Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Triggers That Be

I have been reflecting on the specific incidents that have triggered my PTSD responses, and how they relate to the incidents that have caused my trauma.

In a nutshell, I was raped at the age of 15 whilst in foster care, and then entered a violent, drug fueled and emotionally manipulative relationship with the perpetrator. These are incidents I have never worked through, sorted out or spoken to anyone about. I have always had trouble verbalising specifics, but now that I am faced with working through PTSD, I am aware that the time has come for me to open up and speak about my experiences.

In part, the idea of doing this frightens me; my automatic response is to avoid the reality of this situation and simply focus on the positive aspect of having recovered from depression. When triggers occur, however, it is hard to keep avoiding; instead, I shut down completely, not wanting to speak or think or take any kind of action that may mean delving deeper into the root causes of my physiological experiences.

Over the past week, the triggers have been:
  • Being at a friend's house whilst the girlfriend who just broke up with her moved her belongings out- it was full of angst, drama, yelling and physical threats to my safety;
  • Having a fiend bring up a conversation about my ex-boss, a controlling, manipulative woman who brought my PTSD to the forefront of my life;
  • Having a salesperson tell me off for touching a product;
  • Witnessing a negative verbal interaction between my partner and a stranger over a car park; and
  • Seeing a male who resembled my rapist/domestic violence perpetrator.
I have dealt with each of these by going into an avoidance zone; a place in which I do not speak or think immediately after the event, and one in which I must muster every ounce of strength to maintain a fabricated version of my persona. As soon as I am home, I relax into a state of silence and darkness. I have also experienced fear, both within the situation itself and in the time following.

Within each of these triggers runs the common theme of conflict, and this conflict is often partnered with a threat to my physical safety or a representation of emotional manipulation. These are exact parallels to the trauma-causing incidents, which means that whilst my mind is avoiding dealing with the specifics of those, my body is responding to them in every way.

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