Boyfriends tattoo is a trigger for childhood trauma

Lainey98801

New Here
So my boyfriend got a tattoo of Medusa. Total surprise. Had no clue. Right on his chest. In middle school the bullies started calling me that and it lasted for years. The bullying escalated to assault and it happened almost daily for years. This was the 80s and no one cared or tried to stop it. So fast forward to now. 30 years later. I thought I had worked through all that and put it away. I did not. I saw the tattoo and started crying and shaking. All those awful memories came flooding back. He had no clue. This is not something I had told him about. We had discussed our childhoods and stuff like that. But I had never told him details and never mentioned that I was called that. So it is just an awful coincidence. He had never once said to me he was considering this as a tattoo. He has gotten many others and he always agonizes about them. This was a total surprise. How do I get past this? I can’t look at it without crying. I feel awful that I have ruined this for him. I don’t know what to do now. He said he was going to try to change it but that is not going to help. I’ll always know what it was and just feel even more terrible that I made him change it. All of my messed up instincts are trying to get me to run. I know that is not the healthiest option. I’m having a hard time finding my way out of my own head to find a solution.
 
Hi @Lainey98801 . I understand and have had trouble with things like that. I am so sorry it caused and you fear it will cause you so much distress. I too do this a lot (or am tempted to): "All of my messed up instincts are trying to get me to run. I know that is not the healthiest option."

But, I have a different perspective hearing your story: the horrible thing that triggers you, has, perhaps providentially more than coincidentally, showed up on someone you love who loves you, who as you said, "agonizes about getting them", and who finds it BEAUTIFUL. As I'm sure he does you.

You have another chance- to explain what about it upset you and potentially bring you closer (he doesn't sound insensitive to your suffering or you wouldn't have shared what you have), and also to choose to view it the opposite- this terrible reminder was something that has turned in to something very beautiful. Flipping it that way is true.

I won't lie, you might still have to sneak glances or cover part of it up, at first or for a while. Or maybe do something for fun and color it in with a washable marker, etc? But no matter what it means something very, very different now. Childhood Medusa isn't womanhood Medusa, not in the least. It is the opposite and comes along with someone safe for you.

PS, Medusa is the God of Philosophy, beauty, and art, apparently (I just looked it up). So your tormentors were not only despicable in their actions, but also pretty ignorant as well.

Best wishes and welcome to you. It will be ok. 🫂
 

Friday

Moderator
Yowch. Brutal surprise. And I’m not a fan of surprises to begin with.

However?

But, I have a different perspective hearing your story: the horrible thing that triggers you, has, perhaps providentially more than coincidentally, showed up on someone you love who loves you, who as you said, "agonizes about getting them", and who finds it BEAUTIFUL. As I'm sure he does you.

You have another chance- to explain what about it upset you and potentially bring you closer (he doesn't sound insensitive to your suffering or you wouldn't have shared what you have), and also to choose to view it the opposite- this terrible reminder was something that has turned in to something very beautiful. Flipping it that way is true.
Very, very much, this.
 
I just need to figure out how.
By remembering that this body art is an integral part of the person you love?

Medusa was one of the most powerful demigods in the pantheon. Some say it wasn't her gaze that turned men to stone, but her furious, wild, and unconventional beauty. It makes sense that your boyfriend would want to honor that kind of power.

And that power can be yours, too.
 

Sideways

Moderator
Yeah. When I had to get rid of my 'grey carpet' trigger, it started with constantly reminding myself that grey carpet was actually an innocent party in the whole thing. Grey carpet isn't inherently evil and dangerous - it was a trigger because of the events and memories that grey carpet was simply a feature in. The evil party was my abuser (not the carpet).

From there? It was exposure therapy 101. I got a sample of grey carpet from a store, and knuckled down to the exposure work. Over and over, getting to 'stressful but not quite flooded'.

Ultimately, I've kicked my trigger! I can walk on grey carpet with no issues any day of the week. And that's pretty empowering. It's definitely something that could be achieved with Medusa.
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
no tattoos in my case, but i have been through similar trigger episodes with my hubby. new hobbies and/or toys my abusers enjoyed might be top of my own list. it never occurred to me to mention those pesky details, so i know he is not doing it to cause me harm, but he seems to have an uncanny knack for surprising me with reminders of things i'd rather not be reminded of.

i try to be honest with hubby about my reactions, but i carry those reactions into my therapy support network and sort them there. my psychosis doesn't need to spoil his fun. everybody needs a hobby, complete with toys to put icing on the hobby cake. *my* childhood abuse is not *his* responsibility.
 
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