How to explain how hard just living life can be with my particular set of challenges without it sounding like a pity party? I’m not sure, but i am going to try.
I am not a “safe space” person. I firmly believe that if someone wants one, they can ask, they can try to create, and i can and will respect designated safe spaces. I think it’s a very good idea, and i’ve seen it implemented both well, and terribly. I suppose my Little Crooked House is my safe space, for the most part. There are times though, when it is not, and i’m okay with that.
The word “trigger” has been getting tossed around a lot over the last few years. It became part of the abuse survivor’s lexicon, and it was appropriate. As seems to be becoming the way in our increasingly politically polarised society though, it got tossed back and forth between various ideologies and has emerged a little the worse for wear. I’m going to use it anyway, because it is still useful, despite being co-opted for scorn and black comedy. I don’t hold with the disdainful crowd, but i’m all for a little dark humour now and again; laughing at myself and my life has been integral to me making it this far.
I had a lot of profoundly horrible things done to me growing up. My abuse was not occasional, it was nearly constant at times, with only rare and tragically brief slow periods. My fabulously inventive brain saved me by birthing siblings/friends/protectors/sponges that shared my burdens and made some of the worst things merely the nightmares of an imaginative child.
Before i acknowledged my multiplicity i just thought i was the flakiest person i’d ever known. A veritable all-you-eat buffet of quirks and oddities that seemed completely nonsensical. But as it turned out, some of them made perfect sense once i had all the information.
I was being triggered, and in the early days of dealing with all my Bits N’ Pieces, it was most of the damn time. It was everything from the smell of cologne to the creaking of a door to playground equipment to bugs to change being jangled in a pocket to meeting someone new. An old song or television program could have me practically catatonic in seconds. Being startled often caused a crying jag or hyperventilation. In large crowds of people i would suddenly just keel over in a dead faint.
It’s taken years of hard work, but i’m not just raw flesh with no skin anymore. I’ve toughened up, learned to cope. I’ve developed skills that help me get through the day, i’ve tended to the wounds of all the broken people inside of me, been their confessor, borne witness to all their stories. I’ve been their medium, their conduit, and their vessel into which they poured their terror and rage and pain. It was all burned into me until i finally had a skin – a skin made of scars.
I work that skin every day. I bend, i stretch, i reach, i pivot ’round, i kneel. I nurture it with the oils of understanding, acceptance, and forgiveness. I feed it mindfulness, which for me, has proven to be the water of life. My skin has grown smooth and supple, even beautiful. There are still very visible scars, some are red and keloid. There are still times when i see, hear, smell, or am otherwise reminded of some awful thing, and i can still react reflexively from a place of remembered fear and pain.
This morning it happened during a random conversation with a loved one that twisted me in such a way that one of my scars cried out NO!
I don’t expect the rest of the world to tiptoe around me, but i won’t let it trample me, either. I don’t want to live in a world where people are feet and i am an eggshell. And i don’t want you to know all my triggers, because i don’t want you to see the abuse when you look at me. I don’t want you not to speak about X or not wear Y, because you know i was abused by someone who X’ed me while wearing Y.
I want you to look at me and see who i am. I want you to feel how you feel about me, regardless of whether it’s good or bad. Whether or not you like me. I want to be seen without the shadow that would be cast if i allowed the cloud of abuse to hang over me.
Today i was triggered. HARD. In my own home, by someone i love more than my own life. I don’t need him to know about it or to understand. This is his home too and it’s not all about me. And i am so glad about that. This is the safest place i know, and my favourite place to be, and today that particular scar got a little softer, a little smoother.
‘Cause I’m a joyful girl
‘Cause the world owes me nothing
And we owe each other the world
I do it ’cause it’s the least I can do
I do it ’cause I learned it from you
I do it just because I want to
~Joyful Girl, Ani DiFranco