Danielle Hark responds to our September prompt with a piece about reclaming vital pieces of herself – her body, her skin, and her reflection. She feels distance from her own body, but by challenging herself to feel compassion for her reflection, she acknowledges the realness of her human self. Hark leaves behind ideas of fear and becomes more rooted in the truth of her strength, while lyrically giving life to the girl in the mirror. Hark can look in the mirror and find an ally, a friend.
The Girl in the Mirror
by Danielle Hark
“Who are you?” I ask the girl in the mirror. “Who am I?”
Combing fingers through my mess of purple-stained hair, I gently stroke the flesh of my face, tattooed arms, and the soft curve of my stomach, etched and scarred from the growing and tearing of two lives.
All I feel is skin of a stranger. She fights me. She fights anyone who wants to get close. My skin should have a different name. She does not listen to me or work with me.
She jumps and shivers. She fears when there is no threat at all. She makes me feel miles away from my body, my humanity, unable to be present.
I have hurt her. At times I hurt her unknowingly. Other times to feel pain, or more so, feel in control of my pain. I have hurt my skin to feel release from her. But more pain does not provide escape. Just more shame and guilt. More pain.
I have expanded her. Finding false comfort in food, I filled and stretched her, making her less desirable. Less likely to be gazed upon and hurt again.
I want to reclaim control. Control of my body, my life, but first my skin. I want to connect. To see the beauty in my curves and scars. They make me who I am, and should not be disregarded for imperfection.
I am not made of plastic or porcelain. I am not a Barbie, not a doll with which to be played. My flesh is warm, it feels, it bleeds. I am human. I am real. I deserve to feel pleasure, if I can figure out what that is. If I can figure out how to not shake when someone brushes against me or touches me.
I must separate flesh of past with flesh of present, to become whole with myself and the world. To be able to look in the mirror, and say confidently…
“This is who I am, skin to bones. This body is mine, and mine alone. Who am I? I am the girl in the mirror, and that is enough.”
Hopefully with time, I will get to know the delicate map of my skin, and perhaps she will finally understand what it means to feel comfort, safety, and pleasure.
Danielle Hark is a writer/artist living with PTSD and bipolar disorder. She’s the founder of the non-profit Broken Light Collective that empowers people with mental illness using photography. Danielle lives and creates in NJ with her husband, two sassy young daughters, a fluffy white pup, and a black cat. www.daniellehark.com IG: @daniellehark