When I was first diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) I was in shock, a million questions ran through my head, the main one being how I can have PTSD I’ve never been to war.
To then be told everything ‘he’ had put me through was the cause was just one more thing I had to absorb and try to accept when I had believed he had already taken so much from me.
My life had completely changed because of him, and here it was changing all over again, dammit when will he stop ruining my life!
Over time I began to notice the things that triggered memories of him more than others, here are the 6 main ones that can sometimes even now still freak me out.
- Facial Hair
Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? But he knew his facial hair would bring me out in the worst case of hives ever! So what did he do, grow his beard out thinking it was designer stubble it actually made him look dirty and scruffy and I would avoid contact with him. When the mood took him, he would grab me and rub his stubble hard all over my face, until my face was red and sore, then let go of me and laugh. So now any facial hair is a huge trigger for me especially if that person gets too close to me.
- Yelling or Screaming
When he got mad, he would scream and shout, sometimes right in my ear, whilst holding me down. I have never been someone who likes people who are loud and shout anyway so to have that done to me was torture. He loved doing it. He enjoyed doing it. It gave him a sense of power and control over me. It made me anxious and afraid.
- A Certain Smell
The sense of smell is one of our strongest senses and he used to wear this cologne that was overwhelmingly strong. It was extremely spicy he thought it made him smell amazing in fact it made me want to avoid him like the plague. Oddly when we first met he had never worn it or any other with such a strong smell, I came to learn that he learned what I liked and disliked and when it came time for him to start the abuse and mind games he wore the vile stinky stuff.
- Certain “Fun” Things
When you’re at the beginning of a relationship you do things together that are fun, enjoyable, building memories, the problem comes when doing things together stop being fun and fill you with bad memories right? Actually, the worse thing is when memories stop you from doing things in the future, afterlife with them, you wonder will you ever enjoy life, and doing fun things ever again.
This one’s hard to explain. Having had my life abused, emotionally, physically, verbally, sexually and financially, I’m right there with absolutely no one is trustworthy. So trusting people is really hard, however, there are some people I can be triggered by and in quite an intense way. Those that lie to me, push my boundaries, want to know my private business and think they have a right to that information. It is those people that I avoid as I am aware when I trigger around people it is bad.
PTSD is a silent illness, you can’t see it all the times as not all symptoms are visible, but I do find if I am stressed about something that it triggers me sometimes to the point that I crawl into bed and just don’t want to get out again. If we are honest life is stressful just living day to day, but it only takes one more issue to tip the balance. PTSD is a debilitating chronic illness. Like any illness, those experiencing it learn what works and what doesn’t work.
Along with identifying triggers, it is important for those struggling with PTSD to identify what helps them.
Here are a few of my go-to’s:
- Lavender Oil
Essential oils are not for everyone it’s a personal choice, but this literally changed my life. I have it as a spray that I can use on my clothes, bedlinen, car seats when I begin to feel anxious and triggered the spray comes out. For times of severe anxiety, I mix 2 drops of lavender oil with a half teaspoon of coconut oil and rub it into the back of my neck and on my chest, I can feel the stress and anxiety melting away and a peaceful sleep ahead.
- My Comfort Person
This isn’t for everyone. We have been abused and our trust is broken so to find someone who you can trust is hard. I have a friend who I can tell anything to, I have known her since I was a child and no matter how each of our life paths has parted and crossed over time she is absolutely ‘my person’ and without her I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be here today.
- My Weighted Blanket
As children we often had our ‘blankie’ just because we are adults doesn’t mean we can’t still have one. Nowadays they are called weighted blankets and boy does that heavy feeling wrapping around you, give you a feeling of peace and safety. I can’t recommend them enough. I know they are expensive, but it is money well spent and this is about your mental well-being so if you can afford to buy one do it, I say.
- Grounding Techniques
When the flashbacks occur, my mind believes he is there, my body reacts and coils as it feels he is there. I can sometimes see and hear him when the flashbacks are at their worse. Yet, part of me knows it isn’t real so I try and ground myself as quickly as possible by doing one or all five of the following:
Sound: Turn on loud music.
Touch: Grip a piece of ice.
Smell: Sniff some strong peppermint.
Taste: Bite into a lemon.
Sight: Take an inventory of everything around you.
I will cover more on this in detail in another article.
- Cold Drinks
I find a cold soda helps me and as someone who doesn’t drink soda often mainly only when I am triggering, I do find it helps. The sweet taste and the fizzy sensation weirdly gives me comfort. Other people, I have spoken to find hot drinks help much in the same way, such as coffee or hot chocolate.
- Therapy and/or Medication
Never be afraid to seek help, the recovery road is long and hard. Medication is really just the beginning; the combination of therapy and medication really works. I’m not saying you won’t slip back and forth on the road of recovery because dammit you do, some days it is one step forward two back, but know that anything and everything you do is a huge achievement.
PTSD sucks. Hang in there and keep fighting because you are worth it.