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April 13, 2012

On the Unpredictable Paths of One’s Own Mind

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 1:03 pm

If you leave the sponge in the sink when you’re done doing dishes, it will stay wet and eventually rot. You have to wring the sponge out and set it somewhere dry each time if you want to preserve its life.

Whenever I’m cleaning up the kitchen and I drop a soggy sponge into the sink, I remember Craig taking me and August to task for ruining his sponges back when we all lived together. Half the time, then, I start thinking about Craig and about how his parents found him, alone in his dark apartment with a noose around his neck. The other half, I just remember not to leave the sponge in the sink.

My triggers are a lot to keep track of. No one else knows that wet sponges bring up thoughts of suicide for me and maybe no one should have to. They don’t trigger me strongly. They don’t do it always. And I certainly don’t want to live in a world without sponges.

On the other hand, I feel very strongly that anyone I’ve told about my infestation phobia who insists on talking to me about swarms of insects is a motherfucking asshole who deserves to be punched. Not because it’s 100% guaranteed to cause a panic attack every time; in fact, the panic has gotten a whole lot better lately. But because why would you even want to risk causing me that kind of fear and suffering when it would be absolutely no trouble at all for you not to?

Still, if you do accidentally start telling me about your 10yr old cousin’s super awesome new ant farm and then catch yourself and apologize, and I say, “Hey, thanks. It’s cool, tho’. I’m actually fine. No big deal,” I want it to be okay that, this time, it’s really no big deal. Likewise, if I’m scrubbing the dinner pans and happen to walk away despondent, I want acknowledgment (at least from myself) of that suffering as both incidental and legit.

In short: I don’t expect or want people to assume I’m fragile, except in the places where I’ve explicitly asked them to do so. But I want to be treated kindly when it turns out I am. I also want to feel empowered both to hunker down in that fragility when I need to and also not have to live there all the time.

Our culture teaches us that people are either strong, independent, self-sufficient transcenders of trouble or that they’re broken victims, perennially helpless and weak. But that’s bullshit. People are unbelievably resilient and adaptable creatures, each of whom is riddled with a uniquely complicated map of triggers and scars that come from surviving in civilization. But — and this is important — these maps aren’t static. They’re dynamic. Human psychology is more dynamic than the most powerful waterfall. It’s our evolutionary superpower. That doesn’t mean we’re always and already on a linear trajectory toward healing. It just means we’re never the same person twice.

I want to be treated like my thoughts and feelings are unpredictable. And I want to extend the same spacious compassion to others around me. Because if I can’t even keep track of my own triggers, there’s no way in hell someone else is going to be able to do it. And I sure as hell won’t be able to track all of theirs. But we can slow our interactions down enough to check in with ourselves and each other about where we’re at right now. And we can stop what we’re doing and sit with each other for a minute when someone accidentally drops a sponge in the sink.

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