Wednesday, 5 July 2017

COPING WITH TRAUMA TRIGGERS | IN PARTNERSHIP WITH GREATER MANCHESTER MENTAL HEALTH NHS FOUNDATION TRUST | Ad

Note: although this post is part of my partnership with Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust following the recent terror attack at Manchester Arena; the entire contents of it can apply to anyone who has suffered from any trauma
Image created by the GMMH_NHS Twitter staff
trigger
ˈtrɪɡə/
verb
verb: trigger; 3rd person present: triggers; past tense: triggered; past participle: triggered; gerund or present participle: triggering
1

cause (an event or situation) to happen or exist.

  • "an allergy can be triggered by stress or overwork"

    synonyms:precipitateprompt, trigger off, set off, spark (off), provoke, stir up, 
    cause, give rise to, lead to, set in motion, occasion, be the cause of, bring about, beginstartinitiate;
    "the incident triggered an acrimonious debate"
  • (of an event or situation) cause (someone) to do something.

    "the death of Helen's father triggered her to follow a childhood dream and become a falconer"
  • (especially of something read, seen, or heard) distress (someone), typically as a result of arousing feelings or memories associated with a particular traumatic experience.

    "she started crying and told me that my news had really triggered her"

It’ll sometimes feel like the trauma is never going to be over. You'll find that you are always come across things in life that remind you of what has happened to you.
Personally, I suffered abuse when I was younger and it's hard for me to discuss my triggers because, for legal reasons, I can't go into details about the trauma; and some of my triggers are really specific to it... I feel like there are two types of triggers: 'specific' ones and 'obvious' ones but I don't think that one is worse than another.


When I think of 'obvious' triggers, I think of things like sex, hearing/seeing/reading stories of rape, people with the same name as my abuser, being near the place where I was abused... 'Obvious' triggers are the things that if they happened when you're with someone who knows of your trauma; they'd know why you'd gone quiet. The things where if they were mentioned by someone who knew, they'd apologise for 'forgetting' or 'being stupid.' The things where if you ran out of a room crying, someone could say "it's because..."

Then, there are some lesser obvious things; they'll sometimes be the most unlikely of things - things that no one else understands why it could've made you upset or why it made you think of what's happened. Sometimes, even you might not fully understand it. Like, the songs that were released during that time of my life - whether I associate them with the few good moments in those years or the worst... particular smells, sometimes a person's attitude towards me or how they make me feel, a person in the same profession as the abuser, if someone talks about that same time in their own life (even if they’re talking about something positive)… The list goes on; and I’m sure there’s still many more that I’ll discover over the rest of my life, but I’m not worried…

Over time, I learnt that I coped best when I was in control of the situation in which my triggers occurred; e.g. if I knew I would be passing by the place the abuse happened, or if I instigate a conversation knowing that triggering words could come up. Realising this helped me to feel more ‘normal;’ by discovering that I could have those conversations that a lot of girls my age (26, now) have. It sounds small – and maybe trivial to some people, but that realisation helped to make me more confident in making new friends and going into a romantic relationship.

Unfortunately, I’ve also learnt that you can’t control everything. There are times when these things just come up…

Here are my top three ways to cope (with their positives and negatives; showing that coping strategies sometimes need to be adapted to individual situations):


1.    Being more open about your trauma.
Positives:
1.1 The more people who know about your trauma the less likely you’ll find yourself in those situations
1.2 You have more confidence to speak up when a situation is getting too much
1.3 Greater chance at accepting your trauma and recovering from it on a whole

Negatives:
1.4 Feeling ‘different’ in a bad way
1.5 Chance that people might misinterpret your openness and feel that they can ask questions etc
1.6 Judging who should know what

2.    Removing yourself from the situation.
Positives:
2.1 This allows others to continue ‘as normal’
2.2 You’ll feel less pressure at keeping your composure and more comfortable to just let yourself be upset
2.3 You won’t be sat there having your mind stew over all of the ways the situation is triggering

Negatives:
2.4 Conscious of appearing rude, or dramatic
2.5 Danger of isolating yourself
2.6 Danger in becoming more ‘closed off’ and less likely to seek help when you’re struggling to cope


3.    Gritting your teeth and seeing it through.
Positives:
3.1 Giving you a higher tolerance for triggers
3.2 Feeling like you’ve achieved something – as though it’s testament to your strength
3.3 Giving you the mindset that what has happened will not control the rest of your life
3.4 Gives you the chance to differentiate the past from the present

Negatives:
3.6 Don’t dissociate yourself from the trauma and find it more difficult to accept that it has happened
3.7 Don’t let this mean that you numb your feelings, thoughts, and emotions
3.8 Struggle to maintain relationships if you don’t feel like you’re able to engage in day-to-day activity with them


Image by https://twitter.com/GMMH_NHS