It was no one’s fault, really.
I watched a viral video that most everyone has already seen. The video itself is great and I don’t regret watching it.
There wasn’t a way for me to know for sure that it contained a scene that would trigger me. I could have guessed. When I realized it was coming I could have turned it off.
But I didn’t. I wanted to be strong like all the trigger warning haters say.
“You don’t belong on the internet.”
“Stay out if you can’t handle it.”
“You need therapy.”
I’m in therapy. Therapy is not a cure. There is no cure.
I’ve always wanted to be strong, ever since I realized, as a young girl, that certain scenes in movies, in books and on TV could make me freak out. I wanted to be responsible and strong. So I carefully avoided certain media. I painstakingly shielded myself from what could trigger me, and thus shielded everyone else from my personal problems. I did not ask for help. I did not, and do not ask for trigger warnings.
You may not know what it’s like, so I thought I’d share.
The scene that I saw, which I will not describe but did involve graphic violence, now replays in mind. Every part of it which disgusts me is emphasized. Any aspect that is not particularly horrifying has been removed. So what I see is a lurid parody created especially to terrify me in ways that only I know.
My body is full of tremors. My vision is hazy. My legs are numb. I feel physically violated, humiliated… a bolus of vomit is making empty threats in my gut.
I’m tumbling weightlessly beneath anxious nausea, its waves sucking me into my brain’s demonic riptide.
What happened in that scene is happening to me, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. This is what awaits me when I dare to defy the warnings my amygdala has issued.
When I was younger I would stand in the shower. Scalding water and pressure to remind my skin not to crawl off my body. But it didn’t help, and now the shower has become tainted with my PTSD. My feet burn in the shower as they do now, and they will continue to smolder until this attack subsides.
This is not a temporary feeling. What I saw will haunt me in the coming week, possibly more than one. I’ll have to find private places to space 0ut, to numb myself. Shelter free of the dreadful “what’s wrong,” in frustrated tones that my boyfriend smacks me with when my eyes go dim. “What’s wrong” means reliving it. Reliving wakes the dragon.
I want to cry. But I refuse*. I want to scream and fight someone, fight everyone, who has become the someone who is attacking me. There is no one to fight. I must not give in to my rage.
I throw this panic back down into the pit, but the pit is me, so today I’ve decided to face it.
Usually I grit my teeth, go look for some jokes, tell them, laugh… anything to get my mind off the hell I’m in. To get to a point where I can dissociate from these attacks has taken more than a decade of practice.
Unless you have such a disorder you do not know what that means, to learn to fight your own mind.
I used to sit in class (I mean middle school) and stare blankly and hope no one could see the tears flowing down my face. Because a crying, mentally comatose girl makes people upset and I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone. As scenes of violence from my own life seized my mind and I waged a futile war against them, I worried, faintly, that I would destroy the good-natured harmony around me.
That worry has not left me. I don’t want anyone to see me when I’m in this state, half-submerged in a nightmare, reacting to sensations that are incongruent with reality. I will hide it any way I can.
And to reiterate, to make it plain and clear:
I will never ask for a trigger warning.
So just in case, while you were rolling your eyes at trigger warnings, somewhere beneath the mirth you were wondering what it’s like for someone with PTSD… That is my experience of being triggered. Hope it helps.
*I lied I cried about 3 tears