Alexander Skarsgard, Charlaine Harris, hunted animal look, ight-or-flight responses, Lafayette, Merlottes, muscle memory, Nelsan Ellis, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, Rutina Wesley, shower scene, Sookie Stackhouse, Tara, Todd Lowe, triggers, True Blood, Warning signs, wild fire
Just watched the latest episode of True Blood (s03e08), and as much as I love the show and vampire stuff in general, this one left me feeling a little raw around the edges.
For those not familiar with True Blood, it’s based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris. Set in Louisiana (USA), it’s a fantastic and phantasmagorical blend of high drama, gore, nudity, sardonic humour, horror and sci-fi/fantasy. Oh, and did I mention that it’s seasoned with generous helpings of insanity, ridiculousness and Alexander Skarsgard? Yes indeed…
Somehow through this lens, True Blood manages commentary on bigotry, politics, human/vampire rights and also touches on many modern pop-culture and social issues. The show never fails to impress, even at its silliest – and there have been some mighty-fine farcial moments and story lines to date.
True Blood is, in a word: Awesome.
Given the amount of gore and madness that goes on, it’s no surprise that several characters have PTSD. One of the characters – Terry (Todd Lowe) – developed PTSD as a soldier, pre-dating the show’s first story. Two other characters – Lafayette and his cousin Tara – also end up with PTSD, from separate incidents throughout the show.
The most recent episode deals with Tara’s PTSD (among many other things!) and how she’s doing directly after the events that traumatised her.
Really, she’s not doing so great! She’s visibly trembling, can’t talk about what happened and is exceptionally hyper-vigilant and angry.
Towards the start of the episode, Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) asks: “…I need to know. You gotta death wish?”
She doesn’t think about it for long: “No. I fought like a muthafucker to survive. Never realised how much I wanted to live.”
Okay! That’s good, because a lot of trauma sufferers DO have a death wish. But still, she’s a mess.
This episode made my skin crawl, but not because of the death, blood and gore.
Instead, it’s because Rutina Wesley (Tara) does such an amazing job of acting like a trauma sufferer with PTSD that I found myself sobbing along with her panicked reactions. Her eyes – with that hunted animal look – were disturbing because I’ve seen that look many, many times before. In the mirror.
Seems as if those memories aren’t quite exorcised from my body and mind just yet. Maybe, like a chronic injury, it never goes away completely? Although I’ll keep stretching and working it, maybe there’ll always be just a little weakness there?
I felt the hair on the back of my neck shoot up while watching the shower scene because like many PTSD sufferers, flashbacks used to stalk me relentlessly in the shower.
Can you even imagine being invaded over and over like that in such a private, defenceless and naked place? I can. And it blows.
Then there was the swiftness of Tara’s mood change at Merlottes where she had a flashback to the moment she met her abuser. One minute she’s stacking drinks in the fridge, and the next…
Ah yes… when PTSD is a part of your life, the world can fall to pieces in fragments of a moment, completely screwing with EVERYTHING.
I remember, I remember…
But these days, there’s a difference. I’m pretty sure I don’t have PTSD anymore. I’m okay. Better than okay actually (there’s stuff I want to update y’all on, but this post needed to be written NOW).
Before my EMDR treatments (around a year and a half ago), I don’t think I could’ve watched True Blood, or at least not the episodes where characters with PTSD are losing their marbles. It would’ve been very triggering.
Still, I don’t feel entirely myself right at this moment. It’s almost like someone’s been excavating my insides with steel wool, a pick axe and a shovel. There’s a hollowness in my chest, sort of like my lungs are missing. A tightness in my throat, too. Warning signs.
But none of these sensations are hanging around. Probably, by the time I publish this post, they’ll have faded almost completely.
Because this isn’t my trauma, just my very physical reaction to a TV show. Kind of like a muscle memory, if you like.
However, from watching this episode I think I understand something a little better now. The reason PTSD can be such a hard nut to crack: it’s because it is EVERYWHERE.
Whether a person’s trauma was physical or mental/emotional, it doesn’t matter. PTSD in full-flight spreads through the body and the mind like wild fire. All fight-or-flight responses are on high alert. And it’s very difficult to stop an episode of panic until it’s finished carving a path through your body.
Each and every person who has PTSD needs to find the treatment that works best for them. No two healing paths or timeframes are the same.
But here I am. Living proof that it is possible to stop PTSD from constantly over-running your life. It is ridiculously frightening and difficult work, but it IS definitely possible.
And if all I have to deal with now is a latent reminder every now and then, I think that’s something to be grateful for. Because I can see the difference between where I was and where I’m at now.
And let me tell you that life is about 1000% better, post the nightmare of living with PTSD.
Keep fighting, fellow survivors!