Triggers; what are they and how do we work through them?

What I’ve learned about these horrible little bugging annoyances.

Here is a list of definitions:

    • 1:  a piece (as a lever) connected with a catch or detent as a means of releasing it
    • 2: something that acts like a mechanical trigger in initiating a process or reaction
    • Psychiatry
      A factor that initiates and aggravates a behaviour or response.

Etymology

D, trekker, that which pulls

a substance, object, or agent that initiates or stimulates an action.

For ‘Survivors of Trauma’ triggers are any combination of person, place, thing or action, which sets off a remembered emotion or fear. These are instinctive reactions ingrained in our system from the attack/traumatic situation, which caused the original terror.

Just like we have remembered happy moments, which set off laughter or tenderness; compassion, we can also have negative and fearful moments. In fact; as my therapist shared with me, ‘When the trauma is severely impacting our body will gravitate strongest to the negative memory before a happy memory because the negative emotions are much stronger.” We have to challenge ourselves in working through our triggers. One of the first ways in this healing process is understanding what they are and how they work. Know that a trigger will lose its initial power as you first accept the fearful reaction; note here I highly suggest if the terror is extreme then please break down the memory and the challenge of the trigger in sections. Please do not run headstrong into  that which could result in a permanent break in our psyche. In facing little bits of the trauma at each step, we will find it easier to breathe through the trigger, rather than instantly respond; we can learn to control our reactions just like we do with anything else in life.

Its important to have patience with yourself or the person you are supporting during these challenging times. It may take years to finally be able to gain control over the trigger, rather than the trigger controlling you. Sadly the how and when of your control really depends on the person themselves; what they can tolerate, how badly they were traumatized, what specifically was done, if it was a repeated trauma, then how often did it occur and how long did it last overall? All of these go into play when we are learning to deal with these instinctive reactions, the emotions suddenly felt and the memories which take over our thoughts.

Society doesn’t know that you are sensitive to loud noises, or that you get sick when you get around the smell of a certain cologne. Even our family & friends would rather hear how you get ‘turned on’ by a certain cologne or giggle everytime they see you jump out of your skin from being startled. We have to be able to cope in society’s rules. Not everyone will be sensitive to our responses, which means we have to take away the trigger’s power and learn how to control our reactions & actions.

Now you can pretend it didn’t happen; you’ve already been doing this for years and it hasn’t helped you any yet. So instead, try to recognize the physical impacts of your body’s reactions, (tense muscles, clenching teeth, holding your breath, heart pounding, other types of specific body pains). Understand there is something about your surroundings at that moment that just hit a nerve. What nerve? Why did I react like that? What is it I’m afraid of in this situation? Try to connect with the emotions and understand the memory which is flashing through your body. Sometimes we may not understand the connection, because as a mode of self-protection our mind might have tried to completely blank out the memory. However, if you come from a trauma filled home or life, then you can pretty much put the dots together. You don’t need to know every horrific detail in order to take back control of your actions and reactions. Keep in mind you survived something, something which must have been excruciating, but you survived it.

In becoming adults and parents, we know there is a huge level of responsibility, self-responsibility is part of that development. For certain situations in life society doesn’t accept your wounding, no matter how terrifying.  What if you are a parent who is triggered by something that either happens to YOUR child or something YOUR child does? You don’t want to freak out in front of them, so instead we have to take responsibility for our reactions, let it out at a more opportun time. While organizations like N.A.M.I. are developing and thousands are discussing the mental health of adult survivors of child sexual violence, there is still more which needs to be done,  so be patient with yourself and with society. Explain to yourself just as you would to someone else. Comfort yourself and congratulate yourself for your accomplishments, just as you would do for others. Continue educating as many people in our circles as will listen. The more we understand, the more we accept and the better we are able to assist victims today.

Think about this:

(We wouldn’t blame a soldier for being in a public place and suddenly breaking apart from a remembered fear. However, you will hear people whisper; “He/she needs to stay home and work through this. They need held. Be careful you don’t know what they might do. We warn others about their responses, be it for their sake or ours.)

Living in society is a lot different from sitting in our homes with our family. To LIVE in society means to work, run errands or be out in the public rules on a regular basis. Being out among friends, enjoying a meal out, taking a walk; these are all things which make our lives enjoyable. What if you suffer from the issues of ongoing triggers, or you have your own societal fears; the feeling of constant shame or judgment by others? You can see how this would be a problem.

Often times we are out doing something quite pleasurable in society, escaping the isolation of living with these pesky flare ups; this is when we are suddenly faced with something that sets off our reactions. We aren’t expecting it to happen, in fact we would rather it didn’t spoil our good time. There are some triggers which may take a few seconds before we realize it is setting us off at all. Many times if the trauma itself was a way of life then it may well be a trained behavior, so the initial traumatic response may not be as intense, but it may grow in momentum. It may be three days later when suddenly the memory has us swirling, it has taken over our thoughts and set off a series of tensions & fears, which may be completely incapacitating for a few days or more. I’ve seen this occur within adult survivors of child sexual violence time and time again.

Recognize the trigger as a trauma induced memory or reaction. When we look at it logically rather than emotionally (even if at first it is emotional; try taking a breath, snap your fingers, step out of the moment and regroup). As we learn to recognize this in connection to a serious perception of fear, then we can begin working through each reaction or memory of that specific trauma. This can be done on your own through simple daily tasks in life rebuilding skills to help gain back your sense of self-confidence, prove your value to yourself in completing little chores and set goals for yourself that help you in the rebuilding steps. However if you are having difficulty you may want to seek out a support group or mental healthcare professional for guidance.

Understand that some of this healing may involve teaching ourselves a completely new process of life. Meaning of  course, that we completely change our living behaviors and learn to re-do something without the trauma being a part of that specific behavior, such as some of the things I’ve challenged in my own healing. These things may seem pretty stupid to others, but for my life in extreme horror they are very real issues. One of the things I had to completely re-teach myself to do in life, driving. I learned how to drive beginning age 11 driving drunk stepfather around in the country while he repeatedly attacked me with sexual actions, but ‘Don’t you dare wreck’. When I got to be about 17 I couldn’t drive without liquor or the use of marijuana to relieve the initial trauma. These days I still have issues when driving sometimes, especially if I’m in or around my hometown area. However, today I do not have to be under the influence of any medications to get behind the wheel and take off for a day.

We can’t work through the emotions if we do not re-visit the trauma itself. As we work through the imposed fear, we become stronger & the trigger loses its power. True healing comes when we begin changing the impact the trauma has on our life. Understand how it’s all connected, then share that knowledge with others around us. Explain it is proven to be worse than the recovery of our amazing veterans returning from battle. The one important connecting factor in these two realms is that our vets travel around the world to do battle with a weapon and a team around them; survivors of child sexual violence have only themselves, there is no weapon to defend from an attack, an attack can happen on any level and at any moment, the attack can be a repetitive lived action, which most commonly is an attack from their direct parent/caregiver; the one person who has complete control by law and has the responsibility to make decisions about their daily life and how they are raised. In this type of harmful environment it normally doesn’t just happen for a period of time, but rather continues throughout the entire lifespan. This is when the end result is Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and recovery takes an extreme personal commitment.

May this writing help you understand a bit more about these life changing & impacting difficulties, which will invade our children’s lives if healing and support are not achieved. We as a society can continue to pass forward all of this dysfunction or we can begin to understand all that’s connected and how it directly affects our personal development, then begin teaching our children about what it means to truly live strong and to live safe even inside their homes.

Healing begins when we make the effort to understand!!

Love, strength, and courage for your ongoing challenge to heal <3>

Thanks for reading & be well Smile

Patricia ‘Trish’ McKnight

Author: ‘My Justice’

Owner/CEO: Butterfly Dreams Abuse Recovery & Talk Radio Programming

http://www.butterflydreamsabuserecovery.com

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/butterflydreamstalkradio

https://www.facebook.com/survivorsjustice?ref=stream

©ButterflyDreamsAbuseRecovery 2014

Please tell me why this is not a crucial point of attention!

Child Abuse Prevention & Sexual Assault Awareness

So I’m a bit angry; why you might ask?

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There is actually a couple of answers to this question.

1) Another year has come and gone in which not a single politician or lawmaker who has the power to call attention to the ongoing Child Abuse and Family Violence within our society has been willing to make it a public issue.

2) April is upon us and although there are many great events planned throughout this special month, the problem I have comes down to this;

Why in the hell do we not honor Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month with their own specific month?

This is a topic I briefly addressed last night on Butterfly Dreams Abuse Recovery Talk Radio and one I will share more with you today.

You see it bothers me that we don’t feel these two issues are worthy of having their own special month, so we join them together and address the issue as a whole rather than in the honor they so very much deserve.

As a survivor of both very horrific child physical, emotional, neglectful, and sexual abuse, which also included exploitation and trafficking within my own small hometown community; I’m also a RAPE SURVIVOR!! (Of course there are also the 20 years spent living in almost deadly relationship violence in my lifetime as well)

In our society we have problems talking about the crimes of family violence, child sexual abuse, molestation and the like. For some reason it is something we still consciously choose to keep in the dark; whisper about but don’t accept publicly. This is an outrage because of the millions, estimated at some 40 to 60 million, who are survivors now living and struggling with the aftermath and trying to be accepted in society. However, to be accepted we must not speak of what’s happened in our past. We mustn’t discuss the dark family secrets simply because of the shame it could bring to the family dynasty. REALLY?

How good are the morals of that so called dynasty if we are raping and beating; torturing our children? What is the quality of mankind’s decency if we are forcing survivors of these most vicious and heinous acts to remain silent and fear public and family abandonment? Why is it still so the norm to put the blame of these acts against children who could not defend themselves nor run from their attacker?

These same ugly secrets and fears apply to those who have been raped as adults. However, I will say the response to admitting you are a rape victim is a bit more tender than that of a childhood rape survivor. I truly do not understand this on any level!!!

Our society and our justice system has shown that we still blame the rape victim, no matter how old they are. This was seen just recently in the Steubenville, Ohio rape trial. However, as we’ve also seen, the community has rallied around the victim and let her know she is not in this alone. We are outraged by the minimal sentencing of these perpetrators and the lack of prosecuting those who witnessed, recorded, and posted pictures and discussions about the young men carrying this victim because she was too drunk to walk. We are talking to our kids about the right and wrong of this and I’ve seen many great articles and blogs written from various survivors and others.

Please do not take me wrong, I am most definitely 100% behind the victims whose cases of gang rape and various other attacks have come to our public attention lately. Thank goodness we are beginning to rally behind them rather than turn away.

I ask you though;

What in the hell is so different about these cases of rape we’ve heard about lately and those who are coming forward about the childhood filled with years of brutal attacks of rape, trafficking, and truly physical torture beyond the darkest of imagination?

Also, permit me to add, we rally behind and acknowledge the many long term issues of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, Anxiety and more which our war heroes and the recent public rape victims are left to carry. There are continuously more and more psychologists and others with organizations such as National Institute of Mental Health and our Center for Disease Control and Prevention who have conducted studies on the after effects of both war and sexual assault. These studies have concluded that the trauma of both of these life threatening personal situations and attacks leave the same lasting emotional scars.

On this note;

How do you think these lasting effects of trauma and life threatening attacks impact the lives of the many childhood rape survivors today? What is the big difference between supporting and gathering our voices for the war heroes and veterans, the recent rape victims and others, verses the many millions of child rape and abuse survivors who are still forced to hide in the shadows of our society? How is this right on any level of our decency?

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The day will come when we can begin to change the acts of abuse and violence within our homes. It will become a force to be reckoned with as we begin to support those who are sharing their stories today. The problem however, is that it’s not happening fast enough for the many millions of children who are living in the hell now!! The recent collection of Child Maltreatment Reports from the nationwide Child Protective Services; shows a grand total of 3,734,012 reports of child abuses reported in 2011. This is just one year. The Federal Children’s Bureau is presently looking at reports collected from 2007 through 2011 to update our present statistics shared, which were collected and officially reported in 1996.

If we cannot recognize the very importance of this issue and address it head on as a joined and united society, then what are we passing on to our children? Are we showing them we care and want them to have the best if we still are not willing to acknowledge the severity of the issues and how prevalent the acts of abuse and violence truly are in the homes around us?

I understand that by acknowledging the voices from the past we have to accept what we may have witnessed and allowed to exist. We have to accept that some of mankind’s darkest attacks on others happen within our own homes or within those homes of our neighbors. We have to accept that we may have heard the screams for mercy or the horrific cries of a child and did nothing. We have to accept that mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters and close family friends have all seen or been party to these heinous acts, but stood by and did nothing for these children. It’s a lot to accept and I get that, truly I do. I am one of those many who had an entire community, school system, law enforcement, family friends, school mates and others who all witnessed, took part in, or knew of the many attacks from my stepfather. They also watched as I physically rotted away in the disfiguring neglect because of my mother’s lack of even the slightest of human kindness or caring for this one specific daughter.

It’s an ugly situation we are faced with, but we must absolutely act on it now. This month of April; this dedicated month for Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention cannot be another dismissed month without the attention of our politicians, lawmakers, and those in our society with the power to change our laws and create a stronger united front of education and prevention on these issues. Those who have the power to rescue our kids. Those in our communities who know these families living in this type of hell and do nothing;

child screaming help me

WE ABSOLUTELY NEED EVERYONE ON THIS NOW!!! OUR CHILDREN LIVES, THEIR FUTURE, THEIR WELL BEING, THEIR HOPE FOR LIVING SAFE IN THIS WORLD; ABSOLUTELY DEPENDS ON US ACCEPTING ALL OF THESE UGLY TRUTHS AND RALLYING BEHIND THE MANY VOICES SPEAKING TO EDUCATE AND ELIGHTEN US ON THE HELL OF BEING ONE OF THESE CHILDHOOD NIGHTMARE SURVIVORS!!

If we continue to wear our blinders and pretend not to notice how many are being harmed every single moment of every single day, then we will never be able to stop this horrific man-made cancer that is eating away at the very soul of our existence as a human race. It is crucial that the topic of child abuse and family violence become a common discussion and one that we all are willing to address. It is no longer about what has happened to so many of us or how ugly these acts are, but more instead about how we can learn to be aware of these truths, support these victims and survivors, help provide resources and recovery systems for families and victims, as well to speak to each and every school system and child about the voice they have and how to use it to protect someone they feel is in danger of an attack within their own home.

It is a horrible truth to accept and discuss, but what is the outcome if we continue on the path we are today? Simply put, it will continue. Sure we are a society that is slowly becoming more vigilant about what we see and hear around us, but we are nowhere near where we should be on this issue. What is so damn difficult about this? Why don’t our politicians and lawmakers address this in their speeches and their election platforms?

Why is it so taboo to say: I am a childhood rape survivor?

Isn’t the nurturing and overall safety of our children an issue that all of us in society can rally around today? Tell me please what is the difference between understanding the danger within our homes, supporting those who have gone through decades of self destructive and sometimes suicidal endings; when will we be strong enough to accept our faults, push aside our generational teachings of silence, and finally step up to the plate to defend each and every child from the evil that lurks within their home?

As much as I hope this write up catches the attention of every human being, it is simply my prayer that we will learn to accept what’s happened in our past and use it as an education towards what we need to end in their future!!!

Please do something now and make the issue of child abuse and family violence prevention a topic which all of us can share over a cup of coffee or during lunch with a friend. We can do this and teach our kids there is no shame in being an abuse survivor. Instead, there is hope and great courage in using your voice to speak out and seek help!!

Thank you for reading and I do hope you’ll share!!

© Patricia A. McKnight

Author: ‘My Justice’

Advocate/Speaker/Talk Radio Prod. & Host/Survivor

Founder: Butterfly Dreams Abuse Recovery

http://www.butterflydreamsabuserecovery.com

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/butterflydreamsabuserecovery

http://www.facebook.com/triciagirl62

Artwork courtesy of: Michal Madison Art

http://www.michalmadisonart.com

The Battle and the Aftermath……..

**Be advised that this entire blog site may be triggering!! Be advised that this blog site is my personal expression and not intended as any form of professional guidance or opinion. Read this blog with care, understanding and kindness**

Do you suffer with days of anxiety, depression or anger, even pain that cannot be medically explained?

Do you have in and out days of  loneliness, isolation, a sense of violation?

Do you have those times when you bark out or blow up at others and not sure what they did or why you even acted that way towards them?

Has your sense of personal safety been attacked or violated?

Are you a survivor of some type of Child Abuse or Intimate Partner Violence?

In my life there have been a ton of years; actually a lifetime, spent at the mercy of someone else. You wake up praying nothing will happen to set of your abuser’s temper, or that your abuser won’t attack you sexually or physically. You do all that is humanly possible not to set off these actions, but for some reason there is nothing you can do to stop it from happening.

You live as a PRISONER, waiting to see what battles you will have to endure today.

When you’re living in this hell all you can do is get through; for whatever reason you have to wake up the next day; sometimes it’s hard to see that reason. Never doubt that it is there!!

You hang on and endure all the pain of  these battles, hoping it will one day come to an end.

Remember that while living in this expectant fear of attack the continued Hyper Reactive Mode connects straight to our “Fight or Flight” reactions. This is a natural reaction that is bred into our bodies and in our DNA. All animals and humans alike have this same survival instinctive behavior. When we endure this ongoing heightened mode of alertness, our body is instantly tensed for response; ready to react in order to survive.

Know that YOU ARE MEANT TO SURVIVE!! There is a purpose for your existence even though you may not yet see where it leads.

People may come to you and say, “You look exhausted, why don’t you just relax?” If only that were possible!!!

Did you know that even when you are rescued; either by someone else or by making that decision to escape, your body tends to remain in this hyper mode. You find yourself living with all of these continued emotions. Sometimes you can’t quite figure out why. You know that you are safe, no one is hurting you or threatening you now, so why are all these days of distress still keeping you down?

We often try everything we can think of to ease these roller coaster days. You may turn to alcohol, drugs, marijuana, or even self harm to let out the emotions or bury them. Sometimes we try getting through by just simply ignoring them, but it’s still there. Nothing seems to relieve the problem which ends up causing a distress of “Why can’t I handle this?” It seems to have a hold on us and can keep us back from taking part in our lives; exercising, planning, dreaming, succeeding our goals.

If you are not a person living with these ongoing daily struggles, you may see it within your family or in your circle of friends. Let me encourage those who do live with these struggles,”It is alright for you to have these days. It is safe to believe in your own happy future”!!! If you know or love someone who is in this daily battle, please do all you can to support them and encourage them to keep believing that peace will come.!!

None of us who deal with the craziness of destruction want our life or our family to be effected by our dysfunction of emotion. When you think about your past and the crimes against you though, I want you to understand that this is completely normal for what you’ve gone through.

Think about what our veterans of war endure long after the battle is over. They to live in the mixed up days of the aftermath. “Isn’t what you’ve gone through similar to what our heroes of freedom survived?”

You’ve had a time in your life, some of us even years into decades, of living in the constant threat of battle; violations against our personal safety. The longer the duration of this constant threat, the deeper the impact on the person.

It bothers me that when our soldiers have days of mental and physical reaction to their days in war, we usually encourage them to go into therapy and work through what’s happened. We support their need to get extra help. We do all we can to help them work through those days when their emotions rant in anger, fire up with pain, or break down in sadness. Sometimes we want to walk away from them, but we don’t. We, those who love our heroes of war, will take care of them and stand by them. We understand all that has threatened them; we love them for the strength and courage they had to make it through.

Let me ask; “Aren’t our children and partners, who have made it through years of sexual, physical and emotional torture, aren’t they heroes as well?” They too have survived “WAR LIKE” crimes against them!! Shouldn’t these amazing warriors be able to use their voice; scream out for recognition and validation for their emotional suffering?

These outstanding human beings have battled through years of survival under constant threat and they deserve to be heard, seek help, be supported and understood by family, friends, society!!

Survivors of these battles, I am begging you to seek a therapist or support group to help you through!!! Research what you’ve gone through; understand the aftermath your body and mind are reacting to, physically attend therapy rather than join a virtual support group. You need that physical connection with others like yourself. You need to see the faces of the many survivors around you; know that they too suffer with many of the same problems and reactions. Use the resources to help you recognize whats going on and why some days you just can’t shake it off.

I can tell you first hand that facing these are not easy; accepting the scars you carry is sometimes impossible. Looking at how your days of destruction are effecting those you love is very difficult, but for you to gain your happiness back it is necessary for you to go through this process. You have to guide yourself through a creative path to finding the person that lives inside the darkness. Like our war heroes you may have a lifetime of different issues that you’re left to deal with, but you can understand, conquer, and overcome this damage.

Please know that a large number of families have some one living in the aftermath of battle. Support them to seek professional guidance and recovery resources. Comfort and understand their bad rocky days. Listen to their voice as they tell you about their fears. Reach out to wipe away their tears, give them a hug and tell them how happy you are they made it through.

THEY SURVIVED THE BATTLE OF FREEDOM!!!

(c)Patricia A. McKnight

http://www.patriciamcknightsjustice.com

http://www.facebook.com/triciagirl62

References;

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11048821

http://www.apa.org/research/action/ptsd.aspx

http://www.csus.edu/calst/government_affairs/reports/ffp32.pdf