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How I Found Beauty in My Broken Pieces With Complex PTSD

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I was born the same as most everyone else, a flawless porcelain doll. That was, until my mother dropped me and shattered me into a thousand pieces. Her years of physical and emotional abuse and neglect left me with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). I used to believe my broken pieces could never be put back in place — that I could never be whole again. I used to believe no one could accept my shattered figure, much less find it beautiful. Over time, I have come to learn something much different.

• What is PTSD?

As a child and adolescent, I observed perfect porcelain dolls around me. I watched as their shiny exterior attracted love and affection from families and friends. In school, these dolls would show up having showered and slept the night before. They had clean clothes, food for lunch and the teacher’s attention. Meanwhile, I showed up disjointed, trying to keep track of all my shattered pieces — stuffing them inside bags, closets, books and pockets. Hiding my smell, lack of sleep, stains, hunger and need for academic support. I carried these broken pieces with me every day and had not yet learned how to glue any of them back together.

As a young adult, I observed other porcelain dolls experience some of their first breaks. They would lose a piece of glass to their first heartache, parental divorce or loss of a grandparent. But how could I relate when my pieces were snapped off by abuse, violence, addiction, mental illness and more? How could I relate when my pieces continued to fall off daily?

Isolated, depressed and ready for help, I found myself in a therapist’s office. There, I learned how to pull my glass pieces out of my pockets and examine them. I learned how to identify where they came from and how to glue them back together, one by one. After years in therapy, I discovered I had glued on hundreds of pieces, but I had hundreds more that required different types of glue. Therapy would not be enough. So, I discovered medication, mindfulness, health, wellness and a passion for psychology. These became my various glues. Together, these formed my workshop, and over time, I worked to piece myself together. After years of this, I finally felt like a “whole” porcelain doll.

Finally, as an adult, I began participating in the world with other porcelain dolls. As I did, I noticed it seemed they rarely lost any glass pieces during the day; yet, I lost glass pieces regularly. All it took was a man yelling at a slow driver, and in the middle of the day, my mind would be transported to that time my mother and stepfather beat on each other. With each flashback, a piece of glass would hit the ground. Or, a supervisor would give me negative feedback and instantly I’d be engulfed in a dark cloud of worthlessness from years of being told I was. With each emotional flashback, a piece of glass would hit the ground. Sometimes several pieces would fall off every day for weeks and months at a time. Other times, I could go one or two weeks before a single piece would fall. But no matter what, the pieces always fell.

It took me a long time to accept my shattered beauty. I have had to learn it is my responsibility to notice each and every day when my glass pieces fall. It is my responsibility to take them to my workshop and apply whatever type of glue they need, so I may become “whole” again.

For example, when I have nightmares and awaken to glass in my bed, my glue is the journal placed on the nightstand or the call I make to my sister the next day. Or, if I go out with people and they speak insensitively about something that triggers me, and glass breaks off in my hand, I silently tuck it away in my pocket. With a gentle white lie, I leave early and go home to glue the pieces back through solitude and meditation.

As an adult, other porcelain dolls have complimented me on my unique beauty. However, it’s hard to find people I can bring into my home, and show my workshop to. It’s hard to show people all of my glass pieces at the end of the day and all the different types of glue I have to use to get them to stick. It’s hard to tell people the amount of time I spend each and every day on self-care so I can appear “whole” like other people. I know most people love me when all my pieces are glued on tight, but will they still love me if they see the glass shards? Or the work I do to make them stick?

I’ve come to accept my broken beauty. I’m not looking to alter or change it. Glass will always fall. Sometimes less. Sometimes more. I simply let it be and am looking to find better glues over time. I’m also learning to open up to family members, significant others and friends so I can surround myself with people who can accept my broken pieces and who can offer support while I glue myself together one piece at a time in my workshop. This is my next lesson in life. In the meantime, I can rest assured today and forevermore, I’m a whole porcelain doll.

Getty image by kotoffei

Originally published: March 20, 2021
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