Triggers, Cameras, & Victory

For all those who know my healing journey: tomorrow I am going to be interviewed ON CAMERA about my warrioring to help survivors (ACESDV Thrive Three Heart Award).

<healing rewind> Cameras were a huge part of my trauma. In the child sex-trafficking, they also used me for child sexual exploitation in photographs (aka child pornography).

When I began to thaw out and start to heal, all-things-PTSD focused on the lens of a camera. It was unsafe. I couldn’t look at the icon of the camera app on my phone. I couldn’t stand near a camera. My skin got hot and I physically vomited when someone set theirs by me. Every photo I was forced to be part of has my face in a goofy wide scream-grin (because it was as controlled as I could make it).

Once, a good friend jumped out at me and took a for-fun pic—and faster than my mind could catch up, I launched both him AND his $6k camera into the river and crumpled into shaking screams on the grass.

It was a big BIG trigger.

And, triggers are able to be defeated.

My therapist at the time, #BadassJaime, told me the only way to defeat a trigger is to run RIGHT at it. No one had told me that. They had all said to avoid the triggers. Give the triggers to God. Hide the triggers. Pray the triggers away. Deny the triggers are real. But not one person had told me so I could understand: run directly at them.

It will hurt. It will feel like vaulting through hell in slow motion. AND, there is the other side. You WILL get through. You will survive, and the trigger will lose its power.

I like plans. I can understand them. Strategize. Work my ass off. Succeed.

I began with printed pictures of cameras, which I had to have a friend choose and print, because even that was too much. I held a tiny toy of a camera, which is at the bottom of a pond now. I stopped hiding the images and icons on my phone (though, I admit they were still on the second screen, not on the home page).

I played NCIS in the background as I worked because it has an average of 59 times an episode that a camera is heard, seen, or flashed—yet I trusted the characters, and it was enough to make my brain process the dilemma.

My therapist and I began working on it in EMDR too and talking about it in support group. Battle. Strategy.

I purposely set myself down to look at the images and portrayals of cameras—and I had the exact same results as before: throwing my phone, breaking or tearing objects, hyperventilating on the floor. BUT ALSO I was able to tell myself I was SAFE. Friends were there to hold me or my therapist helped provide tools to ground me. They helped me reprogram my brain that cameras do not equal unsafe.

A trigger is meant to save our lives. But it only works if our lives are in danger.

We want our bodies to go into full save-our-life mode if a three-thousand pound camera is falling toward us. But we don’t need the same physical response to a lens or camera on the table.

After months of work, the camera trigger faded. The battles and memories of the hard work faded as well (for me; my friends are quick to remind me the intensity of that journey). I picked up photography as a hobby and ENJOY it. I watch entire shows about how cameras are built and stored. I’ve stared into the lens of cameras and never thought about the connection.

I’ve ALSO had moments where the lens or red light causes a flicker of flame—panic through my soul. But my brain is now equipped with a fire-retardant system. I can recognize the vibrancy of heat and also starve the flame. The trigger lights up and with my learned skills, I destroy it.

I don’t know how it will go tomorrow. But I do know if you had told me three years ago that I’d be doing it…I would have seen an impossible wall built out of lenses. Today, I see warriors standing around me to help share the story: healing is real.

#KickAtDarkness #SupportSurvivors #Triggers #HealAZ #ACESDV #TriggersCanBeDefeated #HealingIsReal #ItHurtsLikeHell #YouSurvivedTheWounding #YouCanSurviveTheHealing

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