the misunderstood shark

So, I had done the bg to this piece a few days ago. I didn’t know where to go with it, so I asked for ideas. Someone suggested a shark. I really liked the idea.

Originally, I wanted that stereotypical great white with its mouth open ready to chomp down. I thought it worked well as a metaphor for trauma and PTSD (lurking in the dark, ready to pounce as soon as you let your guard down, ready to leave you bloodied and fighting for your life…).  I couldn’t find a satisfactory reference photo though, so I picked a tamer-looking black tip reef shark.

10494756_10152709871029892_465310054786958476_nI over-did the painting in trying to get it “just right”. I ended up with a worried shark who looks a bit deformed. At first I was disappointed that I lost the metaphor I was going for (no way anyone would think my pathetically worried shark was menacing in any way, shape, or form), but then someone asked about it, and another metaphor came to me: symptoms can seem like one thing, but end up being something else; they are misunderstood much like Mr. Worried Sharkey-pants. At first you see him thinking; “eek! a shark. run! help!” but then you look closer and you see the worry on his face. You notice the missing top rows of teeth, you see his fins are small and in the wrong spots… you catch on that he’s really just looking to figure things out, to get where he’s going. He’s not the scary monster the media makes him out to be… he’s just scared.

I’ve found more and more that my body memories are a lot like that. They start as one thing, they trigger that panic reaction. But if I sit with them, if I look at what they are presenting, I realize there’s more to it: The actual memories come up. They give me something to process in therapy. They allow me to work towards moving on… ok, yes, there’s still that freak-out and the fear. And the “moving on” part is incredibly difficult, but it happens. Take my last therapy session for example. It triggered something way deep. I freaked out. It qued up the neediness and the panic reactions. But it also allowed me to access some things that I had not consciously thought about yet. It brought to light some things that are slowly coalescing into memories. It’s releasing all that pent-up fear and hurt… So it’s not at all what I thought when I first felt the stirrings of a trigger. It’s giving me stuff to work on with TL (like I really needed more??)…


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