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A safe space to share stories and ask questions
triggers 
7th-Feb-2009 12:43 am
corspse bride emily

The other night, my friend put in his favorite movie "Full Metal Jacket" to watch with me. I hadn't been able to remember if I'd ever seen it, and I'd told him that it wasn't something I'd want to watch on my own, but I'd like to watch it with him. He'd meant to just play a little bit, but he got into it, and talked to me about his experiences as a Marine, which was cool. Then came the part where Pyle is in the bathroom with the gun, and I had a feeling what was going to happen next, but I just braced myself and didn't say anything, thought I could deal with it. I was hoping it wouldn't show anything. Of course, it showed it, and I seriously lost it, and started sobbing.

He knew instantly why I reacted like that, and shut the movie off, hugged me and kept saying how sorry he was, that he shouldn't have shown that to me, that he should have known it'd be a major trigger (my niece killed herself with a shotgun in the bathroom, and my sister found her, and told me what she saw because she needed to talk to someone).

My ex used to look for pictures/video of people who'd blown their heads off just to show me. I tried not to let him get to me. I tried to be strong.

But I trust my friend, and I don't need to be strong around him, so even though I'd braced myself, I ended up crying for a few minutes and he just hugged me and apologized over and over.

The next day I mailed him and said he must think I'm a wuss, and he replied "Instead of a total wuss, i think the reason you can cry in front of me is that you trust me not to hurt you, at least on purpose."


Do you go out of your way to avoid triggers, just brace yourself, or seek out triggers when you need to let it out? Does your reaction depend on who is around? Can you control it? What happens when something triggers you? Is it just embarrassing, or worse?
Comments 
7th-Feb-2009 09:08 am (UTC)
I actually find myself in similar situations... a lot. I notice in a movie or on TV, or even a conversation, that something is about to happen that I will probably find triggering --- and I brace myself. I tell myself I can get through it, that it won't be a big deal, that it'll be all over. Sometimes I just literally *can't* respond in any other way than to brace myself, I just freeze. But a lot of the time, I know I have options, but I just try to "tough it out".

...Yeah. Never turns out well. I either completely freeze up and become cold and distant for the next little while, or I do end up having to leave the room which is always embarrassing. Rarely do I cry in front of people but I've done that, too.

=\

I'm glad you can trust your friend though and that he understands why you're triggered. I'm sorry it happened at all, though :\
7th-Feb-2009 03:59 pm (UTC)
I kind of do the same thing, with bracing myself to see if I can handle it but I usually end up having to leave the room too so I can just be upset in peace. It's really embarrassing when other people see me like that and I always feel weird around people who can watch things like that or even laugh at it with no problem, but then they don't want to hear about what happened to me. It's like they don't have to care about the reality.
7th-Feb-2009 03:15 pm (UTC)
I am glad you have a friend who understands the trigger, and was kind. Sometimes, I think I seek triggers, not because I want to BE triggered, but because the trigger validates my experience and I know then it really happened, if that makes sense. Most of the time I try to avoid them though.
7th-Feb-2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
honestly it depends..I use to seek them out so I could stay sick and at times I still try to do this and my fiancé has picked up on it and will turn off the tv if something comes on that is triggering or take me away from magazines i shouldn't be looking at(have an eating disorder so am obsessed w/ gossip magazines)..now, i try to avoid for the most part, but there are times it almost keeps me "safe" like two days ago I wanted to cut and instead used marker on my arm and wrote "fat" and though not good, it was a better option than cutting..not sure if this is relevant to what you're saying
crying isn't a form of weakness, it means you are willing to let yourself feel, which isn't an easy thing, especially in front of others. I'm glad you broke up w/ your ex--him showing you those pictures was totally insensitive and cruel.
7th-Feb-2009 03:58 pm (UTC)
Ok your ex is a crazy asshole, first of all. I'm so sorry about your niece and it's terrible that your sister had to see her like that. I'm sure your ex showing you pictures like that added so much to your pain or may have even let you imagine what happened to your niece. I really hate people who intentionally trigger others. I mean WTF?

Your friend is really sweet and I'm glad that he supported you. I try to avoid triggers, especially if I'm sort of calm that day. I hate it when I have no idea when something is going to happen and I'm watching something that I respect the quality of, or I think is funny and intelligent and then I get blindsided, but I'm triggered by rape or people making fun of it.

It really depends... if it happens more than once or they say something EXTREMELY offensive then I leave the room when I can actually stand up. I feel like I got stabbed in the heart or something, and my heart turns to ice and sinks into my stomach and I can't move. Sometimes I end up having to gasp for breath. I have ended up having panic attacks before.

Sometimes it is worse if it happens in front of my boyfriend, and I do feel embarrassed because if he looks at me after something he knows is triggering to me happens I feel like there is a spotlight on me and time stopped. Or if he grabs my hand or something it freaks me out more since I'm somewhat dissociated and I know he's trying to snap me out of it but it's like being struck by lightning. I do get really embarrassed when it happens. And I can't control it.

There are some people who don't understand why I watch Law & Order: SVU or Dateline: To catch a predator but nobody ever even called the cops on my abuser and the statute of limitations passed so it's really nice to be able to see someone caring about and trying to help victims and it makes me wish someone had done that for me.
7th-Feb-2009 04:41 pm (UTC)
I do the bottling up emotion inside and doing small things to make me cry (listening to reba mcintire or somethin) but I avoid my triggers if possible. I actually just sent an email to all my friends listing things that bother me, how to avoid them, and what to do if I freak out. That was hard for me, but easier than trying to explain things when I AM accidentally triggered.

I do believe in facing what triggers you, but for the purpose of healing really.

Sometimes I can "control it" or hide it. Sometimes things that will make me burst into tears one day won't faze me at all the next. But I know that for me if I'm triggered badly by something, the next day/week/month I'm going to be more easily triggered because I have increased my anxiety and put myself in that mindset, so I try to find healthier options of letting it out when need be. Not that it's wrong or anything, just not right for me.
7th-Feb-2009 08:20 pm (UTC)
I find a good general rule with triggers is: I allow myself exposure to them when I can cope with the result. So it means if I'm already super-stressed and trying to cope with the stress, I avoid ones I know will really nail me. On good days, I can be exposed to just about anything. I refer to it as my "trigger budget" - how much can I cope with on a given day.

My reasoning is: if you are exposed to a trigger, and cannot handle the stress, you reinforce the trigger and traumatic association. I want to emphasize to you that crying with your friend and seeking comfort with him was coping with the stress very well! If you can be exposed and cope with it - release the fear and sadness and anger, and get past that pain, you reduce the intensity of the trigger. In psychology it's called selective desensitization. It can work quite well.

But the key is to know what you can handle, and be compassionate with yourself. That scene in the movie made my friend, who had NO traumatic associations, literally vomit. That is not an easy scene to see. The fact that you cried and then sought comfort actually shows that you are very well adjusted. We survivors always try to over-normalize, and think that any reaction shows weakness, but it doesn't. You trusted him enough to cry, and you reached out for help. That's fantastic and a sign of great strength.
8th-Feb-2009 10:03 am (UTC)
Yeah. There was something else he'd mentioned that I didn't post earlier.

A few years ago, I was arguing with me ex and happened to be standing behind him holding a rolling pin when he told me I should spatter my brains all over the wall like my niece did. That time, I reacted to the trigger by smacking him in the head as hard as I could with the rolling pin, then hitting him again in hopes of knocking him out so I could run to safety.

I think the contrast between those 2 incidents says something important.
9th-Feb-2009 05:44 am (UTC)
I think so, too. In that incident, you felt so unsafe that you defended yourself. In the one with your friend, you felt safe enough to let out the emotion. That's very important.
10th-Feb-2009 05:45 am (UTC)
Yeah. I trust him. I've known him for a long time, he's seen me at my worst, and he and his wife gave me a place to stay a few times when I needed to get away from my ex. I really don't know how I would have gotten through the last few years without them and my other close friends.
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