This piece by Mercy Survivor Chelsea was originally published on her personal blog, The Pink Propaganda, and can be viewed here.
Did something traumatic ever happen to you and certain things take you back to that place? The smell of someone’s lotion. The way someone touches your back? A song? A sound? A taste? Your five senses just take over and suddenly you’re standing back in that vulnerable place?
That happens to me with Mercy Ministries flashbacks.
Sometimes when I go into Target I smell the body wash I used there, just to see if the bad memories will stop. But they don’t. It’s been five years and the smell of that body wash still makes me sick to my stomach. I listen to the Hillsong songs and I try to connect them to something else. Anything else, anything but Mercy Ministries. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t disconnect them.
Sometimes the connections don’t even make sense. Recently I found a trigger that wasn’t even around in 2008. The new song “Unconditionally” by Katy Perry. I have to turn it off. Maybe it’s the beat, maybe it matches a song I listened to there. But I walk around in a glass house sometimes, much less frequently now, wondering when I’m going to break a window and I’m going to be standing in the middle of Mercy Ministries again. Sometimes my nightmares of Mercy Ministries aren’t sufficient enough, sometimes they haunt me in the day too. Maybe you think I’m being dramatic, but you don’t live in my head.
When I smell that body wash, when I hear those songs I am standing there in the middle of Mercy Ministries, the same terrified, oppressed girl and I can’t escape. I am sitting in the classroom, confused, scared, terrified, calling out to God. I am racking myself about my imperfections, my inability to fit the high standards of the Mercy Ministries staff. I am exhausted, I am pleading in my head for sleep. I am racked with worry about being kicked out. I am missing my family. I am confused about my entire identity. Am I me? Or am I who Mercy Ministries says I am? I am detoxing off of medications. I am pleading out to God CONSTANTLY that I don’t get kicked out, because I know I’ll die without them. I am feeling defeated. I am walking around on broken glass. I am feeling cornered. I am trapped and I can’t breathe. Those things remind me of the friends I made at Mercy Ministries, the ones who now consider me the enemy. The ones I spent 24 hours a day with, 7 days a week for four months, that I was torn away from and never got to say goodbye to. The ones I think about often and wonder if they are okay.