After a traumatic experience, many people isolate themselves. In the months following sexual assault while in college, I descended into a different personality. Having been in a dorm alone away from all of my friends and family, I put up a barrier to keep those closest to me at arms length. I became increasingly introspective and isolated–questioning everything about my identity.
This series of garments and photos are visual representations of the cycle of self-isolation. Self-isolation is a cycle of three stages: hyperarousal, intrusion and constriction.
In the hyperarousal stage, individuals are very guarded and on high alert, and they may be likely to lash out with aggression. Having been hurt by someone you loved and knew closest, puts you on edge with everyone else you know. Betrayed and confused, your mind is on high alert for any signs that someone else might hurt you.
During the intrusive stage, it’s common to relive traumatic events in conjunction with graphic nightmares. Reliving a traumatic experience disrupts your daily life, making you stop in your tracks and fight your way back to reality. This aspect of the cycle I actively suppressed and cut out everything in my life that would remind me of my ex-boyfriend. I threw away trinkets, clothing, pictures. I tore myself away from his attempts to contact me.
The constriction phase results in numbness and an absence of self. The stage that I was most heavily affected by was a loss of self and a feeling of numbness. For someone who was always black and white, self-assured and stubborn—the constriction of myself and my actions made me feel like I was an imposter or that I was someone else living in my body.