I was at the gym this morning. And again. That sound made me stop. My body stiffened. Every muscle tensed. My stomach shrunk. Nausea. Squeezed my eyes. Enduring the moment until it passed. Like when you have some lemon. A knot in my throat.
“Don’t cry, just keep going. Focus on your exercise.” I told myself. I wanted to leave, but I wanted to stay because I like to exercise. I looked around, at my instructor, at my husband, at other members that train in my group. Some of them laughing, others sweating their sets, or drinking water. The world looked safe. “Normal.” While I felt in the middle of a hole swallowing me.
Everything spinning around me. Screaming in my mind, help! Make it stop! And then the memories slapping my brain over and over.
I thought that the solution wasn’t to tell her, “Can you figure another way to breathe while you lift weight because how you’re doing it now triggers my abuse and trauma? Thank you so much for your kindness.” I can’t go to my gym, gather everybody and instruct them to breath or not breath in a certain way so I’m not triggered so I can exercise.
So I work on it. I remind myself that I’m safe, that I’m an adult. And I hear it again, and I have to start my inner talk from the beginning. I want to run away, but I decide to stay and face it one more time. “I’m safe. I’m here. That was in the past when I couldn’t do anything about it. Now I can. Breathe.”
At home it happens too. Different sounds though.
When I’m in my room at night reading or watching a show in my pajamas, I can here every noise my children make downstairs and in the basement. Regular sounds that people make when they live in their homes. Especially when they are with their friends. When they run up and down to the stairs. My brain interprets this as danger. Tachycardia. Wet hands. I want to run away or hide. I need those noises to stop immediately.
I used to see the adults fight, but when I couldn’t see them I always thought about death. I heard them stomping, braking things, punching the table, the wall, dumping furniture. That’s what my brain remembers when my kids are happily running up and down the stairs with their teenage friends. All they want is to get something to drink or to eat in the kitchen.
When I definitely can’t deal with it, I have asked them to not make noises sometimes. They know my story, they know why, but I don’t think it’s fair to ask them not to be able to move freely in their own house all the time.
I want to learn to feel safe when I hear these sounds.
I don’t want to be in a store and be triggered by a sound that someone makes, “Can you please stop making that sound? I’m trying to buy something here.” I want to live in this world free from those triggers.
Noises that trigger trauma memories and flashbacks are not necessarily loud. It can be a whisper. It can be a melody. It can be a breath. It can be silence.
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