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Painting My Way Back To Life

by Danielle Campbell 7 months ago in recovery

Healing CPTSD

This is a painting I did of myself walking away from my son's sepulcher

Where do we go

when we lose ourselves? When trauma takes over and we no longer recognize the eyes staring back from our own reflection. Broken mirrors and shattered pieces of self worth make quite the mess. This much I know.

I wasn't always this way and more often than not I used to catch myself fantasizing about the me I'd left behind. Desperately searching to find the career oriented fearless woman who refused to allow life or anyone in it keep her down.

I'd wondered where she went

and if I'd had to guess she was still somewhere in Michigan holding his hand in the ICU ,waiting, just waiting.

October 23rd , 2016 started off as a normal humid Sunday in the Sunshine State. My girlfriend and I planned a BBQ and spent the afternoon drenched in sweat, laughing, and cooking with my daughter , her boyfriend, and a few close friends. I had no idea that in just a few short hours my entire world would change and so would everyone in it.

It all started with the phone call

After dinner dishes I'd headed to my bedroom to prepare for the work week. I'd made it to the top of my sales team and after 7 years of hard work helping to grow the company it was well deserved. I'd gathered my clothes for the morning and sorted through my calendar when suddenly I felt my stomach sink and frantically I started searching for my phone.

I had no idea why I'd found myself hotfooted down the hallway but as I barreled past my girlfriend and through the back door my phone started ringing from the patio table. I immediately answered only to hear my hysterical ex husband on the other line forcing the words

Our son was hit by a car and I'm on the way to the hospital!

I have no idea how bad it is he continued to say but I was told he was hit head on and rushed to the Emergency room in an ambulance, I'll call you as soon as I know something.

In that instant every bit of color drained from my world and my face. The phone calls and hours that passed from that moment were a blur and by 2am. I was on a plane headed to Michigan terrified and praying that my son would live. I spent 3 long days in the ICU and on the 26th ( the day before my 39th birthday) the doctors pronounced my son brain dead and I held his hand and sang his baby song as they unhooked him from life support,

and just like that .. 18 years of my life and half my heart disappeared.

I spent my birthday in the funeral home

looking over pamphlets with my ex husband so that together we could pick out the most attractive yet affordable casket. I was familiar with the place and it hadn't changed a bit since my infant daughters funeral 17 years prior. 5 hours later we'd finished the arrangements and I sat numb during a charitable birthday shopping trip the preachers wife insisted on. It hadn't registered that my son was dead and I would come to learn that it would take a long time before it did.

We buried him on Halloween and I returned home 4 days later and went to work.

I remember how my co workers looked at me

in complete shock that I was there. I walked in like normal and it was business as usual. Everyone gave their condolences and I responded with a thank you and a positive outlook that God needed him more than me.

It took three and a half years to completely lose my mind but that is exactly what happened. I'd lost my son, left my girlfriend, started a new relationship with someone who I thought loved me, developed a drinking habit, got married , got hurt BADLY, left my spouse, went back, left her again, went back , met someone else, went back, got hurt WORSE ( I really didn't know that was possible) left again, went back to the someone else, lost my home, left my career, left the someone else, went back to my spouse, recorded my spouse having an affair in our home while I slept in our bed, left for good, ended up with the someone else again, and then ...

I fell flat on my face

The traumas that existed before my sons death ( the death of my daughter, my mother, my best friend, my father, etc. ) , my sons death, the narcissistic marriage I'd allowed in my state of denial and vulnerability for almost 4 years , the loss of everything I'd built , and everything else that would take me a gigabyte to explain ALL caught up with me and lets not forget COVID.

Suddenly but not so sudden or graceful for that matter I'd found myself jobless, broke, torn to pieces, and sobbing in my mask on the floor of my therapists office. I wasn't sure where to begin in our conversations but it didn't take long for my therapist and psychiatrist to diagnose me with

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Complex is the key word in this diagnosis. I'd gained 30 lbs, alienated every friend and relative, and hid from the world for months at a time. It was easy to do with the lock down but easier to do as I'd all but given up on life.

I committed to therapy once a week and then something wonderful happened.

My therapist suggested I start painting again to relieve stress and to give me something to do in my chosen solitude. At first I ignored the idea but as my condition seemed to worsen I unpacked my paint brushes and acrylic paints, purchased a few cheap canvases , and put every feeling that lacked words on canvas .

It felt amazing

so amazing that I'd become obsessed with expressing myself and before I knew it I had tons of paintings and people were asking to buy them but many of them I couldn't let go of.

Time passed and because I'd expressed myself so much I became more open with my therapist. As I began to finally grieve my son and courageously face the traumas I'd endured I noticed that more and more of my paintings were selling and I was actually letting them go.

I started smiling again and conversing with friends and family. I was able to pay my bills and keep myself afloat with the money made from the paintings . Before I knew it the woman I'd been searching for stared back at me in my reflection. Granted, I was not the top of a sales team or managing high dollar accounts but I found myself fearless, positive, wise, and most important MINDFUL of myself and others.

To date I am still painting and with every stroke of the brush I feel as though I am creating the new me . The me who has faced her traumas and isn't afraid to express herself.

I started my own website for my paintings

a couple of weeks ago and a portion of my profits I am donating to grieving families and to organizations that help people that struggle with narcissistic abuse and CPTSD. My journey is FAR from over and I know I still have quite a few miles left in my healing but I am proud of where I am.

I also share my love of painting and my healing with others who are suffering and it warms my heart when I see it working. I somehow manifested my own art studio and I allow others to come and enjoy it as well.

I will never know why I endured all that I've endured

but what I do know is that I am going to make the best of it and because of it I will never stop helping others find their way to self expression and I will never stop painting my way through my own journey.


Danielle Campbell

I believe in life after heartache, hope after death, and the healing sound of a sentence that rings in your ears.

God is inside, look there.

Look up when you want to see the stars.

Read next: A Day in the Life of Recovery

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