Ok, yesterday I tweeted “Almost done with the new pen&ink. Hoping that I’m not jinxing it by expecting it to be done & online tomorrow….” I succeeded, because – ta-da!

A woman lies curled, spikes in her back shooting lightning and a look of quiet pain on her face.

“Touch/Don’t” by Heather Keith Freeman
9″x12″, pen and ink on watercolor paper

The making of this one went very quickly, probably because it is intensely personal.

I have a spine injury. One of its manifestations is that direct pressure to the spine, even relatively light, causes me intense pain. One of the things I have had to learn to avoid is causal hugs from friends, because they inevitably forget., and one friendly back-slap later I’m on the ground.

I’m naturally a physically affectionate person. Making this transition has… not been easy.

While this piece is inspired by the personal, my hope is that it generalizes well to the experience of chronic pain, and also the experience of being a woman, and perhaps even the experience of being human: specifically portraying the conflict between the need for physical connection and the need for physical safety.

What does it say to you?

This post was included in the 60th Disability Blog Carnival at Feminists with Disabilities.

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4 thoughts on “Touch/Don’t

  1. I immediately got the chronic pain angle. And I love it just for that.
    I only recently found you online and I really like your work. Thank you for sharing.


  2. I was primed – the link I got here from said “Touch/Don’t: art about chronic pain” – but nevertheless I think I would have understood it instantly. I don’t (yet) have chronic pain (I say yet because both my mother and oldest sister developed fibro, and most of the spots they use to diagnose it cause me intense pain if pressed lightly – my husband’s learned to avoid those spots when massaging me) though I do have frequent headaches and occasional migraines, so I know pain…

    The picture speaks to me, though, because I have Asperger’s Syndrome, and while I crave being touched, I’m very hesitant about *who* I allow to touch me…and even loved ones can make me flinch if I don’t know they’re about to touch me. I’ve nearly hit a co-worker before for touching me unexpectedly. Touch is extremely, extremely SCARY for me. I’m uncomfortable having people within touching -range-. But for those few I trust, I crave simple touches, constant contact, hand-holding, hair stroking…the picture is a perfect expression.


  3. I see so much in this.

    The self-protection, walling oneself off from the outside world and curling up within — that applies to so many situations. It applies to me dealing with dissociation from childhood abuse, it applies to people who have been mistreated and have to find a way to keep external pressures from crushing them, it applies to people who find comfort in curling up inside oneself and enjoying just being.

    There’s a lot there.


    hkfreeman Reply:

    Thank you.


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