My heart is always under attack it seems. Being a whole person, allowing myself to truly feel every feeling has left me vulnerable. I have always been highly sensitive – to everything. I am exhaustingly empathetic to those around me. I feel physical pain when I learn of the sadness or troubles of others. And now I know I get triggered in to PTSD too.
I am getting better at recovery when I have experienced too much too fast. I am learning when to ask for help, and when to ask for time alone. I have not yet learned how to protect my heart in the first place – not entirely, and I’m not entirely sure this is even possible or healthy anyway. I mean, I am avoiding toxic people, and I have healthy boundaries in place for slightly toxic yet unavoidable people. I am slowly allowing others into my life, expanding my social network, and working on getting myself socially integrated with the world around me.
Fine, good, this all sounds great, right? Wrong. I don’t like the world around me. Too many triggers, too much pain.
The other day, I had a completely lovely day of painting with Hubby while the kids were at school. I conquered the scaffold, with Hubby’s help, and got over the feeling that I was falling and actually enjoyed myself up there. I was feeling strong and happy.
And then I walk over to the bus stop to get the kiddos after school. Several other parents are over there talking, so I join them instead of standing alone. I quickly wish I hadn’t. (If you don’t want to know about it – stop reading here). They were discussing some story from the news about a little girl that was nearly raped in the city next to ours. I don’t watch or listen to news stories like that, I know these things happen, but I don’t want to feel the pain every day. They went into detail, saying this girl was about 8 years old, and an older man grabbed her right from her back yard and pulled her into her shed. Amazingly, a neighbor boy saw it happen and went inside to get the girl’s father. I guess the father got there just as the man was taking off the girl’s underwear, but no other harm had happened yet. Then the father picked up some tools from his shed and beat the man to death right there, in front of the children.
The familiar symptoms of a trigger hit me, the nausea, the dizziness, the sweating, the racing heart and racing thoughts. I stumbled backwards a little. I was speechless. I looked for the bus – not here yet. I looked for any clue from the other parents that they could tell I was about to lose control – no one seemed to notice, and that actually calmed me a bit to know I was externally ok then.
The discussion continued, as each parent ad grandparent expressed their pleasure that a pedophile had been murdered and each one bragged about how they would have done the same. They said the news stated there would be no trial, the man was said to be completely justified in his actions. The one grandpa said if he ever caught a man looking at his grand daughters the cops would have to put him back together like a jigsaw puzzle before they could ID the fu**er.
Then the one mom said something that made me think. She said she totally thinks the father did the right thing, and she was sure she would also go all “Mama Bear” and kill whoever was hurting her kids, but that she wonders about that little girl. That little girl that doesn’t know about sex or rape or what she was saved from. The little girl that saw her dad brutally murder an old man. She said the girl was still going to have PTSD, but her flashbacks would not be about rape, it would be about what her daddy did.
As she was talking, I was of course picturing my own dad, not as my hero, but as my attacker. And how many times I have pictured someone killing him for me, saving me. The only thing i could think right then, was how horrible, yes, but at least this little girl’s world was still upright. In her world, her dad rescued her from the bad guy. In my world, my dad was the bad guy. I did not consciously want to compare stories, it just happens. That’s how triggers work. I’d love to be free of them ,but I am not – yet.
Luckily the school bus was coming, so I started walking towards it, away from this painful discussion. I was having trouble walking and seeing at that point, like I was looking into bright light, everything was whiter than usual. I hugged my kids as they got off the bus and steered them home. I stepped off the sidewalk and twisted my ankle, and some part of me heard another mom ask if I was ok and to be careful, but I couldn’t look back at them. I had this over powering urge to get home.
Once at home, I struggled to stay level. I could barely understand my excited kids chatter about the day and so many questions about snacks, homework, the weekend. I tuned them all out and pretended to be working on the computer. And I snapped at them to be quiet. The noise was adding to my pain and swirling and made me feel unsafe. Hubby noticed I was being short with them, but did not know why, and I didn’t have a chance to explain until much later. When the kids went out to play, I shared my experience with him, and he just continued playing his computer game, nodding and uh-huhhing. He didn’t seem to see the tears I was holding back and the fear in my voice. I told him I was hoping for some comfort from him. He looked up then, and finally came over to me and gave me a hug. Then we just sat in silence for a few minutes as my world returned to normal. He doesn’t think he did anything, said he didn’t know what to do. That was all I needed, just someone to sit with me and tell me I’ll be OK. You don’t have to completely understand when someone is triggered – because it is irrational. When my inner child gets scared, I need someone else to be the parent, because she doesn’t trust me, and just hold me and make me safe again.