PTSD: What does being triggered look like?

Trigger Warning!

Triggers for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are as individual as we are. There are a few commonalities from a high startle response to loud, sudden noises. What I have learned is that anything at all can be a potential trigger.

Here are a few triggers from various sources as well as some of my own:

  • Hearing a baby cry can trigger tears in me as I panic and think, someone please help that baby right now…
  • Loud voices, yelling and arguing of any sort online or otherwise trigger me severely
  • A childhood sexual abuse survivor cannot stand the sound of loud eating, smacking or slurping
  • A survivor of an abusive marriage cannot take any criticism of any sort from any source without violently shaking
  • People with one track minds who yell me “shut,” cannot or will not hear a word I say set me to stuttering and shaking
  • A man who once led troops cannot step off of his front porch without a reaction that sends him back inside for weeks

What being “triggered” looks like:

  • You may not “see” anything at all, the person may “appear” just fine, most of us do unless the “trigger” does not cease
  • For me, I start shaking and this can grow to full body convulsive tremors if the trigger does not stop or I cannot get away from the trigger
  • If badly triggered, I will start stammering, stuttering like nobody’s business despite being a public speaker and team leader for years
  • I internalize most triggers which means choppy sleep, if any, a return of the relentless terrifying nightmares and extremely high anxiety
  • Fleeing the person, place or thing that caused the trigger is not uncommon for me, getting away is often my own source of relief
  • Profuse sweating happens with me yet I am cold and clammy and I also have difficulty breathing, feel as though I cannot get enough air

These are just a few triggers and a few examples of what being triggered can look like. There are thousands more triggers and, I am sure, just as many responses. For years after the physical assault, I would rock hours away. Anywhere. Doctor’s office, trauma survivor workshop, restaurant, wherever I was I would just start rocking often without even realizing I was doing it at all. Hard to imagine I know. Recently I have started rocking again. This makes sense because I was ill almost the entire month of July, the heat flared my asthma daily and I was ill with heat exhaustion for over two weeks. I am now fighting what I believe to be a misdiagnosed bladder infection which is wearying me severely. When I am not well physically, I “trigger” more easily. Yesterday (August 14, 2017) I was triggered. I hardly slept last night from the abdominal and back pain I’ve had for nearly three weeks now and because I was so anxious from being triggered, no amount of pain killers eased my physical state. PTSD makes us vulnerable to a host of triggers both known and unknown. What I have found is there is an acute lack of understanding from friends and loved ones who do not grasp the disorder and can even trigger us because they don’t want to learn or even try to understand. This is why you will find me writing about PTSD every so often. Educate, educate, educate is all I know to do.

If you or someone you love has PTSD please feel free to share your or their experiences in the hope that, one day, we will not have to explain ourselves any longer but may simply live our lives in peace.

(c) Janni Styles

50 Word Stories

Some of you may have read some of these previously so I hope you will enjoy a second read. These little stories test me so 😉 And I apologize for the formatting, I just cannot figure out how to fix it.

  • BIRD ON A WIRE
  • Wooden clothes pegs in mouth, cold-reddened hands pinning laundry on the line. A meagre sun seeps between frustrated clouds.  She carries the stiffened clothing gloveless, her tiny frost-bitten feet shoeing deep Ontario snow back into the house, the incisive eye of one lonesome bird on a wire her undoing.
  • DON’T EAT THAT
  • Don’t eat that, Joe said.  Danny swiped melon juice off his chin with one sleeve. Do you know humans eat two pounds of dirt before they die? Joe glanced from Danny to the watermelon, flicked off the ants and bit in.
  • |RECURRING DREAMS  
  •  People race to safety of churches on hills. All I can do is say there is nothing we can do but wait. They look for comfort and direction when I have none myself. I reassure them all will be well. But I’m not really sure.|

 

  • I MOVE ON   
  • Trust me, I know how to navigate troops through broken eggshells. I move on tenterhooks slightly suspended over the realities until the penny drops. I can move on a dime if I have to. Address unknown.

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  • WAKE UP   
  • My older brother’s eyes were wide open and my little brother watched us both as I wiped the warm blood from my upper lip with the hem of my white T-shirt. Wake up, I said again. What the hell is going on, he demanded, finally. He always woke up swinging.

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PLAY BALL 

Blindsided by lob:  20+ year close friend chasing my separated ex while feigning friendship for months, siphoning off me like thief to gas, bolstering her position. Ball hit me so hard, I need a match.|

  • GOLD 
  •  Your smile shivered me above all the rest.  At last. I found a genuine, soulful man who wanted only a genuine soulful woman. Then I saw you in my car with her and knew it was not the gold in you but the cold.

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  • ALL THE WAY 
  •  You asked if I was certain, I asked you the same. You said yes and put the gun to your head. With your life in pieces around me, all I wanted to scream was I lied, I wasn’t certain, please come back to me.

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  • THE SECOND TIME AROUND 
  •  I forgive you before you even call. Every single time. It doesn’t matter why you stopped talking to me again, deleted me from your Facebook. It doesn’t matter what you do or say. I love you. You are my sister.

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  • I HOPE 
  • The pillow was dented where her head should be. Teddy was gone, too. The front door was wide open, rain pelting in. I hope, oh, three years of this – I don’t know what I hope. There Mother was, fast asleep cuddling bear, the porch swing stilled by their weight.

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