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Dealing with unavoidable exposure to triggers - cycles of facing them/ dissociation and dysregulation/ avoidance, ad nauseum...


I've been in avoidance mode for so long now... new trauma, activation of old trauma, massive depression, crisis, symptom spike... It's all just been too much and avoidance has been one of my coping mechanisms.

And now that I'm moving house, I have to deal with all the triggers, negative stuff, problems, difficulties, that I've been pushing aside. It's several years' worth of stuff that's piled up.

It's all the stuff that my brain has labelled as "bad" and "to be avoided at all costs".

And now I have to face a giant pile of this stuff that's a clusterf*ck of triggers for me.

I keep trying to deal with it, my brain nopes out, dissociation/ dysregulation.... then slip back into avoidance for hours/ days... Then have to go back to tackling it and the dissociation/ dysregulation cycle starts again.

I don't think I'm approaching it particularly well... I don't really have a proper PTSD strategy of how to deal with this maelstrom of triggers that I have to keep jumping into...

I'm just sort of winging it day to da, trying to stop the avoidance as much as I can, because I fear of much worse consequences, if I don't.

So, it's sort of a fear-based muddling through.

Is there something more systematic I could to regarding this unwanted, unstructured, exposure therapy to massive triggers, that's not being very "therapeutic" at all?
I don't really have a proper PTSD strategy of how to deal with this
is there such a thing? i rank this notion right up there with the notion that there is only one way/word-set to relate to god. ditto for avoiding triggers/reminders. THEY'RE EVERYWHERE. . . THEY'RE EVERYWHERE. in my personal beliefs, healing is a profoundly personal process. every sufferer is unique and every episode within my personal healing is equally unique. i don't believe there is a one-size-fits-all approach to healing. just believing.

in my own healing journey, i have adopted a two step approach to managing my flashbacks. 1) suspend judgement. i use a visualization of putting my judge's robe and gavel into a closet to help me in this hard, hard step. 2) lean ever so gently into the flashback --with lots of grounding techniques to keep myself as far as possible in the here and now-- and go where the memory leads me. more and more, i am believing that the flashbacks are not designed to torture me. they are designed to help me retrieve precious memory gems which were buried in the mind-slide of trauma. gems well worth rescuing.
Emptying out the stress cup with additional self care and de-stressing activities always helps me cope with additional stressors.

But for a specific task? I’d be setting goals (probably a certain amount of time each day), setting specific times that I’m going to work on the task and then have set breaks (also of a set time), and having something to reward myself at the end. CBT strategy. Can be amazingly helpful for particularly difficult tasks.

Getting things done? Use SMART goals.
Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time limited. With a meaningful reward at the end:)
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I am triggered by bad driving, places on the road where i responded to bad accidents, saw death, and horribly selfish people sorry for the damage they caused. I almost never start a car without thinking about it at some level and since i live right in the geographic center of the district in which i was a first responder, I rarely get very far without a thought of something horrible i wish i could forget. So i get it, unavoidable triggers. But thats not saying i am triggered and it is unavoidable. Distraction and keeping my mind busy by being the best driver i can be works, but so does good music or a good discussion.
Try to be the best packer you can be. open a good discussion on a phone with a friend, measure your efficiency against the clock or the space available in the vehicle, sometimes i just try to name the states in alphabetical order or remember the borders and capitol cities of the states i would go through driving from miami to omaha or something equally mundane and unrelated to what i am doing and trying not to think about at the same time.
Is there something more systematic I could to regarding this unwanted, unstructured, exposure therapy to massive triggers, that's not being very "therapeutic" at all?
LMAO… Yah, what you’re doing is kinda sorta nearly the exact opposite of exposure therapy (or you wouldn’t be triggered, dysregulated, etc.; but mostly bored & always in control).

I keep trying to deal with it, my brain nopes out, dissociation/ dysregulation.... then slip back into avoidance for hours/ days... Then have to go back to tackling it and the dissociation/ dysregulation cycle starts again.

I don't think I'm approaching it particularly well... I don't really have a proper PTSD strategy of how to deal with this maelstrom of triggers that I have to keep jumping into...
I filled out my divorce paperwork at the gun range. 5/10/15 hours a day …over the course of a few weeks… that “should” have taken maaaaaaybe a long weekend of also doing other things, or half a work day of “just do it”.

BUT? Doing it in little pieces sandwiched on both sides with one of the most grounding activities I have in my tool kit (plus comfort food, exercise by walking along the river or gymnastics or sparring, plus socializing & a couple good books/films to mix things up a bit; all available right durn there, exactly as I needed them, when I needed them)…. May have taken “longer” but my life didn’t implode, or PTSD explode, in response. Because it was NEVER gonna take me a long weekend. Attempting to do so? Would have meant weeks/months of fallout & STILL not getting it done, instead of a couple weeks of 5-10-15 hours a day cushioning triggers/stressors/stress of it all.

What that looked like on the daily?

- Set myself / my situation up for success (blocked out the day, brought food, music, blew off steam ahead of time -before I started my paperwork, so I wasn’t starting on the back foot- etc. etc. Anything/Everything I wanted with me & available
- Cleared my head & heart by going inside & grounding/centering, first.
- Went outside & started paperwork.
- Started to spin up? (STARTED. Not full blown anything, but a HINT of blurry, or prickle of sweat, or shiver of skin, or emotions heating up)
- Go back inside and get right!
- Go back outside to paperwork.
- Start to spin up?
- Go back inside
- Inside the range, outside in my jeep, inside the range, outside in my jeep.
- Over and over and over, again.
^ Vary as needed with meal breaks, gymnastics/sparring, socializing, reading a good book, etc.

NOTE : A few other ways I’ve done the same thing, to avoid the earth shattering kaBOOM from triggery-stress-ish-ness that needs doing.

- If it hadn’t been literal paper paperwork, but electronic? I could have gone to the pool, instead, or in addition to (alternating pool days and range days)… as swimming is another of the small handful of “most grounding & centering” tools in my kit.
- If it had been winter? I could have gone snowboarding, instead or in addition to.
- If it were static, instead of portable? (Like clearing my storage unit) in addition to bringing food, music, books, etc. I’d also have brought my fire poi &/or couple stacks of blue gymnastics mats, depending on the weather & other factors. <<< I live in a very wet place, but management let me drop the mats / set up a little “I’m FREE!” zone/lair/batcave/escape in an empty unit.
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Thanks all.

I've got (yet another) day of this stuff ahead of me.

Haven't woken up in the middle of a flashback for once, so actually have some calm space in which to decide how to proceed.

I do feel a bit helpless about it tho... Like there are so many triggers and they're so intense that basically "no matter what I do" I'll end up tripping out of my mind, dissociated and dysregulated.

And if I actually *did* implement the kind of safety measures that stop that happening, then I'd maybe get a grand total of 20 minutes of work done all day...

Trying to view the middle ground - protecting myself enough so I'm only *half* a dissociated, dysregulated mess - doesn't seem like a very tempting goal at all...

I dunno... I'm trying to remember stuff from actual exposure therapy from many years ago... I recall it going really badly, actually... Therapists who were trying exposure therapy on me at the very start of my therapy before I had a PTSD diagnosis... And they'd be exposing me to stuff that would set off panic attacks and I'd sit there, dissociated out of my everloving mind... and the therapists naively thought that meant that I was "dealing with it" and that "exposing me to it" was having some kind of therapeutic effect... But I'd just end up getting so much more symptomatic, so much worse, that we'd end up having to break off the exposure therapy attemtps.

It's nearly 30 years later now, with a whole lot of life experience and trauma therapy under my belt... So in theory I should be able to approach it in a "better" way now, tho I'm currently more symptomatic than I've ever been in my life, so not exactly a good head space in which to work out how to approach things.

I got retraumatised a few years ago, which ended up "opening Pandora's box" on all the early childhood trauma, that I'd firmly kept sealed away until then. I've been crying and yelling and swearing about this ever since - hating the fact that it happened, trying to find some way of undoing it.

I'm now staaaaarting to view it as "fate" tho... and trying to see it as a blessing of sorts that this traumatic material finally got activated... It was burried so deep underground and I'd never have voluntariy opened it up... So maybe it was "time" for that stuff to be dealt with, like cleaning out an old wound. I'm starting to think that if that traumatic material had remained in place, it would've had a worse impact on me and my life than having it be ripped open so messily and painfully.

Maybe I can view myself as "the adult with life experience and trauma therapy experience that is competent enough to deal with traumatic material that overwhelmed my (inner) kid at the time"? Maybe if I view myself in that kind of protector role, then it'll give me a more helpful frame of reference as opposed to exposing myself to traumatic material randomly...?
I do the same except I try to look at each thing as realistically as possible and see what can I do about it.

You said isn’t there a better way? Always. But the way you are doing has gotten you this far .
When avoidance fails this is how I parse my thinking . Sifting always . Look for the good stuff . You are .

I find I can’t always be ready . I also find the things I focus on pushing away push back harder . I know though I’m always trying to do the best I can . There’s plenty of good in that .
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So, I think I'm going to try and aim for "2 hours per day". That seems like a reasonable and (sort of) manageable target.

Yes, I'll still dissociate and dysregulate, but it's a decent target with a firm limit.

I think one of the things that's been messing with me is that I was trying to do "as much as possible" - which is neither a measureable target, nor a realistic goal. And what does "possible" even mean? If I take into account dissociation and dysregulation then it's "possible" to do so much that it's totally counterproductive and detrimental to my health.

So, gonna try to aim for 2 hours and if that's not possible on a given day because I've got too many other tasks or I'm not well enough that day to achieve 2 hours, then that's also okay.
I took a break and then went back to it. Had a "moment" where I was feeling really distressed and wanted to quit... But then had a realisation - It's okay for me to start with the "easiest" stuff. There's a huge pile of work that needs to get done and as long as I'm doing 2 hours per day, it doesn't mattter "where" I start. Whatever I'm finding "easiest" that day is what I can do. Every single step is a step in the right direction, every single task I get done, is done.
I've been at it for a bit over an hour, so by my count I've got half an hour to go today and then I'm DONE for the day.