Falling and Handling Triggers pt. 1

“You want to try?” asks the dance teacher instructor. “Hold onto my hands and let yourself fall”

I start panicking, my heart racing. I look at her, unable to say yes or no. In my head, I don’t see the other students around me attempting to fall without hurting themselves. I feel hands holding mine and pushing me; I feel me falling down, rather like a sack of something and not like a human, and hitting something hard through the fog surrounding my brain.

***

I’m in dance class, and this particular one, we are learning how to “fall” in dance – controlled, graceful. We are neither controlled nor graceful, but it’s our first attempt at falling, so that is expected.

I however, start feeling not so okay from the moment I see we are learning to fall. At first I feel myself getting unnaturally angry. Why are we learning how to fall so early on? Is that really necessary? I went there to learn how to dance, not for THIS.

But then I look at all the other students calmly practicing their falling and I realize it’s just a dance move. It’s okay, it will be okay. I’ve come this far, I can surely practice falling like everyone else. Except that the idea of falling in my head isn’t graceful and controlled, it’s rash and forceful and it hurts. I’ve been the kid that plays along with the boys, and climb trees- and now I’ve become so afraid, of so many things. I spend a lot of time after the rape trying to control and order everything in my life, so that I would avoid any fall, any mistake, sure that I’ve done more than my fair share of falls in one summer. In that summer I’ve done my fair share of falls for a decade, or at least that is how I feel.

Like if I make one more mistake or fall, a half, even an inch, I won’t be able to continue breathing.

That feeling loosens up and gets better with time. My notion about falling, however, literal or metaphorical, doesn’t. I struggle to accept that I’m in the middle of dance class trying to FALL, gracefully at that.

***

“You want to try?” asks the dance instructor assistant again, taking my confused face for not knowing how to do the move. She reaches towards my hands. I’ve seen how she did it with others, she holds right under your arm, between your hand and elbow. Then you rest your hands on hers, and let yourself fall on the side, with her, gradually lowering her hands with yours as you fall.

It’s just supporting a fall so we don’t injure ourselves.

But at the idea of her holding me like that my heart starts pounding.

“I know how to do it,” I protest, although I really don’t. “I just can’t let myself fall”

“OK, then do that and that” she says, instructing me how to attempt a half-fall “Is that okay?”

There really must be something in my voice or face, I figure, something showing that I’m afraid. The dance teacher instructors are girls from the advanced dance class. They are always polite, help, break down things when you can’t figure out a move, and they show you and look at you attempt things. However, I’ve never heard any of them ask is a move okay.

I ignore that and deal with the situation as best as I can.

I steady my heart and I nod. I attempt few falls that class. Most of the time I fall the wrong way, afraid of the fall and the approaching ground, and I hit my knees. The few times when I stop thinking about it, and just try following, I manage to fall well. I return home with confused mind and purple knees, but glad I’ve held it together in class, more than I have ever before.

***

Falling is a trigger, in every sense. Having mostly deal with my triggers, this one catches me off guard, I admit. I’m not even sure where that foggy memory is from. I can remember the hands holding mine, the push, the fall and me hitting something hard on the way down, but I’m not sure when was that. I just remember the sensation.

My brain seems to forget there are all kinds of other falls, most of which aren’t really that bad.

I go home with reeling brain and bruised legs, but I’m not done.

I’ve went too far in my recovery. In the past I’ve let triggers let me run from things for a long while before I finally face them. “But that was then, and this is now.” I’ve grown since then. I want to dance as freely as everyone else.

I bite back my ego telling me I have to deal with this on my own. Truth is, that is a trigger. A trigger is essentially a connection your brain has made, so that when you get a certain stimuli, a picture, smell, touch, sound, it reminds you of something so to protect you from re-occurrence of something potentially dangerous. That is my definition anyway, although I am certain there is a better one out there.

As I know that there is nothing threatening in this moment, I know that it’s time to deal with this trigger.

Dealing with triggers is simple, and incredibly hard- you have to face them.

There is a connection your brain makes to that stimuli- to remove the trigger, you have to make a new connection to that thing. I have to, in this case, learn that someone holding my arms in that particular way isn’t always a threat. In this case, it’s helpful. I have to also learn that falling isn’t a bad thing, but first things first.

When I explain to my boyfriend how she held people’s arms, he attempted to hold mine that way, and I pull them away the same second. I can’t let him do that.

And then it occurs to me!

That is it! I have to let him hold them, for a second at first, and slowly build up. I have to look at his warm eyes while he does it, and talk nice things with him, and stay with him holding my hands like that. Hopefully, that will eventually let my brain know that not every hold is bad.

I’ve run from my fears before, and I won’t do it again. I’m going to face this one this time.

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