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. :(