I Have No Mouth, and That's Peachy for Humanity

Unfortunately, I have a blog and a self-entitlement complex.

I really, really hate being triggered. And I really, really hate myself for being triggered because virtually all the people around me never have to deal with trauma triggers and can stumble through life more or less unscathed, which makes me feel very shitty for not being able to do the same thing.

I suppose I'd better get to the point...My boyfriend bought a cheap copy of I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream for at least one of us to play. Knowing how dark and disturbing it was, I wanted to start playing it through with him because hey, I'm a mature adult who should be able to deal with this stuff and who also loves adventure games.

I think I should have probably decided against playing it (for the present time, at least) when he mentioned that I'd be triggered by at least two of the characters' stories. And I think at this point I should probably explain why I get so triggered by things.

I am not the kind of person who uses my lack of certain privileges (namely, that I'm not a sane, straight non-immigrant man) to insinuate that I'm so much better and purer than those nasty white cishet men who should all just go kill themselves for being inherently oppressive, and I don't really want to go all special snowflake on people here, but suffice to say that there are certain...well...experiences I've lived through that have, shall we say, impacted on me. I've tried to take my own life quite a few times (the less said about that the better, to be honest), I've had some fairly gross instances of sexual harassment and rape threats starting when I was 13, and I've lost several family members to being shot in the street by the Nazis or packed off to death camps. This might not seem important given that the war ended in 1945, long before most of the readers of this blog were born, and most Holocaust survivors are dead, but the scars left by genocide are deep ones; two generations on and my dad's voice still cracks talking about it.

So it was fairly fucking stupid of me to play as the suicidal character the first time round, because in a terribly predictable fashion, I got triggered.

Three words. Three simple little fucking words that capture precisely none of the reality of what a trigger is actually like - for me, at least. It'll be different for different people. And for those of you who have never experienced a trauma trigger, let me show you into your very own personal hell. Have fun.

For me, a trauma trigger is having flashbacks to all the points in my life I really didn't want to remember. So when I get triggered by hearing about any kind of sexual harassment or assault, for example, I think of the man stalking me as I was walking to the tube station near my house to the point where I had to run. I think of the boys in my class who would happily discuss drugging and raping me because they thought I was too opinionated for a woman. I think of my first sexual harasser slinking his hands over me when I was quite young, and how I felt too ashamed and dirty to speak up about how uncomfortable it made me feel. And those are the mild examples.

What's even worse is that it's a physical reaction, so my body pretty much reacts in the exact same way that I originally reacted. This causes anything from nausea to a sudden, intense urge to kill myself. Fun, no?

And so I think I managed to play about 5 minutes of it before I had to stop, which really upset me because I was genuinely enjoying myself. This is what people don't understand about triggers: a lot of people think triggers are childish and a sign of wanting to be a victim, and I'm fairly sure a lot of those people can just amble through life without ever having to worry about being set back by a flashback or two.

The thing is, I don't want to be a victim, or a survivor, or whatever the correct terminology is these days, especially because I don't feel personally victimised by a mental illness that I was probably predisposed to anyway. I just want to learn to manage it and go on with a life that hopefully involves my becoming a physics researcher and thus doing something I actually love as my day job. And so I don't like my triggers, or wallow in them as some might think - I hate them. I usually try and push on through them, if I can, and if I'm having a crappy day I'll do my best to avoid triggers because I know what they do to my mood. On an emotional level, I don't understand why something that leaves other people fairly cold turns me into a self-mutilating wreck, and I don't understand why I get told that I want to be a "professional victim".

This isn't even about the game anymore - this affects me all the time, everywhere, and I'm sick of it. I'm slowly getting better at dealing with them, but I'm an impatient person and I just wish that I could do things I enjoyed without having to worry about getting flashbacks.