Nat S Ford (natf) wrote,
Nat S Ford

"Gaining Perspective: The Wellesley Debate | Hollaback! Boston"

ETA: I made this post because it explains PTSD triggers so very well and I know that some people do not understand them. I can point people at this post in the future but I apologise if it is triggering in and of itself.

Possibly triggering. Talk of PTSD, sexual assault and rape:

Ok, well once everyone knows it’s just a statue, how can it still be a trigger?

Oh man, how I wish triggers worked that way. My life would be so much easier if the part of my brain that controls anxiety was able to better communicate with the part of my brain that controls logic. Think of all the groceries I would buy! I wouldn’t have had to eat the very sad, very oniony, and very stale sandwich I had for dinner last night, because I would never run out of food again!

To answer this properly, we’re going to have to get a little neurosciencey, so bear with me. I’m not a neuroscientist, but I have spent a lot of time listening to counselors and doctors explain all the ways in which my brain is trying to sabotage me, so I’ll give it my best shot.

The amygdala is a part of your brain that processes memories and emotions. When you perceive a danger or threat, a little warning alarm starts sounding in your amygdala that kicks your body into survival mode. Your brain sends signals to your endocrine system to flood your body with adrenaline, which triggers a fight, flight, or freeze response. Because this is a survival mode, it supersedes any other kind of brain function or logic. Even if you know, logically, that a situation is not dangerous, there’s no override function that the rest of your brain can use to stop this reaction.

The problem that many people who’ve experienced trauma face is that we can get stuck in this hyper-sensitive, high-alert mode. Not only real, present threats, but even the mere memory of threats can trigger this panic survival mode. The amygdala cannot distinguish between what is a real, present threat, and what is only the memory of a threat. This is how, 8 months ago, I was walking down a busy street, and something about the sound of footsteps and a man’s voice behind me brought me back five and a half years, to a December night in Paris when a complete stranger followed me home and attacked me. The logical part of my brain knew that this situation was completely different, but in the tiny moment when my amygdala linked the sound of footsteps to that horrible, traumatizing memory, that was enough to switch on survival mode. That’s why articles like these come with trigger warnings, because even reading that sentence can dredge up enough feelings for some people to flip that switch.

Unfortunately, that is not the worst part about anxiety or PTSD. The worst part is that you become so afraid of your own anxiety that it becomes a self-fullfilling prophecy. I’m not afraid of grocery stores because they are somehow inherently threatening. I’m afraid of them because one day, I had a panic attack in a grocery store, and now I’m terrified that every time I run out of milk I’m going to have another.

Gaining Perspective: The Wellesley Debate | Hollaback! Boston

More great quotes from the article:

An issue doesn’t have to be important to you particularly to be important to someone else.

I don’t write about my own trauma experiences because I enjoy it—I do it because I genuinely believe that in talking about these issues, and hearing the voices of more and more survivors, we are changing rape culture.
Tags: assault, neuroscience, ptsd, rape, sexual assault, triggers

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