Triggers and Tools

Living with PTSD often means understanding that there are triggers, triggers everywhere. Coping with PTSD often means learning the tools to handle the triggers. 

Before I was diagnosed I had no idea what was wrong with me. I was quirky to my friends and family, but inside I felt out of control and crazy. I could tell that the people I was with didn’t react the same way I did to certain situations, but I couldn’t understand why.

People can sometimes sit down at a restaurant and marvel over the choices on the menu. I become anxious and lose my appetite because the choices are overwhelming. Walks in the woods typically are filled with deep breathing wonderment at the smells and sounds of leaves rustling and crunching. I would cringe and keep looking over my shoulder because the crunching meant someone was running behind me to catch me. 

The sound of distant fireworks is often a sound and a sign of summer festivals and fun. I bristle and remember a time when I heard guns or bombs. The beautiful full moons shining brightly in the sky brings a sense of awe.  I often feel left-over dread and fear for the rituals the solstices brought in a place long ago, but not so far away. 

These are just a few triggers that I have to manage living with PTSD. 

 I used to flounder and drown in the vortex of my symptoms, but now, I have the tools to help me cope. I understand that there are triggers, triggers everywhere and I know the reasons why. Knowing the truth and understanding my past has been a huge help for managing my mental health. 

I understand what flashbacks are, and while they are terribly uncomfortable, I have the tools to cope with the aftermath. I have the tools to work through panic, anxiety, and fear. 

I have a plethora of distress tolerance tools and I have to employ them daily. There are days it feels like my full-time job is consciously finding something to ease the distress, but it is time well spent. 

I understand that going to a restaurant, grocery store, library, or a place with a lot of stimulation, brings some responsibility on my part. Perhaps I can look at the menu online and find something to eat before we get there. I may need to put a book on reserve and pick it up vs. wandering the shelves of the library and becoming overwhelmed by the choices. I have to communicate before my anxiety ramps up,  but I also need to remember and acknowledge if all is well, giving myself a mental pat-on-the-back. 

One of the tools that I’m appreciating the most right now, is that I’ve learned to enjoy the moments when I’m not symptomatic. I’m still hyper-vigilant and my startle response is off the hook sometimes, but I’m not necessarily waiting, or looking for someone or something to happen, and I can calm myself a lot quicker with my learned tools. 

Reminding myself I’m safe, understanding that my intense symptoms caused by triggers are time limited and that I’m okay helps me live with PTSD. The tools help me cope and accept PTSD and all the symptoms that come with it. 

Some day it’s still a tricky dance and I find myself stunned by the experience. I feel clumsy and inept, but with continued practice Im hoping for a symbiotic relationship between triggers, triggers everywhere and the tools to calm and soothe. 

image source: pixabay

Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph


22 thoughts on “Triggers and Tools

  1. Thank You! Its a long journey. Somedays are easier than others, but as long as we work towards health the more tools we acquire. I would love it if there were a day that triggers were not in my life at all anymore. Not sure if thats a realistic goal for me. Just hoping for an easier time to cope with them. Have a good weekend! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sue J

    An insightful, helpful post. When I dealt with secondary traumatic stress (in the many years dealing with my 9/11 first-responder husband’s severe PTSD), I experienced much of what you mention in terms of hyper-vigilance. Still do to some degree now, just without the dread and despair that used to accompany it. I wish he were better able to round up the tools necessary to cope better; it was a difficult ride without them. He’s since passed away; his suffering has finally come to an end, which is about as positive a spin as I can put on it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You are so wise to be preparing for potential triggers.. like when you say you can look up the menu items online before going to the restaurant.. And that tells me you know what are your triggers.. so you must remind yourself you’ve made progress.. and I hope you continue to move forward and share as you are helping many 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank You so much for sharing Aura. I have a German Shepard mix who is my buddy. She is a rescue and I feel like we rescued each other. I know someday you will feel the joy of hikes again. Take good care!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I miss hikes in the woods or just sitting alone by a creek. Once in a while I play disc golf and the course around me is very woodsy in a city park. I can get some hiking start stop hiking (because of frisbee throwing) there with people I know. But it’s still not the same as enjoying nature by myself. I am hoping to get a protective German Shepherd some day so I can take him for hikes with me. I’d feel safe that way.

    And this: “I could tell that the people I was with didn’t react the same way I did to certain situations, but I couldn’t understand why.” Boy do I relate to this! I’d either wonder what was wrong with me or wonder how the other person wasn’t as angry as me.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on Espiritu en Fuego/A Fiery Spirit and commented:
    The Triggers that most affect me are pictures/photos of injured, abused or dead animals especially cats, dogs, & birds. Plus I Don’t Like to be Touched. I particularly Don’t like to be hugged. I have made exceptions for hugging in terms of people I know well who are non-threatening, the very old and the very young. As for everyone else specifically Men: PLEASE DO NOT HUG ME!!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Anne, thank you so much for your comment, insight and support. Im so glad you have been able to find your voice around your IBS. It makes a huge difference for our sense of control. Have a great day! 😃

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s so important to understand ourselves and be able to recognize we have a condition that can be defined. I have had IBS my whole life but until about a year ago, to me, it was just my sensitive stomach. Once I read the symptoms and could put a name to it, realizing it WAS something and I’m not alone in having this issue, it just made it easier to understand and cope with. It’s beneficial just being able to tell people, “I suffer from IBS.” Communication and understanding are vital for the individual and the people around us! As always, thanks for sharing! ~Anne

    Liked by 1 person

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