Trauma is a crystallized moment held in suspension indefinitely. All of the tension, smells, images, touch and sounds from those moments are captured and locked into place. The victim can’t remember the moment, but lives it over and over again. Being triggered means losing control and feeling as if I’m underwater.
Instead of everything being blurry, the lens is that crystal moment. When someone touches my hand, it’s him touching my hand; when someone says my name, it’s that voice. Two knocks is always the police. I can’t think, because my head is a whirlwind of fear and anger.
In high school, I would bite down on my cotton hood, shake, and try to be quiet. I made it appear like a panic attack or basic adolescent anxiety, until someone tried to engage me. All I could bring myself to do was walk out of class before I started shrieking or sobbing. Later, I could usually get to a bathroom and hold myself through it. When people would ask if I was alright, I would say ‘I’m just really anxious’, or, ‘it’s a hard time for me right now’.
Neither answer was true. I’m laidback and not anxious often, even after a fit. I treated it like an illness, a headache I could heal with an illicit aspirin.
Divorcing myself from my emotions allowed me to feign normality. I didn’t have to identify with the terrified basket case cowering in a corner. These methods worked well, until I tried to hold onto longer relationships.
I couldn’t hide it from whomever I was dating seriously. Early in the mornings, they took my silences personally. When I couldn’t speak, when there weren’t words in my head, when I couldn’t hear a word said, when I’d recoil from their touch, they always took offense.
I blamed all of them, and never myself, and still do. The kind of emotional devotion young people expect in relationships is ridiculous. I was young, and had the same expectation of devotion.
I wanted a partner who would do exactly as I said, so I could avoid being triggered. I was blunt, and had partners who found it attractive when I’d take the lead. Later, resentment replaced the infatuation. They seemed like caged, castrated animals I kept in my room because I could.
For a year and a half, I held onto a boyfriend who said the L word and talked about our life together, In bed, I would always decide where we went next. Early on, I had to shove him off of me often, and then tell him not to take it personally. I was comfortable, but my relationship with him became indifferent. That catastrophic dream of revolutionary, life-changing love had been broken.
After breaking him in and making him my pet, I left him. Being alone was better until I learned how to be with an independent person.
Around two years ago, I noticed a new shift in expectation. It was the era of men trying to fix me. How do I deal with the disappointment in their eyes when I tell them I feel awful and it has nothing to do with them? Two respectful, attractive, and intelligent men later, my condition has held me back from finding paradise with either one of them.
They resented me because their love couldn’t rewrite my memory. I felt like a pet project they kept working at, until it turned into a real person they could love. I believed their talk of healing, but it made me feel objectified. I let them take the lead, and felt sexually used. They were both ‘sensitive men’, but I’m confident that such men use sensitivity as a veil and justification for their insane expectations in bed.
I guess I have ‘daddy issues’, so they expected me to be a whirlwind in the sack. Yet, I felt divorced from my own body whenever they pushed for something extreme. They both backed off, but I couldn’t bear the idea that my condition was a turn on.
The man who I’m with now is different. I can’t tell if it’s because he really loves me, or if it’s just a different phase of men. Maybe three years from now I’ll call it, ‘the era of men who didn’t expect anything of me’.
I’m done with the expectations of happiness or being cured of my past. I’m starting to identify with the basket case cowering in the corner. That was once a battered child in the corner. I don’t think it’s my responsibility, or anyone else’s, to fix that. ‘Fix’ implies that there is some fixed version of myself where I don’t throw fits, but fits are inseparable from my lived experience.
I live in a society where I’ve never felt comfortable being wounded. I identify as either a victim of violence, or a young person who can’t figure out her emotions. I’ve never been able to bridge the gap between the two. One is serious, the other naive, but they live with each other in me. It’s a false dilemma and has forced me to choose between shallow romanticism and a petrified neurosis. My identity can’t be found in my past, youth, gender, or boyfriends.
In today’s progressive society, I’m finding it harder to be a survivor, than it was to survive.