living with triggers

PTSD message conceptual designI don't talk too much about triggers in my writing. It's not an easy thing to talk about, but honestly I am finding that the more I talk about them, the less power they have over me. In the 3 years I have been writing in my blog, I don't think I have really talked about living with triggers too much. I tend to shy away from that - maybe it's because for a while it felt like a sense of disempowerment for me - shame for going through it, maybe even embarrassment?

It's not an easy thing to talk about, and for the simple reasons it's a fear of triggering myself talking about triggers; its like walking on egg shells.

I didn't start experiencing triggers from my past until I got married and had kids; when I had a chance to move out and away from the place I was abused in, and started to slowly allow myself to feel a little more without the emotional wall in front of me.

Triggers are hard because you never know when they are going to happen. They hijack you out of your sense of self and it's incredibly hard to bring that sense of self back.

Sometimes when they happen it's hard to differentiate between the "past" and the "now", and it's emotionally draining.

Triggers can be anything from the sound of something, to the smell of something. It can happen when the lighting is just right, or to the quick flashback of a memory. It can happen out of nowhere, and there doesn't have to be a reason; sometimes it just happens.

It can happen in the smallest  unexpected ways - Like Sometimes when sitting in my therapy room talking to my therapist, if it's windy outside I can hear the wires rattling against the window, and every time that happens, it takes me back to a moment when I was 4 years old sleeping in a crib near a window where I was left alone and abandoned!

EVERY time I hear that noise, it takes me back to that moment, and with years of work I have learned what that noise means and where I am, and my therapist will hear it and ground me right away.

I could be driving down the road and if the lighting is just right outside, it could bring me back to a day when the lighting was exactly the same way a at a moment I was being abused in my bedroom.

Some of my triggers come in small movies of flashbacks that hit me out of nowhere and it brings me back to the moment and sometimes I have a hard time getting out of the "past" and into the "now".

Years of therapy has taught me how to ground myself in those moments, and most of the time I catch it, but other times I fall short to ground myself in time, and it's hard! I wont lie, it's VERY hard to be stuck in a trigger. It feels like I am in the abuse all over again.

My biggest triggers sometimes happen as I am drifting off to sleep, and I wake up crying/sobbing in my sleep and I have no idea why! It takes me an hour or so to ground myself and get back to sleep - it leaves me shaking like I am cold until I fall back asleep.

Last night at 4am I woke up in a trigger of crying and I had no idea what the trigger was - I had no idea why I was crying, and it stopped as soon as I realized "wait, I just woke up, what happened?

When this happens I find ways to ground myself.

- I will listen to a message my therapist keeps on my voicemail for those very moments, and his voice guides me into grounding.

- I will go upstairs and wake my husband up, get a hug, and have him ground me to the now and remind me where I am.

- If I feel an anxiety attack coming on, I will drink water, wash my face with cold water and ground myseld to the now.

- I will sometimes take a walk around the house and touch things to remind me that I am in the now, and nothing is here to hurt me.

It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does, it's incredibly hard! It sucks the life right out of me - sometimes for days if it's a bad one.

Last night I moved through it, and fell back asleep as soon as I realized what had happened, and I was okay.

Learning how to deal with the triggers has been a part of my healing for 6 years, and I have learned so much of my past from the triggers as well. I sometimes take these triggers and try to heal something from it; something from my past that needs to be understood.

I read other writers, healers, survivors about their struggles with PTSD and Triggers and my heart goes out to them, because I KNOW, I understand.

The best thing I can do is to keep talking about it. I saw this saying yesterday on a PTSD website and it said"

"Put your fear in the light so you don't have to fear it"  - Dr. Robin Smith

That to me means - talk about it, put it out there, talk about the triggers, talk about the dreams an let it be heard - into the light not the dark.

Today I did that in therapy and told my therapist about the dream, about the trigger I woke with, and I feel grounded -because I shared - enough to write about it tonight.

The more you put it out there to be heard and seen, the less power it has over you; a lesson I am still learning.

For those who struggle with triggers, you're not alone, I am right along side of you, and although it's scary and hard, sometimes just knowing you are not alone is helpful in those moments of despair.