Triggers: the unwelcome hand that flips the switch on a time machine and forces you back to moments you crave to forget. I never thought I'd fully grasp the meaning of it all until this year when I started putting the puzzle pieces together.
Many of my strange foibles and reactions to situations over the last three decades now sit in the 'bigger picture' perfectly when I look at my jigsaw as the final image takes shape, but plenty are still a mystery. Over many years, even through childhood, certain songs and genres of music set me off into a spiral of tears, grief and panic. For as long as I can remember, unwrapping a birthday/Christmas present digs up this deep shame I've never been able to fathom. Holding sentimental gifts (yes, I'm a proper hoarder of treasures given with love) triggers overwhelming grief and guilt, and I have no idea why. There are many more but this is a blog post, not a novel.
This year's triggers are easy to understand, considering I have reason to be here sharing my rambling thoughts on a site for survivors of terrible crimes.
Pretty much anything that makes me visible to those I don't trust flips the switch of my time machine. A brand new trigger emerged this week, and I'm going to type it out, get it all out and hopefully be able to breathe easier afterwards. Work is a blessing and a curse at the moment because I've just had a 'promotion' of sorts, an additional role, and although I'm really happy and excited to be offered the job (and intend to do my best) I'm terrified of being more visible... but most of all I fear letting my bosses down. I'm a designer for a publishing company and I've now been given the 'posh' title of Social Media Engagement Coordinator. My 'next in command', the lovely editor (I'll call her Linda) of a magazine I design, is encouraging, supportive and kind. She recommended me for the role in the first place and is cheering me on as I settle into my new 'social' marketing duties. It's been a week and I'm doing well so far, but a stumbling block has just landed at my feet in the shape of a weedy little shit with too much 'alpha male' energy. He's a new member of the sales team, and he's really good at his job. He's good with the customers, he's ambitious and he's passionate about his sales skills. That's great, but I don't trust him. He's been asked to 'mentor' me as I learn about social media reach and analytics, so I'm going to need to wear my 'strong mask' for this. I know I can learn a lot from him and I'm keen to do so, but I fear his intentions. He's ruthless, manipulative, talks and walks like he's sprinkled amphetamines on his cereal that morning, he over-shares how brilliant he is far too often, he's sly and too clever with the gaslighting. Over the last couple of days he's pushing our 'big boss', the owner of the company, to give him the social media role instead. He's playing me off against my colleagues (including Linda) so I'm being forced to continuously reinforce and defend the bonds I've built with my valued work mates. He's busting a gut to isolate me from the team, bigging himself up while shrinking my abilities and sense of self-worth. He's so much like my abuser - the man who's crimes brought me to After Silence. It's a major trigger and I'm not even remotely comfortable with it.
I want to scream at him, ask him not to flip that switch every time he behaves like a parasite that's eating away at my job security and self-confidence. I don't want him to cause a 'failure' scenario if I have to tell my friends and family I don't have the job after-all because someone better was chosen. I want to plead with him not to take the pending pay rise away from me and my husband, because finances are a juggle and the extra money will relieve so much stress at home. He has no right to know, but I want to tell him that he's behaving like the man who squashed me in a box, shrunk me to nothing, moulded me into a loathed object and used my body without my consent multiple times a week through my 20s. I won't tell him any of this - but in a way I feel that I have... just by typing it all out.
When I wheel myself into the 'Covid-safe' office next week for the team meeting about my new role, in my head I'll crave telling him how frickin' hard I work, regardless of my disability. I'll imagine myself describing the Complex PTSD I'm having intensive therapy for, the constant physical pain and the tiny amounts of sleep I manage to grab each night, the antidepressants, sedatives and napalm style pain killers I have to take to function each day. And through all that I still meet deadlines, I learn new skills with excitement, I work for hours without a break, I always strive to do my best, I haven't taken time off sick since 2014, and I've never let my bosses down. But, instead of saying all that out load, I intend to 'sit' tall and let him make a prat of himself.
On a positive note, I've started setting the dials on my time machine to revisit good times in my past. My husband (G) and I have shared almost 11 years of happy marriage together, and we have so many great memories stored up. A couple of years ago, while G and I were cooking one of our vegetarian feasts together, we talked about how much we loved our 'chef seshs' in our small, retro kitchen. We play music, drink wine, chat, share tasks, laugh and generally enjoy each other's company while we look forward to eating the meal we've made. I told him how the uplifting music, the aroma of caramelised onions, the sound of a cork popping out of a wine bottle and the scent and taste of a rich, full bodied Rioja will always take me back to these good times in our future. He then said, "Today's memories are tomorrow's naustalgia." What a brilliant thing to say. I still carry that phrase with me, looking for positive sounds, smells, tastes and experiences that will trigger happy and comforting feelings in years to come. I'm a photographer (my camera is called George). George helps me freeze time... capturing countless wonderful moments to treasure in our digital albums and frames around the house. I have so many good memories and I'm doing my best to stick around with my sanity intact to enjoy more.
Thank you for reading my much needed 'vent', I do appreciate it. I typed the part about G and our small, retro kitchen with a big smile, and I hope it brought a grin to your face too. I wish you the very best while you negotiate and learn to cope with your own triggers, and I cheer you on as you master those complicated dials, and hopefully, over time, gain full control over your time machine.