I make a conscious effort to try and stay off certain news outlets and watch what kind of posts I read on social media. It’s a tricky line to walk sometimes because I’m inherently curious and interested in what is happening in current events around the world. I don’t want to live in a bubble. I want to know what’s happening, I want to be able to critically think about things so I can form my own opinions and have thoughtful conversations.
While I was going through the throes of processing my memories, my therapist had me follow the “puppy and kitten rule,” meaning I could watch anything as long as it included cute puppies and kittens. My symptoms were at their worst. I was in and out flashbacks, my anxiety was almost constant, along with panic, fear, and a complete lack of feeling safe.
I stayed away from the intense news, was mindful of what I watched on tv and what movies I saw. I watched lots of comedy. There were times when I broke the rule. I watched a movie with violence that in some way mirrored my own abuse, or there were sensationalized cases in the media that I couldn’t avoid, and I would get triggered.
As I began to manage my symptoms, felt some sense of safety and was not living in a constant state of panic, the puppy/kitten rule was lifted. Because I had been so careful about what I ingested from media outlets for so long, I developed an avoidance for watching or seeking out certain information because I knew it may be triggering.
Recently, there has been a story in my newsfeeds that I have done my best to avoid. No one around me is talking about it, because in reality, this story would not be on their radar. It wouldn’t interest them. But because my trauma is sort-of similar to this continuing story, I am on high alert when I scroll past it. I have a definite curiosity about the details but haven’t read anything besides the headline.
Today when I logged on to check my email, the headline had changed. It caught my attention and I read it. Because I haven’t read any other details I was kind of lost in the information, but I got the gist of it. I understood and could relate to what happened to the victim that was speaking out. I felt sick that this kind of trafficking still goes on, and in my mind, will probably continue to exist in the underbelly of our society.
Then I got triggered.
I’m not used to those kinds of triggers any longer. There is plenty for me to navigate in my daily life, and anniversary times of the year, and I thought I was far enough along in my healing journey that I would be okay. But PTSD doesn’t operate that way. It doesn’t care that I was just reading an article, and it doesn’t care that this organization had absolutely nothing to do with me. I have never heard of it, and don’t know anything about it. PTSD simply understands that my sense of safety and trust is altered because of the trauma I experienced, and my brain and body will go into the memory and protection mode automatically.
After reading the article, I could tell that something was awry in my body/mind/spirit. I could tell things were stirred up in a way that I could spiral down the cycle of panic, fear, and shame.
I closed the computer, went to yoga, had lunch with a friend, and also reached out to my therapist, who helped me understand that today I fought the tiger. Making sure I understood that not only did I fight the tiger, but that I won. Any shame I was feeling dissipated with that fabulous metaphorical support.
I know I can’t just forget about what I read. I am trying to stay with the feelings, gain perspective, and use my tools to stay grounded. It’s been a difficult day. I’m irritable as I fight the flashbacks, and I’m upset with myself that I read the article. I’m also forgiving myself for having a natural curiosity, and an interest in the subject matter because it hits so close to home for me.
Seeing things written, or in movies, tv, or media can bring a sort of validation. A sense of see? I’m not making this up! When you are a trauma survivor you look for validation. My trauma is so “out of the ordinary” and so unrelatable that it’s extremely rare that I feel validation. It’s part of acceptance and knowing that my truth is validation enough. But that doesn’t come easy, and it ebbs and flows.
Today was validation that I can still be triggered by the news. With this information, I know I need to remember the puppy/kitten rule when it comes to specific topics, take good self-care and keep scrolling. I also need to remember to give myself validation daily, that I continue to fight the tiger and win.