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#453311 - 11/12/13 09:21 AM coping with triggers
HopeDiesLast Offline

Registered: 01/15/13
Posts: 62
How do you cope with triggers?

For me, there are direct triggers and they are relatively easy to deal with: "Don't touch me there!" (I know, simplified version.)

But there are other triggers, that are more diffuse or harder to avoid. Example: My brain creates explosions. All the time. So when I hear weird noises or when the heating system malfunctions, I get triggered. I panic and I want to run hard and far. But of course if you're in your house and there is a weird noise, running won't solve a thing and usually you can't do it. How do you deal with stuff like that?

#453331 - 11/12/13 02:43 PM Re: coping with triggers [Re: HopeDiesLast]
Robert1000 Offline

Registered: 06/27/12
Posts: 453
I recommend EMDR therapy. It's a way to get at all the strange and random triggers that can make a person feel panicky or otherworldly or just flat out freaked-out.

That, and lots of therapy. Dude. I don't think it's OK to have "Don't touch me there!" as a solution. The solution is to defuse the triggers.


#453337 - 11/12/13 03:34 PM Re: coping with triggers [Re: HopeDiesLast]
HopeDiesLast Offline

Registered: 01/15/13
Posts: 62
Bob, thank you for your answer. I'm in trauma therapy. Not at the EMDR part yet, though. So I have to handle the triggers in their-not-yet-defused state for now. And I'm doing a really bad job at it right now. To the point where I don't want to leave the house once I'm there and never want to go back for fear something has happened when I'm not there. Makes no sense? I agree. But can't help it. Hence the question.

#453379 - 11/12/13 08:14 PM Re: coping with triggers [Re: HopeDiesLast]
Robert1000 Offline

Registered: 06/27/12
Posts: 453
I hear you. I spent several years in therapy before EMDR. And I remember reading that EMDR can make you feel like you have a new brain. It's true. I can't tell you, but I expect you can understand, that I sometimes felt like I had white hot bars of iron inside my body. There would be a nerve so damn sensitive that it would make me sweat all over... and hurt! Damn, that's painful! And while those things aren't gone, they are SOOOO much better. So much better.

I'm not done yet. I'm sure I've got years of therapy ahead of me, no doubt. But it has gotten better. And it will get better. I have to believe that.

Good luck, brother. Good luck. Keep seeking peace. And when you find it, hold onto it!

#453406 - 11/12/13 10:21 PM Re: coping with triggers [Re: HopeDiesLast]
don64 Offline

Registered: 10/09/13
Posts: 1106
Hi HopeDiesLast and Robert1000,

For many years I have felt like there is no insulation on my wiring. I have had to retreat to being pretty much a hermit to survive. I stopped being able to work 9 years ago, ran totally out of money, but things worked out. I was able to hang on until my social security started a little over two years ago. I had a great deal of therapy, etc. since age 20 and began to remember my father's abuse at age 53 and mother's abuse at age 63.

I certainly had your leaving the house phobia HopeDiesLast, had to quit driving because I was so wired--every sound, every sudden movement in my peripheral vision sent me over the edge. Sudden loud noises, dogs barking nearby, sirens, cars backfiring, got motion sick on public transportation--all sent me over the edge. I could not afford any therapy during this years long period and there are NO mental health services where I live. What I did find, however, is that each time I was forced to move THROUGH something that terrified me, and I Do mean forced--for example I had a real bully in the next door apartment and he was relentless in shoving through any limits I tried to set and boundaries I tried to establish--I healed. This happened repeatedly over a years long process that I would have never chosen for myself, but it did have the effect of healing me on years long abuse issues. It was brutal. I do not believe I would have ever been able to allow my mother's sexual abuse, physical abuse and torture to surface at age 63 if I had not been forced to move through those situations.

I say this to comment on the severe phobia issue. I still have severe phobias--that someone is going to hurt me. I can get very paranoid with the least amount of stress. In fact, it appears I cannot manage stress any more and has seemed to be true for years now. However, I also see continued improvement in my situation in that I continue to heal. Prior to my memories of my mother surfacing my physical abilities had been deteriorating for some time. I had reached a point where problems with my knees and hips made it difficult for me to negotiate the 3 steps into my apartment, my thumbs became very weak and I had to learn new ways to do a number of practical daily things, and eventually my neck, shoulders and lower back began giving me so much pain carrying groceries that I was in crisis. I don't have the funds for private drivers, I live on a small island in the carribbean and have to walk close to 1/2 mile to get a taxi to go to get groceries,etc. A doctor I was referred to wrote a letter saying I was in urgent need of assisted living and so the process of applying to the Virgin Islands Housing Authority began. The day before I was to have the interview to fast track me into assisted living as a disabled person(my mother's abuse had begun to surface during this period) I put the pieces together. The surfacing of my mother's abuse was such a traumatic event in my early life--ages 0-3 1/2--it had literally paralyzed me in many ways. As soon as I realized the reasons for this downward spiral in my physical functioning, I decided I had the power to choose and I chose to not be a disabled person dependent on others for basic life services, cancelled my appointment for assisted living, and talked myself through each step of my body telling me I couldn't climb steps, I couldn't carry my groceries, etc. It was not an easy process, but I did it. And I did it all by myself.

I am not suggesting that you do anything like I did HopeDiesLast. I would have never chosen for the last 11 years(since I started remembering my abuse) to have gone the way they have. Yet, I have survived and I have healed. I found MS about 1 month ago and found fellow survivors for the first time and it has been a major boost for my healing process. I am grateful.

I guess what I want to say is through all this, and in hindsight, there is an elegance in my process. Though it has been brutal for me, it did not turn out to be more than I could handle--even though I have thought it was many times. It seems for me that what I need shows up right on schedule, though I frequently do not understand it at the time. So, I send you both lots of love and hopes that what you both need shows up right on schedule. I also hope that you get to understand it at the time. That would have made things so much easier for me.

And, please tell me what EMDR therapy is? I am contemplating trying to find a therapist here and feel I need some educating about what to look for. There isn't a big selection here.

Thanks for being here. I am no longer feeling so isolated.

Divine Law is not judgment or denial of self truths. Divine Law is honoring harmony that comes from a peaceful mind, an open heart, a true tongue, a light step, a forgiving nature, and a love of all living creatures. Jamie Sams & David Carson, Medicine Cards

#453460 - 11/13/13 08:07 AM Re: coping with triggers [Re: HopeDiesLast]
dark empathy Offline

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 2711
Loc: durham, north england
Well Hope, partly I've found I actually need to learn to just say "this is my problem and I need to deal with it"
My usual approach for things like s/xually explicit scenes in books or films is just to zone out, to become cold and robotic much as I did during my abuse, though as a recent very very nasty episode with Jk Rowling's Casual vacancy showed me I can't rely on this entirely. This can help with unexpected stuff as well for example the other day in a tabletop game I was playing we fought a giant dinosaur and the question of what gender the dinosaur was came up and one girl said in a loud voice "I am not lifting up it's tale s/xing! the dinosaur" by which of course she just meant telling it's gender, however the loud and commical way she said "s/x!" was an instant threat.

When those things happen I've learnt to tell myself "Yes, it's that again, but it's fine" indeed I don't think anyone noticed the fact that I actually reacted at all.

Another part simply involves just plane being comfortable with saying "that is a trigger and i'm going to live with it"

It's become an unspoken rule around my parents' house that if I am drressing they knock, since they are aware that walking in on me undressed will produce a panic attack. I've also these days come to saying to people if I flinch or react to something, "I'm sorry I'm genophobic" it's a matter of just saying "i don't like this, but it's something I need to deal with and a part ofmy experience" and leaving it at that.

Regarding what don said, well I'm not in therapy myself for financial reasons and for the fact getting it in the Uk would be a pest (indeed I've never had counselling that worked). however myself one thing I have learnt is that pushing triggers is ultimately bad.

I used to specifically read books by clive barker or Jean Aule to challenge myself, I'd also go into crowded situations. Even when I started with Uk rowling's casual vacancy, and probably the worst state of triggering I've had in three years, part of me pushed on with the book because I wanted to finish it to prove that I could.

This however has costs, as unfortunately I learnt, and when I described my jk experience to a friend of mine (who knows about the abuse but is also a qualified counsellor, albeit she doesn't give me counselling0, her repsonse was "well if somethnig is uncomfortable don't do it!"

I can't speak for what don said, but this is one thing I have learnt, that even though I know I can! withstand triggers,pushing myself to is ultimately harmful, just like though I could! survive putting my hand on the grill, it would ultimately be harmful.

Hope some of this is vaguely useful.

#453461 - 11/13/13 08:08 AM Re: coping with triggers [Re: don64]
HopeDiesLast Offline

Registered: 01/15/13
Posts: 62
Thank you for your answers!

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It's a method where you reprocess your memories while your brain is stimulated by left-right movement. This allows both sides of the brain to be connected more easily. So when you look at a memory during EMDR, and you feel the feelings attached to it and your brain gets intellectual and the emotional side because it's connected, it can pretty much reprocess the memory and store it in a new, less painful way. I'm sure someone else one here can explain that better but I hope that's a first impression. Since I'm not yet there in my therapy, I can't say anything to the results, but I've heard great things about it. Since it includes trauma confrontation, it is a process, though. The therapist, or at least my therapist, really tries to make sure that all the tools are in place to be safe and to be able to process it and to avoid a re-traumatization.

What I find right now is that the deeper I dig into stuff, the more severe my triggers get. And I agree with you, don, when I'm really feeling awful and I think I can't take it another second, that's usually when I make a new connection. It doesn't mean that the awful feeling is gone but I suddenly know that it belongs in my past and to XY person and XY situation and that I'm overreacting to the current situation. The issue with the noises and the driving I totally get. I don't know how many nights I haven't slept because of weird noises in the house... And the literally paralyzing I get, too. My lower back will agree. Ouch.

Last but not least, thank you for sharing your story here, don! It gives great hope to everyone who's currently struggling through the worst parts that it can indeed get better!

#453492 - 11/13/13 04:39 PM Re: coping with triggers [Re: HopeDiesLast]
Robert1000 Offline

Registered: 06/27/12
Posts: 453
Hope, that was a pretty good description of what EMDR is, at least as far as my experience goes. Here's how therapy worked for me for years. I'd explore ideas/thoughts/subjects with my therapist. I learned over time that my experiences had terms. I learned the language of therapy and of survival. The "fucked up shit" that happened when I was a kid had a name: It was called sexual abuse/sexual trauma/rape. The phrase I had in my head "I'll take the secret to the grave" was a common reaction, which was to bury the abuse in a mountain of denial, dissociation and crazy behavior. I learned that the sensation I sometimes had of not being myself, of my body being fake, of a separation between the person I think of as "me" and my physical body... is an actual thing. It's called dissociation, and it's very disconcerting. It was amazing to attach words to things in my life. But while those words helped me, they didn't really diminish the anger I had or the crushing mental pain I sometimes felt or the shame/humiliation/fear and yes anger that plagued me. I was better able to cope with my impulsiveness, especially regarding anger. I've always been pretty good at controlling sexual impulses. But I still lived with a great deal of shame, and all the other legacies of abuse. And the weird thing is that, although I made some progress toward healing, I didn't feel a ton better all the time. The suicidal impulses generally vanished, which was a wonderful thing, and I am GLAD to be rid of them, but I would still just find myself shouting at myself in my head or confronting someone on the street with the desire to just destroy them! What the hell? I don't want to live like that!

Anyway, almost a year ago, I hit another brick wall. I won't get into it, but my wife gave me an ultimatum. Either I restart therapy and get myself under control, or we were done.

Within a week or so, I had found a new therapist in our new city and gotten started again. I had learned about EMDR here, and that's what I looked for, someone who specialized in CSA and who knew EMDR. And who I could afford.

I'm glad to say that changes in my health insurance as a result of Obamacare made mental health visits more affordable (80 percent covered not 50 percent covered, which is a BIG deal). That actually made it possible right there for me to get therapy right away. I think I pay $39 a visit out of pocket, which is SO WORTH IT!

We started therapy like regular. But from the beginning, we worked on tools, like a safe box where I can put things that torment me, so I can stay safe until I get to my next therapy session. We worked on those copying mechanisms for several weeks before doing EMDR, and the first EMDR session was all about remembering comfortable places that made me feel good. It was strange, sitting on a couch with my eyes shut and holding two small pads, one in each hand... strange that as one would vibrate lightly and then the other, and as my therapist asked me to imagine those safe places and describe them to her, I could remember so distinctly the feeling of the carpet under my toes, the swing of my feet from a comfortable chair and the cool air close to the picture window.

Later, we started to explore the feeling and situations associated with the abuse that happened. I don't want to trigger anyone and don't really want to get into the gory details (don't see the point here), but we walked through some of the worst stuff together. It was overwhelming. Painful as hell. And after one of the early meetings I literally hallucinated as I left. It was horrible. It seemed to me that everything around me had a film of shimmering water on it. The walls. The floor. The hallway. The doors. The parking meters and everything. Another time, I had a similar experience on my bicycle ride home from work. And that scared the crap out of me, because, you know, a vehicle could KILL me in a situation like that, or break 100 of my bones!

But the most amazing thing started to happen. For as long as I could remember, I'd been living with red-hot bars of iron in my body. Things would make me shake with fear. My stomach would roil with anxiety. Certain subjects I couldn't talk about. I was terrified that my wife would leave me. I felt I was cursed. And all that stuff began to ease. The red-hot bars of iron just weren't as hot anymore, as the painful memory--stored in so many places in my body--began to be ordered and processed in a way that made sense to me, and that made me feel better.

I'm not done, not by a long shot, and I've never gone back over my posts to see "back then" versus now. And there may not be that much difference, because I had already had about two years or more of therapy before I ever started here. BUT I will tell you that I feel different. I feel better. I feel, like they say about EMDR, that I'm working on building a new brain, a re-wired brain. Factory reconditioned!

It feels good. If you have the chance, go for it. But be careful. And understand like all things it's a process. And everyone's different. What works for me won't work for everybody.

Well, finally, I guess I'll sign off. I probably wrote another 5,000 word sleeper! Thanks for posting and bringing up these questions. I hope I've been some help. Keep seeking peace, brother. You can do it. I know you can. And I can too.



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