Category Archives: Art by Asphyxia

How do you know if it’s parental alienation?

There are lots of reasons that teenagers reject their parents. It’s common, a normal part of defining their own identity separate from that of their family.

When a parent has been abusive towards the child, this can lead to estrangement – a justified rejection from the child who wishes to protect themselves from further hurt. Abused children tend to feel ambivalent towards their parent – loving them and wanting to please them on one hand, while simultaneously feeling angry and hurt on the other, and mixed in with all this is a feeling of guilt, a sense that maybe the problem lies with some fault within themselves.

Children who have been alienated [URL:], however, show a different set of behaviours/feelings:


• They denigrate their parent with foul language and extreme contempt;

• The reasons given for their anger are frivolous, don’t make sense, and often trivial in relation to the intensity of the anger;

• The reasons include ‘borrowed scenarios’ – i.e., they are angry with the parent for things that never happened to the child, but happened to the other parent;

• There is no confusion, uncertainty, ambivalence – only abject hatred;

• The child insists that they, alone, uninfluenced, came up with the ideas of denigration;

• They support the favoured parent and feel a need to protect them;

• The child does not show any guilt over the extreme cruelty they have displayed towards the rejected parent;

• The anger is extended towards people who are associated with the rejected parent, such as friends and family members.

What it feels like to be a target parent

Right now, every day is a struggle. Sometimes it’s sadness, but mostly it’s an all-encompassing weariness that makes me want to just go to sleep, blot it all out.

In a book by Amy Baker and Paul Fine, Surviving Parental Alienation, I read something that describes my feelings well. ‘As many targeted parents have commented, short of death, losing a child to parental alienation may be the hardest thing a parent has to contend with. In some ways, it might have been more difficult than a death because there was no easy way to explain to other people what was happening. The wellspring of support and comfort that typically surrounds a parent who has lost a child to death was noticeably absent for these targeted parents.  Being a targeted parent required living with an open wound that for many resulted in a feeling of numbness, with the pain and sadness seeping into all of the corners of their life, making it nearly impossible to find any solace or pleasure. Knowing their child was “out there” in the world—growing, learning, changing, developing—represented a kind of slow torture.’


And it is true for me, that the wellspring of support is absent. My parents sided with my ex – my mother actually helped to remove him from my care. She has replaced me as his other main care-giver. Most of my family has dropped away, save for a few sweet and supportive people, and so have the majority of friends and support network that surrounded me before this happened. Being gagged, as I have been, prevented from talking about what happened, means I cannot gather the emotional support that could help make this journey easier. That’s why I have decided to make this public and write about it online.

People I share this with often try to comfort me by telling me that some day my child will come back to me. Of course I hope, expect, that some day he will. But nothing, nothing can make up for the lost years, the years I don’t get to help raise him, shower love and affection on him, help him with his homework, take him out with his friends, and watch him grow into a man. There is no need to comfort me by telling me it will be better. Just acknowledge that his absence, now, is a kind of living hell.


It has been a long time since I have posted much online. My life turned upside down and I ended up involved in a court case which meant anything I said in public could be used against me. That’s over now, and I’m back. I’ve missed the cyber-connections I have enjoyed here, talking with you all about my art and what I’m doing. My art always reflects my inner state, so I can’t share it without exposing what is going on for me. Right now, that’s a pretty raw and heavy experience. But I’m going to go with it, partly because I think there are plenty of you out there who will relate to what’s happened to me, and partly because I am tired of feeling gagged. We put such a taboo on vulnerable emotions and I want to change that. Say it like it is.

So I will tell you what happened to me. I became sick with arsenic and lead poisoning. It turned out we were burning wood that we didn’t know was treated, and sanding bits of old wood that had been painted with leaded paint. I became desperately ill, and instead of looking after me, my ex-partner blamed my illness on ’emotional problems.’ I had to move out, to avoid further exposure to toxicity, and she blocked my efforts to clean up the toxic dust, effectively preventing me from returning to my beloved house, which I had built myself almost two decades earlier, before I met her.

I learnt that this is a type of abuse, and when I looked more closely, I realised that abuse was endemic in our relationship. I ended it. But if I had known what was to come, I would probably have stayed. Not that ’staying’ was really an option when I could not return home! I had never heard of parental alienation until my son disappeared from my life. It is common during divorce for one parent to turn the children against the other parent, by exposing them to anger, doubt, or interfering with their scheduled time together. In the space of two short months, our relationship was transformed from a close, loving, daily connection, to no contact. I cannot tell you the shock I experienced, which I am still reeling from. I thought he and I were so close that nothing, nothing could rupture that. I was wrong.

I took my ex-partner to court, to get an order to attend therapy to restore the relationship between myself and our son. But the wheels of justice turned slowly, too slowly, and by the time I finally got the therapy in place, the damage was done. A month ago, the therapist instructed me to write a ‘goodbye letter’ to my son. I am to ‘let go’. I cannot even begin to describe the heartbreak I feel, the impossibility of this idea. I have been literally paralysed with grief. But I have started painting in my journal again.

My journey to become an artist

When I’m talking about art with people, I often realise they have an assumption that I am naturally gifted at art. While I have naturally had an intense drive to be creative since I was a little girl, I certainly wasn’t born with any innate talent. My skills with visual art have come simply from years of practise.

If you want to see the progression from my very first art journals to discovering my own style and becoming a professional artist, I’ve blogged about it here.

If you know any aspiring artists, especially those who feel a bit daunted or lack confidence in their skills, this could inspire them and also provide some ideas for how to move forward in their journey. Feel free to share this with anyone who you think might be interested.

If you define me

I’m Deaf. But being Deaf is not the most remarkable thing about me. People who know me will tell you that far more interesting is my creative drive, the fact that for holiday reading I’ll read a business text book and write my own precis, or that I built my own house when I was 22 and it has a huge food garden, including animals that I raise and kill myself for meat. In fact, there are lots of things more interesting about me than my Deafness.

But it can be really hard for people who meet me to get a handle on this. The Deaf thing leaps out at them. I’ve been knocked back from courses, where I would probably be the hardest working and  most devoted student, because the idea of catering for a Deaf student is just too overwhelming for the teacher, and all they can see is my Deafness (along with, I suspect, a bit of the old assumption that to be Deaf is to be stupid, and therefore it’s probably not even worth teaching me anyway).

My friend Anna recently studied her grad dip to become a teacher, and while all the other students in her course were granted their teaching licenses, she was required to present herself to the board. “Since you’re Deaf,” they said, “We think we should give you a restricted licence – so that you can only teach in schools with Deaf students.”

Knowing Anna as I do, this OUTRAGED me. To think that she was seen as only having value to Deaf students, but not to hearing students. Aside from being a terrific model for diversity, Anna is funny, smart, compassionate and highly entertaining. If I was a hearing student, I would learn bucketloads from having her for a teacher. And one of the main things I’d learn is that Anna’s Deafness is not her main talent. No – it’s her incredible wit and ability to hit the nail on the head, which would make learning fun and easy. But I’d also learn that Deaf people can be more than their label.

So, I’m asking you, next time you meet a person who is Deaf, or a person who uses a wheelchair, or has some other physical condition that seems remarkable, remind yourself that it’s probably not the most remarkable thing about them. And you won’t even know what IS remarkable, until you get to know them.

Please feel free to share this post or hang a print of this painting on your wall to raise awareness about this tricky issue. Giclee prints of this artwork are available in my shop.

I have a forgettory

If, like me, you have memory issues, you might relate to this painting. I once asked my son to make sure he remembered something and he abdicated all responsibility by declaring, ‘I don’t have a memory, I have a forgettory!’ And therein was the inspiration for this painting. Thanks, Jesse!

If you’d like this painting, it’s in my online shop in my online shop here.

I will carry you

This is a papier mache figure I made after studying with Julie Arkell in France. Do you know Julie Arkell’s work? I am in love with it. Long before I went to France, I tried making a papier mache figure, inspired by her work, and it was a disaster. Now that I have learnt her secrets, it all seems so easy. I have had a lot of fun playing around with papier mache figures since.

This one represents an idea my mother talked with me about when I was young. ‘It is the job of society to carry those who cannot carry themselves.’ By this she meant that if someone is sick or has a disability or can’t perform some essential function, then it’s appropriate for those around to step in and carry out those tasks for them or provide whatever assistance is needed.

I made this figure with her own built-in tray, ready to do some carrying. She can sit on your mantel piece or coffee table or chest of drawers, and on the back, place anything that has meaning for you. A special rock, a ceramic figurine, a small doll you loved as a child.

Her wheels really do turn! That’s another secret I learnt from Julie Arkell.

If you’d like her, she’s in my shop.