I Have a Trigger

Last week, two Tumblr posts made me learn something about myself that I didn’t know before.

On episode 20 of Elementary, Sherlock, who has been grappling with frustration and grief, was talking with Joan when he suddenly shot up and threw a plate, which shattered.  He apologizes and strides quickly to the kitchen.  Joan follows him, grabs a similar plate from the sink and smashes it.  “That didn’t solve anything…weird, right?” she quips.

I’m pretty sure I cheered audibly when this scene occurred, and then watched it again.  I thought about posting about how happy it made me but lost motivation.

Then post #1 came along.  Reading that someone thought that Joan’s reaction to Sherlock’s tantrum was patronizing instead of necessary literally made my jaw drop.  I was angry enough to rant about how Sherlock’s violent outbursts had been in need of correction for a long time.  I was very quick to defend that particular scene–which I did so multiple times that week.

Post #2, therefore, couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.  I am not sure if WordPress can relate, but triggers – anything that is a troubling reminder of a traumatic event — are taken seriously on tumblr, and anyone who takes them lightly are condemned.  It gave me the impression that a trigger only “counts” when it causes an intense flashback or reaction.  But, as the tags of that post explains, #its like saying its not an allergy unless it can kill you #even something that gives you a runny nose is an allergy even something that just makes you upset is a trigger.

Oh, I realized, instantly.  I’m triggered by domestic violence.

I can summon moments that support this theory in rather disturbing clarity.  The sickened feeling that rose when reading about Jerry Cruncher’s abuse of his wife in Tale of Two Cities.  The audible wince that came out of my mouth in the Divergent movie, when Four’s father appeared in his simulation with a belt in hand.  The moments of breathlessness whenever I see a man hit a woman on screen.  And the fact that I don’t look away – I’m transfixed in horror.

I’ll elaborate: I am merely a domestic violence witness.  No one has ever laid a hand on me.  I think that’s as much as I’d like to talk about it.

It’s a strange thing, knowing that you are broken in some way.  When it’s psychological, there’s a feeling that there’s no way to fix it.  And for a while, I saw no problem with this.  My trigger makes me uncomfortable, but it doesn’t hinder my daily life.  Like the hiccups, I’d just have to live with it.  But I’ve thought about other, separate times when I was once again a spectator to abuse — and in those times, I have turned away from the situation and run as fast as I could, even when someone was in need of my help.  And so the plain truth is this: I have been traumatized, and my inability to overcome it prevents me from being the person I wish to be.  So, overcoming it is a necessity.

For me, though, I don’t see any way to come to terms with domestic violence I’ve witnessed.  It’s.  Domestic.  Violence.  I don’t see how I’ll ever get over it.

I wish there was a happier way to end this, so I’ll try my best.  I imagine that one day, I’ll take a deep breath and the words will just fall from my lips–haltingly, maybe, but there’ll definitely be there, venturing into the air.  I’m not looking forward to this day.  Most of me cringes just thinking about it, to be honest.  But I think that being able to talk about it will be the closest thing I’ll get to healing.  Thank you for reading.

-M.L.

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