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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Abuse & Assault » Dealing with big time triggers

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Author Topic: Dealing with big time triggers
Alice
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Until the last few weeks, I didn't fully understand what "triggering" meant (and kind of still don't, although I know I'm in the midst of it). Any feeling that came close I blocked out, but I was aware that my paranoia about danger (I think I've talked about that here before) was/is probably a result of not dealing with this stuff in the first place.

Something happened a few weeks ago at a small party at a friend's house. I was relaxing and letting down my guard a little for the first time in ages when this guy (who happens to be my partner's best friend since 6th grade) started going out of his way to rub against me every time he walked by me, which was often. He was making comments about how good I looked that day. He was pretty drunk, in fact no one in the house was in the best of shape.

I am ashamed of this part: I was okay with it at first. My boyfriend was out of the room and unaware. Writing this makes me feel double awful, but - it felt good to have someone telling me these things and treating me like I was pre-child and not feeling so unattractive and undesirable. Granted, I couldn't stand this type of attention before. Go figure.

Then it escalated and I got really uncomfortable. I did what I do best - froze. I was politer than usual, nicely asking him to stop, gently pushing him away. It kept getting worse and I kept getting nicer but more panicked inside, even not peeing when I really had to because I was afraid of being cornered in the small bathroom.

When I finally was able to leave the situation, hours later, I even agreed to drive him home, along with my boyfriend and 2 year old in the car. He continued the touching, reaching up from the backseat. My child (who lately cannot stand to see anyone touch me) would every time he did it asked Mimi? - which is what he calls me - that broke my heart more than anything. I was so relieved when he got out of my car that I started crying and hyperventilating, so I had to tell my boyfriend what happened.

He was shocked and angry, and I remembered why I wasn't initially going to tell him. He asked why I didn't punch the guy in the face, or why I didn't wake him up and tell him so he could punch him in the face. The list of reasons why I didn't do that is very long and probably pretty obvious to most non-violent and reasonable people.

The thing was his anger felt more like this guy messed with my woman, my object, my property and - he shouldn't have done this, I'm going to have to punch him in the face next time I see him, and I will be angry for awhile until I start hanging out with him again, as punching him in the face will make us even. As opposed to being genuinely hurt and angry for what happened to me, which would have felt better and safer.

To try to wrap this up: since then, I've been aware of how badly this "triggered" me. It feels silly because this is far from the hardest thing I've dealt with since the stuff that happened when I was very young. I felt like a little kid (again), like the best/only way to get through it was to act like a good kid and hope it stops, and hope no one else notices while really wishing that they would.

My coping skills suck. I'm bouncing around from feeling present and angry, to disappearing for awhile, which is like I just leave my head & body for awhile and go on autopilot, then get really startled and disoriented when I jump back into reality. I get scared when this happens and resort waaay back into self-injury and then feel like an idiot when my computer sitting on my lap keeps my legs hurting and how dumb that is. But then I forget and do it again. This cycle started happening over 7 years ago, I thought I was done with it.

I realize I need help with this (have have needed it for some time) and I'm trying to find a counselor who is A)compatible with me and B)okay with my insurance and having the guts to actually go.

This is especially unfair to my 2 year old. I don't want him to grow up in turmoil (like I did). I know there's no magic pill to solve this, but I don't fully even get what's happening in my head and I'm afraid to talk about most of it because it just doesn't sound good at all, and I want to move on and be normal but it's getting hard to bury this anymore. I know I've mentioned here before, I still don't feel ready to fully talk about how all this stuff started, way back when. I've never felt strong enough.

Anyway, after all that, can we talk about triggering? How does anyone healthfully deal with this? Or am I just going totally off my rocker and no one feels this ever? Is it even possible to prevent this from happening? Am I just crazy and the only person ever to go this nuts? Has anyone else ever had a 3 day nonstop panic attack?

Posts: 1180 | From: WA | Registered: Apr 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
September
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You're not off your rocker, Alice. (And really, it's good to see you around again, though obviously I'd wish it'd be under different circumstances.)

A 'trigger' is generally something that triggers a memory or flashback for someone who's been abused in any way. It can be something really innocuous that reminds us of something an abuser did (for example, there is a certain word that I can't stand to hear, but taken out of context that would make no sense to anyone but me), and it can obviously be something obvious and blatant like being groped at.

Depending on how badly we are triggered, and what sort of state of mind we are in to begin with, a trigger can freak us out for a little while, or it can have a really big impact. So, freaking out for three days? Not necessarily unusual. A couple of years ago, I was harassed in a store by a group of guys and that brought my nightmares and panic attacks back for over a week.

It does sound like you could benefit greatly from counseling. Both because there you could learn coping tools to help you in the short-term, and because finally talking about your history and working through it will also help in the long-term.

What you can do right now is try to find healthy ways to cope. I get the impulse to cope with SI (especially if you enter dissociative states -what you call leaving your head- and use the SI to bring yourself out. I used to do that, as well, so this all sounds very familiar), but that's obviously not the best way. If you haven't done that yet, you can try holding ice cubes in your hand as a 'healthy' alternative to SI. You'll also want to find ways to express your emotions, such as writing or painting. Another thing that I've found very helpful is keeping busy. When I start to panic, I tend to clean up my place. It doesn't matter if it's clean to start with, I'll start scrubbing bathroom tiles 'till they gleam. Physical activity, like dancing or jogging, also help.

If you just need someone to talk, too, you can look up the number of a local crisis hotline. You can call them any time of day, usually at no cost, and they're trained to listen and be supportive, so that's a very helpful thing to do.

Hope you feel better!

--------------------
-joey
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"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

Posts: 9030 | From: Cologne, Germany | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Alice
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Thank you Joey. Dissociative, that was the word I was looking for. My ick/panic factor has been getting a little better this past few days, but I feel like I'm constantly fighting all day to stay present, to not disappear. My boyfriend gets mad/weirded out at me because we can have a 20 minute discussion or situation and I cannot remember a freaking word of it, I just check out sometimes.

I'll try the ice - in middle and high school I used to wear tons of rubber bands on my wrists to snap. I used to write all the time, that isn't helping much now. I feel like an empty shell. But I've been scrapbooking like mad, so at least I have a decently creative and filled "baby book" of my kid's first two years.

I'm getting worried about how I will feel when I have to see this guy again - it's pretty much inevitable. I don't know if I should try to talk to him about it, or not. I don't want to further alienate myself from this group of people nor do I want to pretend like everything is okay, either.

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September
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You're welcome.

Have you spoken to your boyfriend again about what happened? His reaction was pretty crappy, and I'm sure that not getting the support you need is part of why you feel so out of it. It's hard enough dealing with flashbacks and triggers, the last thing you need is a boyfriend who doesn't get that and isn't supportive.

I've tried the rubber bands, too, but they never worked for me. The ice was much better. What also works along those veins is working out. If you can't make it to a gym, just buy an exercise DVD and work out at home.

I'd also not suggest hanging out with this guy again. He clearly demonstrated that he doesn't understand the concept of personal boundaries and the word "No", and you don't need to subject yourself from that.

I hear you when you say that you don't want to alienate yourself from that group of friends, and I am sure that your situation must be very isolating. But I'm also sure that there are ways to make friends who are more emotionally mature and who can support you. If you don't have the time or opportunity to maybe join a support group for abuse survivors or the like, maybe you can get involved with other mothers? Take your son to a play group, or find out if there are mother-child activities going on in your area. That way you can meet people you have more in common with and, bonus, that should also provide plenty of distraction.

--------------------
-joey
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"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

Posts: 9030 | From: Cologne, Germany | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Alice
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Hey Joey. I'm doing a lot better, lately. I haven't talked with this guy, but my boyfriend did and I guess he wants to apologize. Supposedly he wrote a 10 page apology letter to me, which I hope I get to see just because I want to see what a 10 page I'm sorry letter to someone who hardly know looks like.

His apology means more to me then I thought it would, not so much because I care about what's going on in his head, more like it makes me feel less vulnerable for him to acknowledge that it was messed up.

Definitely avoiding him, though.

The thing about my boyfriend here is that he doesn't understand. About the prior abuse, triggers, cutting, spacing out stuff. Any of it. For the most part I think he tries to be compassionate, but it seems like he either doesn't want to deal with it, or he gets tired of it, or something. It makes me sad and kind of angry, so I try not to talk to him about it.

He did hang out with this guy. I guess he almost died or something this weekend, bf picked him up from the hospital. The whole thing is weird.

I think I forgot for a minute that I have options and resources, I was reminded of those this weekend. I'm setting goals and dates for being out of this situation, making lists and sketching plans and acting like myself. It feels good, even if I have to hold off for awhile. I was feeling really vulnerable and dismal there for awhile, but I dealt with it and now it's kind of empowering, because I managed to work it out and live my life, take care of my kid at the same time.

Thank you for listening to me work this out, and for the great advice. You freaking rock.

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September
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Aw, you're welcome. [Smile] Glad I helped a little.

It's good to hear you sounding more positive. If you need any help or support with your new plans, just let us know! We'll be happy to talk to you about that.

--------------------
-joey
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"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

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Alice
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I need to talk about this again. I'm having some hardcore butterflies in my belly about this. I'm going to (pretty much have to) see this guy tomorrow. It's not really optional, it has to do w/the (mostly great) place we're staying, it would be hard/inconvenient/embarrassing for me to leave.

I'm not worried about it happening again (well, not too much). Boyfriend will be on it, 2-3 friends will be on it. They're being nice, I feel less isolated about it.

Here's the deal: it's going to be uncomfortable, to say the least. I hear he wants to apologize. I think that apologizing (well, often times, in my life) is more for the apologizer than the apologizee. I'm coming to terms with it, I hear he's sorry. Now that I'm thinking about it, I'm uncomfortable with most people apologizing to me anyway, kind of like how some people are bad with compliments. Which I am, too.

And on that thought - what do I even say? It's okay? But it's not okay. You're forgiven? That feels all weird to say. I want forgiveness to be a private thing, I don't want to share it unless I want to. I hate this.

Anyway I guess I don't really have a question here. I'm just sorting out (insomnia dude) how I want to feel tomorrow, how I'm going to stay calm. I'm having a panic attack thinking about it, but I'm tired + caffeinated + long day, so that's part of it. I just want to be treated normally. I don't understand why this has to be too much to ask for me all the time.

I just want to be treated normally or left alone. I don't want to be touched, I don't want to be pressured into stuff I don't want to do, I don't want to kick myself over caving. This whole freaking year is bringing out memories and stuff I don't want to deal with and I'm tired being panicked and scared in my own place and vulnerable and uncomfortable in my own skin.

[ 09-02-2008, 02:49 AM: Message edited by: Alice ]

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September
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Well, I've been gone for a little while (moved to a new place), so this has already happened. How did it go?

I'm with you: in this case, the apology is more about this guy than it is about you. Whether or not you want to forgive him is up to you, but not something you should do just to keep the peace. This guy screwed up, and you really should not have to spend any time with him. If your friends and your partner don't want to ditch him, they should at least be considerate enough to respect you, and meet him outside of your home.

I hope you managed the situation, and are feeling better now. And big *hugs* your way. I'm sorry things have been so hard for you this year.

--------------------
-joey
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"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

Posts: 9030 | From: Cologne, Germany | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Alice
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hey joey

it went okay, kind of better than I thought it would, but still sad. I gave the bf one of my this is how it's going to go talks, I didn't want this person to address the situation, apologize, anything like that. I told him to tell the guy to just pretend like it didn't happen, and leave me alone. Which he did, mostly. He was giving me some weird looks (but not out of the ordinary for him: think: lonely emo kid post near dying from alcohol poisoning style) but I dealt with it. Yeah, it was pretty awkward but I didn't have a panic attack or flip out or cry, so I'm feeling pretty successful.

In uncomfortable/stressful situations (especially social ones) I tend to just pour all of my attention hardcore into my 2 year old. And pretty much ignore everything else completely. Ok, now I'm rereading that sentence trying to decide if it sounds healthy/normal or not. Obviously, kid has a majority of my attention all the time, but he's getting pretty big and can entertain himself, and knows the boundaries pretty well.

So when (for some reason) I don't have him with me I'm a total dork, I don't know what to say, I have no life, it's all about him. Which is fine for now, being an attentive parent is probably my best coping skill ever. However, he probably won't appreciate it in a couple of years so I should probably find another one. [Smile]

thanks joey, you are a huge wonderful lifesaver.

[ 09-08-2008, 03:11 AM: Message edited by: Alice ]

Posts: 1180 | From: WA | Registered: Apr 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
September
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Glad to hear that things went reasonably well.

And I don't think you have to worry about focusing too much on your son. The fact that you're wondering about it in the first place shows that you're incredibly self-aware and likely to notice if you're starting to become too involved.

Also, I think that having a kid turns everyone into a total dork who has no life besides their child. Seriously. My uncle just had his first child at the beginning of the year and now every single conversation is all about her. That's just how it goes.

However, if you want to branch out a little, I still think having a social live that involves your kid is a good start. Have you looked into any mother-child activities in your area? The YMCA or similar places would probably be a good start.

And you're welcome! Happy to help out when I can. [Smile]

--------------------
-joey
Scarleteen Volunteer

"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

Posts: 9030 | From: Cologne, Germany | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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