My Own Prison
“To be able to break free from prison, one must know how they became imprisoned to begin with.”
One of the things I’ve learned through the process of trying to live with this disorder are “triggers.” Triggers are anything that can set off a memory that can take someone back in time to when the original trauma. It’s like being in an instant time machine. A trigger can be anything related to sight, sound, smell or taste. These seemingly innocent moments to most people can set off internal and external eruptions in others. This can often lead to strong and immediate reactions by those they affect.
I don’t have all of the answers about these little disruptive beasts yet. And no matter how much I want all of the answers immediately I have to always keep in mind that it has taken me 42 years to become this dysfunctional and repair work does not happen overnight. I guess to be cliché this process is “a marathon not a sprint.”
The ultimate goal of therapy is to be able to acknowledge these events but not let them overtake you. Before this can happen specific triggers must first be identified and the event can be processed. Recently, I did a therapeutic assignment related to this very thing. One of my personal and very strong triggers is the feelings of being trapped either physically and/or emotionally. This is one of the biggest reasons why I don’t have much success in lockdown psychiatric units and inpatient programs. My ultimate goal is ALWAYS TO GET OUT!
While doing this assignment I looked specifically at individual traumatic situations where these fears were imposed and I was instantly blown away. I had no idea how “trapped” I have felt the majority of my life. When I began breaking down the different time periods for these situations things have begun to make a little more sense. I felt myself becoming nauseous and beginning to float away while looking deep inside for these answers. Here are just a few that were identified.
- Being molested by people older, at the young age of 5 years old, and not feeling powerful enough to make it stop while also holding these secrets left me feeling trapped. These abusers were also our neighbors and were always around me because of how close our two families were even at church.
- As a teenager, I was trapped as some sick form of sport and/or punishment in a closet where I was verbally abused, humiliated and tormented on a daily basis. I was like a dog that was chained to a tree and forced into aggression. I was often sent to the office to face false accusations by the administration where no verdict other than GUILTY was ever considered. I always felt as though no one would listen and that no one cared what was happening. The times I reported that this teacher was “being mean” ultimately got back to her and the abuse intensified. I was often belittled and embarrassed in front of my classmates. The reality of that situation was that there was no way out….period. That was the first time that I ever had any type of suicidal feelings of any kind. Her words still burn deeply as the day that were first said.
- Anyone who has experienced domestic violence, in any form, knows the fear and panic of wanting and needing to leave but terrified of the repercussions. I was also followed and constantly watched. The mental anguish from his degrading comments and vile actions left me feeling completely lost, broken and fearing my own decisions. No matter what decision I made it would always be wrong. He had me convinced that I would never be able to do anything without him because I was too dumb. The most powerful statement he ever made to me was “You’ll never get rid of me.” And so far this statement has not been untrue. I was trapped.
These are just a few examples of feeling trapped. And now….I’m trapped by all of the memories, images and statements that were made by those individuals. I still can’t seem to break free from the abuse as it torments me daily. The paranoia of being watched, followed or being attacked has me questioning the intensions of others. Instead of waiting to see if the paranoia holds validity, I protect myself by being very verbally aggressive to innocent people who just happen to making seemingly non-malicious comments or glances. Essentially, I’m in a perpetual state of being triggered. Waiting for a happy ending that never happened during my trauma and today only fuels my impulsiveness in this area.
Being around too many people with too much stimulation sends me and my “protectors” into overdrive and into a state of fight or flight. It seems to overload my brain, thus, making me think I’m in danger. The anxiety becomes so uncomfortable that the only thing I can do is just “get away” in whatever form that might take. I seem to tame this only by being alone and secluded from most people including those I dearly love. I have become a prisoner of myself and life. The dichotomous view of life leaves me imprisoned by my fears within four walls of my bedroom. Outside of these walls I’m simply prepared for battle in one way or another by indiscriminately striking out at anything that moves. The situation that comforts me is also the walls of my self-created but protective prison. My abuse was very real and still is. And I’m a work in progress.