Friday, 10 February 2012


Right now, I'm triggered, so I'm going to see if blogging about it will shift it at all.

As everyone here knows, I was sexually abused when I was younger. The effects manifest in ways obvious and subtle - I hide behind big, casual clothes; I need to be under a blanket, but can't bear the weight of it on my neck, because it feels like I'm suffocating; I can react remarkably calmly to the worst news, because I'm just not there; I'm hypervigilant and extremely aware of character. For years, I thought I was overreacting when I'd be uncomfortable with certain adults when they were interacting with children - actually, I'm spot on. Conversely, if I absolutely trust someone with a child, that's absolutely spot on too.

I don't trigger often anymore, though I know some friends would argue that I'm probably constantly slightly triggered - a bit like always having a low grade fever. I consider it a baseline. I know I'm triggered when close male friends touching me makes me tense up when they approach, when I will normally totally relax into it. Or if I get far angrier with South Asian males than is warranted, that kind of thing.

You'd think that after years, I'd be used to it; I'd know when it was coming - especially now that I'm a therapist. Sometimes, I can. Often, I'll be completely blindsided, though in retrospect, I should have expected it.

Part of the problem is that I can watch shows like 'CSI' and 'Criminal Minds' back-to-back and not have a problem, even if they're about rape. Ditto 'Law and Order: SVU', though if I'm completely honest, I usually have to watch something like 'Bridezillas' to wind down from that. But it's fine. What I tend to forget is that a lot of it coming at me from various sources, especially if a couple of those things are a bit close - a friend's pain, disclosure, it happening near me - create a cumulative effect that means that anything can push me into being fine one minute, triggered the next. It's even faster if I have to hold the space for someone (or several someones) else's feelings about the topic, and to do so, I need to absolutely clamp down on my feelings.

Not a problem if I allow myself to decompress and process later. Unfortunately, I'm more than a bit of a lazy idiot about that.

This week, I should have seen it coming. I could feel myself vacillating between dissociated and irrationally annoyed by small things, especially towards the end of the week. I tensed up any time anyone came up to my desk at work, even though I can see them in my screen, my headphones were on almost all the time. This evening, during a long text exchange about the topic, I could feel myself pulling in and away. In a friend, I'd have seen it coming a mile away and called them on it - therapist, analyse thyself.

Suddenly, I hit 11pm, post NCIS and 'Criminal Minds' (and if I'd been self-aware, I'd have AVOIDED THIS 'CRIMINAL MINDS' LIKE THE PLAGUE TILL ITS REPEAT) and my normal state made a cool whooshing sound as it went by.

(Oh Lord. I'd thought back to my uncle several times this week. Only for seconds at a time - but still flashbacks. And I STILL MISSED IT.)

What does it feel like for me? I don't cry, shake or go through flashbacks for days. I just...leave. Like I used to when...well, that. I'm just dissociated, out of body - sometimes for hours, sometimes for days. Nothing can touch me - I will see things that usually move me to tears, or make me laugh till I cry, or move me to advocacy - and I just don't care. I can see people I absolutely adore and feel nothing, though I know I love them to bits. When I was younger, it manifested as losing myself in series: the Oz books, Nancy Drew, Madeleine L'Engle. I loved to read, loved new worlds, but they served a dual purpose: if I was there, no one could touch me and it was easier.

Right now, it feels like I'm writing this from realities away. I'm here, composing, reading, but not feeling it, and I suspect it's showing up in my writing, though I can't judge that now. I know it'll show up when I flinch when someone sits too close to me in the pew (right now about two people away from me) or just a lack of real response to a friend. Fortunately, tomorrow is now clear and unlike the last two Saturdays, I don't have to read at the 18.30 mass, and I can just batten down the hatches for a day, which will hopefully clear it.

What do I need to do? Listen to it. Let it be what it is, rather than fight it. See what it has to tell me. If I need to, lean. And above all, get back into my body. Let my guy friends hug me - feel the resistance, but let the touch be. Progressive muscle relaxing exercises; my new 'feel your heartbeat' exercise from Martha Beck, which is brilliant. Breathe. Go wordless (MB again), at least for a while. SLEEP. Feel that my back is really bothering me, that my right ankle is stiff. That I'm tired, even if I feel I have no right to be.

And just let tomorrow be what it needs to be and bring what it needs to bring.

I may be triggered. But that doesn't mean I have to fire.


CEAD said...


Take care of yourself, she'enedra. You have every right to feel tired.

I love you.


Anonymous said...

Those of us who know you, but not as well as we thought: we tend to forget, when faced with your kindness and sensitivity and humour, that you have been through so much. Forgive (some of) us for our lack of sensitivity; we value you so much, let's hope we can show it more.

Irim said...

She'enedra - HUG. Will do. Love you too.

Anon: Bless you and thank you. *HUGS* No forgiveness needed - there are probably times I need to reach out more and create the space for people to be there for me/let me know they do care. I'm very good at putting porcupine quills out if I'm feeling threatened/triggered/vulnerable, which makes it hard for anyone to get close.


Lesley Deysel said...

Oh my. Someone I love is struggling badly with PTSD at the moment, so that hit me hard. I feel what you're saying, if that means anything. Sending much love your way.