Trigger (un) Happy

We all have our little quirks and idiosyncrasies that make us unique. We also all have those little things that make us want to go apoplectic with anger and for someone who has been through a trauma, we also have those things that trigger us. I call this Trigger unHappy! According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the word Trigger means the following.

1 a: a piece (as a lever) connected with a catch or detent as a means of releasing it; especially: the part of the action moved by the finger to fire a gun b: a similar movable part by which a mechanism is actuated <trigger of a spray gun>

2 : something that acts like a mechanical trigger in initiating a process or reaction

What are the mechanical triggers in initiating my emotive reactions?

I have been asked quite a few times of late to explain what my triggers are. I think people around me want to know to either show care or avoid triggering me.

Apart from the obvious don’t wave a gun in my face ones…. I thought I’d take some time and actually write them down and share them. In doing so, I am hoping to make you more aware and to perhaps give you perspective into the lives of others, who like me, are dealing with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

What defines a trigger you might ask? It is when something happens, that evokes a memory or emotion in you that leaves you feeling unsettled, vulnerable, unsafe, uneasy or emotional.

All my triggers depend on how I am feeling before something happens.

The sight of guns, even toys guns or pictures of guns or gun scenes in movies give me the heebie jeebies. (self explanatory as when I was attacked a cold metal gun was held against my head!

Any extremely loud or sudden noises. Anything that could sound like a gunshot and that includes balloons popping! Helium balloons are a nightmare!!!

When someone does something unexpected eg shouts or hits something near me or gives me a fright.

When someone knocks on my car window.

When someone greets or approaches me from the back.

In place where I feel vulnerable, like sitting alone in a car, walking alone to my car, walking alone to or from somewhere.

The Nigerian accent.

The Rink Street FNB (where they took my money from my bank account)

The beach at night.

When someone greets me or surprise me from the back – NEVER put your hands over my eyes as I am likely to karate kick you across the planet!

If someone jokingly says they will sit in the boot. (I was tied up and put in the boot of a car).

Fast and erratic driving and a revving car engine (my kidnappers drove wildly with the engine roaring)

When I feel alone or isolated.

When I am forced to do something I don’t want to do.

A group of men walking towards me

The fauna and flora of the beach (I have often been back to the beach but the

vegetation next to the beach is hard to look at)

Clear tape. I am referring to the thick tape people use to tape up boxes when they are moving. Even just the sound of it being unraveled distresses me as it is loud and obtuse. (It was used to tightly tape my mouth closed, and tied my hands and feet together).

Aggressive and erratic behaviour

The sound of a woman in distress

Red and black checked shirts. (I was wearing a red and black shirt so the association goes along with it)

When I am disregarded or feel powerless in decisions.

The dark and when I can’t find my glasses and phone (my glasses were knocked off during the attack and I couldn’t see clearly and it was dark and my phone was taken).

The Nordhoek area. I don’t wish to ever drive past there again, unless I absolutely have to. So the area where the little light house is in Marine Drive is my cut off turnaround point.

Extremely large groups of people. I find this so overwhelming and tiring. With PTSD you have heightened senses. So your mind is constantly surveying things for danger without you even realising. This gets VERY tiring, So to make it easier for myself where possible, I sit facing the entrance, never with my back to it.

When I go to a restaurant I prefer to sit facing the entrance. It helps to know this because I am then less drained at the end of the evening and have a more relaxed and enjoyable time.

I think it is so important to know what triggers you so that you can better prepare or deal with things, thus resulting in a healing process.

I have done so much healing and growing.I honestly marvel at how God has helped me heal so much in such a short space of time. Often things will trigger me in different ways, but I know myself well and often know what is going to upset me so I try to not put myself in those situations, but if I have no control over it, I try and have a safe person with me.

A safe person is someone I trust and deem safe to help me if I am not feeling strong. So often my friends will be asked, ‘hey could you please be my safe person at the party tonight or at church tomorrow’.

So what does being a ‘safe person’ entail you may wonder?

A safe person is someone who is prepared to instantly remove me from the scene and escort me home or just step aside with me until I feel more settled and contained. Someone who is also prepared to speak on my behalf when I am not feeling up to it. A safe person is someone whom I trust to do what is best for me, even at their own expense or inconvenience!

I have victory over many things, for example, my attackers were African men. And I have made a point of not turning bitter or racist to the whole society of African men. I have made a point of not letting this set on my heart. There are a group of African waiters at Vovo Telo who have helped me so much in this area. They are SO kind, friendly and caring towards me and often offer hugs and have even asked my mom how much labola she wants for me?! ahahahaha. So I refuse to generalise things and people.

I refuse to regard ALL men as bad because that is not true! I think this is such an amazing point for me to have reached as I know so many women who haven’t been through a fraction of what I have, and yet they are such men bashers – so saddening!

I also refuse to let this abuse at the hands of men darken my views on all men. There are many wholesome, kind and morally strong men out there.

What I went through was a huge knock on my life, Even my virginity was ‘technically’ taken from me. But I refuse to see it that way and I refuse to let anything more be robbed from me. I am pure in Gods eyes! My friends often laugh and marvel at how I still want to get married and have a wonderful husband after all I have been through.

Yes, I do believe that God has the most amazing man for me! I honestly am so excited for that! I think it will be such a slap in the devil’s proverbial face!

Even though my ‘trigger list’ is long, I have not let it stop me from doing life!! I continue to step forward, onwards and upwards (sometimes a little shakily) I even drive alone at night again! Wow, this is a biggie and I am so proud of myself! Maybe, just maybe, one day I will feel safe enough to drive (with my husband, of course) past the lighthouse in Marine Drive!!! And just maybe you will be able to bring balloons to the celebration party!!! I will definitely write a blog post about it!

So if you or someone you care about has triggers (we all do – trauma or no trauma) make an effort to find out what they are and make an effort to not trigger them! Remember to show them kindness and grace when they do.

I always laugh when my mom and dad say that although they have known and loved and cherished each other for thirty years – they speak each others love languages well (see my previous post) they also happen to know each others weaknesses and frailties only too well and that on any given day they could use this knowledge to derail or break the other one down within minutes if they chose to do so – but they don’t because you make a conscious choice not to do so when you choose to show someone grace and love! I love the scripture that says, ‘love covers, knowledge puffs ups’.

When you love someone, cover their triggers don’t push them and puff up when you are right.

This has been a very vulnerable post for me as I am exposing my struggles and challenge areas but I really hope that by sharing these vulnerabilities that both you and I are helped and that together we can help someone else, who in turn will help someone else!

Love Cayly