Last week, while working, I ended up in a situation that I had never imagined let alone prepared myself for. A woman who I knew during the ages of 7 to 13 walked past me while I was working. I reverted almost instantly back to the 7year old who thought this lady was the shit, I called out and exclaimed “hi Alison”. Almost instantaneously I regretted my actions, turned away and attempted to become invisible. This woman was my rapists mother. My chest tightened, I lost my breath, and I had to hold on to everything within my power to not lose it, cry, get up and run away.
Luckily for me, she turned toward me smiled, did not recognise the woman I have become, turned and continued on to wherever she was headed.
I have many triggers that have become more and more apparent since entering therapy 5 years ago. These are things I have been able to work on, utilising self care plans, breathing techniques, and talking about them.
I had even worked on what I would do if I ever ended up in the presence of her son.
However, I had never planned for this, or what I would do.
I guess the thing with triggers or triggering events is learning how to manage your response to them. To begin with, this was super difficult and I easily succumbed to drinking my problems away and using other substances to numb these parts of my life out. This only exacerbated my responses to triggers and flashbacks which meant that I would slip so easily into a suicidal state.
Back to my love of lists…
1. Learn how your body reacts to triggers and flashbacks. Take note of these, does your heart pound really hard and fast? Does your face become tingly or numb? Do you become pale? Does the feeling of butterflies flitting around your chest happen? By learning how your body reacts to triggers and flashbacks can allow you to figure out how to combat these symptoms. With chest symptoms like heart pounding, and butterflies, breathing techniques indeed help for some, mindfulness techniques can also keep these reactions and responses at bay.
2. Take control of your triggers. One thing I did when I first had a stressful flashback and trigger from a smell was to seek that smell out. The smell of figs were a huge trigger for me so I found a soap that was made out of fig leaves. Every so often I would smell this soap, in a safe environment. This way, I was able to be the one in control of this trigger and give myself positive affirmations at the same time. I would tell myself things like ‘you are safe’, ‘I am in control now’, ‘nobody is hurting me anymore’. Sometimes survivors of abuse need to feel in control of what is happening for them and in this instance it certainly helped me.
3. Avoidance. Avoiding triggers such as people or environments can really help in order to keep a certain distance from the triggers and flashbacks for a time. This allowed some healing to take place in order for me to feel strong enough to go back to these situations and places in the long run. I’m not gonna lie, it’s still not easy to be around people or places that remind me of difficult events but now that there is distance within time from it, it is a lot easier to cope with.
4. Don’t expect to be okay straight away. Allow yourself to be hurt, broken, insecure, and not okay. It is not a weakness to be a survivor of a traumatic event or events, it is a strength to get through it and still be here. If you try and stay tough, if and when you do fall, it will be much more difficult to accept and piece yourself back together again. Remember falling is not a weakness.
5. Remember how amazing you are. This can be tough I know, especially in hard times and crisis. Try and believe in yourself and how strong you are to have made it this far. So many people love and care about you, if you need to hear that then know that I am screaming it loud and clear!
Much love xx