** WARNING: Trigger alert **
Thank you everyone for your very lovely comments this week. I was scared nearly to death posting that longest blog post ever, but have been very touched by how kind and supportive you all are. 🙂 Thank you.
Apologies to those of you getting nauseous with all this talk of progress, but I’m finding it quite helpful to look back at where I was a few months ago and think about how far I’ve come. Or it would be helpful if I hadn’t committed to doing it every day! 😉
Another area in which I’ve made some progress over the last few months is dealing with flashbacks and triggers.
I’ve always been sensitive to loud noises, which I believe is common in trauma survivors and those with PTSD. As a child I’d usually vomit if I was surprised by a loud noise – my grandmother starting up the floor polisher; the workman at kinder starting up his drill. Six months ago I’d jump out of my skin and completely lose touch with reality. Now? Well, I still startle easily, but I’m generally not so wiggy about it.
I’m still very sensitive, especially to noise. The sound of men laughing; loud male voices – these are particularly bad. Triggering, and I’m always convinced the men are laughing at me. I can remember numerous times when my father, and his friends, laughed like that at me. The worst memories are associated with sexual abuse – my father spying on me in the shower, and laughing; his friend touching me where no adult should touch a child, and my father laughing in the background. No wonder the laughing is so hideous for me.
I’m still sensitive to a lot of things. From simple things like the sound of wood being chopped, or the clatter of wood on concrete, to the smell of boiled vegetables and the smell of panel beaters’ filler stuff (I don’t know what it’s called). Other things like freshly washed men’s flannelette pyjamas, the smell of sauerkraut, the smell of beer, old men (smell, sight, sound and touch)… I could go on but you get the picture.
Sometimes these triggers are accompanied by flashbacks. Mostly the flashbacks come with noise triggers now.
When I was younger, being alone in the house at night would totally and completely freak me out. The slightest noise, the wind blowing, a dog barking – everything sent me rushing to the window to see who was there; to see who was coming to “get” me. I can’t tell you the number of nights I spent sleeping with a knife to keep me “safe”, or cowering in the corner on high alert. I didn’t realise until very recently that all this is connected to the past.
Somewhere over the last few months I’ve got a lot better at dealing with many of these triggers. There are still things that take me by surprise (like the woman who suddenly appeared beside me at the shops today), and some things that leave me flopping about like a half dead fish, but generally, as I’ve said before, I’m much better at recognising what’s happening and talking myself through it. I’ve become a lot more adept at noticing the physical things that happen – a tightening inside, heart pounding, shoulders tense, body shrunken away. And the shaking. Always the shaking. Though I am a lot better at being alone at night now. That’s kind of a good thing when you live on your own!
I often wonder if I will always be triggered like this? Perhaps. Or perhaps I’ll just get better at knowing what’s triggering me, and why, and better at dealing with it. For now, I’ll just enjoy not “vortexing out” at every damned thing. 🙂