Monday, January 21, 2008

More on Triggers

I got a comment to the post Triggers that I was asked not to post. But I was given permission to refer to that comment. The subject of triggers and/or flashbacks is as varied as the people experiencing. I do not profess to be an expert on the subject but I do have some thoughts and feelings about it.

The gist of this comment was really three-fold in my opinion. Recognizing triggers. What happens when you don't. If you can't control them or recognize them, do you modify your life to make sure that you are "in control." There may have been more to it than this, but these are what jumped out at me so here goes.

The commenter mentioned that she has problems recognizing triggers. She has no idea they are coming until they "slap me in the face." I think that is probably true for most victims. Once those triggers have reared their ugly heads, however, that is a good time to take them to therapy to be "studied" for lack of a better work.

To get to the point that a person could tell that triggers are coming by a little ripple in the system, one has to have gotten to be pretty adept at reading the inner feelings of the system. That is a ways along in the healing process. Getting to that point, in and of itself, can be a monumental task. No survivor should blame themselves for not being that perceptive about triggers.

I know for me in the beginning of all of this, my feelings were so superficial that I really didn't have a clue what was going on inside of me. I had things walled off very effectively. There was no clue that any of this lay underneath in a complicated system.

When something did rock my boat, I might explode into a flurry of defensive maneuvers. Anything to stop the feelings from transmitting down to other levels was fair game. Usually I could find someone to tell me "it" wasn't my fault and deflect blame another way so that I didn't take "it" on. Whatever "it" might be. By the next day it would be out of sight and out of mind.

Many times I didn't even know I had a reaction to something that should rock my boat. It was not uncommon for me to gloss over events with no response what so ever. Having no clue I had any feelings at all was pretty normal for me. Through these times, I had no clue I had Multiple Personality Disorder (now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder)

I know the professionals believe that many multiples function just like that. They think we do just fine until some major trauma happens. That rocks the boat to a bigger degree than what the system can handle. The ensuing chaos is what brings multiples in for treatment.

I think once the system becomes unbalanced is when triggers take on a life of their own. That is when we find ourselves ambushed by them with no rhyme or reason to where they are coming from or what purpose they have. That boat we have been floating around in for years is now leaking at the seams.

That doesn't mean that we are defective in some way because we do not see the triggers coming. It is the very nature of triggers that makes them difficult to detect. None of us (singleton or multiple - healthy or out of control) has easy access to our subconscious. The secrets residing there have nearly as much control over our lives as breathing and yet finding out what hides there is difficult at best.

These triggers can affect not only our lives but even the lives of those we love. When they come popping out when we least expect them, they're not just disruptive, they can be downright dangerous. My commenter related an incident involving one of her children. Her physical reaction was so traumatic that both of their lives were at risk.

It is important to note that we are no more responsible for this than the man who has the heart attack or stroke while driving in his car. Just as no one would willing put their life at risk driving if they knew they were going to have a catastrophic attack in the next twenty minutes, the same is true for victims that are assaulted by triggers in unsafe manners. To hold ourselves accountable for that is totally unreasonable.

The responsibility lies with the offenders who caused the triggers to be floating around in our heads in the first place. All we can do is work to get free of those triggers, we cannot blame ourselves for them being in place. Doing so is just one more thing that's going to make it that much harder to get free.

Once we have had such a situation happen, then we are faced with what we do now. Just like the child who decides never to try anything new because she doesn't want to fail puts herself in the position of never truly being able to experience life, the person who has suffered flashbacks and decides never to take another chance being alone with a child compromises her quality of life and that of her child as well.

Once we allow fear to rule our decisions, we deny ourselves access to what it truly meaningful in our lives. That is the truly the saddest part about being a victim.


Enola said...

I don't have DID but what worked for me on identifying and copying with triggers was to keep a Trigger chart. I would keep a piece of paper with me at all times. I would jot down what I was doing, where I was, what I heard, smelled, saw - when I was triggered. Just jot down anything I thought off. Later I'd transfer it to a little chart. At the end of the day I'd rate my average anxiety, average panic, and # of panic attacks (1-10 scale). Over time I began to see patterns. For exp - 2 pm is a tough time for me. Adjusting meds helped some. And I just have to realize that 2pm is a tough time for me.

Hope that helps somewhat (and makes sense)

Missing In Sight said...


Thanks for the postings to my site. Sounds trite but it feels good when someone reads and listens.

Question about your comment. I've seen how you incorporate someone's comment in a new post you blog. How do you do that? If, for example, I wanted to refer to your comment, how would I do that?

Thanks for listening and commenting. You must have your hands full. I appreciate your post so much. I hope that one day I will be able to look back at our post and see where we've come from and that we're in a better place then.

Kahless said...

It is an interesting concept how you used triggers.

Kahless said...

Bloody hell. When I read this post this morning I was thinking to myself how in control and sorted I have been these last few weeks. Then I visit the doctors and my day is spiralling out of control with one thing after another. I wonder. How much of my life I live in denial. I hate how I feel. All because of a doctors visit and I didn't want to go, but he makes me to pick up my meds.

Fallen Angels said...

I have mixed feelings on triggers and trigger warnings. It's definitely true that triggers are very useful in therapy. Also...not all triggers bring up "yucky" stuff. The smell of oil of olay makes me think of my Aunt; a person who was and still is a safe person for me, and I am very close to her.

On the flip side of that... every day just being out in the world there are triggers. Plenty of things for me to make note of (if I can) and take to T. When I read blogs, there are things that are triggering that people may not consider triggers (therefore, no warnings), there are people that don't use trigger warnings and I often choose to read things that do have trigger warnings also, but sometimes I do head the warning. I know that for me, if I am not at least a little careful about what I read online, the system can be triggered enough that important areas of life start to slide. Getting badly triggered on Friday afternoon leaves me with an entire week of school to deal with before seeing T again. A professor can drop a student after two absences, one week equals two absences. If that happens twice in a semester, I have a major problem at school. When I write on my blog, I use trigger warnings for this reason, I know other people may be in the same place I am. I also know that I have had visitors to my blog that are not in therapy. Some are like you, and while I would feel bad about triggering you, I also know that you have dealt with far more than I have in therapy so far...meaning, you are much further along the healing journey and probably have the skills to deal with being triggered. But other people have never been in therapy, are looking for a T they can work with or have just started and are not yet in a place of trust with their T. While everyone needs to own their triggers and work through them, I worry about those people who are not yet in a place to do's mostly for them that I use trigger warnings.

A Mother's Place is in the Wrong said...

Hi and thank you for visiting my Blog, and for your comments. I have started reading yours, and will catch up with a subject I know nothing about - there is always something to learn!
Many thanks and regards, Margot xx

April_optimist said...

Great post as always!

One of the things I found was that as I untangled the threads related to a trigger, the trigger lost much of its power.

The other thing I find incredibly helpful is to create new positive triggers for myself. Example: I went through my closet and figured out which clothes make me feel happiest and strongest. So now, whenever I expect to be in a challenging situation, I pull out one of those.

These positive triggers become a counterpoint to potential negative triggers and if the starts to lose its power, I just "recharge" the object or scent.

Anonymous said...

I just read several of your posts. It is truly moving. Thank you for sharing your story. So many people are clueless about personality disorders. Thank you for clueing us in. Even though I can only partly understand the enormous struggle you have gone through and are still on, it is clear how brave you are and it is very humbling. Well done for doing what you are doing.