Will these triggers and flashbacks Ever End?
It has been 15 years that I have been doing various forms of therapies. My symptoms were like many of the other survivors. In the beginning, it was very hard and I didn’t think I was going to survive… and slowly, things started to change. My symptoms became less intense. I gained more understanding into my behaviors and my triggers and I set about to create a life that would allow me further healing.
Since I have launched this website, I have been writing about many of these realizations. As a reader, you might think that I have got it all sorted and sometimes I think that I have done it all I am no longer F&^*ed up.
Let me tell you that this is far from the truth. The reality is that we are a product of our past. Our experiences shape who we are including our trauma and triggers. They may lose their intensity but they never truly leave us
I got a really big reminder of that last week right after I posted my blog about how we create stories in our mind – (Handling Anxiety) Future of the Mind – Dr. Michio Kaku
Here is what happened!
My partner and I are in bed, in a very average hotel room, having had a great few days away together, exploring and walking, talking and eating, laughing, caressing and kissing. I sense that something is not right and that he has a few things on his mind but he is behaving so “normal” that I don’t pay much attention to these.
I know that there is a strong sense of duty in him and this bothers me. I have lived out of duty for most of my life and I know how it has destroyed my sense of myself and how it has disconnected me from my own needs and desires. Seeing him do the same brings all these memories back to the present moment.
I share my experience of him and I ask him questions about where his sense of duty comes from. I ask him if knows what his fears are? He is open about where he is at but I still sense that he is not seeing what I am seeing. And in that moment, my responsible self takes over; I want to help him see what he is doing… So I ask more probing questions… The conversation ends with him saying “Let me sit with this for a few days and process my thoughts.”
This was a signal for me to stop. He then picks up his phone and checks something. This feels very strange and unlike him. All of a sudden, I don’t feel him at all and I feel that he has stopped seeing me too. He is completely withdrawn. May be I have said too much, I wonder to myself…
I lie in bed quietly but he keeps busy with his phone. I try to sleep but my mind is racing… I am having a flashback. I am back into my abusive relationship from 20 years ago, where I was treated like an inanimate object – not to be noticed. My flashback is so strong that I lose track of time and place. I feel small, insignificant and I am scared that bad things are coming my way just like they used to 20 years ago… (even now when I am writing about this, I am shaking and my eyes are teary. I guess some experiences never leave us.)
I don’t know how much time passed but it was enough for me to completely lose it. He finally puts down his phone, turns back to me, spoons back up against me and puts his arm back under my head. I whisper, “I’m sorry” and he asks, “For what?”
I find I can’t say anything; I burst into uncontrollable sobbing, only able to stop myself after a minute or so.
I explain that I thought he was upset and angry with me for being so pushy. He is astonished. He says that he thought that I had dropped off to sleep in his arms.
It took a lot of cuddles and assurance from him for me to come back to reality and feel ok again.
My partner and I have talked about this at great length. He is genuinely blown away by my response and by the story which lies beneath it. He sees my pain and sees his behavior, which has triggered it. He realizes that he could have done more to assure me that we were OK. He realizes that he had withdrawn into himself as he processed his issues and hadn’t been as open as he normally is about how he was feeling.
I realize that he couldn’t possibly have known how silence and the withdrawal of touch would be interpreted by me and that he couldn’t have known that I wasn’t asleep because I hadn’t told him.
He also recognizes that he has created a story of his own. His story is about how it would bother and disturb me if he talked to me about how he is feeling and how agitated he is and that his role is to look after me and take care of me. Doesn’t he realize how much I’d love to have him share his heart with me?
This simple little event has nothing very profound deeply buried in it. I wanted to tell it simply because it is so common and normal and ordinary.
I want you to know that, no matter how many workshops we go to, how many books we might read, how many experiences we have and how many issues we “deal with”, that we can be unexpectedly triggered at surprising times by unforeseen events.
For me, it has been a good reminder that in the quickest of moments, I can be back into my panic or fear or pain.
The difference for me now is that I believe that I have developed the tools and skills to recognize and cope with these events when they happen – and I have the support of someone who both loves me as I am and increasingly understands the depth and complexity of the woman he is with.
Through it all, the ability to communicate and stay present, open and honest with each other means that this event has deepened our relationship