How to handle triggers and calm anxiety when it starts to spiral

rvanve13

New Here
Hi everyone -

I just found this site and am hoping I’m posting in the right section. I suffer from PTSD due to an abusive relationship that I was in for 8 years. I struggle the most with anxiety surrounding finances, abandonment and control. I got into a new relationship about a year and a half after finally leaving my ex and my boyfriend I have been together for almost 3 years at this point. Looking back I think I got into a relationship sooner than I should have, but at this point hindsight is 20/20.

We are really struggling. He has a really hard time dealing with the effects of my ptsd and I think sometimes it makes it worse than it needs to be. He says I make him feel like he’s my ex. He feels like we’ve been together for almost 3 years and I should know that he isn’t going to hurt me, or steal from me or force me to do anything I don’t want to do. Unfortunately certain things trigger me and I just don’t feel like I have any control over my reaction. I guess I’m just looking for any tips or suggestions from other people that know what this is like. What can I do when these situations happen? I hate it. I hate how it makes me feel, I hate how it makes him feel.

As an example of something that is struggle for me, I’ll say I need to get groceries and he’ll say we don’t have time to go to the grocery store until the next day and I go into an absolute panic. And it turns into me freaking out and saying that he’s controlling and he’s not allowing me to feed my kids and it just spirals into this huge thing that was totally unnecessary. It’s not like my cupboards are bare. There’s food that I can feed us, but it’s like I just go into an absolute panic until I feel like if I don’t get to the grocery store right then and there the world is going to end.

There has to be a way to calm myself. There has to be something I can do to recognize it’s about to happen and something that will help me to chill myself out before it ends up being a huge blow out. For the most part I have a very structured, routine life. I do the same things at the same times on the same days and I know what to expect and I know what’s coming next and I know that that helps me a lot. But I can’t handle when a bump shows up in the road. If something unexpected happens or my routine gets disrupted it causes me major anxiety. I struggle with weekends because it’s not always planned and structured and things change. And certain errands we fit in when we’re able to, so I struggle with that. I guess I’m just looking for any support or suggestions or tips of what I can do to calm myself down when I feel myself starting spiral like that.

Thanks!
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
hello rvanve. welcome to the forum. sorry for what brings you here, but glad you are here.

you just did one of the things that i do to keep a spiral from splatting psycho snot knots all over the love of my life when i hit one of those trigger events. getting the event and the emotions attached into words and sharing those words within my therapy support network goes a long way toward calming the panic and saving gobs of wear and tear on my relationship. the sharing often nets me the added bonus of finding and/or reinforcing the therapy tool which will help with any gnarly side effects.

and? ? ? did it help?

so or no, welcome to the forum.
 

rvanve13

New Here
hello rvanve. welcome to the forum. sorry for what brings you here, but glad you are here.

you just did one of the things that i do to keep a spiral from splatting psycho snot knots all over the love of my life when i hit one of those trigger events. getting the event and the emotions attached into words and sharing those words within my therapy support network goes a long way toward calming the panic and saving gobs of wear and tear on my relationship. the sharing often nets me the added bonus of finding and/or reinforcing the therapy tool which will help with any gnarly side effects.

and? ? ? did it help?

so or no, welcome to the forum.
Thanks for the response! I think it definitely helps to talk about it afterwards. And I can see where my thinking goes askew in hindsight. My issue right now is trying to stop it before it gets to that point because the damage it’s caused on my relationship feels irreversible. I feel like it’s ruining us. And I just don’t know what to do.
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
My issue right now is trying to stop it before it gets to that point because the damage it’s caused on my relationship feels irreversible.

that is a noble and absolutely achievable goal. may i use my 42nd wedding anniversary as evidence that the goal is achievable? guessing from this post, i will hazard the guess that you are well on your way.

the more you use the psychotherapy tools, the more your skill will grow. the tools work when you work them.
practice, practice, practice. . .
small steps, big faith and lots of prayer.
 

rvanve13

New Here
that is a noble and absolutely achievable goal. may i use my 42nd wedding anniversary as evidence that the goal is achievable? guessing from this post, i will hazard the guess that you are well on your way.

the more you use the psychotherapy tools, the more your skill will grow. the tools work when you work them.
practice, practice, practice. . .
small steps, big faith and lots of prayer.
Thank you so much for your kind words. I will definitely keep working on things. And remind myself that even when it feels hopeless it isn’t.
 

StillPen

MyPTSD Pro
Hi @rvanve13, first, I love @arfie because of this:
to keep a spiral from splatting psycho snot knots all over the love of my life when i hit one of those trigger events.
I've never heard my spirals put quite like that, but it could not be more accurate of a description. Arfie can make the worst of our PTSDisms laughable and we ALL need laughter.
As an example of something that is struggle for me, I’ll say I need to get groceries and he’ll say we don’t have time to go to the grocery store until the next day and I go into an absolute pani
So this particular psycho snot knot is called a trigger. In the hospital, they kept asking me 'what are your triggers?'. I had no f'ng idea what they were talking about so I just balbbered non-stop about what was wrong. If they asked "what did he say to you that made you feel like the past was happening all over again, right now?", I would've said oh, ''x, y and z". So if your example was an actual event and you said "I need" and his return was anything other than moving mountains to meet that need, then I would say that was your trigger. 'You need' control over your calendar/time, etc. to feel safe. As soon as he did not validate/comply with that need, the trigger has been activated, the past is now present, you feel you are no longer safe, panic ensues.

Psycho snot ALL over the room.

You come out of it, wonder wtf is wrong with you and boyfriend feels bewildered and like he just stepped on a land mind.

Now, if I'm anywhere near accurate, you need a therapist and quick. If you have one, great because it needs to be in your very next session. You are acutely still activated by your past abuse and that needs ongoing professional attention. Also keep a running list of triggers as you figure them out (and that sucks). The fine line between avoidance and balance is a fuzzy line. Yes, you will do better on a routine because your sense of safety is not challenged. However if you're not addressing the absue of having your sense of safety taken feom you, you'll always be confined to structure, leaving little space for spontenaity and felxibility...also potential triggers (feeling trapped).

So, it is hairy, BUT you can get better at recognizing your triggers, realizing them as they've been stepped on and implementing immediate and calming techniques to separate your past from your present, so you can move theough the moment in a healthy manner.

So, the onset of panic...immediate notification to self that you've been triggered somehow, some way. Its not what he says, it is how what he says has made you feel..."I'm no longer safe" alert, alert, alert. If you can stop yourself in that moment and go splash cold water on your face, it migh help bring you to the present so you can know for sure that boyfriend just triggered you without meaning to, that everything is Okay, and that you kids ARE safe. Then, journal your ass off. Here, on your phone, in a journal, whever...to talk to T about it in next session. Your abuser robbed you of something...your sense of safety, and that has to be worked through and reversed, slowly, with sommeone who understands trauma therapy and what trauma does to your brain.

Then, next time it happens, repeat.

You may not always catch it before psycho snot goes everywhere.

Apologies may be necessary, but a simple apology along with an "I am working on it" goes a long way.

Hopefully this helps.

Thank you so much for your kind words. I will definitely keep working on things. And remind myself that even when it feels hopeless it isn’t.
It isn't hopeless, you are absolutely right. My hubs is just now starting to realize that when he triggers me it has absolutely nothing to do with him, and he can now start to sense when he needs to just step away and give me the space I need to self-regulate. It takes time, patience, and a commitment to each other that you want to make things work.

I wish you much luck and encouraging support.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Everything @StillPen and @arfie said!

It is so confusing when feelings from the past are present now. Now feels unsafe, when the unsafe situation is not real now, but those feels are. Messes with my mind and head each time..

How to ground yourself when triggered:
Write down happy things to remind you of life andbaafety now, keep that with you and look at it when triggered?
Say out loud things about now (this works for me as mlhearijg my adult voice helps given my trauma was as a minor)
Tactile things: something to hold, or stroking or hugging myself helps.
Being as aware as you can be (this only works if I haven't spiralled too far), imem being aware of what is happening and why and keeping a little part of you in reality. That little part connects you to the here and now and keeping that helps it grow and put the feelings into perspective.

Some of grounding techniques are trial and error. And some will work sometimes and not others. But I really agree that working on this need to control will help, because we can't control life. So learning to be ok with unpredictability and spontaneity will help. These are just learned behaviours that can be unlearnt and replaced.
 

rvanve13

New Here
Hi @rvanve13, first, I love @arfie because of this:

I've never heard my spirals put quite like that, but it could not be more accurate of a description. Arfie can make the worst of our PTSDisms laughable and we ALL need laughter.

So this particular psycho snot knot is called a trigger. In the hospital, they kept asking me 'what are your triggers?'. I had no f'ng idea what they were talking about so I just balbbered non-stop about what was wrong. If they asked "what did he say to you that made you feel like the past was happening all over again, right now?", I would've said oh, ''x, y and z". So if your example was an actual event and you said "I need" and his return was anything other than moving mountains to meet that need, then I would say that was your trigger. 'You need' control over your calendar/time, etc. to feel safe. As soon as he did not validate/comply with that need, the trigger has been activated, the past is now present, you feel you are no longer safe, panic ensues.

Psycho snot ALL over the room.

You come out of it, wonder wtf is wrong with you and boyfriend feels bewildered and like he just stepped on a land mind.

Now, if I'm anywhere near accurate, you need a therapist and quick. If you have one, great because it needs to be in your very next session. You are acutely still activated by your past abuse and that needs ongoing professional attention. Also keep a running list of triggers as you figure them out (and that sucks). The fine line between avoidance and balance is a fuzzy line. Yes, you will do better on a routine because your sense of safety is not challenged. However if you're not addressing the absue of having your sense of safety taken feom you, you'll always be confined to structure, leaving little space for spontenaity and felxibility...also potential triggers (feeling trapped).

So, it is hairy, BUT you can get better at recognizing your triggers, realizing them as they've been stepped on and implementing immediate and calming techniques to separate your past from your present, so you can move theough the moment in a healthy manner.

So, the onset of panic...immediate notification to self that you've been triggered somehow, some way. Its not what he says, it is how what he says has made you feel..."I'm no longer safe" alert, alert, alert. If you can stop yourself in that moment and go splash cold water on your face, it migh help bring you to the present so you can know for sure that boyfriend just triggered you without meaning to, that everything is Okay, and that you kids ARE safe. Then, journal your ass off. Here, on your phone, in a journal, whever...to talk to T about it in next session. Your abuser robbed you of something...your sense of safety, and that has to be worked through and reversed, slowly, with sommeone who understands trauma therapy and what trauma does to your brain.

Then, next time it happens, repeat.

You may not always catch it before psycho snot goes everywhere.

Apologies may be necessary, but a simple apology along with an "I am working on it" goes a long way.

Hopefully this helps.


It isn't hopeless, you are absolutely right. My hubs is just now starting to realize that when he triggers me it has absolutely nothing to do with him, and he can now start to sense when he needs to just step away and give me the space I need to self-regulate. It takes time, patience, and a commitment to each other that you want to make things work.

I wish you much luck and encouraging support.
Thank you so much for this. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said it’s not what he says, but how what he says makes me feel. He constantly asks how he can approach it differently and tbh I think anything other than “okay we’ll go right now” is going to get the same response. Yesterday he said to me he feels like he could say “bitch we aren’t doing that” and he would get the same response as when he says “I don’t think we have enough time today, can it wait until tomorrow?” And he’s absolutely right.

I just hate that I’m making him feel like he’s being abusive to me when he isn’t. Unfortunately he gets to pay for the mistakes of someone else. The part I think that’s a real struggle for him was that he went through abuse as a child and although it was a trauma it didn’t affect him the same way that my abuse has affected me. He doesn’t understand why I can’t just be over it.

I was in therapy for awhile, but I didn’t feel like it was really helping. I felt like I was just talking and she wasn’t really giving me tools on how to actually deal with it. I should have just looked for a different therapist instead of just dropping therapy all together. However I think you’re right that I need to get back into it and am planning on looking around this week and seeing if I can find someone new.

Thank you again for taking the time to reply. I appreciate everything you said so much.
 

Friday

Moderator
How to handle triggers and calm anxiety when it starts to spiral?
💫 PRACTICE. 💫

😁

Ideally, I’d pick a trigger that didn’t involve other people to get the hang of it, as learning to manage triggers and stressors has a wicked steep learning curve (that often leads us to being assholes at best, and abusive at worst) to the people around us. Whether we’re deliberately targeting them, lashing out at them, holding them emotionally hostage, or just so wrapped up in ourselves we’re blind to the damage we’re causing them.

Then? 2 step process where

1. is learning (recognition, self control, recovery); as well as getting faster & better at handling each piece. (recognizing what’s happening, getting myself back under control, recovering) <<< What can take hours and days in the beginning of practicing managing being triggered? Can literally take seconds once you get good at it. Not only do people around you not even notice you do more than a quick intake of breath, or pause/half-step whilst walking… as you’re back to being you/your own badass self, with no one the wiser, between one breath and the next… but you also aren’t nuking your life and your relationships every time something OMFG RUN! KILL IT! completely normal happens.

2. Eliminating the trigger itself.

More on both of those below

 

Freddyt

MyPTSD Pro
💫 PRACTICE. 💫
Amen to that. Pick something easy and conquer that - then start applying it to everything.

Build your skills at living with PTSD one piece at a time and sooner or later you go "wow, my symptoms haven't been bad this week and you realize that the symptoms are the same - you just deal with them better.......
 
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