TW: Talking potentially triggeringly about someone else talking definitively triggeringly about the Kavanaugh hearings.
I talk very loudly at times. It’s an occupational hazard of ADHD. In hindsight, I’m sure that I have said things about things that have happened in my life loudly enough into cell phones in various public places and on various forms of public transportation – possibly even this summer – such that my coastal co-commuters have formed firm impressions that the 9th Circle of Hell is not the sort of place they should put on their tourism bucket list. On a few occasions, they may even have had to awkwardly share a train home with their crying stranger.
I’m thoroughly oblivious to the volume of my voice, especially when I’m upset. To the best of my knowledge, though, those unwitting unease-droppers only learn that the 9th Circle of Hell is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad place. They don’t know the details of why it is so horrible, both for my safety and for theirs. I don’t share any specific details of lived traumatic events over cell phones. 1) Who would I be talking to on a cell phone that I trust that much? The only person I share those things with – besides the entire Internet, of course – is my Partner. If I’m on a train, he’s probably no more than an hour away from hearing more detail than he ever wished to have seared into his brain about the most recent horrible thing inflicted by that place for the next three hours, so a tearful warning to brace himself is probably sufficient for the phone call. 2) It’s hard to be anonymous when I yell a lot. ADHD. It’s not just for interrupting. It’s for interrupting obnoxiously enough that the whole room takes notice. 3) Most importantly, I may be fairly oblivious, but I have learned what triggers are and why overly detailed accounts of trauma shared in unexpected spaces might inflict on others the kinds of PTSD episodes my boss so charmingly calls the marker of a “difficult working style.” I’m still uncertain if PTSD or some other spoon-sucking diagnosis will eventually cost me my job, but taking someone else down at the same time seems like forfeiting to the 9th Circle of Hell without so much as a fight.
Given that I am generally as oblivious and audible as they come, I find it – surprising – that I still have more subconscious self-decorum then the presumably neurotypical know-it-all I shared an evening train ride home with tonight. The guy – dressed in what I presume still qualifies as generic early 20s hipster while proudly manspreading across three seats – was boasting loudly to his cell phone partner about how sensitive he was for recognizing that sexual assault survivors might be re-traumatized by what they had heard during the hearings today, how he had taken up the mantle of explaining to his less-enlightened male friends exactly how prevalent sexual assault was, how there are many reasons why women might not come forward, and how he considers himself an ally. Good on him and all –
– except for that bit where he explained all of these things by shouting them into his cell in a train car populated enough to be carrying at least a couple of survivors, based on his own quoted statistics?! He then illustrated his point about how certain words and phrases that don’t register to men can trigger women by offering a play-by-play of the Kavanaugh hearings today in the same booming voice.
I didn’t watch the Kavanaugh hearings live. I knew I could trust my Partner to recap the important parts, I had more immediate potential triggers on my mind with my re-entry into the world of working with my boss and his own difficult working style (which in his case is still code for “bully” not “experiencing an emotional flashback) and, frankly, I already know what travesties of justice look like. I didn’t really need to see this one live to have a pretty good sense of all the ways the system could protect the perpetrator at the expense of the one who tried to speak up. Systemic abuse in all its flavors still has more in common than different. I caught the replay without having to rely on my Partner anyway.
The guy truly did not seem to realize that his running monologue to his buddy of all the potentially triggering moments was making multiple women and men visibly pale and uncomfortable-looking on the seats surrounding him.
PSA: If the topic of the conversation you are about to undertake is why a list of recently used words and phrases could easily trigger survivors of a particular type of traumatic incident, it’s probably not a good idea to say them out loud in a crowded train while you have the conversation. If your conversation is about the need for trigger warnings, consider that your commentary itself might require one of them?
(Also PSA: men can experience assault. I don’t know that any of those particular men – or women – had, of course, but, from the way a few of them looked, they’d presumably experienced something traumatically related enough that the Kavanaugh hearings brought up reminders.)
People are insensitive jerks from Coast to Coast, but it was a very interesting exercise in grounding myself in my present awareness (vs. still feeling like I’m going to wake up back in the 9th Circle of Hell any minute now) via experiencing one of those jerks manage to be insensitive about how sensitive he was to the trauma experience. What a uniquely 20-something blue-state hipster form of obliviousness to the realities of being triggered: he was so aware of his need to be aware that he ‘woke’ everyone else up on that train, including the old ghosts, right along with him!
Also, this qualifies as my obligatory “they’re probably going to confirm Kavanaugh and that’s appalling, but what else can I say about it that hasn’t already been said” post. Vote in the midterms. It’s really the only thing that can make it stop – hopefully before the next thirty+ year mistake is confirmed.