I mentioned triggers in my first post. They are the earthquakes that sends the waves rolling in. To be perfectly honest, I have yet to identify all of my triggers. Sometimes, I can’t even come close to identifying what set me off. The episode can seem random. However, I know that by working to understand each one of them individually, I can continue to heal.
I will be brutally honest in stating that I am afraid of being touched. By nature, I’m a skeptical person – through experience, I have become a jumpy person. It is not hard to frighten me. If a door opens too fast, I am practically on the ceiling. This, however, is a bit different. I don’t walk down the street terrified of being brushed or bumped into. I can sit beside someone in class without having a heart attack. It is when I am grabbed, however, that the waves start rolling in.
This is one of my more severe triggers. It makes me sick to my stomach, brings terrible memories rushing back, and devastates my progress. I have been working very hard to develop a coping mechanism to use when I am grabbed. I have to, you know, considering it is part of daily life. Someone tries to catch your attention, it is an affectionate move, you’re playing, etc. Recently, I had a small victory with this trigger. I was hiding a key from a friend and he grabbed my wrist to retrieve it. Not for one second did I feel any of my PTSD symptoms – I did not think I would be harmed, I did not become sick, I did not panic. It was a moment that I would not have even noticed had this friend not said something.
Unfortunately, sometimes these victories are short-lived. I still have nightmares concerning both traumas. They often occur when I am busy or stressed. Just a few nights ago, I had one of these nightmares and woke up a bit jumpier than usual. I did what I typically do – push through it, don’t tell anyone, etc. And then that same friend grabbed my arms later that day and a wave slammed into me. I should not have been afraid of him – after all, I trusted him – but suddenly I could not get away from him fast enough. Swallowing the water from the waves, I forced myself to hug him and then left. Sometimes you can fight the sea, and sometimes you can’t. I fought this time and won a small amount of ground, but the recovery continues today.
I have several other triggers including heavy or labored breathing, falling, and being closely watched. Eye contact makes me nervous and even loud noises can send me spiraling. They do not define me, but they do define some of my behaviors. When speaking with someone, I may look up and to the right just to avoid significant eye contact. When someone breathes heavily, I may plug my ears, quickly search for a distraction, or leave the room altogether. If I am being closely watched, I often shake and search for the quickest route to be out of view.
A lot of people will tell you that these things make me broken. They will tell you that I will never heal from this trauma or be able to function in society again. Well, to be blunt, they are wrong because I have done it before. There are fractured pieces of me, yes. These wounds are taking a long time to heal, you are correct. And, yeah, sometimes my social skills severely lack because of my triggers. However, the fact that I am still alive, attending college, working, and managing a decent social circle proves a lot of people wrong. I still struggle, but my triggers are teaching me invaluable lessons. This a battle I have fought before – it is a battle I had won for two years. I do not know why the trauma has resurfaced so severely, but it has, and that just means I have more to learn.
You may feel ashamed of your triggers. I know I do – almost every day! – but know that they are just part of the healing process. Do not put so much stress on yourself to be rid of the hurt so quickly. It is like a broken bone – you have to lay off of it for some time before gradually reapplying pressure. You can’t immediately run a marathon after the removal of a cast. This same concept applies to PTSD. The healing process takes time. Your triggers, whatever they may be, will not go away over night.
This is where I tell you and myself to keep going. The waves are merciless, I know. It can feel like the beating will last forever. The surface, however, is always there. It may be harder to reach, but if you just keep going a little bit at a time, you will make it. Don’t exhaust all of your energy in one great attempt. Preserve your strength for the duration of the fight and be patient with yourself.
I can do this. You can do this.