I was talking about triggers this week with my husband, I was triggered by something and I thought it was a strange thing to be triggered by and I can’t remember now even what it was but what I do know is it made me think about what are triggers, why they happen and how to move through them.
Straight after DDay1 my list of triggers was huge, triggered by most things, experienced flooding literally non stop for weeks, related to relationships, the affair partner, my husband, my home, the list went on. I had a one track mind for obvious reasons. My brain was just full of thoughts about the affair so everything was a trigger. I had no way to stop it. As that subsided and life moved on and my husband started to become a safe person to be around I found that specific things started to trigger me.
Oh My God You’re Triggered (LOL LMAO PMSL)
Being “triggered” has become a bit of a joke. Snowflakes get triggered. People who are too sensitive. Pathetic. Honestly it makes me so angry when I read jokes about this stuff as someone who works with people who have experienced trauma, and now as someone who has received that experience first hand, its mean. It’s pretty disgusting really to decide that people are “too soft”.
I mean really? What the hell do you know about their lives to make that judgement? Why is there such a thing as “too soft” anyway? How can that be a thing?
Anyway /end rant.
I hate the jokes. I see myself getting upset at some pretty strange stuff sometimes, not always obvious references to affairs and such but out-of-left-field stuff that makes my heart ache and tears fill my eyes. Which can set off a range of thoughts in my head with subsequent emotional and physical impact. It can be exhausting and mean my baseline anxiety remains higher for a day or two. My brain scans more carefully for danger making me hypervigilent. It’s not really a laughing matter for this snowflake. I like the definition to the left except for us, a trigger can just make you uncomfortable.
Trigger: My Week of Triggers
I kept a list this week. I write this after 5 days. During this time we had one fight which was unpleasant but mostly a stable and happy week. Started a new job I was excited about. I saw friends. Had a birthday. Generally was ok, maybe a little PMT crept in near the end of the week (coinciding with our fight … hmmmm).
My birthday is tomorrow – last year my birthday was appalling. Poorly thought out gifts and an evening out which ended in an early night cause you wanted to go home.
Listening to a podcast which mentioned Oxytocin production in sexual encounters – it made me think about the sexting you two engaged in especially how she started the conversation about sex and how that must have really excited you. I imagined your heart skipping a beat, your excitement. My mind thought about all the times that you two spoke about sex and how the flirting must have got you excited. Not just sexually aroused but flush with the attention and ego boost. I had to do mindfulness when driving because the children were in the car and I couldn’t talk or cry.
- We drove through a place that the affair partner considered moving to and my husband encouraged her to move to close to our home.
I started a new job today and it’s a 9-5 job. It made me sad that although I loved the job and my first day, I was there because my anxiety was so high that I couldn’t deal with working shifts anymore. This limits my career.
Filled in health questionnaire for my job and had to declare that I was struggling with anxiety and depression.
Saw a “Mr Brightside” t shirt
- Reminded that I would normally have a therapy session today but its my birthday.
- Its my birthday (see sunday).
Found a ring on the floor of our house I didn’t recognise
Wrote a book review which had infidelity in it
We had sex spontaneously
You used your phone all the way around the supermarket. Repeating previous affair time behaviour.
Thoughts of the affair spontaneously entered my head.
Saw pictures from the walk and lunch we had prior to discovery
My period is late, I am not pregnant, and I feel defective. I bet she is not defective.
No one at my new job is aware of what is happening in my personal life and so some conversations have been triggering
Wrote a blog post about things which needed the affair recapping
Watched a TV show in which an affair happened
Thought out of no where about how you both used to talk on Teams. As a result I thought about how you lied to me numerous times on direct questions about using teams to communicate. The lengths you went to to cover up that you did.
We had a fight
Looked at this list
Wore the shoes I was wearing the day I found out
I talked about us with a friend
People think we are a good couple, they don’t know our problems, I smiled and was sad
My son admitted he struggles to trust anyone and is scared of getting hurt.
How I Cope With Triggers
In the beginning, I didn’t cope at all. As a result I just fired questions at my husband every hour that I wasn’t asleep. By text and by email and in person. It was probably relentless and damaging for both of us. I was in that “what the fuck did you do” phase of recovery and I needed to know. He didn’t help this by drip feeding me information, or “trickle truths”. It’s a common problem in the early days. Go watch this video. It talks about it, and the importance of disclosure really well. Remember you’re BOTH in a very hurt and stressful place, but how you deal with that will be different. The focus has to be on making the betrayed feel safe as their whole structure of safety has been removed.
I was a mess. As a result I barely slept but could never get out of bed. I struggled to eat, dropped 20lbs in two months. Often only managed the basics of the day which was essentially get my son sorted. It wasn’t healthy for anyone.
As the safety in our relationship started to improve I was able to cope more easily. Because of this I engaged in recovery work which helped me enormously including the recovery boot camp and reading books, watching videos. The affair recovery channel on YouTube provided SO much help for me, and us.
Understanding what a Trigger is
I believe very much that you need to understand what you are experiencing in order to be able to cope with it. To understand triggers we have to understand that
Thoughts create feelings.
Feelings are sensations in our body.
If you hold those two principals then you’ll understand that a trigger is something which starts a thought. Which in turn triggers a feeling. Its a spark. As a result of this spark you may find yourself flooding and other painful effects. In science, a spark needs a catalyst. That catalyst in this case is the affair and your associated feelings of safety in your relationship. So you see in this case if you feel safer in your relationship that spark can’t take hold quite as well as if you feel very unsafe.
For us in those early weeks and probably months, there was MANY triggers, very little safety, and therefore there was an inferno and near constant flooding. It was agonising and there was nothing I could do about it. I had to ride it out the best I could. I used self care a LOT. Exercised, face masks, baths, podcasts, distraction anyway I could. I ate when I felt I could. Avoided alcohol. Slept when I could.
We get effected by triggers because of trauma.
Trauma is what causes that moment, it sparks your brain in to action. When we feel significant pain, emotional or physical, our body learns that we don’t want to feel it again. So it goes in to a “fight, flight or freeze” mode. These things are to protect us. Our bodies decide if we are going to fight the threat, run from the threat, or freeze and hope it goes away. It explains why sometimes that we don’t necessarily react logically to what is going on, like freezing when we are attacked when all we want to do is fight back.
Our primal instincts are what overrides our logical instincts. Why years down the line we may still panic that our partners are seeing the affair partner when there is no evidence of it, or why we may be struck with panic without knowing where its come from.
The first thing you need to do in order to combat your triggers is identify what they are. This week I learnt a lot just by keeping a list on evernote. It opened my eyes a lot to the things that triggered me. It also allowed me to see them and know that despite all of these triggers, I was ok.
Thats the last bit of those steps…
Thoughts create feelings.
Feelings are sensations in our body.
Your negative feelings can’t hurt you…
You’ve survived every single one of your worst days. EVERY.SINGLE.ONE. You’ve lived through dday. You’ve lived through every piece of information you’ve been hurt by.
There are quite a few things that you can use to calm your mind and distract yourself
This article explains how our five senses can help ground us and help us through the worst times. Again youtube can help here too, I love ASMR videos which help our brains relax. ASMR works differently for different people but best with headphones, and find a video which works for you, for me it’s no talking ear attention. So relaxing. Helps me concentrate too.
Writing and journalling can be super helpful too, obviously I’m a big fan!
I recommend that therapy is always on the table. Sometimes we need professional help, in whatever form that comes, medication and therapy, or one or the other until you’re ready. All things on the table when you’re ready.
Remember. You’ll only know what’s right but trying.
So you need to remember to shelve the cynicism. Try things fully, with your whole heart. Trust the process and all that bollocks. Cause actually. It works.
Don’t forget…pin that shit for later.