Trauma triggers are kinda like being in a live action video game. You trot along through buildings and streets, sometimes with peppy theme music playing in your head. Leaping over obstacles, mentally scoring points and winning prizes. Suddenly the trigger appears and it sends you frantically running backwards and erratically all over your inner game screen. And oftentimes no one can even see you in that frantic state. You look perfectly jolly and peppy to them. Well, I’m here to say I SEE YOU. And it’s ok. Run backwards and sideways all you need. Hit restart as much as you need. And I hope someday you get enough points to win the prize you want.
When I see an image of water on television, especially if filmed from underneath the surface, my throat closes, my heart races and a cold sweat starts almost immediately. I turn my head to the side and wait for the image to be gone. Commercials, scenes in movies, everywhere. Like in “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” after his bike was stolen and all he saw were people on bikes. Big bikes, little bikes, unicycles, training wheels, bicycles built for two. They were everywhere. And that’s what the summer months are like for me. I smile and nod at people telling me about the fun their kids had in the pool that day -as they buy their vodka for the night. I describe wine as perfect for poolside. I’m an outsider now to the wonderful world of water. I respect it and fear it.
I remember in the earlier years after Noah died, not even being able to walk over a little foot bridge at the park with a bubbling brook underneath it. It all created this intense inhale. Even as I write, I’m holding my breath. I remember in the early days, putting my face under the shower and seeing how long I could handle the barrage of water. Up my nose, in my mouth. I hate it. I recall taking a bath within the first few weeks after. The sound of the filling tub with no Noah to come running to it , stripping clothes as he ran. Just the tub and me. I remember putting my head under water, trying to see how it felt. I haven’t taken a bath since.
It’s ok to not frolic in water. It really is. I wish the reason was just that I didn’t want to get my hair wet or I’m allergic to chlorine. My reason is purely emotional. Valid? Yes. Because it’s mine. And whatever phobia, anxiety, or trigger you’re experiencing in this video game of our minds-well, that’s valid too. And ok. Ease the anxiety by being ok with not being ok. I give you permission.