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Aria – Accident, PTSD and Domestic Violence Survivor

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Aria - Shibari Artist

Accident, PTSD and Domestic Violence Survivor

My name is Aria. I was born in Berkeley, I grew up in Northern California.

I’m a LBKA, or left below the knee amputee. I am also a PTSD & domestic violence survivor. I experienced a traumatic accident at the age of 3 in Monterey Bay that resulted in my right hand and left foot getting completely crushed. Surgeons rebuilt my left foot using various muscle, skin, and vein grafts. About 6 years ago, I elected for an amputation due to my foot never growing, being unable to wear shoes, unable to walk more than a few blocks, let alone run.

I want to be involved in Underwater Healing because I am inspired by so many previous models’ stories, their strengths, and their ability to show vulnerable parts of themselves and their stories. Water has always been a monumental part of my life. I grew up around rivers. I always thought I moved so much better through water than on land, especially after my amputation.

My plans/concept ideas for the underwater shoot have a lot to do with mobility and freedom, as water allows my body to move without limits – I think it would be beautiful to have an asymmetrical diamond pattern karada going from my right hand down to my left leg, running ends trailing off and floating upwards to the surface – in representation of my struggles with accepting my own asymmetrical body & it’s “limits.” Perhaps also a rock or something that looks heavy, weighted, in contrast with the decreased gravity and increased buoyancy that water provides. As children, my brothers and I would experiment with walking with heavy rocks across the river floors, holding our breaths and experiencing ecosystems so diverse from terrestrial environments.

Shibari is a Japanese rope art. It’s a way that I’ve found to accept my body without exceptions, as rope can be applied to every single kind of body and always looks beautiful, it follows peoples’ unique curves and shapes, it wraps around and constricts. Most, if not all traditional shibari designs are worked across the central nervous system. Pressure provided by rope requires us to focus on breathing and bodily sensations. Shibari allows freedom. It allows flowing thoughts, it offers support through suspension, it calls us to meditate and requires us to be fully aware and in tune with our bodies. It requires communication, confrontation, looking our shapes and feelings dead on in the face, and having compassion for our bodies and the things they can do. It requires accepting a lot of things people otherwise wouldn’t want to – giving up power in exchange for something beautiful, studying the ways in which flesh bulges out under tight rope, focusing on intense or uncomfortable feelings and processing through them. I could go on, it’s really hard for me to narrow down what draws me to rope. Mainly it just makes me feel safe, capable, strong, beautiful, decorated, and like a work of art rather than a broken piece of China.

Before the shoot, I was a bit nervous about going underwater. I haven’t experienced being fully submerged and being still – my main experience with water has been swimming and diving which involve a lot of movement! I felt nervous because it wasn’t something I was familiar with. I was excited because I love being in water and swimming.

My experience was amazing! It was a bit difficult to fight the urge to use my hands and paddle them to keep me underwater. My hair floated into my face a lot and I felt like I moved around unintentionally, which caused you to have to keep adjusting the lights and following me! Mostly it was strange how much it felt like a regular shoot – pose, change poses, wait until the flashes go off and keep moving for more diversity of shots.

After the photo shoot, I was excited and a little bit tired! I kept telling Caz how awesome and fun it was. I want every shoot to be an underwater shoot. My energy was high and my spirits were lifted.

I’ve grown up around rivers and water, so swimming and being in the water is something that is really near and dear to me. Moving in water also doesn’t require you to have all legs – I’m faster in water and it hurts less to maneuver. It feels like the playing fields are leveled. In water, I am just as able bodied as anyone else. I think this experience can absolutely help with overcoming trauma and insecurities. Like I said, everything is equal when you’re in the water. You’re just a body, floating. Nothing else matters. I ABSOLUTELY WANT TO GET BACK INTO THE WATER AGAIN. Just hold my breath and lay on the bottom of a pool. It’s so peaceful and serene down there.

I slept like a baby the night of the shoot. My mind was calm and my body was tired. Usually, I don’t sleep super soundly. I think I was exhausted and emotionally uplifted after the shoot.

Erena was lovely! She was very communicative and guided me through breathing. I’d try out different poses and ideas and we’d experiment with them and she’d show me afterwards. We talked about shibari and water and she made me feel very comfortable. She’s incredibly talented and a beautiful soul!I would absolutely recommend underwater transformation to other trauma survivors. Nothing compares to the silence, comfort, and beauty of being submerged. It is especially nice because typically for someone with chronic pain, a 1-2 hour photoshoot will leave your body hurting and sore. But because of the lack of gravity in water, I wasn’t in any pain at all. I also think that seeing your body and beauty in different elements is really eye opening and would help a lot of people to feel more comfortable in their abilities and appearances. It was damn near therapeutic!

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