A Canvas of Healing
Updated: Apr 22
There are many different ways for people who have experienced trauma to cope and heal after the experience. Some write, some paint, some sing, some isolate, some expand... the healing process is as unique as the individual themselves.
While writing has been the bulk of my healing process, I’ve also used another medium to mark each phase of my healing. It’s one I don’t discuss too often here. I have featured it in small snippets here and there, but I have yet to reveal the entire canvas as it were.
Body art has been my way to collect a visual representation of each piece of my healing puzzle. This was my first piece. It represents many things, as most of my tattoos do. First, it was drawn by my paternal grandfather as he resigned from a job and drew it on the letter head. While it’s not clear in this photo there is a sprig of mistletoe firmly adhered to the coat tail. In essence it was my grandfather’s way with slunk and flourish to tell his boss to kiss his ass as he walked out the door. After that it became somewhat of a signature for my family. Traditionally it was painted on my Dad and his siblings’ vehicles to keep them out of trouble with the local law enforcement. My grandfather was a retired police officer and instead of wasting time and resources of the department when the kids were being kids, if the Irishman was spotted my grandfather received a phone call to administer the appropriate punishment at home.
This was my first piece, something I committed to after Noah and I finally parted ways. In the cycle of grief and healing this piece represents my anger.
This is my second piece. I had it done about six weeks into the beginning of my therapy and formal healing process. It too, has a duel meaning. I left it purposely vague and unfinished because it represents Noah’s stain on my life that at that point had refused to fade. In addition to the lingering representation of Noah and the trauma, it also notes the anniversary of my wedding and how I chose to transform my life when I married my husband.
In terms of my healing canvas this piece represents the denial/bargaining phase. I was aware of the horrible pain I had endured at Noah’s hands, but I was not yet ready to accept all of it. It was filtering around the edge of my consciousness as I began to unravel repressed memories and emotions but I still wanted to cling to the belief that there was a ghost of good inside Noah. The unfinished nature represents the ghost of haunting memories.
This piece represents my total acceptance of both my diagnosis and the true nature of how damaging my relationship with Noah was. It also acknowledges my struggles with suicidal thoughts. This piece represents a large turning point in my healing where I began to accept responsibility for my own roll in the mess that resulted after the end of my relationship with Noah. For a long time I fought him tooth and nail when he acknowledged my mental illness, but as I continued to grow and heal I eventually realized that in order to address the trauma I had to first accept my disorder. In essence I had to “lose my mind” to find my way out of the darkness and pursue my dreams and passions.
This adorable little fellow here is my jam. After all the bumps and bruises our marriage received along my healing journey, Hayden and I decided to celebrate our 10th anniversary with a couple tattoo. He has a matching toast and together we are delicious. It was cheesy and fun to go together, while the kids were spending the weekend with my parents.
Finally, as I’ve taken the leap out of jobs and into a long term career path I have this last piece. This is my most involved piece both aesthetically, and in terms of meaning. It wraps up all of the lose ends of my young adult trauma. The flowers are Azaleas which represent a personal significance, the plane is a tribute to the Pilot I knew who‘s very brief impact on my life was filled with very poignant advice which propelled me forward with my education and opened up the doors to my current career path. The phrase is somewhat related to the plane, being the motto of the 9th SRW. It’s Latin and translates basically to “always ready”.
That part is what signifies the end of my healing process more than anything else. Over the years of our bickering and my self discovery Noah has continued to take advantage of my kind heart and compassion. At least twice that I can confirm and likely more that I never really noticed he has lashed out at me when I let my guard down and naively assumed that things were settled between us. These events happened many years after the end of our relationship. I can’t say that they were entirely unexpected, but they did take me by surprise. As much turmoil as I endured with Noah, even I hadn’t anticipated him ever going that far during an emotional crisis, but... he did.
So, with Semper Paratus permanently attached to my body I now have a constant reminder to be ready and aware of Noah his propensity to behave irrationally in emotional crises. Noah and Mia are still visiting here quite regularly so I’m not counting any chickens just yet. However, their visits are less frequent than before so... perhaps we’re making some progress.
By wrapping up my blog, I think it will only continue to aid in the healing process. Yes, I know I’ve said it before only to return a few months later. Those attempts to abandon the blog were born from overwhelm. I simply couldn’t handle it and had to take a break. This time the desire to end my public internal musing comes from a place of peace. I don’t need to claim my voice anymore. Plus, my new job has a lot of social media restrictions. It’s time to put this away and focus on my career and other goals. It’s been 12 months since my last visit to my therapist, the two previous visits weren‘t entirely necessary, and my canvas of visual art as well as written art is complete. All of my pieces are finally put back together.
Thank you for joining me along this road to recovery.