Hilary, first responder

Hilary: Artist Statement


This is my experience witnessing recovery processes that are common to those in early treatment phases of recovery from substance use disorder and from suicidality. The central gray oval is the acute stabilization phase: I watch people struggle with this limbo state – unable to experience true joy or even momentary pleasure, doubting their identity, purpose, value, ability to connect with others meaningfully, to experience any peace of mind that lasts longer than a millisecond. It is often a very lonely time.


The flaming black hole represents the seductive appeal of both relapse and escape through suicide. The icon of St. Raphael, Archangel of medical healing, is placed at the junction of the gray zone and black hole, in part because this is where we clinicians first meet a person – late in their agony. The doors on either side of the gray zone represent the choices open to people at all points of the journey. One leads back to the black hole, and one leads to freedom (sky).


The left door reads, “Said nowhow on.” This reflects the first and last line of the Samuel Beckett short story, Worstward Ho. It is a magnificent depiction of the primal thought processes of a person in debilitating psychic pain. The life drive intrudes reliably, which is at once miraculous and necessary for hope. The right door reads, “Cor ad cor loquitur,” Latin for “heart speaks to heart.” It is one of my favorite expressions of what cannot be articulated but is always involved in healing.


4 Celtic spirals in the sky are the enduring traces of 4 wonderful people I worked with who tried mightily but lost their lives to despair.