One of the most difficult symptoms of betrayal P.T.S.D. and trauma are the triggers. Triggers can be physical or mental and can wreck havoc on your health. For a long time I had difficulty explaining what it was like having triggers day-in and day-out. Below is the best way I could describe it.
You can start by imagining yourself as a small lake, the beautiful sandy shores are the barrier you built to protect yourself. You have existed for a long time with nothing disturbing your waters and the shores, but the occasional wind and rain (kids, family, work, etc.) until the unexpected happened. A rare category 4 hurricane named Betrayal barreled through your waters and damaged your shoreline. Not only did Hurricane Betrayal spend a good amount of time breaking down your shores, it also broke down a rocky ledge 1000 ft above you. Within a day this ledge starts to crumble. The very first piece to fall from the ledge is a boulder the size of a Semi-Truck. This boulder disturbs your peace and safety over a period of a few days reminding you of the hurricane. The next boulder that falls into your water is the size of a pick-up truck. This boulder disturbs you for a day. The next boulder is the size of a compact car, you are disturbed a little less than the previous boulders but dislike how it reminds you of Hurricane Betrayal. You have these boulders sporadically crashing down for a few months. They vary in size. Every day you are unsure what type of rock is going to be falling into your water and what memories it will stir up. It could be any size at any given moment. This makes you worried, edgy, panicked, and nervous every minute of every single day. Every single pebble that comes down from that ledge reminds you of Hurricane Betrayal.
After 6 months of large boulders, rocks and pebbles disturbing your waters, you no longer identify as a lake, you are unsure what you are. You become highly sensitive to anything that touches your water or shoreline. The wind and rain (children, family, friends, finances, work) pick away at your shores little by little even if just a minuscule amount. Everything that touches your water leaves its mark on you. You are in constant fear of no longer being a lake, of a boulder completely crashing down into your water destroying all the shoreline you have left after Betrayal hit.
Years goes by, you are exposed to the wind and rain. The ledge letting boulders, rocks and pebbles go is something you accept being there. You are still a lake, like before. You have weathered through it all. You even made it through another hurricane. Some days you would have a boulder and tiny rocks land in your water. On other days the ledge would drop pebbles all day long. Gradually over time the ledge stopped dropping the boulders and only dropped pebbles and an occasional stone. Sometimes the stones would be significant and sometimes not. There was a week where you didn’t have anything fall into your water. The ledge you kept constant eye on no longer looks like a ledge. You can barely see where it was. You will always remember what that ledge looked like right after Hurricane Betrayal hit. You will not forget the damage Betrayal and that ledge did to you, but you might appreciate what it made you become.
I have learned a lot over the last 3 ½ years when it comes to what works when I am overwhelmed with triggers and heavy emotions. Some of the worse times for triggers are when I am doing household chores. A good example is when I do the dishes. I go on auto pilot when doing them and that is when the thoughts, triggers and emotions sneak in. All the everyday chores a Mom must do are the type of chores I would have the hardest time with all the thoughts coming up. At any given moment of any day you could catch me balling my eyes out, frozen from the hurt, paused in time, in the middle of doing a chore.
A little over a year and half ago during an appointment with my EMDR therapist I learned what to do when I was doing household chores to help process all the triggers I was having. At the time I was having a hard time at work. I was having to open boxes upon boxes of wood flooring. My therapist brought up using a cross body motion to slice the boxes open. The next day I sliced those boxes open with passion. After the relief I received from this I started to implement the same thing to all chores I did. After this second D-DayI am using this same therapy tool again.
The way to do this exercise is simple. When you are doing everyday household chores
turn them into a chore where you use your body in a left to right rhythm. This
is very similar to when Daniel in The Karate Kid does the “Wax on and wax off.”
If you are unable to do the whole-body rhythm use your left hand, then switch
to your right hand. A good example is when I vacuum, I push the vacuum with my
left arm and pull back with my right. When I do dishes, I make sure I am
passing the dish from one hand to the other. When cleaning counter tops I do
the same thing. I try to get the largest
left to right motion and keep at a good fast paced rhythm. I allow all the triggers
to come at me. I don’t try to control my thoughts or emotions. They tend to go
as fast as they come when I would normally go on a roller coaster ride with my
thoughts. As long as I keep a good pace, the thoughts are getting processed the
way my brain can handle it best and in turn keeping myself from suffering
anymore physical ailments.
This is a great way to process your thoughts and get them “filed away neatly” in your brain. I have noticed while going through this second recovery round I am having an easier time processing my triggers and find myself naturally doing the exercises and tools I learned from before. When you practice all the different at home therapy exercises and tools you develop a second nature to processing your triggers that can provide some relief.
Link to all At Home Therapy Tools
After my first D-Day 3 1/2 years ago I was incapacitated, suicidal and hopeless. I had no choice but to reach out for professional help. Thankfully I found the perfect therapist for me that did EMDR and was very helpful in sending me home with exercises and tools that I could use between my appointments with her. A year and half with her and I was finally feeling like a person again.
For this exercise you are going to need to be in a relaxing place with no distractions. It is best to have someone lead you through this meditation but you can also read the steps below, then do the exercise. The idea is to train your brain to put a feeling to a word. A happy word to a happy feeling.
- Close your eyes. Place yourself in the most beautiful, comfortable, relaxing setting you can think of. It can be anywhere in the world or out of this world. The choice is yours.
- What does this place feel like? Is it warm, cool, hot, busy, slow. Get all the feels. Is your skin sweaty, cool to the touch, warm, etc. What are you wearing?
- What are the sounds you hear? Are there any animals, running water, waves, cars, people, children, etc.
- What type of surface is under your feet? Are you sitting, standing, laying?
- Is there anyone with you? Your favorite animal, a loved one
- Imagine you can stay in this place for as long as you want. Absolutely no rush to leave. You relax into your surroundings feeling no rush to leave. Time stays still in this place. You are safe from everything.
- Sit in this place and take in all the scenery, feelings, scents, etc. until you can actually feel yourself there.
- What is one descriptive WORD you can use to describe this place? What WORD describes how you feel in this place?
My word has always been peace. It puts me right onto Huntington Beach in California feeling the sand between my toes. One of my favorite places to visit when I was a child. The warmth of the sun, the sound of the waves crashing and the seagulls is a place of comfort for me. My husband knows to say “peace” whenever I get really worked up in an anxiety attack. Just the word alone puts me there and I can feel all the feels.
I hope you are able to find a place for you and one word that puts you there.