ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls, inspired by the "abuse" square in my 4-3-17 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to read the detailed warnings, some of which are spoilers. While trying to process past abuse, Turq has a graphic meltdown. Ansel does his best to comfort him. There is angst, overwhelm, flashback and intrusive thoughts, stabbing a worksheet with a pencil, trivial damage to an already beat-up rug, vigorous crying, guilt, difficult conversation, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.

"Define Your Own Reality"

Turq had taken to coming indoors
when he could bear it, not every day yet,
but several times a week, at first for
just a few minutes but getting longer.

Ansel encouraged him gently
but took care not to pressure him.

The last thing Turq needed
after his terrible past was having
his choices taken away from him again.

Today Turq crouched on the rug,
working on his trauma scrapbook.

The binder was white, secured by
a small biometric lock for privacy.
Pages of white patterned paper
spread out over the floor, mixed
with psychological worksheets.

Ansel was currently making
dough for the dumplings to drop into
the simmering crockpot of chicken
and fragrant winter vegetables. As
he worked, Ansel watched Turq write
through the space above the buffet bar.

Turq got more and more tense,
until he finally started crying and
stabbing the page with a pencil.

Ansel abandoned his bowl of dough
and hurried into the living room.

"Hey, maybe you should consider
taking a break," he suggested.

Turq flopped into his lap and bawled.

"Or you can cry it out, that's okay too,"
Ansel assured him, petting the soft blue hair.
Usually that felt soothing to both of them.

Sobs shook the thin shoulders as
Turq wrapped himself around Ansel,
desperate for the offered comfort.

Ansel murmured sympathy and
let him cry as long as he needed.

Eventually Turq's tears slowed,
although they left wet patches
all over Ansel's clothes.

When Turq sat up, Ansel asked,
"Would you like to talk about it?"

Turq reached out for the mutilated page,
slowly pressing it flat with his hands.
"I was thinking about what happened
to me in the lab," he said softly. "I wish
I could forget about it, but it keeps
coming back at odd moments."

"Flashbacks? Other intrusive thoughts?"
Ansel said, leaning over the worksheet.

"Yeah, both," Turq said. He turned
the page so that Ansel could see it.

A scene of a man running through
a desert had thoughtful questions on it.

Where it asked, What makes the loneliness
more intense?
Turq had written, When people
don't understand what I've been through

This was doubtless true, but more difficult
due to Turq's reluctance to describe
his experiences in any detail.

By the pool of water marked, Describe
something you want but can't quite reach,

Turq had put Peace and Safety.

Describe something you are running to
had the words Home and Family, above
a sketch of Turq's foster parents.

At the bottom it said, Describe
something you are running from,

and that's where the pencil marks
went from writing Lab torture to
stabbing clear through the paper.

"No wonder you're so upset,"
Ansel said. "That's a hard thing
to think about. Do you want
a fresh page? It's no trouble
for me to print another one."

"No," Turq said. "I'm supposed
to be writing out my feelings, and
that's ... how I feel." He poked
a finger through one of the holes,
then went back to smoothing
the paper carefully flat.

"Okay," Ansel said. "This is
your trauma scrapbook, so
do whatever you need to do."

Turq frowned. "Shit, I think
I wrecked your rug. I'm sorry."

Ansel looked at where the boy
was rubbing his fingers over
the coarse ivory strands, now
smudged with graphite.

"Oh, don't worry about it,"
Ansel said, waving a hand.

Turq was not so easily soothed.
"But I don't think the marks
will come out," he said.

"They might not, but that's okay,"
Ansel said. "That rug has survived
a lot over the years." He pointed to
a large stain barely a shade darker
than the ivory. "This is where I tripped
and spilled a whole cup of coffee on it."

"Really?" Turq said, following his finger.

"Yep, and this burn is from the woodstove --
we started out with the rug too close,
and had to move it back for safety,"
Ansel said. "The ragged patch is
where Janie sewed something to it
by accident and then had to cut it loose."

Turq rubbed a hand over the frayed spot.
"Wow," he said. "I guess a little graphite
isn't so bad after all of that stuff."

Ansel smiled at him. "Exactly,"
he said. "I like to think of it as
showing the story of our lives
in the marks on the rug."

"Like my life," Turq said.
"It's all messed up."

"It's still here, and it's still
a good rug," Ansel countered.

"Not everyone would see it
that way," Turq whispered.
One hand rubbed the other arm,
and as his sleeve rode up, Ansel
could see the striationary marks.

"That's their problem," Ansel said firmly.
“So often survivors of trauma have had
their experiences denied, trivialized, or
distorted. Writing is an important avenue
for healing the damage because it gives you
the opportunity to define your own reality.”

Turq pulled a red marker out of a pile
of craft supplies, then began coloring
around the punch marks so that
they looked like bullet holes.

"This is my reality," he said
as he slipped the paper
into a page protector and
then put it in the binder.

"Okay," Ansel said. "I hope
this makes it easier to cope with."

"Yeah, me too," Turq said, although
he didn't sound particularly encouraged.

"I was just about to put the dumplings
into the crockpot with the chicken,"
Ansel said. "Would you like to help?"

Turq stretched and shook himself.
"Yeah," he said. "Maybe that will
take my mind off my awful past."

Ansel let Turq into the kitchen,
and sure enough, lifting the lid off
the crockpot to plop in the dough
made Turq smile just a little.

Comfort food couldn't erase
the problems of the past, but it
could make them more bearable.

* * *


“So often survivors have had their experiences denied, trivialized, or distorted. Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality.”
-- Quotes on Abuse

This is the home of Officer Pink (Ansel Nicholson) which used to be part of a resort alongside a lake. When the resort closed, the rental cabins were parceled into individual lots and sold, while some of the resort's main facilities -- such as the lodge and the main boating dock -- were set aside as neighborhood resources. See the exterior and the main living floor. The living room has a couch and a woodstove. Not visible from this picture, the kitchen is divided from the living room by a dining/buffet bar. Underneath the bar is a large hinged leaf that can be brought up to form a dining table.

Trauma-informed care has two branches: compensating for traumatic experiences across general services, and providing specific treatment to address the symptoms of post-traumatic stress. See a poster of the basics, and more detailed directions.

Turq's trauma scrapbook is described in "Together We Have It All."

It is often said that "Trauma survivors don't have memories, they have symptoms." Trauma recovery progresses through stages. It is especially hard on children separated from their families. Making a trauma scrapbook is one way to integrate the experiences with the survivor's life story. Scrapbooking can also help children deal with grief, loss, and other difficult feelings. Making a timeline can reduce triggers and flashbacks along with other symptoms of traumatic stress as it places hurtful memories into a stable context. Here are some thoughts on the visual usefulness of a timeline for traumatized children.

Check out some examples of trauma scrapbooking. Here is a scrapbook about the 9-11 disaster with the cover and inside pages. Here is a more personal journal that says "Forgive" and "Accept." You can buy packets of blank pages for different themes. By filling a binder with informational pages, blank forms, and scrapbook paper it is possible to make a lot of progress quickly. This helps people feel a sense of accomplishment before embarking on the more difficult work of recording their trauma journey through words and pictures.

Turq's trauma scrapbook binder is repurposed from a wedding album. See the outside, pages opened in a fan, and lying flat. You can find color-themed paper packets and kits with all kinds of embellishments. This is the skull paper that Turq adds. This is his new running worksheet.

Your Very Own TF-CBT Workbook is another resource for young trauma survivors.

Enjoy a recipe for Easy Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings.

Trauma survivors benefit from support by friends and family, so watch for signs of struggling. Know how to comfort an upset friend or stranger. Taking a break and crying it out are both valid ways of handling stress, but applicable to different moods or situations. Here are some helpful thoughts for trying times.

Horrible experiences often cause flashbacks or other intrusive thoughts. Understand how to get through a flashback or manage intrusive ideas. There are ways to help a friend with these stress symptoms too.

Feeling guilty is common among trauma survivors, and abuse victims in particular often blame themselves for everything. Learn how to deal with guilt and stop feeling guilty. You can also help someone else who suffers from excessive guilt.

It's important to accept people as they are. Trauma survivors especially need acceptance and validation, because sometimes they just are not okay. Know how to accept people and validate their feelings.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-04-23 05:12 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
You and timing again. It's not that I have fresh flashbacks, but the links to CBT and to chicken soup are... timely.

Although I think I might do matzoth balls instead. Even though I'm not cooking for a kosher audience anymore, I still like it. Yeah,doing it *right* is a lot of work... you have to cook down schmaltz first and chill it, then make your soup... takes a MINIMUM of 24 hours unless you've absolutely nowt better to do. But considering I used to walk through driving rain to get this? yeah. Worth it.
Edited Date: 2017-04-23 05:14 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-04-23 05:38 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
Poor Turq. I want to tell him, "Hearing and witnessing," which is what the people in my dysfunctional families support group uses to express, "I don't have anything useful to say, but I am listening and I believe you."

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-04-23 05:31 pm (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Wonder if that's where I got it? I tend to use "I hear you", "I read you," "I am listening" when I don't know what else to say but want to acknowledge being present to understand. And I HAVE used "Witnessed," on occasion.

I have a great appreciation for words that involve enacting a reality by speaking them with sincere intent. Granting an honor, making a bond, giving thanks... those are ESSENTIAL functions that are little acknowledged in most lay taxonomies of English.

Perhaps because many USAians today tend to either shove social rituals/formalized meaning-exchanges over into the esoterica of specific religions or else cloak them as easy thoughtless everyday manners and expectations when they are actually highly structured. (Also to skimp on solo and naturalistic ritual.) While formalized phrasings and actions are highly useful for religious and metaphysical purposes that isn't the only thing they do. Deliberate and mindful action following a precise structure is important for many functions. And also in its own right as an ability that many people have and deserve the opportunity to develop if they wish. Like arting or writing or dance or travel, not everyone can create major public achievements, and some people need to skip a particular thing completely, but most people can enhance their lives with some awareness of ritual and wordpower.

Listening and bearing witness are also drastically underdone. People 'listen' to say the next thing on their agenda. I am frequently guilty of this! Sometimes one simply needs to listen, hold confidences respectfully, and perhaps make clear one's comprehension and empathy. I need to remember that.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-04-23 10:53 pm (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-04-23 07:30 pm (UTC)
thnidu: painting: a girl pulling a red wagon piled almost to her own height of books along a sidewalk (books)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
« I picked up "Heard and witnessed" from Anne McCaffrey's Pern novels, and have used it ... for ... formal acknowledgement of an agreement.»

So did I. I'd forgotten about it till your explicit mention brought it right back to me.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-04-23 08:54 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Been way too many years for me to remember in any detail.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-04-23 10:56 pm (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
*snaps to feet* Dragonfolk MUST fly when threats to all are nigh!

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-01 02:54 pm (UTC)
pantha: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pantha
Difficult stuff, but look how much progress he's made! And there is something very powerful about being able to say that yes, the past was awful, and yes, that shapes the present, but it isn't the entirety of the present and nor does it have to have to determine the future...


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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