Impractical Triggers

The other night I was watching a silly “reality show” on television called Impractical Jokers. It’s about four lifelong friends who challenge each other to pull off embarrassing stunts with unsuspecting people while telling them what to say or do through hidden earpieces and cameras. The jokers keep tally of who fails in each challenge and the “loser” has to do whatever punishment the other three come up with. I have to admit, it has some pretty funny moments, and it’s become casual viewing for my wife, daughter and I.

We noticed that the seasons get progressively more challenging and their treatment towards each other gets rougher. I never thought a show as senseless as this would trigger me, but it did.

The episode that affected me involved the nights “loser” (Sal) having to go into an escape room with unsuspecting people as their group leader. The jokers had forced Sal to drink plenty of liquid before he faced his punishment. The loser really never gets to know what the punishment will be until there is no turning back. In this case the jokers told Sal (through hidden earpiece) that he was going to have to wet himself in front of the other people in the room. While hysterical to the jokers, and I am sure to many, it was not so for me.

First of all let me state that I am not complaining about the show or the content. I just wanted to put forward how easy it is for something to trigger an emotional reaction. While watching this situation unfold on the screen my mind started racing back in time until I found myself drifting through a memory of school in grade two.

It was a spring day, and the sky was bright blue. I was in class with Brother Pascale, an Oblate teacher at the private school where I was abused from kindergarten through grade 4. That day I found myself unable to answer a series of questions about a story. Since I was proving to be “unfocused” I was thrown in the storage closet in the class, and forced to stand there with the musty mops, brooms, spiders until Brother Pascale decided I had served my time. I am not sure why this was considered suitable punishment for not answering questions correctly, but it was not a sentence that could be argued successfully in the school.

I stood there, crying at first. He banged on the door to stop me from continuing. Then I felt the sensation. I had to pee. The musty smell of the closet and the cool still air seemed to make the feeling worse and worse. I tried to call out to tell him I needed to go pee. I was told to be quiet. Time moved slowly. I was getting more desperate and had to shift from side to side. I started to cry silently. It felt as though I was in there for hours, but it must have been more like forty-five minutes. With no foreseeable means to exit nature took over. The warm sensation of wetness ran down my right leg and collecting in a puddle around my shoe on the floor. Within minutes the warmth of the secretion turned cold and uncomfortable. Fifteen minutes later the door opened and the initial surprised look on Pascale’s face turned to anger when he realized what had happened in his class. Grabbing me by the collar, he pulled me in front of the class. “Look what this animal did” he barked. My classmates laughed. He punched my upper arm twice hard and told me to clean up my mess. I asked if I could call my Mom to bring me dry clothes. “You made the mess, so you sit in it.” I spent the rest of the day in the pants and underwear I had wet myself in.

Watching Sal unable to hold his urine on television may have made for hilarious television, but it brought back that memory of my childhood for me. I really felt for Sal and the humiliation he went through for his punishment. Was something that extremely humiliating worth it for a joke? As I wrote earlier, I don’t mind the show but it triggered this memory. A memory I was supressing.

As a survivor, I never know what sight, sound or smell will trigger an emotional reaction. It’s something I have to warn people of when I am out and if they don’t know me well. My closer friends know and understand that I can be suddenly triggered. It’s something that is tiring to explain, and it is something that I cannot simply “get over”.

Yup, I am a hot mess. I am sure there are other survivors out there that understand what I am trying to get at. Don’t give up on me. I’m working on getting better. I never know what is around the corner or what emotion will rule each day.

Patience, love and understanding. That’s all everybody needs.

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