Changing the narrative

Ishaan Gupta
3 min readMar 2, 2021

Our past is scattered is spiked with bad memories. The result? Existence of inanimate objects and places that are forever tainted for us.

Photo by Nicholas Kwok on Unsplash

I can’t listen to certain songs, hear certain people’s voices, go to certain places because experiencing them again would cause my palms to sweat. My neck will feel heavy with the pain of breathing — in and out. In and out. Soon, my hands will tremble and my feet would fight to resist the instinct of running.

When I was young, I used to feel a strange guilt after every episode of anxiety, as if I was guilty of not failing to fix something. I thought of this to be unique to me and me only.I know now, that these things are termed as triggers.

While the details of the past begin to fade away with time, it rarely is the case with traumatic events. They associate the immediate surroundings of the occurrence with a sense of bitterness and fear. While I can never fully articulate that feeling, I do know it by heart. My sweaty palms, shaky hands, and the utter silence of my room during nights know, too.

Triggers can pop up any time and disrupt the inertia of a life that’s trying to heal itself. They can be dropped in a conversation out of the blue, they can be things that you come across on social media. Maybe an innocent picture with a background your past self is afraid of. The worst is when it’s not the inanimate but an animate, breathing human being.

To have endured pain is one thing, to get a constant reminder that it may happen again is another. To know that the knife that twisted inside your gut still has your blood on it and no one can see it but you.

I’ve struggled with this more than I can even recall. The only thing that has helped is

Nothing.

Nothing truly helps. It’s just time that tries to put too much life between you and your memory. Even this, if overdone, can result to repressing something. Memories, when pushed deep inside with brute force, have the tendency to retaliate.

When my repressed memories retaliate against me, I lose. All that I have experienced is that there’s no real away to avoid sadness. There’s no way to avoid the phase of cancelled plans, isolation, and binge watching something only to not remember a second of it.

There’s no way to make this go away, to take away the power our triggers have over us. But there’s hope, for smaller things, for the inanimate things. The hope that, with time, I’ll be able to go to the same place again, without feeling a threat against myself, that I’ll be able to rest my head on a friend’s shoulder while I sit there.

I’ve tried doing this. I’ve tried changing the narrative and something that has worked — sort of — is substitution instead of elimination. While I have never been able to feel neutral towards a trigger again, I’ve tried to go through the things that trigger me with comforting undertones, with the help and support from other things that make me happy. The entire practice is to associate an abundance of small, good memories with things and hope that eventually, they’re all I remember.

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Ishaan Gupta

I want to help neurodivergent, high-achieving, creative professionals navigate consistency, productivity, success, and finding happiness as an adult