I’m going to talk about some…difficult material. If you need not to read this and move on to something light and fluffy, like funny cat pictures, I certainly won’t hold it against you. But you’ll want to do it now, because it’s going to get dark.
For those who remain: I’d like to introduce you to a scenario.
You’re walking along, minding your own business, having – actually – a rather good day. You’ve spoken with your friends, gotten some excellent hugs from your significant other, even had a pretty good lunch.
You’re walking along, maybe at work, and someone grabs your arm. Maybe they want to drag you into a meeting. Maybe they need your help. Maybe they’re just a touchy kind of person.
The instant that they grab your arm, it starts. Deep inside you, something black, sickly, covered in slime and thorns breaks free from its hiding spot and begins to wing its putrid way upward, through the layers of your being, until it lands wherever will do the most damage. Probably right beneath that other person’s well-meaning hand. As it passes through the layers, it leaves a little bit of itself behind to proliferate and mutate. It drops a dollop behind your sternum, to dig its way into your vitals and fling its thorns into your heart. A fleck lands in your intestines, making them seem to squirm like a nest of live snakes. Another dribble ends up just behind the bridge of your nose, and a migraine begins to blossom.
Now, perhaps, is when you might start to panic. You know it started with the arm-grab, and the person is still there, holding you. It’s only been mere seconds, perhaps less, but inside you, it’s been eternity. And. They. Won’t. Let. Go.
Is it appropriate to scream? Probably not, but you can feel it building in you anyway. At your core, a shivering begins. You may not be cold, but there’s no way to tell the difference right now. The person is probably talking to you, but their words are coming from a galaxy away, their lip movements completely nonsensical. At the edges of your vision, the black thing has copied itself, and the flock’s wing movements are bleeding in.
It’s at this point that you consider either punching the person in the face so they’ll let you go, or else collapsing into the fetal position on the dirty rug and praying that it will all go away. But it doesn’t go away, and they don’t let go.
And it’s all your fault. If you’d said something, done something different, maybe this wouldn’t be happening. It isn’t their fault, oh no; they have no idea what’s going on inside you. It’s your fault. It’s always your fault, you good-for-nothing piece of worm-ridden filth. You are the one who deserves to be hit, not them. You are the one doing the Wrong. You deserve to burn in the flames. You deserve Hell and damnation.
Okay, excercise is over. Elapsed time: under one minute.
Some of you are probably nodding your heads – you’ve experienced something similar. Others are saying, “Yeah, like that’s a probable scenario.” Yet others are saying, “You need help, dude.”
This is what it’s like to have PTSD and suffer a trigger moment. This is real.
It could be the most innocent or well-meaning occurrance. It could even be deliberately inflicted (see: Evil). But it’s real. And it’s happened to me twice in the past two days. Both people on the other end of the experience were kind, gentle, respectful. One even knew what was happening and was trying so hard not to have it go this way. I think both of them would be horrified to learn what the effect on me was.
Trauma doesn’t care. And sometimes, despite copious amounts of prescription medication, therapy, yoga, coping techniques, supportive relationships, and “safe” environments, trauma wins. It rips open those partially-healed scars, defacates in them, laughs at your puny attempts to keep it contained, then flies off into the night, back to its roost in your psyche.
Sometimes, you get triggered.