PTSD insight

I had a very interesting revelation about PTSD triggers yesterday. I know what the common triggers are for me. Some make absolutely no sense. I have wondered why strong smells are triggers. Sometimes the worst triggers. I completely get why men’s cologne is a bad one. I get why it upsets me if my husband comes home from work smelling like the tons of men’s cologne he has been around that have absorbed into his clothes. That’s pretty common sense right? I don’t want my husband who is my “safe” person to be a triggering person of men’s cologne. Thankfully he knows the drill and tosses his clothes directly in the wash and showers so I get MY husband and not the smells of other triggering men. Pretty cut and dry solution.

Last week something burned up in the house. We think it was my daughter’s TV. The entire house smelled of burned. I couldn’t sleep. I stayed awake all night. I felt trapped with this smell. I couldn’t escape it. I understood why this would be triggering. I don’t like to feel trapped with something I cannot get away from that I don’t like.

So what I am trying to say here is that I have some pretty understandable triggers to the PTSD that comes from a childhood of abuse.

BUT, some of the triggers I have not been able to understand until now. And I don’t completely understand it, I just recognize it and am aware of it. Those two things are the starting point of me understating myself better: recognize and awareness.

This happened after I had severe cramping in my legs and my husband rubbed my legs with lotion. After he rubbed the cramping out my legs were covered in tons of lotion and so I did not get it in the bed I put my PJ’s back on and got into bed. My legs then felt sticky. I got hot and started to sweat and they felt slimy. THEN….SAME triggering PTSD feeling as the smell feeling. Same reaction. 1. GET IT OFF 2. MAKE SURE IT GETS ON NOTHING ELSE 3. CLEAN IT OFF 4. SCRUB. This happens with all smells followed by my washing the clothing that it could be on or just all out throwing the clothes away (which is what I did to my PJS).

The common feeling was not the smell after all. The lotion had no smell. It was this FEELING that came over me. It comes over me with men’s cologne and other strong smells. I have to get away from it. I cannot be trapped by it. But the lotion. It had no smell. Yet the same reaction. I got in the shower and scrubbed my skin unhealthily raw. The towel i used to dry off with I threw away. I was SURE it still may be on me so the next morning the moment I opened my eyes I washed the sheets.

I started thinking about the feeling I get with smells OTHER than cologne that are triggering smells. And the predominant thought is GET IT OFF, GET IT AWAY, KEEP IT OFF OF ME, and then I think WHAT IF IT IS ON ME, HOW WILL I GET IT OFF ME, WHAT IF IT GETS ON OTHER THINGS AND I AM STUCK WITH IT. These same thoughts.

So it is not just cologne. It is not just strong smells. It is not just the idea of a man coming in my house that has cologne on or a strong smell. It is the FEELING it gives me that triggers the PTSD.

Here is the question though…what do I want off of me? What do I want to get away from? Is it as specific person, or event of abuse? I don’t know.

Last night I dreamed that I went back to the lake I grew up at where all of the abuse happened. I walked into the water of snakes like every other time I dream of this place. Then the boat with child molester pulled up to get me like he always did. But this time a wolf came out of the water and a walrus. I crouched down and put my hands over my ears and closed my eyes. I felt unsafe. I knew all the bad was coming. I knew I was not safe and would not be protected. I would be vulnerable and trapped….hmm so much like PTSD triggers. But the wolf and the walrus came both with sharp fangs and tusks and snarling and ferocious and the walked next to me and leaned next to me so hard that I was tucked away protected as they foamed at the mouth protecting me.

I woke up this morning and realized how I just NEED to feel safe and PTSD does NOT feel safe at all. Nothing about it.

I then went to an appointment and on the way we stopped to get a prescription and I see a man. This man in the parking lot was an integral part of the cycle of abuse that happened to me. I stared him down. Looked him in the eyes as he looked at me. We parked and my husband took my prescription in and I almost threw up.

Because PTSD is AWFUL and a new trigger is around every corner all because some men chose to sexually abuse me. And I find that incredibly sad but I also find myself incredibly resilient. I focused on the shell that I had in my pocked that I took with me to my appointment. One of my coping skills to vulnerability is to put something in my hand and memorize it. I held that shell instead of thinking of the man in the parking lot and refocused on it.

I’m learning still at 46 years old.

I will not always understand they why, because so much happened to me growing up that took so much of me. But I can be aware and recognize and try, just keep trying to, when I have the ability, remember the wolf standing next to me and realize…

I am safe now.

45 thoughts on “PTSD insight

  1. Triggers, ugh 😑! I think you have had such enormous healing (even with those so frustrating olfactory triggers) that your animal protectors are able to be there in your sleep, protecting and reminding you that you are safe. Still with terrible PTSD, but you are safe with protection that sadly and so unfairly wasnt there at the time of the abuse. Hmmm…hope that makes sense? ❤️

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  2. I read your poem before I read this, and I’m pretty pleased with myself for understanding what you were saying. Also, for some reason it strikes me – I am one year older than you – so we were being hurt at the same time then, just a we are struggling to recognize and be aware of the triggers and trying to understand the connections at the same time now.

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    1. Wow. We are connected then. Thank you for tellling me that.
      When a person “gets” someone else then they GET the poetry and the inner depths of where I am writing from so it is not surprising at all that you totally understood my poem with out reading this.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel like your dream is a marker, or a milestone, or a shift in paradigm. You found power inside yourself so that younger you is safe being younger, at least in that moment. That is significant. It’s such an amazing image.

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    1. Do you have a time limit on when someone can comment on your blog because i’m still unable to comment. I was going through reading some old posts and wanted to know how your dog with the bad tooth was and if you raised money to get his tooth out

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      1. I searched and searched for a reason you can’t comment and I can’t figure it out. Other people’s comments come through. I am baffled. I’d really like you to be able to comment. I’m going to look again.

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      2. It lets me like just always says error when I try to comment. It’s probably something on my end. I don’t know. As long as You know I am reading your blog that’s good

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Smells are a huge trigger for me – instant flashbacks. Great insight that it is the feelings you get from the smells that trigger PTSD. I think it is the same for me. Your dream was so powerful! I’m glad you have animal protectors to help you feel safe. I grew up with and still have as my animal protector a mama grizzly bear protecting her young (me). She also appears in my dreams every so often, especially if I’m feeling vulnerable. Thanks for your post!

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  5. Hello friend. I just read your post about your struggle with PTSD. I am so sorry to hear about what you are going through. I understand the level of anxiety and frustration that this situation must bring to you. If I may ask, do you believe in God? God is our creator and he wants us to be free from anxiety and any sort of fear. God is an ever present help in times of need. If you can reach out to God, I am sure that he can make your journey with PTSD much easier. He can help you.

    If you can keep an open mind, here is something that you should try: find a quiet space free from distractions, imagine that Jesus is in front of you, talk to him the way you will with a close friend, tell him how you feel. Beware of sudden distractions when you pray, this is a trick the devil uses to stop us from having focused prayers. You might also get the feeling that God is not there or that you are simply wasting your time, this is another trick that the devil uses to discourage us from prayers. Be focused and tell the lord how you feel. Jesus is there with you and he cares for you, so invite him into your life. Tell Jesus to make your heart his home and to forgive your sins, ask him to pour out his blessings. When you get the answers to your prayers, do not forget to thank God. Also try to maintain a relationship with him, keep telling him how you feel, keep thanking him and finding out about him by reading the bible and obeying it. This way he can remain in your life and continue to work his miracles.

    Here are a few bible verses that you can meditate on for encouragement:

    Isaiah 41:10. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

    Psalm 91:4-6. “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.”

    When you get PTSD thoughts, here is a bible verse that can help:

    “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” – 2 Corinthians 10: 4-5

    I would advise that you read the bible verse above at times when you are doing well too, so that they can serve as a prevention for PTSD thoughts.

    Remember that God loves you. I would love it if you could give God a try. Good luck and God bless you. Amen.

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      1. As a hospice chaplain I was able to be with hundreds of people as they went to be with the Lord. It was a blessing and a gift. We are all led to use our ministry in different ways. I was led to do hospice care and I so loved it. Now, after this muscle disease I try and reach out when I can to who I can and most of the time that is just listening and showing love by being present with my mind as that is all I have to give

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      2. That is what we are as Christians. We just try to spread the word, so that people are aware of God, his ever-ready helping hand, the necessity of being saved and the realness of eternal life. I like that you are at least doing something for the kingdom of God. I hope you recover soon from your PTSD. I pray that God intervenes and puts the right people and resources for quick recovery in your life. If you ever need to talk, I am here.

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      3. Well…on that list…I need to be healed from my muscle disease…my Lyme disease…my bone disease…and the PTSD. If it is His will. We shall see

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      4. Prayer is the key. Prayer and faith in God is the authority and power that we use to reach God during times like these. Do not let words of prayer cease from you. As an aside, I believe that prayers and faith without works are dead. E.g. If a person prayed and had faith that they would get a job, without actually applying to any jobs, they probably would not get a job because God does not work that way. If God worked that way, Christians would be the laziest people on earth, lol, all we would have to do is pray, have faith and stay home all day. So on that note, keep taking whatever medical procedures that you are taking, but pray to God that they should be more successful, more useful to you, and that God should use them as instruments to heal you.

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      5. I will actually send an email right now to the man who is doing a research study on my muscle disease. I also believe action is rewarded

        Liked by 1 person

    1. My question is did you really read my post or is this something you copy and paste to everyone’s blog who you just think you can use pain and suffering to lead people to Christ . Is that what you are doing? Trying to show another way? You assume that I do not have Christ even though I am a pastor. Which means you did not read my about page.
      You think PTSD is a “thought” it is not a thought that can be countered with prayer to FIX it.
      Please educate yourself before making blanket “thoughts” and copy and pasted prayers. If I thought this was legitimate for one moment then I would have left my original comment. But now that I read it again I do not think that it is. That is NOT how you lead to Christ. You lead by example. You lead by listening. By validating. By hearing. So as a pastor let me lead you to Christ by telling you that if you want others to feel Him in their hearts then you need to meet them where they are. Not where you want them to be. Meet them where they are.

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      1. Hello Bethanyk. I am not trying to use pain to lead people to Christ. I believe that God loves us and does not want us to be in pain. I want everybody in pain to know that they can reach out to God for help. I understand that regardless of pain, some people would still not consider the idea of God, and I am fine with that. God is the one who chooses people into the religion. The bible says: “many are called, but only a few are chosen”. I did not know that you are a pastor. I did not read your ‘about’ page because only your post about PTSD came up in my search, your about page did not.

        The prayer in 2 Corinthians 10: 4-5 is not just a prayer for thoughts, it is a prayer for authority over everything that we fight against, and our state of mind as well. The thoughts part is just the ending portion of the prayer. I pasted the whole verse in its entirety for a reason. I am not saying that prayer will make a sudden change in the situation, but it will help. i think I did mention that, if I did not then I apologize.

        You ask if my prayers are copy and pasted? When I reach out to people, I usually have pretty much the same words for many people. This is because many people’s experiences are similar. I take note of people’s differences and incorporate this into the message that I send to them.

        About meeting people where they are, I hear you. I can imagine what people are going through.

        I am willing to spread the word of God to those who are not in pain as well. God wants to connect with everyone, pain or no pain. To be honest, I am a bit hurt by your comments. Simply because you see a page pop up and type these words does not mean that there is not a person with feelings behind the messages. As a pastor, you should know that God is always willing to help us. He is an ever present help in times of need. What is wrong with telling people about this help?

        I am hurt like I said by your comments, but I hear you.

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      2. Ok so you’re real. Good. You have NO idea how many spammers I have. I go through usually 20 a day or so of just copy and pasted remarks. So if I actually reply then I can weed out who is real and who is not. You are real so that is good. Thank you for your comment so I know you are not a computer spammer.

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    1. I don’t recognize some of mine until I really think back to what happened, what I was thinking right before, how I felt, etc. it takes a lot of awareness and sometimes I don’t want to be aware.
      Thanks for reading my post and being so understanding of the struggle

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  6. Learning your triggers and understanding them is a big part of recovery. Once I started learning my triggers and facing them I had a dream similar to the one you had. Getting control of them seems impossible sometimes but it’s not. Men are also a big trigger of mine and I totally relate to what you said about your husband having to take into account your triggers when he gets home. My partner has to do similar things with me too. Having PTSD is definitely a challenge even for our loved ones. They’re the ones that will ultimately get us through it though.

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  7. Anytime. I started my blog because of my experiences as well. I think for some of us sharing our experiences and bonding over them helps us heal. Finding a sense of community helps us feel a little less alone and we get to talk to other people who “get it” when our friends and family don’t always. Good luck in your future endeavors. I look forward to reading more of your journey. 🙂

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    1. I’ve been writing my blog for about 3 years now. I have found more understanding and compassionate individuals than I ever have in those around me, family and friends. It is just something others that have not been through understand. They “try” but I wish for more. I wish I mattered more or enough but I often don’t feel like I do.
      I appreciate your comment. Headed over to follow your blog too

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