ill that is the only love you receive, the only way people can digest you. I know that’s why I started drawing and painting as a kid. People didn’t listen to me but they would look at my art.
Some of us live silently with a skeleton in the closet. This skeleton is a diagnosis that sets our brains apart from others. It makes us different. When I put it that way it doesn’t sound so scary. When I say bipolar disorder, PTSD, ADHD, anxiety, depression, an eating disorder… any of those words amongst the wrong people is enough to hush a happy gathering. It’s a taboo, it makes you a person to be afraid of. It’s something that can be prayed away or that doesn’t exist at all. It’s a diagnosis that is all in your head.
Many of us have a medical condition or chronic illness that causes pain or discomfort. When our bodies are sick people will empathize and show compassion. When our brains are sick we lose loved ones. We are feared at best, and at worst shunned, spoken about, or ostracized.
I mention those specific illnesses because I have been diagnosed with all of them. For most of my life I have stayed silent about the things that made a little girl make these scars. Most people don’t realize anyone at any age can develop PTSD. Bullying, neglect, emotional abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, natural disasters, car accidents, illness, rape, house fires, seeing a loved one suffer – there are endless reasons for people to develop PTSD and suffer in silence.
While I was silent I never learned how to swim. I hid in the girls bathroom to change for gym. I skipped every swimming class in high school. I allowed myself to be abused. I let people tell me my scars meant I didn’t deserve love, that I was broken and they were ugly. It took me most of my life to figure out the only approval I need is my own. I was so worried about blending into a neurotypical world that I lost me somewhere along the way. I found me again though and I’m not going to be quiet anymore. Through my art I’ve found my voice and the passion to be me again. I’m going to keep painting and telling people not to be afraid of differences and different minds. I’m sticking around to be unapologetically me. You should too.
If you’re someone who is lost right now you’re not alone. You don’t have to be quiet and you deserve love and care. Everyone deserves to be understood and to be able to express themselves.
A huge shoutout to makeup artist Sara Jenkins for collaborating on this project with me and bringing my vision to life.