Using Art to Heal PTSD: A Trauma Survivor’s Story

molly marshall

 Molly Kahikatea Marshall is a survivor on the move. She works her PTSD recovery and also is hard at work creating her post-trauma identity, too. In fact, she’s started a fundraising campaign for “Life Beyond PTSD: Recovery Through Art” — check out Molly’s unique healing mission here.

Her spirit, dedication and commitment to building a life after trauma immediately resonated with me. I bet you’ll also find her attitude inspiring. She’s on a unique quest now, so I invited her to share her journey with us all through this e-interview (I swear, I didn’t ask or expect her to include me in her answers!)….

What has given you hope during your healing process, and how would you suggest someone develop their own sense of hope? 

what has given me hope through my healing process is the sense of compassion that comes from personal suffering. In between times of deep sorrow and darkness I have found hope in the thought that I may overcome and conquer adversity and be able to help others to overcome and have hope too, that all of the suffering can find reason which has also given me a sense of purpose.

I would suggest that others find hope by realizing that they are not alone in their suffering and that by their first hand experience we are the experts in this particular field of healing. In healing we become powerful towards that that has dis-empowered us. We are the wounded healers. There is something very healing in the midst of trauma knowing that our experiences can help others.

What has helped you believe in yourself, and how would you suggest someone else develop self-belief?

Molly MarshallWhat has helped me believe in myself has been a determination to overcome PTSD along with finding Michele Rosenthal. Michele is the only person I have ever come across to share personal experience that PTSD is overcomable. Through her e-mails, blogs, website, books & radio show I have come a very long way on my healing path. Prior to finding Michele I felt lost in a vortex of non-direction and helplessness. Even though I had the support of family and friends they could not relate to what I was going through, they could not understand, all they could do was to be there and listen as I went around and around in circles of turmoil trying to recapture a sense of identity and a place in my world after trauma. I had tried all the ‘regular’ ways of getting well, doctors, psychologists, medication and nothing moved me forward, around and around I went. Reaching out to Michele gave me instant relief, here was someone who understood, who had been there, who had overcome. I now could believe it was possible that I could overcome too and in that belief my sense of hope and purpose was also strengthened.

I would suggest that others developing their own self belief seek out the expertise and wisdom of other recovered survivors. For me Michele Rosenthal is a one stop shop so I strongly suggest to anyone going through PTSD that they follow her, sign up to the daily e-mails, read the books, listen to the radio shows, follow the blogs — there is something for everyone. For me Michele Rosenthal is the ‘magic pill’ the doctors wish they could prescribe us.

What successful steps are you taking to create The New You and what results are you seeing?

Emergent by Molly Kahikatea Marshall

Emergent by Molly Kahikatea Marshall

The ‘New Me’ is Molly Kahikatea Marshall the artist. When I developed PTSD in 2004 I felt an extremely strong need to express. I was so ‘caught’ in the ‘shattering’ of self that the only way I could express myself was through art. I began with oil pastels blending colors and abstract images which could relay my innermost turmoil manifesting itself outside of me. From there I chose to change my full name by deed poll developing a new identity, Molly for my Celtic Ancestry, Kahikatea (the New Zealand White Pine) for my passionate calling towards fighting injustice & suffering, and Marshall for my deep admiration of Marshall Mathers aka Eminem, and also Marshall phonetically like a sheriff who wears a badge to put right those injustices which fueled me. I chose Kahikatea as the name I would present myself to the world as an artist by and began to extend my artistic expressions to canvas. In 2010 I enrolled with the ‘Learning Connexion Art School’ in New Zealand ( and extramurally completed two and half years of study gaining my Diploma of Art & Creativity (Honors). Since then I have been taken under the wing of a wonderful fellow creative, Jacqueline King of Australia who has developed an international gathering of artists living with C-PTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder) and I am represented on Jacqueline’s website

18 months ago I decided I would book myself into a gallery for a solo art exhibition of my works which is currently on display. Through my journey with PTSD & Art it has become my dream goal to travel to New York where I want to gift one of my paintings to Helen Clark, the head of the United Nations Development Programme and ex-Prime Minister of New Zealand. Helen has agreed to receiving this painting and I have now started a fundraising campaign to make it possible. I strongly feel that this trip will be the glue to put all the pieces of me back together again so that I can move forward as the ‘New Me’ to live a full and rewarding life after trauma speaking out against child abuse and giving others hope in the darkness like Michele Rosenthal, Jacqueline King & Helen Clark have done for me.

Since coming out as ‘Molly Kahikatea Marshall’ the artist, survivor of childhood abuse, living with PTSD, and fueled with a passion for humanity, I am overwhelmed at the warmth, compassion & support that all I come in contact with extend to me. I used to live with depression, anxiety, hopelessness and great sorrow, now I live with hope, self belief, determination and a direction for today and tomorrow.


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