I finally finished streaming Season 1 of Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You. I’d avoided it for some time, knowing the premise and wondering if watching it would be too hard to bear.
The plot revolves around Arabella (Coel), whose drink was spiked while out with a good friend. As she becomes alert, she dips in and out of visions that seem so of place that she reckons them to be imaginary. Stumbling through an anesthetized haze of her own unconscious doing, she pieces together the occurrences of that night and realizes she was raped.
I first heard about this series almost a year ago through close girl friends. “You’ll love it, but it might be triggering. Watch it when you’re ready.” Similar sentiments were echoed in my women’s circles, where discussions around healing sexual trauma came up frequently. I wasn’t ready to watch it then either. With my relationship collapsing in a disastrous fire, my 2020 ending with someone following me home, which was then followed by a new phone stalker, the last thing I wanted to witness was someone else’s trauma, no matter how fictional. I filed a police report, changed my number, and called it a year.
I stayed off of social media for a few months. I was afraid of being found. I wasn’t sure who to trust. It wasn’t the first time I’d been stalked or followed, and the fear that simmered underneath my seemingly cool exterior scratched against suppressed memories of sexual assault. They itched to come out, those irritated, oozing memories. Years of therapy and still, they managed to hitch hike to my present. They were calling me to revisit the past, to soothe what was raw with a meticulous tenderness, rather than covering them with my usual hurried, frantic wrapping with heavy, opaque bandages.
I understood Bella. Numb the pain away. Sometimes the scariest person to confront is Self, that which holds the repository of emotions which span from bliss to apathy to the most ugly. And maybe the scariest part? These emotions have the ability to breathe life into our memories and shape our truth. These emotions give color to truth, and there are some colors that are simply unforgettable, no matter how forgettable we’d wish them to be.
I think about the title of this series: I May Destroy You. Who is “I?” Who is “you?” When we silo the words in between and the ends are all that’s left, do “I” and “you” become reflections of each other? What do we release when we let go of what’s keeping the ends apart?
Just like Bella, watching this series and the subsequent jogging of my own memories has left me feeling a bit unraveled. But unlike the Self of my past, my Self of today need not worry about the rush to composure. I’d rather that the pieces fall into place rather than forcing them to fit.
2 thoughts on “Fear Factor”
I loved this show and feel everything you articulate. Loved Bella for her tenacity and felt every moment of the uneasy discomfort with her. Was scared to celebrate victories with her because I could sense right around the corner was some trauma and heartache. For many of the characters. Love this. Glad you found it in your time.
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Oh, that discomfort! There were so many times when I wanted to look away, but it was less so about cringe and more so because it was too real, too raw. About the other characters—I feel like an entire series could be devoted to Kwame and Terry. This series really had us question our perceptions of consent and what we think we know. Such a great show and we’ll have to talk more about it another time! Thanks for sharing.
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