My sketches started when I was struggling to explain to people what I was going through. Most people still don’t get it, but I don’t care. It’s fun to draw and they help me lighten up some of the dark stuff that is difficult to talk about. I mean, isn’t “Do you think you could be in the Avoidance Fun Fair?” a much nicer way of asking “Are you avoiding your emotions?”.
The Real World, The Illusion and The Dark Under World
In a world where we are subjected to so many subconscious messages, I feel like it’s easy to float up in to an illusion. An illusion where how things look takes president over the reality and where the pretence of everything being ‘fine’ and ‘good’ is the default when reality isn’t actually like that. It’s almost as if we’ve got to a point where the illusion is so strong that no one even knows that they’re in it, and some of us are just floating in existence, in a world of avoidance fun fairs and coping cafes, without acknowledging anything ‘dark’ in their life because to do so means popping that illusion bubble and landing in the real world. A real world that is connected to the dark underworld where life lessons are learnt, but not without the challenges that it takes to get the tools to climb back into the real world. The thing is that the illusion is just that, an illusion. Things in the real world aren’t always ‘fine’, they can’t be because good and bad things cannot exist without each other and deep down everyone knows this but we don’t want to acknowledge this. Well here is a Trauma on Tour **News Flash** – shit happens and you can’t escape it, so when it comes just see it as objectively as you can, and know that you’ll come through it having developed, learnt and progressed further as a real human being. How awesome is that to know?
The Love-Train Wreck
I found myself explaining the Love-Train Wreck this week as a friend of mine was confessing that she’d fallen madly in love. The thing is that she’d fallen in love with someone in a less than ideal situation, and that is when the Love-Train Wreck happens.
This analogy came about when I was falling for the guy who eventually broke my heart back in late 2014 and I was explaining the situation to my friend. As we sat in the smoothie bar I told her that it was like I was about to board a train. I knew that if I got on the train that the ride would be exhilarating, magical and like nothing I’d ever experienced before, but that it would inevitably crash and I’d have to drag myself out of the wreckage, lick my wounds and piece myself back together again. However, I also had the option to play it safe and just stay on the platform.
“What are you going to do?” My friend asked.
“I’m going to get on the train” I replied.
My friend made a small eerie sound as she moved her hands to her face…
“It’s going to end in disaster” she said. And she was right.
This is my tree.
It’s not really in the best of shape at the moment because there have been a few really bad storms, so there isn’t much ripe fruit on it. Pre-hurricane season the ripe fruit was flourishing and I would happily share it around, because it was abundant enough to do so. However, these days I can’t do that because there simply isn’t enough to go around and if I pick the fruit too early then the tree will deteriorate further (unripe fruit isn’t so appealing either). Some times people try and climb the tree to get my fruit because they’ve become accustomed to me giving it to them, but right now this is a no no! I’ve tried to explain that because of the tree’s current health they can only have the fallen fruit but some didn’t listen and I had to throw a few rocks at them to stop them climbing, which may have hurt. Sorry to those people. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone but my priority is the tree and until it’s healthier people trying to pick fruit have to find another tree or invest some time and effort in planting and nurturing their own damn tree.
Negative Deflection Tennis
Negative deflection tennis is an exhausting game! The aim of the game is to protect your wall of positivity while people constantly throw balls of negativity to try and knock it down. You’ve basically got to try and deflect every ball away and sometimes they can be coming from every angle. One time when I was playing this game I was inundated with more players than I could handle and I knew that if I didn’t do something soon I would eventually be so tired that my wall would become exposed and it would get knocked down. I couldn’t let that happen! So I called a time out and told the other players that I couldn’t play with them for a bit until I got my energy back. Some were upset because they were my friends and didn’t like to hear that I couldn’t play with them but when it came to positive self-preservation or being destroyed through friendship of negative ball players I had to save myself. I’m sure we’ll play again soon and hopefully by then they might be on my side of the pitch.
Filling the Void
“Is your glass half full or half empty?” This is a common analogy when talking about optimism (or pessimism depending on how you look at it) but has anyone ever stopped to think about the actual state of the glass?
What if there was some sort of accident where the glass was damaged? Sometimes this is the case, but because of the unwillingness to talk about it the only sign is that the liquid is slowly going down. It seems that when this does happen that a couple of strategies are generally applied:
- It is ignored. Probably because acknowledging that it’s emptying means the possibility of a crack and then the necessity to fix it (hard work!!) So a blind eye is turned until it is completely empty, then urgency sets in and the next strategy is applied.
- It’s acknowledged but instead of letting it empty and fixing the cracks, there becomes an urgent need to constantly fill up the glass, even if it’s with dirty (negative) liquid, as long as it doesn’t appear to be empty.
Neither of these strategies are sustainable. The only thing that will stop the liquid from emptying is letting it drain out, exposing the cracks so that they can be repaired. It will take time, hard work and commitment but it’s the only way to fix it. That’s life.
The Avoidance Fun Fair
The Avoidance Fun Fair is actually more of an amusement park but I’d already written fun fair by the time I’d developed it, oh well. This is the place that I sometimes find myself when I’m running from the Emotional Cat. Sometimes I’m running so fast that I don’t even realise that I’ve ran into the fairground and it can take someone else to point it out to me. I’ve gradually learnt to see the signs which are usually an intensely filled calendar with every spare minute taken up, with some kind of activity, drama or short term excitement. Subconsciously I think my logic is that if I make myself super busy then the emotions will never catch up right? Nope, it eventually ends up in an emotional meltdown.
The Emotional Cat
I met the emotional cat for the first time after the attack when I was in Mallorca, in the middle of my Yacht master theory course to be exact. It was lunch time and I was chatting to the instructor of the course who had decided that it was appropriate time to start criticising and judging me for no reason. Well, there was a reason and it was probably the same reason why a lot of people like to shoot down others – to make themselves feel better. It’s something that I see and experience regulaly as an independent women, working in a World where men feel imasculated (sorry about that but it’s not fault, give me a break already)!
This type of uninvited aggression was more than I could handle at the time, being in such a vulnerable post trauma state. I’m not sure what reaction this guy was expecting but it caused the emotional cat to jump out on me unexpectedly, leaving me in a blubbering mess of tears. The thing is that when the Emotional Cat decides to come out and play there is no stopping him. Worse yet, as soon as he rugby tackles me to the ground he gets bored and then runs off to find someone else to play with, leaving me floored and drained with everyone looking at me like I’m a weirdo – Thanks E-Cat, great job!
Since my father died, I see the Emotional Cat a lot more and I’ve learnt to accept him in my life and play with him when he’s around as we work towards a more balanced and healthy relationship where I control the cats behaviour, not the other way around.
The Anxiety Butterfly
The Anxiety Butterfly appeared in my life after the attack and I can imagine that most PTSD suffers are visited by her frequently. Some days she’s there from the moment I wake up and it takes all my inner strength to bat her away. Some times, she flutters about at the most inconvenient times, like when I’ve committed to a yacht delivery and her presence makes me fill up with so much apprehension that I have to pull out of it! Most of the time she leads me into the Avoidance Fun Fair.
I have started to make friends with the Anxiety Butterfly because like any nature lover I don’t think she should be squished, no matter how irritating she is. However, this is a friendship where I acknowledge her message and believe that she’s looking out for my best interests but I keep her at arms length so that she doesn’t control my life. The battle of balance continues.
Cafe of Coping
The Cafe of Coping is a necessary place to go to, especially if it’s constantly raining outside or you’re exhausted from playing negative deflection tennis. There’s some great strategies on offer too like avoidance, numbness and escapism so it’s a really cool place to hang out sometimes. Sometimes though. That’s the trick. If you spend too much time in the cafe then you can forget that there’s a real World out there and when you do eventually go back outside you realise that those same old problems are there, waiting for you to face them. So the Cafe of Coping is great for a little rest bite but it’s probably not the place to lay down your backpack and squat for too long.
Pulling back the Word Chain
You know that moment when you’re speaking freely about something, you’re kind of excited and getting carried away in the moment… Then you stop as you look at the person receiving your words and suddenly realise (by the look on their face) that you’ve probably said something inappropriately offensive, ‘out there’ or down right ‘crazy’? Then like me, you’ve probably also felt the urge to physically reach out and grab the words, mid air to pull them back before they land on your conversation receivers face. This is called pulling back the word chain. Unfortunately it proves to be unsuccessful at present as sound isn’t a physical entity that we can move in this way, trust me, I’ve tried, and watching me frantically scrape back the air as I joke about pulling words back into my mouth doesn’t seem to amuse offended receivers either. I’m confident that there are some kind scientists working on this though. I’ll hang tight for the TED talk.
Pulling out of Negativity
When I asked a friend recetly why she didn’t tell me how bad a negative state she was in, she replied that she didn’t want to pull me down into her pit in case we both couldn’t get out. I get this, it’s the whole ‘Tree’ sketch all over, however as I explained to my friend, it is my responsibility to enforce my boundaries and that if is that I’m unable to deal with her situation then I can at least signpost some of our other friends her way who are in a healthy mindset and have the strength to pull her out of the negativity. Even if it takes more than one person (I know sometimes it has with me when I’ve been in my darkest times) isn’t this what friends are for – to pull each other up when we’re down?