Triggers- smell, sex, toilets and kittens

Triggers can be anything- I mean ANYTHING at all. After a few years of actively dealing with PTSD,  I’m well aware of a lot of my triggers, however there is always something new- not necessarily surprising, but new.

It’s not the things you would expect either- I can, mostly, read of the experiences of other survivors, without triggers. It is the details of the way they were treated after, like with the abuse in Rotherham, UK, that are triggering. 

Music from back then is triggering, photos, certain noises, loud, shouting men, certain words other people use, even gestures, or particular looks, that can remind me.

Sex is probably one of the more obvious ones. Sex can be highly triggering, I am very fortunate to have an amazingly patient and loving husband. Together, we have managed to get through some things that trigger- to go on and be able to enjoy those (PTSD/ therapy dependent)..and for those that cannot be overcome, we have learned ways to avoid them, while still being able to enjoy an active and loving sexual relationship. 

Smell, is my biggest trigger. I have a keen sense of smell and I find it is smell that can provide the most comfort. However, a triggering smell can bring me to my knees or even make me physically sick. I go to great lengths to ensure I am surrounded by comforting smells. Cigarettes, weed (which I don’t smell too often anymore!) and damp are all smells that trigger, certain types of men’s after shave and even male body odour can be a trigger too.

More recently, my triggers haven’t just been smell- and yet I am unable to pinpoint what the triggers are. I know what I see and feel, but not the cause. That is always hard. It’s much harder to work on appropriate grounding when I am not sure of the cause. I do much better at grounding when it can be aimed at a specific trigger, i.e smell- I can light a scented candle or I can do loads of laundry, so my house smells like my favourite washing powder. With these recent flashbacks, I can only do more general grounding and it just isn’t working as well.

 Now, as I said above, ANYTHING, can trigger. On my Facebook today, there was a photo of kittens tearing up toilet paper in a bathroom.  That perfectly innocent and perhaps to some, sweet photo, almost caused a wave of flashbacks for me. The combination of kittens and a toilet was a trigger, a very big- I’ve-not-dealt-with those-memories-yet, type of trigger. Without specifics, my abuser has 3 kittens.. I have some very horrible memories of his bathroom and further fragments of traumatic memories with cute, little kittens featuring heavily.

Kittens, toilets. How messed up is that?

 

Triggers are hard to describe, I find that so frustrating. It’s unfortunately, a big part of my life, where the simple, innocent actions of others can trigger me and send me spiraling, or at the very least, cause me a lot of pain and exhaustion. Because I struggle to describe what a trigger is, I cannot possibly ask people to alter their behaviour or even explain why things can be difficult for me. And even if I could find the right words, what about the questions? The “what caused it?”, or whatever, that could come up. Then what? I don’t know how to talk about this openly- it is horribly painful and lets face it- how many people really want to hear it?

How can I explain that your picture of your cute kitten is incredibly upsetting, or when you wear that aftershave, I am terribly afraid of you, or when you say that phrase, I feel I am with my abuser again. Further and more importantly, what if I told them and they didn’t care? I’d alter my behaviour- and have done and continue to do so, to protect others from pain.

Would anyone alter their behaviour in order to protect me from triggers and the resulting trauma and upset??? Painful experience tells me it would be unwise to ask.- and that is something I find deeply upsetting. :( 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flashbacks and change.

I got through a challenge last night/ this morning- I am pleased with myself, somewhere inside. Yet the PTSD is trying to ruin it- or actually I think I prefer to blame the cause.

It is HIM, what HE did. HE caused the nightmares last night, HE caused these PTSD symptoms. HIM.

He was there every time I closed my eyes, turning my dreams into my nightmares. Fighting, battling against him all night long. My T was there, in those dreams and though I don’t remember specifics, I know he was with me- I guess I really do rely on him now? Scary. At least I wasn’t alone this time. 

I wish I could etch him from my memory, what he caused for me, but right in this moment, mostly, what he did. It’s swimming around my head, memories I am having to control. I could smell him. I still smell him. How do you describe it to someone who hasn’t lived it? How do you explain, really, truly explain what it is to have flashbacks and body memories? They are more vivid than other memories. It isn’t recalling, it is reliving. In recent posts, I’ve referred to feeling raped/ violated again. It was a feeling brought on my the huge trigger of a news story. Really though, it is how I feel every time I am struggling with flashbacks. 

The flashbacks have been frequent the last few weeks, but they were fading, until my therapy session Friday. Last night I found myself suddenly scared out of my head, for a few moments as I checked the locks and wondered if he knew where I was, would the doors keep him out? Then a flashback of his violence and power that he so often demonstrated. Terrifying. 

Something was different after my session on Friday which I know is at least in part behind the fears and flashbacks- it will be progress once I am through it, I hope. Feeling that abandonment, rejection and loneliness again has changed some of my understanding and the way I perceive things. Right now, old fears are back, though thankfully, not as intrusive as they once were-but I do not want to minimise- fearing my rapist could hurt me again is no walk in the park.

Therapy is the hardest thing I have ever done, the further I get into it, the harder it becomes. Hoping to find some peace from this today. 

 

 

 

Back to hell.

Deeper than you have ever been before, you let him sit with you while you recalled and remembered – but not the rapes this time- instead the other side of hell where the crippling loneliness and the soul shattering abandonment lived.

You told him of the heart breaking things you used to do to starve off the loneliness. You told him of the terrible and embarrassing things you had to do in order to survive.
You shared with him your fears, that were not only true back then, but still keep you awake at night now. How it was better not to ask, not to tell, or to plead or beg- because rejection was worse than being alone. You told him how hard it is to let anyone help now, how terrifying it is to ask for anything, because what if they say no? What if they leave you? Then you will be alone with this, all over again.
And you know he has known it all along, he has observed it in your guarded behaviour, your need to control and to keep everyone at arms length and why there’s only a handful of people you dare to trust. Perhaps you don’t hide it as well as you thought. You wonder how many others can see through you too and it makes you afraid.

Back at home, listening to the birds singing as you pace up and down the garden, you remind yourself, that you aren’t alone, that it’s over, that he can’t hurt you now. You try to find the beauty in your garden, you desperately search for the peace that usually resides there. You fight the darkness that loneliness brings.
In desperation you remind yourself that you can cope alone, even if everyone leaves, you know you can survive.

That wound you kept covered for so long? It’s gaping now, bleeding profusely. You can barely fight the tears, the paranoia and the fear. Alone, alone. A darkness you lived for too long and isolation and despair you know too well.
You remind yourself once again, that it was then, not now, yet you wonder if you are kidding yourself. Surely it would be foolish to trust fully again? You know that is too dangerous, you know you must always be prepared, because evil exists, you know that now.

What if he comes back for you? What if he does it to you again? And worse, ..what if they can’t handle the truth and you are left alone once more? You know you can’t handle the rejection again.. because that brokenness you try to hide inside of you..well, guess what? It isn’t just from the rapes, what really kills you is that you were left, over and over and over again. Condemned, hated, shamed, blamed and abandoned. Now that was hell. Real hell. Do you ever really come back from that?


I am not so sure you do. I’m tired of always being positive- it’s part of the lie, part of the front, to cover up what is inside me. Death was all around me back then, I died a thousand times and each time I woke back into hell, a hell that you don’t know and cannot understand unless you have lived it. Don’t tell me to be positive, or remind me of what I have or how far I have come- I’d rather be alone than have you try to fix me. You can’t fix this. This isn’t fixable, not like that. Let me hurt, let me be broken, because right now that is how it is. And if it isn’t too much to ask and you can find it within yourself to watch, please stay with me, hurt for me, be angry along with me. Please, let me bleed, but don’t make me do it alone again.
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Epic rant- or perhaps more of a plea (and it ain’t pretty)

“Trigger warning* I haven’t held back all that much (and why the heck should I?)

 

Shiiiiit week.. completely shit. In flashback and body memory hell for a few days now. They are hitting in waves- I get a few hours at most between them. Plus lots of other stuff too- pain, anger and all manner of unwanted feelings. YUCK.

 

Therapy helped some. Advice, encouragement, some changes to goals, etc etc. 

I also had a lot of validation today too. The thing is with this being plunged back into the past, all the guilt and shame and self hatred is very close again. It’s easy to get sucked back into downplaying and minmising. It was a relief to have validation today. 

Because this was real. It is real. My T said it must feel more than a reminder, it must feel like the Police, the government and even the general public are speaking to me personally- saying all the things I heard back then and have dragged around with me for so, very long. 

It feels personal. It makes me want to find the Police sergeant who yelled at me, to tell him what his actions (or lack of) left me in. To make him see how he contributed to my guilt and then left me with it. I want him to know that he was one of the reasons I was left to be abused for 7 years. That his arresting and then releasing my abuser, not only increased the severity of my abuse, but sent the message to my abuser that he could get away with it and pretty much told me “you are on your own”. In fact, worse than that “you are on your own and it’s all your fault”. I wonder if he would sleep soundly at night, if he knew those things. I am not sure if any answer would provide me any comfort right now. How many individuals could I ask those questions to? Would it change anything?

 

How did this happen to so many people? Why was this done to so many- I don’t just mean the abuse- the response? It’s too close, it is so damn triggering.

The victim blaming, I’ve known for so long, is so real now.. it’s like being 14 again. And the memories, the trauma.

God, the brutality. 

I feel raped again right now- still. I wake up each day, and feel raped. Violated. Used. Again. Wasn’t I used enough back then?

Fucked over by too many people. I know I have to face that, but in my time- like I was doing- in control and at my own pace. The aim in therapy is to never, ever, feel like it’s happening all over again. Well it does feel that way. Like it’s being done to me, all over again. 

Fucked by my abuser (and yes pun (heartbreakingly) intended), fucked by the system, fucked by everyone who should have known better and who should be protecting teen girls, not blaming them and shaming them. Apparently teen girls don’t matter. Apparently I didn’t matter and that’s how it was and how it felt.

I don’t matter and that’s how it feels right now. I was raped- who cares? I was a teen- a girl, who apparently, should have magically known better- who should have some how preempted the grooming and the abuse and put a stop to it. Just a teen girl, who was supposed to have the power to influence the actions of a grown man. My fault, for being a girl, for having developing breasts and a vagina. My fault for enticing a man who just couldn’t resist the pull of an inexperienced, clueless, virgin. How dare I think I was more than just an object? How dare I think that as a teen girl I could possibly be worth more than a set of holes to be conquered and claimed and used?  How stupid of me, to think that I was going to be rescued from what society had groomed me and every other teen girl to be. I don’t matter.

I don’t give a shit what others say- this is a mans world. And I am so sick- physically sick, at the abuse of girls and women. We are not lesser people, we are not born to please men. Animals are treated better than women- what kind of world are we living in? Please, God, I beg you to help end this. I can’t do it, I just can’t- but someone, actually a lot of someones, have to. No one should have to feel like I do in this moment. I was last raped just under 10 years ago and right now it feels like 10 hours ago- no one should have to be violated and no one should have to go through the horror of re living it years later. No one.

End this. Please.

 

 

 

 

Stuck in the past

 

This has been a hellish few days. I wish it were over, but the PTSD symptoms remain..

I don’t want this- back to struggling so much through each day. I don’t want to fight through symptoms again.

 

Yesterday was pretty bad, until my husband stepped in and reminded me of those things I need to do to get through. Those things that can be so simple, yet get forgotten in the midst of symptoms. Routine, eating well, staying hydrated, exercise, low level constant noise, low light etc. etc.

Yesterday afternoon, we decided on some changes to our routine, to makes things easier particularly during the harder times. Just by working on something positive in order to improve things was enough to lift my mood and halt the symptoms for a couple of hours.

Today, is shitty again though and I don’t have the energy to focus on anything positive. Sometimes I get so sick of trying to find the positive in such an awful situation.

I am an emotional wreck inside and desperately trying to keep a lid on that to the outside world. I had a flashback at work earlier and I reacted by being social and chatty… wtf?

 

*Trigger warning*

It happened while I was on the phone, I was just finishing the call, when I was hit by an overpowering smell. His smell. Then I felt his fingers in my mouth, I could taste him.

I thought I was going to vomit right there and then at my desk.

Several hours later and I am home, still feeling sick. Still able to taste him. Thankfully that smell has gone- something at least.

I am dissociating a lot and the body memories started a short while ago. My mouth aches.

 

Flashbacks and nightmares have been plaguing me for the last week. I know to work on grounding, I know to distract. They aren’t improving though. I want to talk about those memories, I just don’t know that I should right now. It has to be controlled, it has to be while I am grounded. I am not in control or grounded right now. My head is in the past.

I suppose it’s understandable, the recent news stuff stirred up a great deal, not just reminders of the abuse, but the way I was treated. I feel violated again, because I’m feeling what I did back then. It makes sense that I would be remembering those violations right now.

I wish this would end, I feel overwhelmed with the memories and this feeling of being violated again, especially because that comes with the shame and feeling dirty and used. If you have been raped, you will know how horrible that is. The wanting to scrub away your own skin..It feels like it just happened yesterday.

How do I make it stop? The grounding isn’t working. I feel like my insides are burning. I can’t do this.

I don’t know what to do. What do I do? Friday seems so far away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rape. Triggered. And being brave sharing some of my story.

*Huge trigger warning, especially towards the bottom. Please, please be careful. I have shared details of my own experiences here, if you would rather not know details of my abuse, please do not read.*

 

Third post of the day, is that a record?

I went to bed and lay in my husband’s arms. Sleep would not come, so here I am, posting. I need it out and I need to feel less alone.

I am no longer feeling so angry, it seems to have been replaced with a deep hurt.

 

Today my T said he sensed that I had a need to tell people how I feel about the recent abuse cases in the news (Rotherham). I told him I was too involved to come up with a well thought out argument.

Once at home, I figured out what he meant and what I needed. Rather than tell the world about the abuse in Rotherham, about the failings etc etc, I simply posted on my Facebook that I was feeling angry. It felt particularly important to post it there for friends and family to see. I did have a need. My T was right. I needed them to know that it hurts. They won’t ever know the depths of that pain, but they know I am hurting at least. I even had replies, some even helpful! I think it was the right choice. The anger has certainly dissipated somewhat.

I didn’t realise this would have such an impact on me. I was surprised when my T said he’d thought of me when he heard the news this week. I don’t think I realised until I sort of exploded at him.. how much it has got to me. 

 

It’s too familiar. The way those children (and less face it, that’s what they were- children) were treated by those who should have protected them- it’s so close to my own experience. It reminds me when I really didn’t need the reminder. I have been so close to those aspects of my abuse for a few weeks now. Up until this week, it was at my pace and relatively controlled.

This feels intrusive, the reactions particularly. The continued blaming of victims. People are outraged, they want someone to be held accountable, while at the same time victim blaming and shaming, and with denial of what really went on. And that is why this continues. Nothing changes.

 

It has triggered me in a way I did not expect. I am back to blaming and questioning myself. Back to an inner battle. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought, maybe I didn’t make myself clear? Maybe he didn’t know that it hurt? Maybe I deserved it? :( 

My T suggested that it is because the reactions of others I am seeing now are so (and too) similar to my experience back then and as a result I am responding in the way I did then. I took on the blame back then because it was easier. I looked for the good in my abuser, to explain the abuse. And today, I have had a nightmare and several flashbacks of those times I used to use to convince myself he was actually good to me.

Except, I can no longer see those times as good, or positive. Instead they are horrifically traumatic for me. Because now I see the whole picture.

A flashback today- I sat next to him on his couch, holding hands as we watched music videos on TV.. a memory I would remind myself of often.. I used to convince myself that I loved that living room and being with him- as it was away from the monster that lived in the bedroom.

Now that memory is changed, the truth has been revealed to me fully. I remember sitting with him, watching TV, holding hands for sure, but I also remember the time I was pushed to my knees and raped. I remember the many, many times I was taken to his bedroom after watching TV and was forced to lay down on a filthy mattress, where the darkness would ensue and the true hell began.

 My safety nets are gone. I am reacting as I did for so long, except now, I see so clearly, those memories do not help me, I am not comforted. Instead, I am suffering.

I  used to do what I could to avoid the details of abuse, however, often it isn’t a trigger. Triggers come from the strangest places sometimes and not usually the obvious ones. These abuse cases however, have affected me greatly. I have not searched for details in anyway, I have deliberately not read the reports, but some of the things on the news or in articles, which mentions particular details– Oh they have hurt. They too are familiar.

I am by no means comparing myself to the victims and the horror that they must have endured. :(  I was not trafficked- those poor, poor children. :(

The details of the abuse that have hit the headlines have been too close to home. On my posts, sometimes I refer to the abuse as “brutal”, I have used the word “torture”, I have talked of violence. I cannot and will not go into the specifics, or the real details here. It’s easy to read those words and not really take notice. You can read reports and see the words “rape” and read that it was brutal, without really considering the reality of those words for those that went through it.

I have seen rape described  as “a bit of unwanted sex”. Rape is violence. Whether the rapist held down their victim, beat them up, or not, they still committed an act of violence, they still took their victim by force. Rape is always horrific. I don’t like to compare and say one experience of rape is worse than another, however, in my own experiences, I can certainly tell which affected me more and which felt worse.  I have been raped too many times. Those times that did not seem as bad as others- were when it wasn’t as brutal.

As I read some of what these girls endured, it was far too similar (and it’s easier for me to continue this in the third person- Trigger Warning here). The levels of violence. The brutality. The threats- to you and to your family to coerce you. The frequency- multiple times a day- leaving no time to physically heal. The rapes whiles drugged.  The rapes that leave you unable to walk. Rapes that makes you feel as if you might split in two, or your insides might burst through your pelvis. Rapes that make you feel as if your hips might snap or your throat might collapse. Rapes where you genuinely fear you may die- and worse rapes where you wish you would die.

Brutality. Torture. It has to end. We cannot keep failing children.

I had hoped, naively, for many years that my experience was unique. Not just the level of abuse, but the failing of the authorities.

 

I hurt, massively right now. For my teenage self and the abuse she endured, but also for the shame and blame I have carried for far too long as a result of the failing of others. 

My heart is very heavy tonight. :(

Feeling angry, attacked and violated.

I wish I could have spent several hours with my T. He gets it.. he really gets it. He said he thought of me this week when the news over Rotherham hit headlines this week..

Today, he was leaning forward in his seat, watching me carefully, trying to tease out the way I feel about all of this.

His concern and his understanding certainly worked as I exploded with anger and pain, I was shaking so badly, I could barely get the words out.

 

I am angry for the victims. I am angry at the victim blaming. I am angry with the Police, with Social services and every other person who failed and continues to fail victims of sexual abuse. It is too personal, too close to what I have been discussing in therapy of late.

I am angry for myself, for the failings of others. I am angry that the Police did nothing, that they shouted at me and made me feel ashamed. I am angry at the Drs who said nothing, the teachers who did not report it….

Too many people saw, but chose not to really see what was going on.

 

I am angry that the new footing I have found seems to be lost. It’s like a backward step in my own self belief. I have only just reconnected with the rest of the world. Only just become confident enough in what I believe and what I know.. and now I am being dragged back. Dragged back into a world I wish did not exist, one that abused me and let me be abused, one that left me to be repeatedly raped by a violent and sadistic child abuser.

 

Earlier I told my T I feel as if I have been raped again.

I am triggered and I am hurting. I feel like the world is against me, I am even arguing with my husband over his innocent comments- that I am finding fault with. I considered leaving, taking the car and just driving, driving far away… but the cries of my children playing stopped me. How can I do anything but cope?