Traumas and Blog Prompts

One of the things that NaNoBlogThing does for its members is provide the occasional prompt for a post. Like most collections of blogging prompts, these are usually benign creativity boosters and story prompts to help out someone that gets stuck in writer’s block. But there was one that came up recently that didn’t sit well with me; it seems to be lacking in forethought:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Has anything traumatic ever happened to you? Describe the scenes surrounding a particular event.

I understand that trauma happens on a spectrum, and that the person involved can dramatically change the perspective on an event (as can the care that person receives in the immediate aftermath of trauma). Some people who experience life-threatening car accidents go on to recover both physically and mentally and can, after a time, drive again safely and without panic or anxiety. Others aren’t able to heal to that point and can sometimes not even ride in a car without experiencing panic attacks.

Trauma is just so PERSONAL.

PTSD is weird, and “Describe the scenes surrounding an event” is something I can’t even do (yet) in scheduled, structured therapy. Looking at the prompt, my immediate reaction is “Well THAT’S not going to happen.” And I can’t imagine that I’m the only NaBloPostThinger writer that lives with PTSD and it’s related mental health issues.

I understand that this post isn’t really talking about “that” kind of trauma, but really, there isn’t another kind. All traumas require healing – and there’s no way to look up what counts as traumatic (beyond a the actual definition of trauma itself). Different things bother different people on various levels, so a post that one person thinks is pretty benign (about a car accident) can be completely triggering for another.

Even suggesting a post about a traumatic event that you have healed from or that helped you to grow in some way would be better than the open ended “anything traumatic”. Otherwise, from a psychological standpoint, it has the potential to open up a lot of really ugly emotional stuff, without having a way to process or effectively deal with those emotions. For real, just writing out the sequence of events (factually and as chronologically as possible), let alone describing entire scenes, can be almost impossible to do for someone with PTSD. It’s a real mindfuck sometimes.

While I don’t for a minute think that the prompt was intended to be discomforting, a blog prompt that suggests the emotionally invested discussion of traumatic events just seems really out of place in a list that also includes “What kind of music do you listen to when you write?” and “Do you prefer to write with a pen or a computer?”

One of these things is not like the other ones, you know?

The Problem with Locke Lamora

This is not an easy post for me to write. If you’re not into any kind of personal stuff, and just want the usual Anna fare, it’s probably not the post for you. Having written it, I’m willing to admit that even pushing post on this kind of terrifies me, just for fear of the kinds of reactions it might get. At the same time, I’ve been trying to figure my way through this issue for awhile, and typing it up seems to help.

*Deep Breath* So here goes.

To start, many of you know I’ve had some real issues in the last six months or so. I basically stopped blogging, stopped gaming. The few real life friends that read here know that I all but dropped out of SCA. At first, it was pretty easy to blame that all on my job, but that wasn’t entirely true.

The job was, in a way, a catalyst for things that happened later. I started working at the bookstore in September. By November I was in full scale psychological breakdown, as the support structures and mechanisms I’d built into working from home failed completely, followed by a really ugly last-straw sort of situation.

I’d rather not go into personal details, but since then I’ve been diagnosed with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that is co-morbid with (happening at the same time as) severe depression and a form of anxiety disorder that we’ve not pinned down just yet (probably general anxiety, but it really doesn’t matter). I’m in quite a lot of therapy, as well as being on a number of different medications – yet another thing that’s not really all sorted out yet, which is hugely frustrating. Not to mention the fact that I have the attention span of a gnat on crack.

At this point, I’m capable of holding down my job and managing my house most of the time. Some days, that’s all I can do, other days I can do more. And usually do too much, which then sets me up for the next crash. Go figure.

(Segues are for sissies.)

All of my life I have been a voracious reader.

Even now, I surround myself with people who read – the Divas and most of the Wildfire Riders crew and the majority of my twitter feed. Add to that working in a bookstore, and books are a pretty common subject in my life.

And right now? I can’t read them. Or rather, I can’t read the ones that other people suggest and that I want to read. Same goes with movies. The vast majority of stuff that people suggest is “awesome” I only have to read a synopsis of on Wikipedia to know that it’s going to end up screwing with my head for days.

This all leaves me in a bit of a quandary because I don’t want to say “I know this book is one that you think is wonderful, but I can’t handle reading about 42 different kinds of horrible, awful things that happen to the people in it right now.” And EVERY FANTASY BOOK EVER seems to have those kinds of themes, even Mercedes Lackey, in her Arrows series that gets recommended for teenagers.

Marion Zimmer Bradley? Nope – even though I’ve read them before, I know I can’t read them again. George R R Martin? No fucking way. Joe Abercrombie? Probably not. Goodkind? Nope. Charles De Lint? Nope. Read Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent. Great book, more than I could handle. Even Gaiman pushes my limits sometimes, not to mention the stories in video games.

Scott Lynch? Nope.

And thus we have the problem with Locke Lamora.

I want to read that book. I want to love it. The beginning is hugely intriguing and interesting and makes me want to keep reading… and then I get to the part where graphic torture enters the scene, put the book down, and can’t even look at it for months. Some of you might say “that’s nothing, you should see XYZ book…” and frankly, you might be right. There might be a lot worse things I could read in other books. But that doesn’t change the reaction – the actual, physical reaction – I have to this one.

I’m afraid to start books because I know what will happen, so I read stuff that people say is “funny and silly” – which means I either read fluff or nonfiction.

This all sounds pretty simple and, in the greater scheme of things, not that big a deal. So I can’t read some books. Big whoop.

But it’s actually a pretty good example of how my entire world works right now. I’ve never before had to look at things and evaluate whether or not I could handle them. I’ve never had to say “No, I can’t do that right now” to things I want to do.

The rational part of me, the part that knows how this works, that understands the science (or at least attempts to), that knows to “trust the process,” is able to say that this is just where I am right now. It’s early. It took me… *counts on fingers* … almost 15 years to get to this point. It’s not going to take 5 months to undo that level of fucked up.

Unfortunately that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.