The teacher in me requires the establishment of a basic set of rules or norms for this discussion. Why? Well, this entire conversation is extremely personal, not just for me but anyone who decides to join in. We should feel safe in sharing our stories and have boundaries in place for the curious cats or any naysayers who stop by. Also, I think it’s important to state that though my boundaries have often been crossed, I won’t be party to doing the same. So, here we go…
Respect the person’s experience. You don’t have to understand it or even agree with it, but don’t be hurtful. If you must, be hateful on your own time, not here (and yes, I’m moderating all comments).
I have ZERO intention of putting anyone on blast. I don’t stand in judgement of the people who’ve violated me, I stand in recovery for myself. My God knows their hearts, the why’s of their actions; for me I’m moving on. For the rest of you, if you need to use a name create an alternate (example: if the perp’s name is Jim change it to John).
Try to stay positive. We all need to vent, that’s understandable and encouraged. But together, let’s look for the silver lining, the lessons to be learned. Hate talk only hurts you. (I’m still working on this and am certainly nowhere close to perfect).
Not every blog is going to be about PTSD/recovery. Part of recovering is grabbing up the life that we’ve missed and celebrating it! Let’s get our victories out there in addition to the path we’re taking to healing.
I think these norms are a good place to start. If there’s anything else that needs to be added, we’ll do that as we go along.
Next up: TRIGGERS not Tigger!
Triggers are instances where memories of trauma are brought back by sights, sounds, smells, or even feelings. (www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder)
What does it look like? Well, that depends on the person, their traumatic past, and the trigger itself. For me, I’ve lived my entire life (as mentioned in my previous blog, Let’s Talk: Part 1) with PTSD which has now escalated to CPTSD. So, my knee jerk reactions are often gauged in the flight-fight-freeze state. In other words, it really doesn’t take much to trigger me and once I’m triggered it can get downright ugly.
I have to laugh, otherwise I’d cry. I’ve raised exceptionally awesome sons in this very volatile state. Sure, I knew I was off but I could never quite put my finger on it. Over the years my boys started calling the worst episodes by name—The Dragon or Mom’s Dragon. We’ve talked about it, made jokes about it and learned to deal as a family. I’m so proud of my sons for putting up with all this, God really blessed me with great young men who have very noble and strong souls.
Now that I know what I’m dealing with I can look back and see that I trigger most easily when I’m scared. It’s pretty simple. Make me feel unsafe or frightened and the Dragon is bound to rear her ugly head. Think of a wounded and cornered animal—they become vicious. I become vicious, anything to get away from the threat. When I finally feel safe I withdraw, licking my wounds and knowing not to come out until the beast is back in hibernation; at least, that’s if I’m somewhere that the beast can be put down.
Out in public, at work, or social gatherings it’s not so simple (not that it’s simple at home either). Triggers have led to social anxiety and withdrawal. I don’t want to be a big meanie, really I don’t! When you get to know me you may even get to see the more loveable me. But inevitably, I’m going to trigger and well, my reactions are kind of status quo.
I think it’s pretty easy for a logical and reasonable person to understand on some level, especially if said person understands my history. But, people aren’t always in their most logical and reasonable state. Also, this wasn’t something I ever talked about—at least not publicly until last week. And, it’s not the Target cashier’s fault that their eyes reminded me of an attacker, a friend’s fault that I’m having an anxiety attack because of a topic of conversation, or even a stranger’s fault for looking at me sideways. Other people and circumstances did terrible things to me, that is true, I’m left to deal with it and deal with it I will!
Experiencing this round-robin of emotional backlash from youthful trauma has left me hollowed out, cracked, a shell of what I could be. Feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing, confusion, a deep desire to be “normal”, insecurity, angry, frustrated, contemplating death, and defeat all cycles through my mind regularly. For years, every time I triggered I felt deficient, incapable of having balanced reactions to events and relationships. Sure, something was wrong but it hasn’t been all me. Was I born with a temper? Yeah, I was a fiery little thing from jump, but that doesn’t mean that my reactions to triggers are my fault. Triggers are the manifestation of wounds that haven’t healed, the oozing puss from a weeping laceration of the soul.
This brings us to today and what a glorious day it is! Knowing what the heck is going on is a large part of the battle. Since diagnosis of CPTSD (2016) I’ve torn into recovery with a vengeance. Have I triggered? Yup. Have they been as nasty as the past? Nope. In fact, let me give myself a little credit here—my dragon episodes were getting better before therapy. They’ve been less frequent and less intense for years. Some of that came with physical relief after a hysterectomy. I learned coping mechanisms along the way (a positive) but also started numbing out (a negative). With trauma therapy in play I’m building a tool kit of coping mechanisms which allow me to try different methods when the beast needs to be soothed. Numbing isn’t an option, heck, I avoid too much caffeine now! Getting physically fit has also become a priority.
Is it clear by now that I can talk about this forever? My mind is finally free to accept me for me, battle wounds and all, getting it out helps to take some of the weight and pressure away. Just remember, I’m not a professional—rather, I’m just a girl on a journey. The internet is good for research and understanding but I’d always recommend a professional opinion if you find yourself in a similar circumstance. With that, I’ll end here and pick up with, Part 3: Is There A Happy Ever After?, next week.
Meanwhile, keep being you! In a world that bullies all of us into believing we should be something different I find it refreshing to step back and just accept me for me. If you’re looking for a great read on the subject might I suggest The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater. It will take you ten minutes to read and it will change your life.