Election Night Triggers

As I write this, it is 12:37 on November 9. The nation is still biting their nails awaiting the decision of the 2016 Presidential election. It is looking more and more like Donald Trump will be our next president. By morning, this may somehow be different, but I am going to publish this now before we know.

I do not know how this election season has been for other rape and abuse survivors, but it has been awful for me. I have been in a near constant state of trigger for months. Donald Trump has so many personality traits that take me right back to the behavior of Mark, my abuser and rapist. His flippant “jokes” that he laughs off as sarcasm. His threatening attitude toward everyone. His quick-tempered anger. His actual threats of violence. His demeaning treatment of women. His habit of hurling personal insults at people who disagree with him. His superficial charm that sucks some people in.

I was particularly triggered by the comments that were broadcast about Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe. I saw a video of him at the gym, watching Ms. Machado working out, laughing at her and saying how she “loves to eat”. This is how Mark acted toward me. Insulting and putting me down for superficial physical attributes, but doing so in a laughing manner so that he could always fall back on the “I was just joking. Why can’t you take a joke?” remark.

Then came the “locker room talk” incident. I can’t even go into that. It got so that simply hearing the phrase “locker room banter” set my heart racing and gave me that feeling in the pit of my stomach. Here was a man who might soon be president, bragging openly about committing sexual assault. And it was on TV every night, every day, over and over and over. If I turned off the TV, it was on Facebook. If I turned off Facebook, it came up in conversation with colleagues. I absolutely could not escape it. This was the worst.

Almost as bad was the way people have been talking with each other. The vitriol and anger that has been out there, on both sides, made my heart hurt. The open racism, the open misogyny…from people I thought were friends, and from family members. It’s like the nation has turned into the Jerry Springer show and suddenly everyone feels it is OK to say anything. Because Trump does.

I thought that, one way or another, it would all be over today. I woke up with a huge knot in my stomach. I burst into tears for no real reason this morning. But I went through my day. I went to work. I voted. And I made it through.

But how will I be able to handle four years of seeing this man on TV every single day? What will he say? What will he tweet? Who will he hurt? More importantly, what will we as an American people turn into? For me, it is like my rapist has come out of the depths of my past and is now in complete power over me. This is the most triggered I have been in years.

I have been trying to find refuge in my family, a big bowl of ice cream, pictures of kittens, videos of dancing baby goats, and now in my writing.

Am I the only one who is experiencing this? I heard that RAINN experienced a big upsurge in calls to the hotline after the “locker room” incident. I wonder if this is still true.

Hold tight if you are feeling like me. Know that I am sending you virtual hugs and keeping you in my thoughts. We shall see what the morning brings, my friends.

Tiny Victories

***Trigger Warning for school violence and shootings***

It’s been a challenging two weeks.  I found triggers in unexpected places and I found that I had the strength to ride them out.

It started with a staff meeting at school.  If you have not been in a school in a while, we have a variety of emergency drills that never existed when I was a child.  In addition to the fire and tornado drills of my childhood, we now have lock-down drills.  These are further subdivided into “internal threat”, “external threat” and the terrifying “imminent threat”.  This is what was being discussed at the meeting.  I have participated in these drills before.  I have taken a group of children and had them hide in a closet sitting in complete silence as we pretend that there is an intruder in the building.  They never bothered me before. More

Triggers

triggers

(A special trigger warning applies to this post.  Please take care of yourself.)

Survivors speak a lot about triggers.  We use trigger warnings on everything we write, we say something triggered us, we apologize for triggering others.  Trigger is both a noun and a verb.  And triggers are the bane of our existence.  For those of you lucky enough not to know, a “trigger” is something that brings out our memories of the trauma that we went through.  It can be anything and it draws us back into the original traumatic experience.  A trigger can bring on a full-blown flashback, or it can just set off a series of emotional and physical responses.  Because they are so common an experience for survivors, I thought I would attempt to write a piece about my triggers to help others understand.

Triggers can be anything.  Seriously, anything.  A smell.  A sound.  A seemingly innocuous object.  A place.  An action.  A time of day.  Our friends and family are often baffled by our reactions to what appears to be “nothing” to them.  Whatever the trigger is, for some reason our mind associates it with our rape or our rapist.  When we are triggered, it is a very distressing experience.  This is why we post trigger warnings.   The last thing we want to do is cause our fellow survivors distress.  A rape survivor sees the warning and can judge for himself/herself whether they are feeling strong enough to read on.  It’s a “spoiler alert” of sorts. More

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