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Road Maps, Marker Pens and Therapeutic Venting


LisaButterfly

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If you've read my previous blog entry you'll know that I'm typing my story, right from the beginning, as part of trauma therapy. I typed it out a couple of years back on here, and a more official version, featuring the man who gave me reason to join this forum, was written for a police statement when I reported him in 2020. I'm now revisiting it again with help from a therapist and new insights, and the words that are spilling out onto my computer screen come from the 44-year-old me, with all the fresh memories and emotions that have surfaced since this shit-storm of an aftermath began. The 'paint by numbers' book that is my story is finally making a bit more sense, the colour codes are matching all those pesky little spaces and gaps, and I'm starting to see the pictures for what they are rather than a confusing jumble of lines and squiggles without colour. The pictures evolving are dark and frightening, but we wouldn't be in our own personal battles now if the past events we lived through were bright and colourful would we. 

I've decided to write an entry about the affect typing my story again has had on me so far, just to give words some air, have a good vent and hopefully splash some colour onto this page that others might recognise and, by doing so, help them feel less lonely with their own 'paint by numbers' kits. The most profound pictures that have evolved lurk in the chapters of my childhood and teens, which, in the story I type, tangle together with the pages through my 20s. When the trauma therapy began in January this year, I thought my story started the day I met the man who inflicted so much pain during the eight years I was with him, but working backwards has helped me see a pattern through my formative years that had a massive influence on how I became an ideal target for someone who can only feel adequate and powerful if they can control, manipulate, humiliate and cause harm to a vulnerable narcissistic food source with no personal boundaries or self-worth. A gass-lit mouse with ingrained shame is an easy victim to suck dry, squash in a cage and hide behind closed doors. In my story, I'm calling this particular vampire 'M', so that's who he'll be here. 

I've been learning about shame and it's place in the pages of my story, and there, in big, bold, black letters, I can see that this awful burden to carry was plonked on my shoulders years before I met M. I'm not sure if the people who sucked me dry during my childhood and teens knew they were vampires, but they still fed on my sense of identity and worth to satisfy their hunger to control and/or feel powerful.

The road map of trauma comes with it's own free marker pen of shame, with it's thick nib and black ink. It's not for us to use - it's firmly gripped by those who mistreat and abuse us - as they scribble obscenities and insults over our skin until we don't recognise ourselves. As layers and layers of perminent ink thickens, how the heck are you meant to scrub it off when you're free of the hands that held the pen? And what if someone you're close to is still adding more layers? I'm learning to improve my metaphorical Martial Arts manoeuvres at the moment so I can defend myself and keep that pen away from skin that's raw from all the scrubbing. I've also isolated myself from my friends and family, and although shutting myself away helps me feel a bit safer, it's an unhealthy and incredibly lonely way to live. I've become a hermit to feel safe from hands holding marker pens, but also to prevent others seeing all the horrible words layered on my skin with black ink that tell me I'm a worthless burden that doesn't matter enough to anyone. 

One hand that holds a pen is my dad, who I'm sure is unaware of his artistry with a permanent marker. Since re-writing my story, I can see how much he loves his daughter, but I can also see his narcissism and need for control. He's overt with his behaviours and after a lifetime getting to know him, I can read him like a book. We used to have a bond, but when it broke three years ago, the rose-tinting glasses I admired him through fell off and I didn't like what I saw. I blamed myself for that break for a long time, but I can see now that his decision to distance himself from his daughter wasn't my fault. He's been telling me my physical disability makes me a burden to him and others for years, and he openly admits he had to break contact so he could shut himself off from my troubles and spare himself the worry. That doesn't help the daughter he leaves behind though, while she's battling with the frightening deterioration of a progressive health condition, with absolutely no medical help at all because her hospital consultant won't listen when her suicidal patient pleads for effective pain relief and some support to prevent further damage caused by years of misdiagnosis. After typing that out, it looks like my consultant holds a marker pen as well. 

The social isolation is lonely in a room full of people too, especially when those people are close friends and family. I've learned a lot about my Complex PTSD diagnosis and this has given me a useful road map that helps me understand why I feel like a ghost haunting myself. I feel like I died a long time ago and the apparition I've become frightens people... according to my dad who feels I should hide my pain to protect others from discomfort. So when I have to be with other people, I wear the 'I'm fine mask', and when I can't hide how dead I feel, my insides want to explode because folk sure do say the most ridiculous things when they don't know why you're struggling so much. I wish they'd accept how profoundly shit I feel without needing evidence, but my choice to keep all the reasons why I'm covered in marker pen secret, only seems to increase their tendency to compare me to others with real problems, reach misinformed conclusions and bombard me with minimising comments and solutions meant for those who have troubles that can be easily fixed. No one feels they need to help someone with small problems. I can't bare the thought of sharing details with them, but I also can't bare the loneliness of being invisible, so the whole thing leaves you in a bit of a conundrum. 

This is where a good vent will be therapeutic. When my mum begged me to tell my brother about my past early last year, all I could tell him was that M was abusive and used my body without my consent for eight years. It's an easier sentence used quite often when I choose to share a snippet of my past. When he said: "Maybe M didn't realise he was forcing you," I said: "He did know," and left it there. But I craved validation from my brother and couldn't bare hearing him defend M's intentions, so in my head I said: "M coersed me with insults and threats, platted my hair to the bed frame, called me 'his little wh**e' and told me 'I was just a hole', and raped your crying sister a few times a week while staring at a photo of your girlfriend in a sexy silver dress that he stuck on the headboard to keep him hard... and then made me sleep on the floor without a pillow and blanket because I was a crap shag." It all stayed in my head for his sake. When my step-mother witnessed one of my panic attacks on my birthday this year and said: "The sunshine will make it all better... tomorrow's a new day... embrace and enjoy it," with well-meaning but toxic positivity, I boiled inside and wanted to tell her that the weather has no affect on recovery from from trauma, there's no easy fix, and knowing tomorrow is a new day fills me with dread because it's yet another day I have to battle through without killing myself. But I kept that outburst safely tucked away too and smiled my fake smile to help her feel she was brilliant at giving advice. Every time someone close to me, who knows how I am and the reasons why, says: "She's just a bit under the weather and feeling a bit sorry for herself," to others, I want to beg them to be honest, because although profound shame is etched all over the disgusting shell I'm trapped in, I'm not ashamed to be ill... and every excuse that covers the severity of how crap I feel with a description of something menial paints me as a drama queen and distances me from people who might reach out to offer support if they knew the truth. 

Writing my story again and reading it to my therapist each week, two years at a time, validates events for me though, and helps me see the timeline and how one messed up chapter led to another: from my early years with an over-protective, controlling father who had affairs I wasn't allowed to tell my mum about, to my childhood and teens in a church where leaders pushed me to the ground, held me down, and exorcised demons out of me in the hope I'd be cured of my physical health condition and no longer need to use a wheelchair, blamed me and my lack of faith when healings failed, and labelled my anxiety disorder as a gift of premonition from god... telling me I could save my family from their pending deaths and prevent the apocalypse if I prayed hard enough, to the boyfriend I spent my teens with who left wounds and scars on my skin with knives, pushed me into walls and forced me to vomit meals up when I was in the grips of anorexia, all the way to my 20s when I met M. 

If you've read this and recognise any of the colours splashed on this page, do know that us lot here on this forum can see past the words that have been left on your skin by cruel hands holding a marker pen.... and even when you feel like a ghost, we see you, we're not afraid of you and we believe in you. 

Yup... that has turned out to be a therapeutic typing session. Thank goodness for this forum, the opportunity to blog your thoughts and for all the survivors who gather here. 

 

Edited by LisaButterfly

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Your post is incredibly missing, @LisaButterfly. While my trauma / life story specifics differ in ways from yours, I felt so understood as you shared yours. I am so very sad for the ink written across your innocent body and for the ways you still suffer from it. I also have been coming to terms with my story and the complexities of whether or not to share, how much, to whom, etc. 

I am so glad you are getting support from a trauma therapist. You are brave facing your story, reaching out for support, not giving up day after minute, after second. 
 

I soaked up every words from your post and appreciate your honesty and hope given to fellow survivors. It is a tough life, and I can just do it one day at a time. I am also trying to navigate the immense difficulties of reaching out to people for support which is healthy but wanting to hide away in the safety of isolation.

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Thanks so much @Hope321 - your words are always absorbed and always show how much you care for others. I'm so sad for the ink on your innocent body too. I hope every visit to this forum helps sooth all the sore areas under that ink and helps you feel seen and valued for the compassionate, strong human being that you are. 

While we're in our own private bubbles, I do like it when you and I float past each other, smile and say hello. An offer to park my bubble next to yours and sit with you is always here. Thanks again, Hope by name, Hope by nature. 

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