FACES OF AGENT ORANGE TOWN HALL MEETING SCHEDULE
Monday, November 21, 2011
Dead Man's Prison by Sharon L. Perry, Founder AO Legacy
I realized, recently; I am fortunate. I have found a few really good people in my life, who actually care about helping people. I've struggled to come back from what I felt was the end of my life after my husband's death in 2005. [My husband's death was due to exposure to agent orange and his service in Vietnam (Hep C and PTSD)]
I did feel like my life was over. I thought, what's the point? Especially after 27 years of marriage. I did give up, 6 months after my husband's death, I deliberately overdosed on my own medication. Within the year, I was ill with a serious lung infection and nearly lost my life.
Physically weak, and emotionally burned out I began the long journey toward reclaiming my life. My doctor reached out to me and was understanding about what had happened to my husband, myself, and my family. My doctor recommended I read a book written by Pema Chodron entitled 'When Things Fall Apart'. I didn't read the book at that time but began a journey of healing having looked up the author online.
This healing journey was how my daughter and I founded Agent Orange Legacy.
Later I confided in my doctor and told her I wanted to see a counselor. My doctor went out of her way to find a counselor who accepted my health insurance. When I first met my counselor I was lost but struggling to find my way. It took me several weeks to adjust but I began seeing her on a weekly basis. At first, the thought of having to keep a weekly appointment was frightening to me. I guess it was because of my experience with my husband but also my daughter; coping with chronic illnesses, and having to deal with a bureaucracy like the VA. Well, it certainly does take it's toll on the caregiver.
After about a year and a half of seeing my counselor, still struggling. My doctor again recommended I read the book by Pema Chodron, entitled 'When Things Fall Apart'. I finally read the book and it was then I realized I was living in a dead man's prison. I was isolated and disconnected from the world around me and didn't know how to fix it. Worst of all, I had accepted it. I was going on about my life as though my husband was still living. I am not trying to speak ill of my husband but, truth be known, he was very controlling.
I was policing myself in his absence. It was at this point my counselor asked me to paint a self portrait. The picture I painted is a reflection of this experience; realizing I was living in a dead man's prison.
The cracking face is symbolic for two things:
1) having to walk on egg shells for so many years.
2) the breaking away of the dead man's prison.
[I did use real egg shells in this painting to give the picture a 3D look but to emphasize the egg shell effect.]
The shackle around the neck although still in tact is not attached to anything any longer. The American flag is a part of my prison which is representative of the Vietnam veterans experience:
1) having been betrayed upon their home coming.
[this was extremely traumatic to the veteran because it came from the heart of the country they so loved and served]
2) their struggle to obtain medical treatment for their exposure to agent orange and the coverup and lies that followed. [also an additional betrayal although this time was their government]
The fact that there are no hands symbolizes the state of helplessness I was in and experienced for so many years. Of course there is no hair because my situation had finally been exposed.
It's scary stepping outside of the dead man's prison I've been living in for so many years. But I am ready to make the first step toward my new life.
Sharon L. Perry, Founder