By Chloe Burns
“You need to address this now,” my therapist told me at a regular appointment in December of 2019, her tone more stern than I’d heard her before. “The longer you wait, the harder it will be to correct.”
She was referring to my laundry list of trauma symptoms—a collection of hyper-vigilance, chronic insomnia, disorganization, nightmares, panic attacks, and dissociation—I had been dismissing for years until I experienced an assault at work in October of 2019 and those symptoms came crashing back. I was then unemployed, living off of my dwindling savings, and spending my days alternating between crying and watching TV with my eyes unfocused. I hadn’t been in Los Angeles for a full year, and already, I was at an impasse.
In June of 2019, I moved to LA to pursue acting and filmmaking, and the business of my life had helped me manage my existing trauma symptoms so far. Running between background acting jobs on television sets and acting classes to my various jobs left me happily exhausted at the end of the day, my mind distracted from the anxieties and hyper-vigilance that tormented me in the quiet.
But when I was violated at work that fall, my systems shut down completely, and I could no longer lean on my lifestyle for distraction. My ability to sleep was destroyed. My body felt so numb that I frequently mistook my own heartbeat for the earthquake tremors I had experienced since moving to the coast. Anxiety flooded my veins so ferociously that I was exhausted before my day even began. Yet, rest was out of the question. Unexpected noises caused me to lurch out of my seat, but my limbs felt so heavy I doubted my ability to defend myself against even the slightest threat. I was somehow moving one hundred miles an hour while stuck completely still. Every day that passed meant more of my savings vanished, and by the time COVID sent the nation into their homes, I knew something needed to give.