March 18, 2020
I don't have to watch any movie or video, read any article or book, listen to any news or story, engage in any conversation or setting that does not feel safe, for whatever reason in whatever context— nor do you. Because in addition to being overwhelming or oppressive, some are acutely triggering, as I experienced painfully tonight (and a sentiment shared widespread). I was unexpectedly and suddenly triggered while watching a classic movie during a scene where a man lies in a hospital bed with raw stitches criss-crossing his entire face. I had to turn it off, unable to persist. I felt and feel nauseous, light-headed, jittery, as my body shakes, heart races and mind jumps to terrifyingly and seemingly unrelated dreadful places. This is a horrific all-consuming sensory overload I haven’t experienced in months. And I didn’t see it coming (especially when all I wanted was to enjoy a creative movie night #TogetherApart with friends, now entirely and embarrassingly derailed).
What brought this on? Was it that specific visual, too akin to my own injurious facial trauma? Or was I already feeling the weight of the outside world, heightened anxiety, angst, agitation — and this violent jolt pushed me to the edge? Or did that scarring image on screen rattle my core enough, as to allow the frightful stresses unfolding around me to penetrate and bare down with full force?
I know not the precise combination or downward spiraling of events that got me here, and am alarmedly uncertain how I may come to prevail, but grateful I removed myself from the triggering interface as quickly as possible to mitigate further damage, distress or danger. I possess that option, that choice, that agency — and should exercise this ability whenever necessary to safeguard and protect my personal health, sanity and stability. Though I often hesitate to take that step, perhaps because of social norms, because I don’t want to inconvenience anyone, because I’m wary of appearing weak, fragile, unwell, unstable in the eyes of others, or rather in my own view of myself. The inability or failure to make it through a harmless film without intense agonizing fallout — a whole six months post-accident — makes me question my ability to do much of anything, deepening this darkness.
But I do not ever have to consume or engage with content or settings that make me feel uncomfortable or unsafe — none of us need to. Regardless of where I may progress or regress on my healing journey, regardless of the state of the world, regardless of external pressures, taking care of myself can, must and will always be an imperative — to an even greater degree amid wildly turbulent surroundings, which only compound to induce greater anxiety, nerves, fear, panic, borderline hysteria within and across global humanity.