I need some guidance around a situation at uni which negatively impacted my mental state in an extreme way, and am hopeful someone here may be able to help me…:
On Thursday I had a horrible experience at university in one of my classes. Our lecture on memory was about to start, and the lecturer was just introducing herself to us. Suddenly, a male professor burst into the room and starting yelling at us all to get out.
He said that he had booked the room and that the university had messed up. He swore and shouted and ranted about how the organisation is a mess and that he didn’t have time for this bullshit. And on and on and on. His manner was aggressive and threatening, and his last words along the lines of “If you’re still here by the time I come back you are all going to seriously regret it”.
I was absolutely petrified. It may seem ridiculous, but considering things that have happened in my life, it makes sense, and I am trying to validate that. Situations such as this are a massive trigger to me. It was such a shock to my system. I immediately went into a trauma state and felt incredibly unsafe and paralysed within myself.
The fact that he had entered through a door which was out of my sight and was standing directly behind made it all so much worse. As I was so taken aback and in shock, I couldn’t even turn around to see his face because I felt too stuck to move.
The instant physical trauma reaction was totally out of my control. My face flushed bright red as the girl next to me starting asking if I was okay. My heart was racing. I felt whoozy. I was overheating. I was shaking and sweating. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was stuck. I really was not okay.
I spent the rest of the lecture in and out of a dissociated state, mixed with anxiety, hyper-vigilance and on the verge of a panic attack. I couldn’t concentrate at all and don’t remember anything we were taught.
Then at the end of the lecture the lecturer asked us what we remembered about the professor who had stormed in and started asking questions about him. We assumed she was going to report him to the university or something………………..
Instead she proceeded to tell us that this man was actually her FRIEND – and that it was all a SET UP.
She had wanted to prove to us how emotionally evocative situations are easier to remember than mundane situations with little meaning or importance. Unfortunately for me, struggling with mental illness, trauma and dissociation in the way that I do, I ended up responding in the only way I know how (and which is a learnt response totally out of my control) and experiencing more of a memory blank than a memory enhancement.
I was absolutely furious when I found out that the entire thing had been a set up. I wanted to tell the lecturer what I thought of her method of teaching; how unethical it was; how it had affected me to the point it had done; and how thoughtless it was of her to adopt such an extreme teaching technique, especially in a Psychology class where no doubt I am not the only one with some kind of mental and emotional vulnerability.
I didn’t say anything to her because I was deep in Emotion Mind, and actually just wanted to get the fuck out of there so that I could feel fresh air on my face and rant to my friends from outside uni who would understand my fear and anger. Throughout the experience I continued working on my breathing, smelling my tiger balm for grounding, holding my water bottle to my cheeks, going to the bathroom and doing TIPP as soon as the paralysis lessened. When the anger starting rising, I continued to breathe in ‘Wise’ and out ‘Mind’ as we have been taught in DBT.
Ultimately, I got through the situation without making it worse (despite having a panic attack over it in therapy the next day), however, I can’t help feel like something remains unresolved.
I really want to write an email or speak to the lecturer or my personal tutor or mental health advisor explaining my thoughts on what happened. I think it’s important that they know and are careful in the future with similar methods of teaching, not just for me but for everyone. We are taught so much about ethics and the intensity of what went on in class on Thursday was certainly not ethical.
However, I don’t want to seem dramatic or step out of line or cause any unnecessary trouble. I also don’t want to seem weak or to accumulate any negative judgement or stigmatised views of myself by the university.
I am not sure what the effective thing to do in this situation is. I would be grateful for any opinions.