The Dark Knight and PTSD
I had a date with Bruce Wayne.
The husband and I finally had a chance to see The Dark Knight Rises. Our anticipation for this film had been high for quite some time, but due to the Aurora shootings, we hadn't felt comfortable seeing it. The day had come and we were ready.
Tickets were purchased, seats were taken, and previews were discussed and rated. As the movie starts, so does our excitement. Then it happened; I heard a baby cry.
Another baby at a Dark Knight Rises showing? Surely, it couldn't be true. With all the heartache and backlash over the murders in Aurora, there couldn't have been a parent on Earth daring enough to do so. I heard it again. Yet another cry. Louder. Stronger. And just like that, I experienced my first taste of PTSD.
We'd all taken the classes and online courses; troops are informed of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder before we deploy and after. "Anything can be a trigger", is what they say. Most of us, including myself, take that claim for what it is: a blanket statement. As my body tensed up, and my husband looked at me in worry, I knew what was happening. My trigger was this child whom I couldn't see, couldn't help, and could only hear. My body was on fire and I yearned to crawl out of my skin. I looked quickly for a way out. A green exit sign to my right taunted me to flee, to run as fast as I could before the shooting started. The shooting did start, all throughout the movie. Due to the multiple bombings and villains dressed similarly to Afghani soldiers, I felt boxed in. I was imprisoned in my own body.
I begged for tears to come. Hot wet tears to remind me that I wasn't in a bomb shelter in the mountains of Afghanistan, but here, in my country, enjoying a movie with my sweetheart. The tears never came, neither did the M16 I wished would be by my side to make me feel more at ease. What did come was another cry. And yet another. Louder. Stronger.
I managed to sit through the whole showing, being brave for my husband who'd waited so long to see it. As we left the theater, and I scanned the whole room, I was left in shock. There was no baby to be found. Was it a hallucination? I felt the world had turned on it's head and me with it. I granted myself temporary sanity while we walked back to the car. With each step I remembered each bomb that almost took my life. Images of times in war mixed with flashes of Bruce Wayne in dapper suits, and Catwoman speeding on motorcycles. I needed a refuge from the thoughts. A place to download and convince myself all was fine.
As we reached the car, I felt a pain in my chest. I wanted to scream, to punch the windows out from every car in the parking lot. I wanted to stomp and yell for the troops we lose daily, at least one a day in Afghanistan alone. I wanted to rebel and react, for those that couldn't in Aurora.
As I placed my hand on the car door and opened it, the tears finally fell. I cried like a baby.