#metoo Trigger Warning #trigger warning
#metoo Trigger Warning #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 or not recognizing your surroundings even though you are in a familiar place you have known for decades. 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:
What being “triggered” looks like:
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
While I have heard you can catch more bees with honey than vinegar, I have to wonder about the life of the person who stated this because it is not always wise to be sweet as I have learned time and time again in trying to tolerate, maintain or repair relationships. Not all ships are created equal and not all relations are deserving of our loving kindness. This does not mean cruelty is in order either, simply that setting healthy boundaries or walking away is often the best choice to save ourselves. Staying in a situation that is unhealthy for us is the worst kind of punishment we could exact on our own psyche and well being but sometimes we find ourselves trapped in situations we could never have foreseen.
While I could include and discuss many relationships today I am going to talk about bullies. Where do they belong in our social system? Or do they belong at all? I say they are social misfits who do not belong near healthy people until they learn to behave with respect. My ex spouse, two sisters and their adult children are all perfect examples of bullies, they bully you shut, bully your opinion away and bully you into doing or saying what they want or they will go to greater lengths of abuse to try to make you pay for what is not even yours. I will save all the details of those experiences for my book on complicated relationships and how easily we humans can become stuck in the same troublesome patterns, trying again and again when the result is always the same: no good for us at all. A troublesome bullying neighbor is my subject in this piece.
Over a year ago a woman who speaks six languages fluently and was featured in magazines for her award winning interior design work in her youth moved into the apartment next door to mine. I was pleased because I figured she would make a great neighbor from the landlord’s description of her. On our very first meeting she gave me a clue to her personality by telling me “I don’t think the landlords know about your boyfriend.” I was shocked and sputtered out, “He does not live here, he only visits and yes they do know because they welcomed him when I moved here.” What I should have said was, “Oh. So this is who you are. Mind your own business and keep away from me.” I didn’t.
Instead, I tried to “overlook” things, be patient, kind and tolerant. The more patient and kind and tolerant I was, the more invasive she became. She is a hoarder of junk and all things junky looking which she tried to pile up on my patio shortly after moving in. I had to involve the landlord who told her to take her stuff off my patio and don’t put anything there again.
Things seemed to settle for a while after that until she left on a three week cruise last winter. All of her windows were open and I told the landlord. I did not tell him that when she calls me over to show me her latest junk acquisition the heat is excruciatingly high and yet all of her windows are kept wide open all the time. The landlord found her heat jacked right up, turned it off and closed all of her windows. Immediately upon returning home, she told me the landlord stole her rental agreement and some other things when he went in to turn down the heat. I knew the landlord would never do this but there was no convincing her.
Not long after this she was upset about her car being “keyed so badly it is big gouges on the whole side up and down from front to back.” She yacked it all out in a 45 minute exchange with me. That is another 45 minutes I will never get back. I tried telling her they did not, would not do that, that they have cameras all around the house and I suggested she involve them because maybe they could look at the tapes and see who did it. At this time I did not look at the car. She told the landlord who informed me there was a hairline scratch on her car not even the length of his hand and it could have happened anywhere, she may have even accidentally done it herself.
Still, foolish git that I am, when her dog was recently attacked by raccoons, I could see she was very distraught and loving my rescued animals as I do and have in decades past, I gave her a hug. The dog survived. And then her stuff slowly started inching further and further back over onto my patio.
She asked for help with a cover letter for a part time job and I did it. It was easy to write because in my late twenties I once owned my own business doing documents, resumes and cover letters. She offered money but had recently given me a huge jug of dish soap she found herself allergic to so I said we are even now, no worries. When her car was stolen from the staff parking at that work place, I listened because, again, I felt sorry for her. From working in the justice system I knew these cars are often stolen for a joy ride or to do some illegal deal or other and I told her it would likely be back in a week or so. It was.
She has to pass by my door to get to her apartment and in the fair weather I keep the screened door open for fresh air. She would say hi every time she passed and often stop more than once a day to talk. I began saying very silly things like “my kettle is boiling” (who knows, maybe my “inner” kettle really was, haha) just to get rid of her. She stepped in one day when I was using my washroom and I yelled at her, “I am using my bathroom!” She left but later came back to tell me some nonsense or other that I had no interest in. She has proven completely and totally impervious to normal social cues that would have the average person backing off instantly.
When I returned from a recent few days away for a family reunion she pounced on me at the laundry room just outside my apartment. She told me the landlord yelled at her while I was away and said “You women down there are evil! You are white trash and you don’t even deserve to live in my house.” I did not believe her and told her I find that hard to believe. What I believe now is that she was trying to incite me in the two-faced fashion of master manipulators to align me against the landlord. She failed.
She listens for me to open my door and runs out to talk. She hears me doing laundry and races out to talk. She plays her TV so loud that the junk TV talk shows I hate echo straight into my place, people onstage yelling and screaming at each other while the host eggs on the drama. Hard to believe that garbage is still on TV in my opinion and I’d rather have no TV than listen to all those time wasting dramatics. The last people I lived beside here for over a year just said hello in passing and never looked in my windows. She comes down the stairs in front of my place looking into my living room door and window the entire time, she doesn’t even have the courtesy to turn away or just pass without being nosy. I put up a curtain that sees me receiving less light than my already limited light down here and she just looks around it anyway.
At one point recently when her “visits” reached four times in one day, I told my boyfriend that I have to do something about her, I can’t take this for much longer. She interrupts my rest, my reading, my writing, my chores, my self care, she triggers my PTSD and my recovery time from her “Drama Queen” hurricane episodes. Not yet sure what to do about it, I aligned myself with the landlord who had expressed irritation at her stepping on their toes, painting the once soothing apartment a bunch of loud funky colors she did not have permission for among other things she has done to offend them. I told them I was going to be speaking to her about her invasive ways. They said I have their support.
Well. Just a couple of weeks ago she started inching still more of her crap back over onto my patio. Then a few days ago she said, “Look, I have this nice table you can use if you want to, I will put it against the wall outside your window there.” I told her I don’t really want it there. I said I like to look at the wall of green I have created and I don’t like things cluttered up. But I don’t have room for it, she said. Well, you should give it away or donate it then, I said. She ignored all I said to put the table on my patio. It was on wheels so I shoved it back over on her patio and then pushed all of her encroaching junk back there, too.
When I arrived home from errands she was waiting for me. She came to my door and said, “Did you move my stuff?” Yes, I told her, I didn’t like it and I don’t want it on my patio. Well I can’t even get in there now on my patio, she said. You need to get rid of some stuff, you have too much stuff, I said. To which she retorted: you have a lot of stuff, too. Nothing like you do, I told her and I am not trying to absorb your patio to store my junk either, you are. She said, I will put it all back. If you do, I told her, I will shove it all back on your own patio. I don’t care, she said, I will put it back, I will put it back, I will put it back! Well then, I said, I will involve the landlord. She said in a very telling statement common among bullying social misfits: “I don’t care.”
In the typical unaccountable methodical fashion of sociopath behavior meant to manipulate us into meeting their needs, she began blaming me, telling me “you are depressed, you need help!” Having had a lot of experience with this oppressive tactic from unhealthy people in the past, I told her, “You are so messed up, it has nothing to do with me at all. You need to stop being so pushy and listen for once in your life. Stay away from me, I am not your social life!”
She continued calling me names, attempting to make her abuse my fault and I told her she is going to get herself evicted if she keeps this invasive, disrespectful behavior up. At one point my boyfriend thought she hit me and stepped out on the patio to tell her to stop abusing me, told her that she needs to stop bothering me all the time. She denied it and he told her “I’ve seen what you do, you need to leave her alone.” It was actually her dog that jumped at me and knocked my sunglasses out of my hand. Still, she just shouted back, “You don’t even live here!” No recognition or acknowledgement of anything reasonable that is being said to her is certain proof of how messed up and disrespectful she really is.
In addition to what I said to her I told her I do not want to ever again hear her two-faced talking about our landlords. She denied doing so. I cited the examples listed above and told her not to speak for me to them either, I can speak for myself just fine. She said, I didn’t! Yes, you did, while I was away you complained about something and you said “we both” and I didn’t even know anything about it, I told her, I just don’t want to hear anything about the landlords from you ever again, do not include me in your wild imaginings.
She continued to tell me I was at fault in many ways I don’t need to list here, said she has learned what an awful person I am. Such are the abusive patterns of those broken individuals who can no longer use, abuse or manipulate us into doing whatever it is they want us to do. My last words before I came back in my apartment were: Stay away from me, I am NOT your social life.
Today is the first day of peace for me since she moved here. No back and forthing to my door. No bothering me when I did my laundry this morning. No jumping out her door as soon as she hears me exit mine or when she hears me coming down the stairs when I return home. No going up and down the stairs just to get another look into my place or talk without invitation and use up my precious life minutes.
If you know me at all as all of my long time friends and healthy, loving family members do since childhood, you know I am a loving, kind person who is all about the people and relationships. I am even considering changing my blog theme to focus on human relationships of all sorts because whether poetry, short story or a piece like this, it is always winds up being all about the people for me. Still, whether there is mental illness, abuse of any sort, sociopath patterns or meddlesome two-faced manipulators, I have learned I need to guard my kindness and save it for those deserving. A famous psychologist named Phil McGraw says “People tell us who they are.” They sure do. If we are listening.
Sometimes sugar and honey just turn the bees more aggressive so they sting you harder and more often. Know who your bees are before you feed them anything at all is the best thing I can think of to do. Off to enjoy more peaceful uninterrupted time to myself. Now that sounds really sweet to me. Ahhh, peace and quiet.
Hope to see you again soon.
(c) Janni Styles
Post traumatic stress disorder
P T S D
Tightening every muscle
A giant fist of anxiety
Unkind, abusive people are not safe
Safety is on much higher ground
Pay no mind to the nasty folk
They will only bring us down
There is no known cure for this
It’s just the way the brain is wired
Stress and cruelty can wear you down
Leaving you emptied out and tired
Some days are better than others
There is no telling how they might be
You just wake up and try your best
Hoping things work out peacefully
The world is rife with assaulting sounds
People ready to argue on a dime
Guard your heart, your mind and ears
With soothing sights and music sublime
On the days when nothing will work
Take heart in how well you have done
You may have been through wars of many
Yet you are here, living and moving on
PTSD may never be completely gone
It may always be lingering inside
Make friends with your worst fears
Let your “safe people” be your guide
We may never win the war on PTSD
The grueling challenges may never end
Take heart, know you are not alone
In me you have a PTSD friend
(c) Janni Styles
Here is my latest PTSD poster, number 7 in the series:
Why does an eleven year old child attempt suicide? Nobody wanted me to talk about it then and I am sure nobody wants me to talk about it now. Talking about it is something I never should have stopped doing. If we kept talking about suicide instead of trying to shame blame people into silence about the very real threat, I believe many would not be so successful at achieving it.
Think about this: An eleven year old child attempts suicide. What must have been happening to that little girl to drive her to such dire measures? What was she going through that nobody would even try to understand or help fix for her?
Two things were happening that this girl can now share. She had more responsibilities heaped on her than most adults have to cope with and she was being hurt by her parent’s drunken party friends but nobody talked about that stuff back then either. When her family moved from the Ontario country side to the city, it seemed predators lurked everywhere. And they did. Nobody wants her to talk about any of that but what they don’t grasp is she blames no one. She is not hostile or vengeful at all about being that little girl who had no safe place to turn to.
As an adult herself she knows that adults are not perfect and some people fail at keeping their children safe because they just don’t know any better at the time. Her own mother wrote on a birthday card when the girl was a woman in her late thirties “you had it the hardest of all my kids and I am so proud of the woman you are, you have achieved so much in spite of all those tough years we went through.” Like my mother, some may not fully recognize situations until they are well distanced from them and able to see with clarity. Keep talking until it is so safe for everyone that suicide becomes an acceptable every day topic for everyone.
If there were more talk about suicide, fewer people would succeed at it or suffer the shaming and blaming that many foist on those of us who have attempted it. This shaming and blaming may be the very thing that isolates the suicidal person, shoves them right over the edge as it did, sadly, with a beautiful young teen named Amanda Todd. She was bullied to death by online monsters who relentlessly rammed at her psyche with their vitriolic and most unwarranted comments. https://nobullying.com/amanda-todd-story/ Amanda is gone. Never to return. Imagine if the kindness had outweighed the cruelty; she would likely still be here if kindness had won out.
At age thirteen I tried to suicide out again. Adding to the already burdened eleven year old girl’s world was a drastic cross country move at age 12 that tore her and her siblings away from friends, family and all things familiar. They arrived in this place on the edge of the sea only to have her father leave her, her mother and four younger siblings to start a new life without them. Really, her father was already out the door before he actually left but there was no way of seeing that either until many decades later.
Her mother blamed the girl, said it was her fault the father left and her fault the younger ones were acting out because she was the one the little ones were supposed to look up to. The girl asked the mother who she was supposed to look up to but that question went unanswered. Then, also still at age thirteen I had an overwhelming urge to run home from a friend’s where I was to sleep over. I found my mother unconscious and covered in vomit from pills she took trying to suicide out.
Finding my mother trying to suicide out proved too much for this already shattered girl’s mind. I get that my mother was mentally and emotionally in trouble but many in my family do not or will not, many of them are angry that I even dare talk about her suicide attempt. All I have to say to them is not talking does not help a single soul, Mom lived to her eighties and it is a well known fact mental illness runs in families. Just look at the number of family members or relations treated for depression and anxiety, the hostility visible all over the internet from some relatives too incapable of dealing with their internal anger or misery in a healthy manner, the self harm of cutting or multiple addictions in one family alone and you can see the writing on the wall – and not talking about suicide or mental health matters has ever helped a single soul. Ever.
At age fifteen I tried to suicide out again. Suffice it to say I still had responsibilities heaped on me no teen should have. Being resourceful as I had learned to be from the age of eight onward, I was able to connect with people familiar with crisis and dealing with people in crisis. This helped me learn coping skills I still carry with me to this day. In my twenties I started taking courses that ultimately led to me working with victims of violence and being a lay counselor and serving on the board of directors at the local rape and trauma center. I was good at those jobs and services, I believe my own trying childhood and teen years were why I was so effective in those jobs. I did burn out after years of doing this in the non-profit sector and the justice system, though and had to leave those types of emotionally draining positions behind me.
Fast forward to 2010 when a twenty year friend of mine began visiting me for as much as twelve hours at a time, sleeping over and spending weekends at my apartment I had taken after leaving an abusive 32 year marriage that proved to be a false front, not a true marriage in any sense. Silly me thought my friend was just being kind to me, spending so much time with me because I was newly single. I could not have been more trusting or more wrong. She was pursuing my alcoholic, gambling and porn addicted ex by sleuthing information out of me to pursue him with. He thought it magical she knew his favorite candy, beer, meal, etc At the end of it all, I felt raped. Inside outside, all around every side. It felt so “incestuous” and “mentally raping” as the trauma counselor put it. I was so blindsided by she who claimed to be so Catholic she would never even touch a married man, let alone one she knew had committed so much harm to others, myself included.
When I went to retrieve the rest of my pretty things (I had no room for them in my tiny apartment, I just wanted to get them out of my former home of many years and give them away or sell or donate them so she was not touching/using them), I arranged this all over the phone with him when he was at work because that was the only time you could find him sober.
What I did not expect was that he would set me up not once but twice. Twice I arrived to find her there. The first time he said she is leaving she just came to say goodbye because I broke off with her. Well goodbye, you may go, I told her but she refused to leave. I grew more distraught and sobbed, asking her to leave as did he, repeatedly. She refused and when he grabbed my flailing arms waving and pointing to the unblocked exits, she started kicking me.
It was like being in a horror movie you can’t escape. It was surreal. The second time I arrived (again arranged when he was sober at work and under assurance she would not be there as, again, he said he was sick of her and they were done) she called the police to say it was a “home invasion.” The police were astonished she did that because they sent eight units to my former home that night but she was never charged with the mischief that should have been the least of the charges against her. They were very surprised when they asked how I got in and I showed them my house key and told them my ex knew I was coming, we had arranged it three days ago. I still had my key as it was my former marital home where many of my things were being stored and I still slept in the guest room on occasion to visit with family of choice and their children living near that home a good hours drive away from my apartment, if traffic was favorable.
The night the kicking happened I felt sure the police would protect me. But I was wrong. She lied to the police about kicking me because she was in health care and would instantly lose her job if she admitted to assaulting anyone like that. He was blithering drunk and supported her story, said he didn’t “see” the kick, so police treated me like the wrong doer and a week later dropped the charges because their stories lined up but mine did not even though her kicking left me with bladder trouble for over a year and I was so traumatized by all of it, I developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My sleep time was so full of nightmares of them coming after me, I have permanent scars all over my shoulders from clawing myself awake for the next few years.
This whole experience thrust me into the deepest depression I have ever been in since my teens. Not only was my whole marriage a false front but my 20 year friendship with her was false and now the people who should have protected me were traitors, too. There was no one I could turn to and no one I could trust anymore.
Blackness was my home for the next couple of years. I could see nothing to live for. Everything I ever believed in was a sham. All I wanted to do was suicide out. I lost time, I went through days of being on my couch or in my bed not moving.
Fortunately I knew of many resources from my work with victims of violence and I reached out to the local Women’s Center where I received Trauma Counselling for about 1 and 1/2 years. I also used the counselling services through my ex’s work and received massive amounts of support and coping skills to manage the grief I was also processing because at the time this was all unfolding, I lost my mother, my job (they laid me off to hire their relative), a guy I was seeing (mutually exclusively he said, ha) cheated on me, my dog had to be euthanized and some of my sisters and their adult children who were unaware of all the harm my ex had done in the marriage and to others (because I never told anyone about it all until after I left him), sided with him and her, leaving me with no safe place to turn. I just could not believe people could be so cruel. But they were. There was no one I could turn to and no one I could trust any more.
If not for the Grief and Trauma Counselling and those safe environments I would not have made it. I would not be here. They were kind and supportive voices that called to me in the dark of night, helped me feel safe and stable and if I could remember, to employ the techniques they taught me to manage my trauma. I credit those counselors, Vicki, Mary and Sean with my life because they are the ones who helped me breathe and live again. Talking about suicide as well as relationships, realities and ways to help myself heal from all of that trauma and loss saved my life.
In May of 2014 my ex phoned me to tell me that former friend of mine finally admitted to him that she kicked me. Kicking is considered lethal force where I live. You or she, I told him, should phone the police and correct that file, it is too late to press charges now but the least you owe me is the truth. Neither of them did that nor will they likely ever despite driving me into such black abject despondency for nearly three years.
In 2013 I met a man who loves me just as I am and says my ex, that former friend and those three sisters of mine and their adult children owe me a big fat apology. I will likely never get that either. But I’m okay with that because of all of my relations who never abandoned me, who loved me and supported me through my darkest nights are such loving kind people, I really couldn’t ask for more.
In our first year or so together, this man would wake me up because, he said, I sounded so distressed in my sleep, I woke up screaming or crying almost every night in those black years, when I could get to sleep, that is. In the safety of this man’s acceptance and support of me, my PTSD and newly diagnosed Fibromyalgia (which many believe was triggered by that physical assault) I was able to breathe and let myself learn to trust again because this man did not judge me or blame or shame me for anything I had been through. He warmly welcomed me into his world and said, “We’re your family now.” And, as if to prove him right, all of his family also welcomed me with such love and respect, some days I am still in awe that I got so lucky. Many say luck had nothing to do with it, it was not giving up that got me where I am. That may well be so but I still believe I am one of the lucky ones because I found love in the midst of the darkness and had professional help that kept me going.
These days I don’t look back so much despite the emotional and mental scars that can still dog me on days when stress or pain levels are high. I am sure I drove my readers and followers around the bend in talking so much about all the trauma and losses I survived from 2010 onward but really I wasn’t even aware that I repeated myself so much, it was all I knew in that moment and it helped me keep going, stay breathing and for that I am eternally grateful. And, though I am in a much better place now, I will never forget the lessons I have learned. If I ever get strong enough to write the book, I am sure it will outdo Fatal Attraction at the box office, lol. So, you see, I am dreaming of life goals and looking forward again.
Talking about suicide is the only thing that can keep people alive. Shunning them will not. Ignoring them will not. Ridiculing them will not. Abandoning them will not. Shaming them will not. Blaming them will not. Talking in a safe and understanding way is the only thing that can avert or prevent a suicide.
Please let your people talk about it, make it safe for them to talk to you about whatever they are going through or feeling. Don’t use their trauma against them. Don’t make the conversation about you. Don’t tell them to just “go ahead.” And don’t blame yourself if they succeed in spite of all of your talking or listening.
Sometimes talking or listening won’t be enough. Some who are truly bent on suiciding out will still succeed. I am guessing when I say they are the ones who did not want to talk about it at all to anyone. But there are signs of suicide that you can reference if you think someone you love may be contemplating it and in closing, I will share links to some sites folks may find helpful. Just don’t forget that there is help out there and just keep the conversation going, don’t give up.
You never know who you might save.
(c) Janni Styles
Some links to help if you need them, many more available online.
Note to readers:
This piece took me three months to write. This is how my life is now since PTSD and Fibromyalgia. I do what I can when I can but everything takes me longer now. I know you would think why should it take anyone three months to write such a brief piece but that’s how my mind works, it takes longer to think about what I want to say, how I want to frame it and present all the information together. It can be very confusing for me and all information overwhelms me now. Still, I do what I can when I can and am glad for that.