Today was a therapy day: PTSD and Triggers, Oh, My

Today was a therapy day.

My head hurts.

I don’t want to turn this into a complete PTSD blog, but I always have found blogging therapeutic, even before blogging.  I used to send my friends emails of some of my most stressful days because i could write them funny and my friends enjoyed them and I got stuff out of my system.  Before that, I wrote letters, although mostly, of course, I never mailed them since that would have required the sort of organizational level where one has addresses, stamps, and envelopes all at one’s fingertips or at least has the general idea of the location of all those things which I never did and still do not.

So a couple weeks ago I had homework of making a list of PTSD triggers.  I used an old advertisement and paintshop to create this:



I filled in each of those until I ran out of room.  My therapist loved it so much she wants a copy for her files AND she says she bragged about me to her supervisor who was mainly excited that I did my homework.  Apparently I am the only patient they have had recently who did her homework the first week it was assigned.  Or so they say.  Remember, I’m cynical.  Also bitter, because it took me a long time and was incredibly difficult and stressful and was itself a pretty rough and serrated trigger and now I want to go punch the people who lightly and easily do not do their homework because I am jealous.   And this week I am reading Anger Management for Dummies.

I mentioned I ran out of room. That required a page two:



This one I filled in by writing in a spiral from the outside edge of the circle around and around and around until I got to the center. I used different colored inks mainly because thinking about the colors helped me pretend not to notice the things I was writing and why.

I also filled in a couple things in the small circles, and then used the larger margins to copy some quotes that I had found helpful recently, things that describe my feelings, things from other bloggers with PTSD or other issues.

And now I am the Therapist’s Pet or so she would have me believe.  It occurs to me that it’s a good thing we live here in the boondocks where everybody is a hunter or is closely related to somebody who is or I’d probably be committed for the above graphics.

This last week I was supposed to think about the patchkit type things as I have mentioned before, solutions, things that help.  That list fit on a tiny stick it pad page, not even the regular sized stick it pad, but the little, miniature one that is about 2 inches square, maybe.

This probably means that the triggers outnumber the helpful coping mechanisms by about 10 to 1 but I can’t tell for sure because that would require doing math and math has always been a trigger, probably the earliest and first trigger I ever recognized although I wouldn’t have used the word trigger, I just knew that math freaked me out in a way utterly disproportionate to the actual threat that math posed to my existence, not that you could tell by the way my heart-rate went up, my breathing spazzed out, my tension levels sky-rocketed, my head, oh, my head, and I felt fury, rage, resentment, and rage swirling around me like being dive-bombed by a swarm of no-seeums.

This is what happens when some idiot in the ivory halls of education inflicts new math on kids who have a psychopath for a parent who insists on ‘helping’ with homework.

My troubles over math were so severe that once in the eighth grade a very sweet elderly math teacher who knew how well I did in other subjects asked me if something was wrong at home because she was concerned.  I told her no, nothing at all was the matter, I just hated math.

No, nothing is wrong.  That’s the same thing I told the sixth grade teacher who asked me what was wrong that made me sit in her classroom and stab my fingers like I was a voodoo doll using the pins I had taken with me from sewing class, and it is pretty much the exact same thing I told my tenth grade humanities teacher when he took me out of class to talk privately in the hall and ask me if somebody was hurting me at home.  Actually, him, I think I just laughed and shrugged my shoulders because I wouldn’t say no anymore, but I still couldn’t say yes, either. I didn’t want that responsibility. I did not want to be the one who broke the silence.  That would make whatever happened after that my fault.

So, anyway,  I have always known I have a problem with math and I have known why.

I have another problem with a normal, day to day task that ought to be easy and simple and it was once something I did easily and lightly and even happily.  But now I have panic attacks within 15 minutes or so.  If I stick around for half an hour I am so drenched with sweat, stinking sweat laden with the foul stink of fear in every single drop, sweating to the point that my hair is actually sopping wet and I have to take a shower- and I don’t know why.  I can’t think of any reason for this to be a problem.  It hasn’t always been an issue, and I can’t think of anything particularly traumatic associated with it.

And that is this week’s therapy homework.  Try this every day for just a few minutes, and spend time trying to figure out why it does what it does to me.  I am looking at the week ahead and thinking that I have been asked to try water-boarding myself for fifteen minutes a day and while being waterboarded, I am to contemplate what it is about waterboarding that causes such an extreme physiological reaction.  Except the waterboarding is all in my head.

Lots of things are in my head, because that’s where the brain is, and research is pretty clear that abuse in childhood often leaves a measurable mark on the brain, and terror hijacks the brain.


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