There will always be triggers

There will always be triggers

triggersIt took a long time, meeting the right people and building up the correct support network, for me to feel ready enough, to start my recovery journey. I slowly began to trust and to feel safe, which lead to disclosure and many memories being unlocked. I wrote unsent letters to both my parents, letters to and from my eight year old self, as a way of trying to self-help. I tried to reconnect with my mother, in order to disclose to her and to correct her view of me, (which was probably of a stroppy, unreachable teenager, although she did not know why). I wanted to share the heavy load of this dark secret and if I am honest, I wanted her to take the responsibility of dealing with it all, away from me. We had a very difficult and long email exchange which did not end well and I never did tell my mum what I set out to. I had done as much as I could do alone (with the support of very good friends), before finally accepting that I had triggers and needed some professional help.

I know that I have many triggers that knock me off balance and that these have not diminished in effect in 20 years. This was one of the reasons I embarked on a journey with professional help, as I didn’t want the triggers to continue effecting my life. I think that there are many different types of triggers. I think there are different triggers for me as an adult and also for the inner child stuck within me. I also think that my triggers, fall into different categories: memory, feeling, physiological, imagination and sense triggers. They can strike at any time, in any place, with anyone present, with varying degrees of enormity and impact. Anything that de-stabilises, transports me to a different uncomfortable place, or makes me feel something that is out of alignment with the current situation, I consider a trigger.

It is not uncommon for me to end up a blubbering mess at T.V. Shows such as ‘Long lost family’ (just one example), which taps in to my feeling of being alone in the world and the rejection I felt when I was removed from the family home. I feel this, despite the artificial family I have created around me and the actually family I have made. It is not the stories of how the separations happened that has me in tears. I think it is the desire that the lost souls have, to look for a missing family member and I relate this to the longing I have felt, that my mum would maybe one day, take the initiative and try to find me. The tears also fall at the moment of meeting, that is captured on film and the relief and happiness, forgiveness and acceptance that spills out, at the sight of their loved ones. I think this triggers my imagination and leads me to think about ‘what ifs’.

It is not uncommon for my anxiety levels to increase when witnessing random parents disciplining their children in the high-street, in a way that I perceive to be harsh. It might not be harsh at all and I guess my perception can be very judgemental of these people, I know nothing about. But I have a sixth sense for the pain I can see in a child’s eye and the sound of their sobs and it puts me right back to an emotionally tough place. What the child might have done to warrant the discipline in the first place, or acknowledgement of what is going on in that adult’s day, or life, does not feature in my thought pattern.

triggersBeing told what to do is a trigger for the trapped inner child inside me, which is usually activated in the very adult realm of drinking alcohol. I get to a place where I no longer hear the advice of people around me and, caring comments, such as, “don’t you think you have had enough,” sends the ‘kid that won’t be told’ in me, straight back to the bar. People not saying anything about the amount of alcohol consumed, also sends the ‘kid that won’t be told’ in me, back to the bar, as she feels like no-one is ‘looking after’ her. The inner child in me is very strong under the influence of alcohol.

Meeting new people obviously brings about conversation, as you get to know each other. Being asked about my family is a trigger for shame and embarrassment and the way I respond to this line of questioning, is dependent on how I feel at the time. I seem to have quite a good judge of character and if I trust the person asking, I am likely to be more honest and open. If I am in a place of vulnerability or stress, then my response can be very dismissive and abrupt, as the wall goes up. I think my response is also dependent on where I am and who is with me also.

Being ignored is a massive trigger for me. I felt like I was unheard by people, who should have listened the hardest, both as a child and a young teen. Despite trying to reach out implicitly and explicitly then, I could not make people hear me. Asking my children something more than once, suggests to me that I have been unheard and they can receive an angrier and more agitated response than they were expecting, or able to understand. This is unfair on them, but I can’t stop this from happening. Adult me, will not be ignored, especially as it has taken me the best part of 20 years to find my voice.

Hair that is not attached, is another trigger for me, although this situation is much better than it used to be. I remember having a full blown panic attack, after cutting my ex husband’s hair with clippers once. I could not get the hair off of my hands and it triggered all sorts of memories for me. The more worked up I got, the hotter I got and the less likely I was to get the hair off of me, but I didn’t see this at the time, while panicking and crying hysterically. This is one of the most clear triggers I have, as I know exactly where it comes from and therefore, this is one of the triggers that is easiest to both manage and understand.

I have not been able to tolerate the ticking of clocks for a very long time. I have a clock in my lounge that has been stuck on 7:50 for probably over a year, because I removed the battery. I like the clock; it is very pretty. I just can not listen to the constant ticking. I thought this was related to the fibro-fog I experience, as a feature and symptom of my fibromyalgia. In a very recent conversation, a very dear friend asked me about the clock and what the memory was attached to the noise. Only after she asked this, did I remember that it is attached to a very vivid memory of a watch, very close to my ear, in the darkest of moments. I had not stopped to realise what my issue with the noise was until this moment. Now it makes sense.

Hunger is something I can not tolerate and triggers memories of going to bed hungry as a child. Not having your very basic human needs met, on a regular basis, is a form of neglect. I was regularly given food that my parents knew I did not like, and consequently did not eat. Food, access and entitlement to it, was also used a weapon to force me to comply. I piled on weight when choice of food, became under my control. I ate what I fancied and I ate enough to ensure I was not hungry, often over-eating. I took control of this trigger when I lost almost 7 stone in a year, while not once, feeling hungry.

I will help anyone at any time, if anybody asked me, because it is just in my nature and it makes me feel good. I feel like it is much more beneficial to everyone involved, if the help I willing give, enables others to help themselves. If I get to a place where I feel like I am being taken advantage of, then I am transported back to a time where my innocence was taken from me. One sided relationships, where there is only taking and no giving, is a trigger for me.

My life was once full of secrecy and lies so now, I demand and expect, honesty and transparency. Trust is very important to me and if I find someone out in a lie, then there is very little forgiveness I can show. My ex-husband used to steal money I had saved for Christmas presents, buy alcohol, drink it and then hide the beer cans or liqueur bottles, all around the house. Dealing with his own demons, he then made the decision to steal more money and try to win and put back, what he had drunk, by buying lottery scratch-cards. The trust was completely broken then and it was not long after this, that I asked him to leave.

An ungrateful response in my own children is enough to trigger thoughts like “ you don’t know how lucky you are” or “it wasn’t like this for me”. I don’t know whether these are new triggers for me, or whether I am now more open to triggers, as a result of therapy or the place I am at in my recovery, but I find myself having these thoughts quite regularly recently. Either way, I think my fear has diminished and this lack of fear, is allowing me to see the triggers more often and more clearly. I am no longer unfeeling. I am no longer blocking the process.

I have a history of long running recurring nightmares that are extremely distressing. Some of these nightmares are 20 years old, but they keep coming back in waves, at times when I am particularly tired, stressed or sickening for something. I wake in a real panic, often crying. My heart is racing and I find it very difficult to get back to sleep, as it takes me so long to settle myself. How long will I have these same dreams? Is this another unpleasant consequence of the abuse I endured? The nightmares themselves can be triggers, but the physiological reaction to them is also a trigger. The physical feelings are very familiar.

It seems so unfair that even after I survived, escaped and am now safe, even now I do have a wonderful life, beautiful moments can still be so tainted by what ‘he’ did and the consequences of it. Why do we have this life-long sentence? It seems so unfair. Being told to ‘get over it’ and to ‘let it go‘ is an anger trigger for me which screams ignorance and lack of compassion and a lack of respect for our individual differences. Despite being well meaning, to me, it shows a lack of understanding and is quite dismissive.

When I started therapy I truly did think that recovered was possibly. I thought that if I did the hard work and remembered, shared, talked about, wrote about and went through the therapy process, I could be fixed. I had hope at the beginning. More than half way through the process I had to face the hard fact that my history will always be my history, but this realisation that there will always be triggers, completely knocked me for six.

triggers

This is the first time I have stopped, to identify what my triggers are (although those highlighted above, is not an exhaustive list). My question now is, how do people get to a place where their triggers are manageable? Maybe I need to accept what happened to me in my life, in order to be able to manage the triggers. Maybe the key is acceptance, but how can you accept what should never have happened? It is not OK, it is never OK, so why should I be OK with it? People tell me I will cry in time, I will know what to do with all this in time, when I am ready. I am not sure I believe them. Yes, I can see more clearly how abuse has effected me: it has effected every single aspect of my life. It has an impact in my relationships and interactions with everyone. It has effected my thought processes and the way I view myself, others and the world. It has effected my self belief and confidence.

My triggers effect my ability to truly be in the here and now. All of this stuff is all around me now and I can see the enormity of it all. But what do I do with it? I don’t want to live like this. I can’t live like this: doubting myself; questioning everything; triggered all the time; stuck with trapped emotion and why should I have too? I feel like I am swimming in the sea and every so often big waves drag me under. The wise and caring people in my life, throw me little life buoys, filled with their pearls of wisdom. I crave these and seek these out, because they keep me going. I can see the beach and the beauty of it. It is warm and calm and still and peaceful, but I just can’t seem to get there.

Tanya Evans

About Tanya Evans

I'm a self employed private tutor in Maths (and English) with learners ranging from 4 to 24 currently. I am a mother of three with a serious gym addiction and a massive need to write (since embarking on a healing journey).
Tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to There will always be triggers

  1. Donna Tilton says:

    I have found your article very helpful, and can relate to most of the triggers you highlighted. I have worked really hard my whole life to change everything about me and at times I feel I have succeeded. I read the statistics for abuse survivors and attempt to set goals which contradict these statistics. I have helped people reach their goals, only to find they act like they no longer know me. Right now I am working on my DDBA, but I am not sure why? I keep applying for jobs where I will make enough to live comfortably but to no avail. No matter how much I accomplish I still feel like I am not good enough. I realize the one thing I want in this life is to leave this world happy. Is this possible? This world is full of ugly nasty bitter people and I find it breaks my heart when I come across them. They are so worried about themselves, they refuse to help someone or even acknowledge the fact that they were there at one point in their lives. At times I come home from my thankless job (which I got for insurance reasons) and cry. Is it hopeless to believe that you can be normal? Is it even possible to have that nice home, good job, and happy life? I keep telling myself that I have made it this far but all I want to do is scream at the world that I am here and I do deserve a chance.

    • Tanya EvansTanya Evans says:

      Hey Donna.

      I wrote you a reply earlier…..but it has vanished….so I am going to try and remember what I wrote.

      Wow. It seems like you really needed to say that! Do you feel any better now?

      Thank you for reading and taking the time to let me know that you can relate. I appreciate it.

      Never feeling like we are good enough. Yes. Always would have, should have, could have and what ifs….4 of our friends.

      Yes we are still here. Keep going.

      Leaving the world happy would nice….but a sustantial period of calm beforehand would be nice also.

      Scream if you need to. I have been screaming inside for 20 years. Now I have found an outlet.

      Tanya

      • Donna Tilton says:

        Hello Tanya,

        Thank you for replying. At times I think, wow I have beat this but then reality hits in,I don’t think we can ever beat it. Not saying that we have to live under the shadows but its learning how to stand up for ourselves is the problem. There seem to be two roads survivors follow and unfortunately my sisters took the opposite road than I did. This leaves me feeling alone on my journey, and saddened that they are still living their lives as victims. I have told them about this site but neither want to seek any assistance due to shame of what we went through.

  2. Tanya EvansTanya Evans says:

    Hi Donna

    I get that too. It has taken me 20 years to get here. Shame is very difficult to deal with and very complex.

    I refuse to be a victim. I refuse to be a survivor. I do not like the connotations of either world.

    I do not regret anything that has happened in my life. It has all made me who I am today….and dare I say it….I quite like who I am….some days.

    I am a warrior. I am an endurer.

    Maybe they just not ready. Stay strong.

    Tanya

  3. Casey says:

    Thank you for posting this. I found it because I am looking for stories similar to mine. I have been in recovery from childhood trauma for 2 years and am doing quite well.

    However, I was majorly triggered yesterday when my 1st grader brought home a math test that she did not do very well on. My anxiety flared because bad test scores led to beatings in my childhood. I was flooded with negative memories, and despair that I had no role model for how to support my child to do better on a test. It was a rough night for me, which ended with me allowing the grief to come in and I cried – really, really hard but quietly – for a while in the bathroom after my kids were asleep. I cried for the little girl I was who was scared and did not understand how to make her mother happy. It helped to release the emotion. Also made an appt with my therapist bc, wow, I was blindsided by how deep my grief goes.

    Anyway thank you for sharing – it helped me today as I try to cope with all of this.

  4. Tanya EvansTanya Evans says:

    Casey

    Awwwwwwwwwwwwww what a lovely think to say. Thank you for taking the time.

    I wish you strength and courage as you move forward

    Tanya xx

  5. Bluesands says:

    Tanya, thank you. Really. I am a new member and only today I got access to the forums after posting my introduction. In your post you pose the following questions:

    Quote
    My question now is, how do people get to a place where their triggers are manageable? Maybe I need to accept what happened to me in my life, in order to be able to manage the triggers. Maybe the key is acceptance, but how can you accept what should never have happened? It is not OK, it is never OK, so why should I be OK with it?
    Unquote

    I am so happy that you answered sone of your own questions in your reply to Donna when you said “I do not regret anything that has happened in my life. It has all made me who I am today….and dare I say it….I quite like who I am….some days.”

    Bravo.

    Now, if only there is a way to:

    1. overwrite the automatic triggers into something we consciously program so the new behaviour starts becoming automatic.

    2. We quite like who we are ‘some days’. If only we can extend it to all days!

    For the first, I believe there is a way to program new behaviors in place of old ones because the brain’s neural pathways, no matter how ingrained are always malleable. This is what the science of neuroplasticity deals with. I suggest you read and research more about this and you will be happy to learn that connections in our brain are like roads, some that have been traveled a lot on, and others, that are fairly new. But the more we use carry out new and conscious behaviors, the stronger these connections become and they begin overriding the old connections, Graphically, it will look like a new highway built on top of an old road. The old road is still there, but we must consciously learn to use the new one because in no time, this new behavior will start becoming automatic. In short,

    Plan a new response
    Execute with conscious effort*
    Monitor & Review new response (without being critical on self)
    Let autopilot take over

    This may sound pretty simplistic because the reality of habits can be a little more complex but it is a good guide for it WILL work provided you do not have any other block preventing you from healing yourself.

    *I put a little star on top of “Execute with Conscious Effort” to explain a little further on this step. The greatest thing is that you do not have to wait for the actual trigger to rear its head at any inopportune moment and then practice your new planned behavior. NOT NECESSARY. You can IMAGINE the trigger going off and IMAGINE carrying out your new learned response while lounging in your couch or lying down or doing your chores. The brain does NOT distinguish imagined from real and you will benefit exactly as if the trigger had actually gone off and if you actually carried out your new response. These are not my words, research and you will find it to be true. Basketball players have inproved their scores by several percentage points by sitting and IMAGINING they are training in addition to actual training as opposed to a different group of players who just physically trained.

    So most certainly use any real trigger moments to train your new behaviors.

    Perhaps, and this I have not read anywhere but I have a gut feeling it can be helpful, you can induce your feared triggers in order to train yourself for your new behaviors by whatever means is comfortable to you so that in a few tries, the trigger should soon start losing its “Gotcha” power over you. Now you, the previously hunted has turned the tabkes and is seeking out your hunter. I believe it could be liberating.

    Never thought I will post this long, nor planned to say what I did, all I wanted to write was a warm thank you and to lift your and others’ (Donna, Casey and thise who may post or pass by this section in the future) spirits and specifically, to answer your question “but how can you accept what should never have happened? It is not OK, it is never OK, so why should I be OK with it?” by saying that your journey has made you write as you do, which you never could have otherwise and I dare say, you will come to peace with your pain because know that there are many others who find relief from your writing. Only a few may comment but you are helping many many many of us. On behalf of the silent one’s, THANK YOU & KEEP INSPIRING.

Leave a Reply - please note HAVOCA does not provide direct support via these comments. If you would like support please use our contact form or forums.