Trigger Warning: Description of PTSD flashback.
My Hollywood Nightmare
Trigger warning: Description of a PTSD flashback
[Image] A woman with dark hair, seen from shoulders up, looking at the reader.
[Caption] Watching a movie to relax is a normal experience for many. But not for me.
[Caption] I was in an abusive relationship, and live with PTSD. But I am one of the lucky ones who broke free and healed.
[Image] A Movie Ticket.
[Caption] Unfortunately scenes of abuse are everywhere, and I can’t always control what I see.
[Unassigned speech bubble] Let’s go to the movies!
[Image] A darkened movie theatre facing the screen, which is lit up.
On the screen is
[FX] Your Worst Nightmare Projected on Screen
[Caption] Then it happens
[Image] three people in movie theatre seats viewed from the back . The person in the middle is the dark-haired woman, crouched down low.
[VFX] Nervous marks around the middle person
[Caption] You begin to panic but don’t want to draw attention.
[Image] Same three seats from the previous image, now fading out
[Caption] You start to feel an unbelievable wave of nausea
[Image] A theatre full of engaged people in the dark. Except for one person, highlighted, in the middle of the theatre, curled up in their seat with their head on their knees.
[Caption] You can’t stop thinking:
[Person] Anyone here could be a rapist
[Image] The same theatre full of people, but zoomed out. The rest of the theatre is even darker – almost black – making the crouched person stand out even more.
[Image] Three people. One is the dark-haired woman, looking sad and scared. The other two people – Person 1 and Person 2 – are happy.
[Caption] For the rest of the evening you can’t speak, but everyone asks you:
Person 1: Great movie, did you enjoy it?
[Image] The dark haired woman, from birds’ eye view, curled on the floor in the fetal position against a door.
[Caption] You go home and curl up against the door, shaking
Many people will treat themselves to a movie or television to relax and let their mind go. This is a normal every day experience for many, but not for me.
When I was seventeen, like many teens, I entered into my first relationship. Unlike most teens however, this relationship soon spiraled into a nightmare of physical, sexual and emotional abuse that would last close to a year and a half, leaving me with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Imagine being taken out for a movie by your parents as a surprise gift. You don’t know where you are going until you are at the theatre, and your tickets are already purchased ahead of time for the surprise. You sit down in the theatre wedged between your parents and realize that you are about to watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Still, not knowing anything about the movie, you sit back uneasily to take in the film. It is opening day and the theatre is packed.
Then it happens: your worst nightmares are projected on the big screen, and with them uncontrollable flashbacks into your own trauma.
You begin to panic in your seat, not knowing how to control your own body but also not wanting to draw attention to your plight in a packed theatre. Catching a glimpse of your parent’s faces, you see their vivid fascination with this “intense theatrical spectacle”. Your body experiences an unbelievable wave of nausea at the thought that anyone in this theatre could be a rapist. For the rest of the evening you can’t speak, but everyone keeps asking you if you enjoyed the show.
You go home and curl up against the inside door of your room, shaking.
This is a fairly common experience for me. The most uncomfortable experiences have been going over to a friend’s, or on a date where the movie selection is out of my control and any content is likely to come up. Having a PTSD melt down in front of your closest friend isn’t a pleasant experience, but having one in the middle of a group you are just getting to know or a potential partner – is a nightmare.
Fortunately, I am one of the lucky ones who were able to break free from an abusive relationship and heal. Unfortunately, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse is so often turned into a spectacle in movies and television. For average viewers, these scenes are regular, so much so that many people looking back would not recall anything wrong with them. For me, they can cause an extreme emotional response and depending on the content – my own relived memories of trauma.
What’s more, the normalization of violence is a subtle and not so subtle part of rape-culture.
This desensitization contributes to these attacks by de-emphasizing the hard realities of abuse and the lived experience of survivors. It de-humanizes survivors, making it even more difficult for them to get help.