It doesn’t take much, and more often than not, it’s something quite innocent. There is no intent to harm or frighten me, but yet something takes me back to live trauma all over again. In spite of the time gone past, the hours in therapy, the healing and forgiveness… it can be the most innocent thing and it feels like I’m right back there again.
For me, there are such triggers as:
A smile from the ‘wrong” shape of lips.
A chance comment (which probably had nothing to do with me).
A television/movie segment that springs from nowhere.
Watching something happen in the street.
A physical resemblance
A part (or even just an observer) of a conversation.
And many more, usually random events
There’s so many more things that can trigger that emotional response in me that take straight back to the scene of the trauma. It happened to me yesterday. Little warning but bang, and I was scared and I was frightened. I was ‘back there‘ with the person who had perpetrated my trauma. I was re-living it all over again, although I am clear that this was never the intention of the person that triggered me. Actually they had no idea.
Thankfully I was at home (on my computer actually) and could retreat to my safe place (in my bed with heavy covers over me and my teddy bear by my side). Safe, where I know there is nothing of which to be frightened. I can feel it physically and emotionally. I know this routine well. Thankfully a few words from a very dear friend also encouraged both that sense of safety but also affirmed that what I was feeling was valid. Perhaps the most important aspect for me in that particular situation.
Eventually my safe place worked and I could feel okay about coming out from there. But I was shattered for the rest of the day. If you’ll excuse another earthquake metaphor, it was like the remainder of a day after a large quake. Shaken, bruised and wondering what the hell would come next. Wandering around the house, starring at damage, not quite sure what to do now.
I know this well, and you will too if you have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I’ve learnt the routine that works for me (eventually) and I know I simply have to get away from the trigger, and get to a safe place (for me). But you know, what gets me everytime (after many years of this) is how the trauma keeps coming back. How frightening it is… everytime. That’s apparently the burden of PTSD. While I know the triggers don’t affect me quite so often, it seems to come back full force, every time they do. Not to mention how for some of us we seem to collect more trauma as we go. That is so not fair.
When trauma takes me back I feel anything but ‘normal‘ (for want of a better word) yet I know only too well that it is ‘normal‘ for so many trauma victims. This morning, by chance my friend Michelle of Crow’s Feet (who knew nothing of yesterday) shared in my email an article about transforming trauma into creative energy and action. It couldn’t have been better timed, thanks Michelle. It wasn’t just the idea of transforming the trauma but the accompanying story of the therapist who came through the Holocaust and used her trauma to help others as a therapist. It inspired me. I’m not sure yet, how to make this happen for me but I like the idea and am sharing it with you. The link to the article is:
On a good day she would kiss me back: transforming trauma into creative energy and action
I’m okay today. Just being cautious of screens I look at and people I see. I know it’s a random thing. No one meant be any harm. It was just my brain travelling back, and ouch, sometimes that hurts.
“He asks, in a softer voice, “Does your arm still hurt?”
You touch it with your hand. The big ache is gone, leaving only the little, underneath ache that will gather and swell against the bone. The blood leaks out of the vein where he grabbed you. But you say, “It’s better now.”
— Jim Grimsley (Winter Birds: A Novel)