I found this image in my Facebook newsfeed today, and ouch, it hit home hard.
I’ve been reliving the events of the nasty dorm experience I went through my sophomore year at college, a topic that’s repeatedly resurfaced in my blog writings because of how annoyingly persistent these memories are. It doesn’t help matters that it was exactly this time, 6 years ago, when the situation became especially toxic and draining. Y’know, I really do despise the fact that I can still acutely recall these exact dates. I hate remembering this crap.
I’ve talked about this a lot, but the part that I have to focus on for the sake of healing this round is the residual paranoia and anxiety it left me. The ringleader of the girls who acted malicious towards me on my old dorm floor was unnaturally fixated on me, to the point that she obsessed over how much time she thought I spent in the floor restroom. I found out beyond a shadow of a doubt that she’d been using the peephole in her dorm door, and had determined by sense of hearing, to pinpoint my movements on the floor.
One of the worst nights on that floor with her was when, immediately after taking a step out of my dorm room, she howled my name from the middle of the floor lounge, calling out to me with a nasty laugh. When I went to the restroom, she stood outside the door with her best friend, gossiping about me avoiding them. So much for feeling secure in your living quarters. I will never forget how terrified I was, knowing that this girl was monitoring me to that degree. I felt stalked, for lack of a better term.
What triggered all of these memories for me was my roommate’s cat, who happens to have notable separation anxiety. Valentine means well, but because of his condition, he needs to know where we are at all times. As such, he’s prone to constantly staring at me when I’m nearby, and has taken to analyzing by sound where I am so he can find me. I got upset with him last night after he refused to stop yelling at me and staring at me. I regretted it, because I know that he only wants attention.
He has nothing to do with my trauma, but as it is, Valentine’s behavior triggered my memories of the ringleader doing the same thing, but for deeply malicious reasons. When I realized the connection this morning while getting ready for work, my head was alarmingly clear, an indicator that I’d hit the nail on the head. I’m sad that I’ve been projecting all of this onto him.
When I talked about this with my roommate tonight, all of the anxiety and paranoia from back then came rushing back, like it was yesterday. I nearly had a full-throttle panic attack, gasping for air and crying stressed tears as I opened up to her about how I was more-or-less stalked by that girl on our floor. Nala was very gentle and receptive, encouraging me to talk about it so that I could release those emotions. It was terrifying, reliving that for a moment, but it was necessary.
I wanted to find a good YouTube resource for triggers, and voila, I found a great one!
This video addresses how “triggers” (also known as “paired associations”) happen. After going through trauma of any kind, and experiencing all of the negative emotions that came with it, our brain can activate our “fight-or-flight” response when we’re faced with something that reminds us of that trauma. We can work to deactivate this response over time my facing things head-on, allowing ourselves to feel our emotions to work through them.
Talking with my roommate unfortunately ripped open all of the anxiety and anger that I’d dealt with from back then, but opening up about it was so cathartic. Not only that, but even after just this first day of being honest about what’s been truly bothering me, my irritability towards Valentine has disappeared. Now that I understand that my college trauma was the real thing aggravating me, I’ve stopped myself from projecting those negative memories onto him. It’s a huge breath of fresh air for me!
I still have more work to do, though. What I’ve experienced these last couple of days is an indicator that I’m not done healing, which is hard for me to accept. I’ve been going through every little thing that transpired 6 years ago, including the Office of Student Conduct’s meeting with the ringleader and her best friend. The Office mediator emailed me that the girls were apparently “unaware” that they’d “offended” me with their actions. Such a gaslighting thing to say (not his fault as the messenger, of course). Not to mention, that was a a blatant lie. The ringleader had made it clear in nasty passing comments in my presence that she knew fully what kind of effect their actions had on me.
I’ve forgiven them, and I’ll continue to forgive them as many times as it takes. That being said, I want to let myself feel that anger for just a moment, and then let it go. I’ve spent my life dismissing my anger because I hate feeling angry. It’s important for me to understand that sometimes, anger is a vital emotion. And besides, who wouldn’t be angry after going through something like this?
It’s clear to me that I still have more healing to do, but even then, I’m proud of the progress I’ve made. It hasn’t been easy, especially making myself remember and work through the trauma I experienced on that dorm floor. But this journey is worth it.