Triggers are a funny thing. After awhile, one might think they know what their triggers are…and may even be fairly sure what the resulting reaction to it might be. Someone that has been handling triggers that seem to be everywhere for awhile, may even assume that new triggers are not likely to be earth-shattering or devastating or necessarily even surprising.
One would be wrong in that assumption.
The trouble with triggers is this:
- They are sneaky and can pop up unannounced, anytime and anywhere
- They are inconsistent and unreliable. What was a trigger one day may cease to be a trigger, but, based on new information, something else may take its place.
- They vary in their intensity depending on a multitude of factors; mood, hormones, present company, the weather, the time of day. . .
- They are completely out of our control
I found a couple of definitions for “trigger” rather appropriate as it applies to my current circumstance.
1. Anything, as an act or event, that serves as a stimulus and initiates or precipitates a reaction or series of reactions.
2. To fire or explode (a gun, missile, etc.) by pulling a trigger or releasing a triggering device.
Maybe it’s just my trauma brain, but I find that number 2 is generally the reaction or series of reactions described in number 1. That is to say, when I am triggered by “an act or event” the reaction it initiates is to “explode”. That is what happened with Will’s latest leak of information in our therapists office. I did not see it coming.
And I erupted.
Not physically. I didn’t scream at him. I didn’t hit him. I did resort to some snarkiness (grrr…I had really been doing so much better), and a few choice words escaped that I honestly tried to bite back. No, this time, the actual explosion was in my head. I went all the way back to step one in the grieving process…denial..then anger, rage, really…then bargaining….well, you know. There was an absolute violent avalanche of angry, hateful thoughts and feeling towards Will, his skanky OWs, the massage parlors here in town…towards every degenerate, perverted, sex selling advertiser or magazine or media producer…you name it and I was pissed at them. Then I settled in and sat with my main feeling which was disgust. I was so disgusted (all over again) that I could not be near Will. I asked him to leave for a couple of days to let me process. He did. I found out he slept in his truck. He also jumped right over that requested boundary and was right back the next morning. Ummmm. . . Really?!
I initiated a 24 hour NO contact. He went to work. He slept in his truck again. He left me alone to process. He called his sponsor and group members and worked on himself.
So, here are my takeaways from this last incident as I sit in the dark tonight, blogging as Will snoozes peacefully next to me.
In the past, I would have raged, thrown stuff, degraded Will, gotten drunk, cried my face off, ruminated for days, worked myself into a full-blown PTSD episode, maybe lost time or dissociated and run away.
I didn’t do that this time. I was angry and upset, yes. But I looked down and noticed that I was wearing my big girl panties. I didn’t run away but I needed space. I showed Will that I was not the one causing the hurt…therefore, I stayed warm and comfortable and let him fend for himself. When Will refused to take my hurt seriously and crossed the boundary, I was firm in my resolve and my need for time. I stuck to my no contact until I was comfortable with my emotions. Tonight as we went to bed, I told him open and honestly that I preferred he allow me space as I am still uncomfortable with his touch. He nodded, and said he understood, that he loved me and goodnight.
I am not so naive to think that I will always be wise-minded when new information pops up and I am triggered. I won’t. But, for now, for this time, I am accepting myself and my reaction for what it is. I am a woman surviving through betrayal trauma and I am doing the best I can with what I have. I am taking the moments, the setbacks, and the sweet victories over this devastating shitstorm as they come. As I tell my therapist, every time I am triggered and Will lives through it? Well. . .That counts as a win.