Survivor Diaries: Locked and Loaded
What if every person you encountered throughout your day were pointing a gun at you?
What if you woke up, you turn over, go to hug your spouse or partner, and they are laying next to you, staring at you, holding a gun on the pillow next to your head. What if you drove to work, and all of the cars around you are driving along, minding their own business, with guns casually hanging out the window towards you as they pass you on the freeway. You’re at work, your boss comes up to you to say hello, smiling, but is, yeah - holding a gun, waving it near your face while he or she asks you to fix the toner in the printer or fix the way you write emails.
What if the trigger were always pulled, cocked and ready to fire at any moment?
This is a pretty over dramatic analogy - I have a flair for it - but I blow it up to make a point.
Growing up, I only remember hearing about PTSD when my family went to go watch the 4th of July fireworks on Lake Michigan. I have no clue who said it, where I heard it, but somewhere along the line it was inserted into my brain that veterans of war have difficulty attending the fireworks because the loud popping would “trigger” them: remind them of the gunshots they heard in battle. Different trauma completely, I mean no disrespect to those who have served our country please don’t hate me and thank you for your service. But also, hAnd h, the concept and the symptoms of PTSD are in the same family.
I always feel like I am about to go into some sort of war.
Like at any moment, someone or something could bring me back to that sexual trauma - and any instances of sexual or domestic violence I have found myself in after - in which something deep within me was threatened. In which I was invaded, silenced, held down, and used. My physical life was in danger, sure, but also something deeper and intangible to the eye. What is it? My innocence? My trust?
I suppose this is a battle of personal freedom.
And damn, it’s exhausting.
While this is in no way a new concept and I am in no way a scientist - I’m pretty sure a minor in Psychology in undergrad doesn’t qualify me to be one - to put it in Layman’s terms…
A “trigger” is simply something that reminds me of the original event. Not usually consciously, it’s like some wiring in my brain that shoots through my body and makes me immediately want to lash out in whatever way I can to escape it.
I’ve always been fascinated by the brain as I’ve been trying to “fix” myself throughout the years - and what I have learned is that this part of our brain - the amygdala - stores feeling, emotions, and learns what the body is supposed to be afraid of throughout our life. Especially in the most formative years. This is how triggers are formed, in order to keep us alive.
And honestly, it feels like there are hundreds of things that make me feel like my freedom is being attacked.
It can start with seemingly small things, like getting trapped in a parking garage for thirty minutes or stubbing my toe.
Oh man, that can put me down for the count for a good hour.
It can be a bit more or of an obvious event, such as getting my ass grabbed at a bar, or going to the gynecologist. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve been to one in my life, because it is so upsetting to me.
Or it can be events on a more interpersonal level. Like having my phone looked through without my permission. Like being told I am not who I say I am, not being believed for my truth. I easily feel I have to prove myself, to work extra hard to be seen.
I mean, guys, I know that nobody *likes* any of these things.
But for me, they feel life threatening.
So, what do I do when I think a trigger is pulled on me? One of two things. I either
1. Collapse and fall into a weeping puddle goop Alex Mack-style on the floor.
Or we have a more exciting option. More destructive, more thrilling:
2. Immediately want to pull out my own weapon and fire back.
That’s only fair, right? If you have a gun, then I should get a gun. If you get to aim it at me, then I should get to aim mine at you.
It’s self-defense! It’s protection! IT’S ON, MOTHERFUCKER.
ONE OF US HAS GOTTA GO, AND IT AIN’T GONNA BE ME.
But here’s my point of this whole post: the majority of people throughout my day to day life aren’t actually holding a gun at my face.
Crazy, right. They aren’t watching my every move, waiting for me to do something wrong. They aren’t trying to sabotage me or tie me down. They are usually just going about their every day lives, worrying about what they are going to eat for lunch, how they are going to deal with the obnoxious knocking in their car engine, or where the hell is a bathroom because they’ve had to pee for two hours.
Or, I don’t know. Maybe the world does indeed revolve around me and people are inherently evil. But to that thought, I have to kindly say, “Fuck off.” I have more important things to do.
A dear friend used to often call me “Pollyanna.” I found it so odd, given my trust issues and expectation that everyone in my life is going to shoot me. But maybe he was right. I really do look at life in a hopeful way, and it must be a choice. Because even though it is a lot of work to retrain my brain and my body that it isn’t always in trouble, it’s even more work to constantly be in a state of arrest, a state of expectation, and a state of fear, . I’m tired, and time is precious, how am I going to spend it? Something clicked when I stopped drinking - much more on that later - and my time and energy just simply has to go towards creation and positivity, to building rather than preparing for annihilation.
What triggers you? Are you a psychologist who knows a hell of a lot more than me and wants to chat with me about the amygdala? What ways do you deal with the wars in your life?
I’ll be exploring all of this much more. How these triggers arise, and when they do, figuring out how the hell to deal with them instead of going all Thelma and Louise on their ass. As fun as that would be, it’s not healthy and it’s not going to break any patterns.
Strength and peace, warriors
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