I have a problem.
This past summer, I participated in a research study for people with PTSD with a medical institution in the city. I initially called because I thought it would be an easy way to make some extra dollar-dollar bills, y’all. I didn’t even really think I would get diagnosed, however, I was diagnosed (with a mild form) and 12 weeks later I’m a new person!
Actually, it wasn’t easy money at all. It was mostly horrifying. I dreaded my appointments because I was put in a position where I had to discuss certain details of my past that, honestly, I’d rather forget. Also, in order for them to get a baseline on me I had to undergo several appointments of startle tests (which is kind of like a more civilized shock therapy–minus the electricity). That was the really horrific part. And scary. And, and, and . . .
Moving on. (Sigh)
Anyway, what I learned about myself from that experience, however, is that I don’t deal well with suffering or abuse of any kind, whether it is directed at me or at another creature. I mean, I’ve always known this about myself in a roundabout way, but when it came to the emotions of it all I always chalked it up to being extra sensitive or emotional or OS: Ostrich Syndrome (sticking my head in the sand so I don’t have to deal with reality). The truth is that I simply do not know how to deal with those things in a healthy way, not that I choose not to deal with those things.
So. Today. In class. Discussing Nazi Germany.
My professor lectured on the details of Babi Yar, a massacre of the Nazi’s Final Solution that took place in Kiev. (You can read a survivor’s testimony here).
Shortly after discussing those details (which at this point I’m ready to burst into tears), we watch a short documentary created by the US Army shortly after the war ended. It was shown to German citizens and soldiers and was really just meant to shame Germany for the atrocities committed against the Jews (not to mention the mentally disabled and anyone else not considered a “superior Aryan”). The images, though they were in black and white, were extremely graphic. I found myself slightly hyperventilating, having small tremors, and itching to leave the room. Finally, I really had to pee so I stepped out. But I didn’t step back in until the film was over. Even now, as I write this, I can feel myself shifting closer and closer to the edge of a breakdown. I am literally trying to get it written as quickly as possible so that I can avoid one. My initial response to myself was to suck it up and get over it. But is this right?
Now, before you respond to me the way I initially responded to myself, let me tell you what I’m NOT saying:
1. I’m not saying we should censor images or facts about war, human suffering, or any kind of abuse of power out there.
2. I’m not saying I’d rather live in my own fantasy world where the Holocaust never happened.
3. I’m not saying the truth of history should be watered down.
Here’s what I AM saying, though:
1. I am saying we need to be sensitive of people’s triggers. Everyone has triggers.
2. I am saying this is a trigger for me.
3. I am saying this isn’t escapism for me; this is an actual condition that I am working through. Because of this condition, I am unable to cope (most days) with things like this without spiraling into a depression, though I am learning how.
A counselor once told me that the only way to get to the other side of the forest was to walk through it. This is my forest. And today I walked a few steps deeper into it.
How do you deal with your triggers?