Brush Strokes and a Brain Injury

In the corner of my study, a large canvas leans against an easel. Swirls and brush-marks, soft shades of yellow and gray, dark splotches filling empty spaces.

You can find me in front of a canvas, usually on stressful days, pulling bottles of paints from a big box, removing piles of brushes I’ve accrued over the years.

I’ve always loved art, which is why, in my last house, a craft room was created for me. Three tables holding supplies for painting, beading, leather crafting, sewing, and card making, sitting in the middle of a large room with multiple shelves.

I adored that room, and everything in it. I loved all the joy that it brought me. Until my brain injury, that is.

My brain injury took away everything I knew. After my accident, nothing made sense. I couldn’t understand what baubles and beads were for, and wouldn’t have been able to use a sewing machine if I’d had to.

I closed the door on that room. A chapter of my life, taken away.

But my family had other plans. Months later (or maybe it was a year, I can never be sure), my son and his wife enlisted the help of my husband in building a shelf for their new home. When it was completed, my husband gave it to me to paint.

I don’t remember painting the wood, and even after seeing it multiple times (it’s pointed out to me whenever we go to my son’s house), I still can’t tell you what color it is. But I do know this, painting that shelf was the beginning of my healing.

My husband knew that, too, which is why he built two more pieces for me. A desk, and a stool.

The desk and stool were painted in wild designs. To look at them, one may think a three-year-old dipped their hand in the paint and spread it around. My pictures were blobs, headless people and flowers without blossoms.

I painted as I saw life. Nonsensical. Incomplete.

But something happened as I painted. The more I brushed colors across the wood, the more I blended and stroked, and drew funny designs, the more I began to heal.

My paintings came to life, and so did I.

There is a freedom in painting, a release from a body bound by pain, and a mind in constant stress.

Today, I have a large canvas in the hallway. Gray and yellow stripes, three white dots. A representation of my brain injury, a reminder of how art heals.

My desk and stool have been given away. I let go of one life to grasp the next. But I haven’t let go of my painting.

My canvas sits in my office, and nearby, a drawing pad, as well. One day, I will pick them up, brush tears on their skins, drip pain in their fibers.

Written by

Brain injury survivor. Writing my story in tiny clips, sporadic moments that stood out amongst the rest. Captivated by true stories.

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