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. 😦 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ungrateful?

 

Another bad night, I don’t really remember much of the content of the dreams, but they were very violent and seem to be much the same each time.

I woke very shaky and hyper vigilant. My amazing husband has stayed close all morning, which has helped some. He’s been especially fantastic lately, I’m so glad to have him in my life.

I am frustrated by these dreams, in my experience (over the last year or so at least), I start to get specific nightmares, then flashbacks, that normally increase in intensity, until I am aware of what “incident”  is behind them. Then, I know I need to deal with it in therapy. I don’t want that at all right now, it’s not the right time, I’m not ready for more memories or more trauma work. I have things I need to talk about with my T after Christmas, between now and then I only have one more session. I do not have the time, nor do I want to get to the bottom of these dreams yet.

 

I am annoyed enough that I haven’t dealt with the issue of shame this side of Christmas, but had accepted and in some ways felt relieved, that I will not be dealing with it until the New year; now whatever this is seems to be screaming at me to get out. I don’t want it out right now. I will not ignore it, it will get a voice, just please, not yet.

 

In general things are improved, my irrational fears are gone, my other fears are calmer, my anxiety is much lower. I’m enjoying my children, my home, my life now. No trauma work = more grounded and  I want to hold on to that, I want to embrace that whenever I can. So, this hyper vigilance frustrates me, the dreams frustrate and frankly, scare me.

Am I being ungrateful? Perhaps I should be pleased with the improvements and accept what I can get instead of being frustrated and upset.

I just really need a break and that’s not possible with this and equally my own determination and need to always be on the go, drives me forward into each new challenge and I can’t just switch that off. I so badly want a break, some down time to enjoy that the irrational fears have gone, enjoy feeling grounded more, enjoy lack of symptoms- yet the hyper vigilance is bad, the nightmares bad and it seems to be full steam ahead in my mind, that I just can’t switch off.

 

I am looking forward to a quiet Christmas, time off work, making memories with my beautiful family, I do not want any of this past shit interfering. I am prepared for symptoms and the need to ground- but I am not ready for new memories or even old ones. I want it to be about here and now, not then, just for a short time. Am I expecting too much? Am I ungrateful? I just don’t know.

My friend.

Well yesterday I couldn’t write at all, but today I have been able to some.

I’ve had a difficult day, I don’t remember the last time I felt this triggered. It’s horrendous, I had to leave the office several times because the memories were making me physically sick. It’s awful, the flashbacks are hitting me in waves. Each time I think I am in control it happens again.

This is normal? To be expected? I am not crazy, right?

The memories have not been dealt with, they are new and so I feel sick and traumatised each time they hit. I am counting the hours until I see my T.

Something I wrote earlier.

 

My only thought that day:

I would have sacrificed for you

Oh I should have found a way

so you wouldn’t know this too

 

Though together in this hate

it was never meant to be

I had accepted my fate

it was not for you, just me.

 

My chest felt crushed

and I could barely breathe

Yet the weight of the reality

was far greater than him.

 

I knew you were near,

we were never far apart.

A wall between our bodies

only served to bind our hearts.