And many of the triggers to come with it are unexpected
Have you ever experienced a traumatic event? If you're reading this wondering, odds are you have, or at least you will, at some point within your lifetime.
Data has found that 80% of adults will experience at least one traumatic event in their life. And moreover, 20% of those same people will experience PTSD symptoms as a result of their trauma.
I am among that 20%. I was sexually assaulted in 2013, and diagnosed with PTSD in 2016. I am still actively working through my trauma 8 years after my assault, and my work is not yet done.
A traumatic event is an emotional response to natural disasters, accidents, violent experiences, or other deeply emotionally damaging events.
The Recovery Village had the following to say in response to PTSD as it relates to trauma:
According to PTSD statistics, a relatively small percentage of those who experience trauma develop PTSD. However, PTSD facts and statistics indicate that the disorder is more common than many people estimate.
That small percentage of the population who struggle with PTSD is small, but it is a deeply impactful diagnosis to deal with. In particular, it creates many triggers that spark a memory for the survivor and throw them into a state of panic and survival instinct.
Here is what such a surprising response can look like in everyday life:
A game of play wrestling can trigger a state of fight-or-flight.
It started out all fun and games for my husband and I.
We were tickling each other, play wrestling, rolling around on the carpet floor of my parent’s living room.
I was squealing in delight.
I was having a good time.
Until a switch flicked. Until it wasn’t fun anymore.
I panicked, shoved him off, and ran for it.
As I hid behind a wall in my parent’s kitchen, looking into the other room at my partner sheepishly, we shared a look of surprise.
The concern in his eyes was evident:
“Can you tell me what just happened?”
Recovering from deeply rooted trauma takes a lifetime to heal.
My ex abusive and sexually assaulted me in 2013.
His favourite expression of his abuse cocktail was when he would pin me to things. Walls, the floor, any surface really that he could well-and-good dominate me. He would then proceed to try and kiss me, acting as if it was a joke.
That physical domination and emotional abuse has left its mark, and still comes out in triggering panic in me when I am restrained or backed into a corner.
Though I didn’t recognize it now, this was his utter lack of respect for my consent in action.
I didn’t want to be forced to kiss him, even if I was in love with him. I would push and shove and move my face from side to side to avoid his lips.
He would eventually roll off, in a huff, accusing me of spoiling the romantic moment with my dramatics.
I would take a moment to recognize why I didn’t like it when he did that — because no matter how hard I fought I simply couldn’t push him off of me.
These events of emotional abuse and domination were what caused the exact fight-or-flight in me many years later when my husband and I were play wrestling.
The terror from our most traumatic moments still lingers.
Though time passes, our bodies and minds do not forget what we went through. They keep score, and remind us of them routinely.
I still remember lying there during my assault, pleading with my attacker, telling him how much I loved him and begging him to stop.
I just remember how unsafe I felt.
When I was play-wrestling with my current partner, there was a moment when I was taken back to every time my ex pinned me to surfaces, and the night of my assault. As I looked up at my husband, noting his toned muscles, his larger build and his towering height, the panic hit me like a brick wall.
It triggered in me an immediate instinct to run for my life to ensure my survival.
He didn’t try to hold me down when he saw the panic bubble up in me. He got off immediately and watched me run for it.
Because for a second I was back there, to the night I was almost raped. And it was horrifying.
Trauma, and the leftover effects of PTSD, don't leave a survivor.
It stays and lingers and often comes out at the most inopportune times. Mostly, we just learn to navigate and overcome our triggers, until new ones arise.
My partner and I don’t play-wrestle anymore, because we both learned, together, that it’s apparently one of my triggers, and still remains one of them to this day. It’s tricky territory to navigate, finding your way within a new relationship while trying to avoid the landmines which are scattered around from former abuses.
Oftentimes, we can’t even see where the landmines are buried.
So we tread carefully, feeling things out, trying to find the safest route to take.
Because that’s what it’s like living with the trauma of being sexually violated.