Learning of Triggers and Setting Boundaries

This weekend, I felt horrible (and not just because of the knee surgery). It seemed like I was falling apart. Looking at the Christmas tree, which normally gives me great joy, couldn't even bring me peace. I had a session with my therapist today and identified a trigger. I have slowly been learning over the last couple of years how much extended family can trigger me. I didn't understand it and all the depths of it before. My parents stopped by this weekend and delivered some presents from extended relatives (this normally doesn't happen until after Christmas) and the encouraged my son to put them under the tree to give him something to do.

So all weekend when I looked at the tree, those presents were there. Just sitting there so innocently, but really they were wreaking havoc on my brain. I felt like I just wanted to disappear and that Christmas was ruined and I had no idea where all this was coming from. While talking with my therapist, I realized it was the gifts. They don't belong under the tree. They arrive afterwards and I deal with the mixed emotions after Christmas. Not before.

While on my telehealth call with my therapist, I removed all of those gifts from under the tree and piled them in an out of the way area where I cannot see them. She reminded me that I don't have to do what I feel is expected of me (put them under the tree with the others) and that I can set boundries. So now, there will never be any presents from extended family under my tree before Christmas. I don't need those feelings.

Although I am making progress with identifying these triggers and setting these boundries, it still surprises me how things like this crop up and I don't even consider them as being the source of my mood changes. I wonder if it will ever become second nature to recognize this triggers for what they are and to stop doing what is expected of me in these cases.
 

Freddyt

MyPTSD Pro
Expectations are a trap. There is no positive way out most of the time.

Strange but I learned a lot about that from Dr. Bob Rotella's golf psychology books. When you expect you tell your brain what you want to happen and more often than not it figures out how to give you what you want. The single hardest part of getting to a 9 handicap factor for me was trusting I could do it and letting myself do it. The hardest part of PTSD and expectations is that they feed the stress monster. Always. Positive or negative.

Learn to trust your feelings when it comes to stress. Learn to remove the stress and then worry about the why and how. It's much easier that way.
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
when i first started learning how to identify my psycho triggers, i tried to turn it into a reflex. the effort turned identifying triggers into my newest ocd tick and resulted in allot of self-gaslighting and new psychic barricades i called, "boundaries." with considerable help from my psychotherapy support network, i learned how to focus more on healing the moment than instituting new laws. leave room for those gifts under the tree to look different a year from now. the needed boundaries will change as healing happens.

steadying support while you heal.
 

DharmaGirl

MyPTSD Pro
I wonder if it will ever become second nature to recognize this triggers for what they are and to stop doing what is expected of me in these cases.
I have been wondering this too. I used to think I would be better if I continued therapy and working on myself. Now I realize that better is recognizing when I need to use my skills to calm and regulate myself. It's a good thing to recognize that you are triggered and need to change something and I'm hoping to get better at it.
 

Freddyt

MyPTSD Pro
I find that lot of people have a problem telling stressors and triggers apart.

Stressors take you to a state of very high stress but do not totally shut down your ability to function.

Triggers - Usually trigger memories, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, followed by being reduced to being non functioning.

Example - my wife coming up from behind and surprising me is a stressor. Someone sneaking up on my right, leaning over from my right shoulder and frightening me may trigger me.
 

Chris-duck

MyPTSD Pro
I find that lot of people have a problem telling stressors and triggers apart.

Stressors take you to a state of very high stress but do not totally shut down your ability to function.

Triggers - Usually trigger memories, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, followed by being reduced to being non functioning.
My understanding was that triggers were trauma specific (Like presents from abusers) and stressors were general life stressors (moving house, new job..)
Not so much dependent on reaction to them.

And to the OP, it sounds like you did good by hiding them away and easing things for yourself a bit. Is there anything you can do for the future to avoid having to navigate this sorta thing? I totally get if not, I am the same. Just something to wonder about for future I guess
 

Friday

Moderator
I wonder if it will ever become second nature to recognize this triggers for what they are and to stop doing what is expected of me in these cases.
For me, yes.

Sometimes.

In some instances.

Which has been mind blowing both in life/relationships -AND- when I recognize “new” things. Why the bunny ears? Snort. Because stuff crops up all the durn time that I was totally unaware of. For example? I had a boss who wanted to get my annual Feb/March vacation on the books this year EARLY. I had no idea that I took a clockwork level “annual” vacation. I thought it was a totally spontaneous vacation… year after year. Shrug. All I knew is I’d wake up one morning & decide theKiddo and I should hit the slopes for a couple weeks; IE rent the cabin, and blow town. Come to find? Cha. I have a helluva traum-versary right then & there … and had been dealing with it both so effectively and so predicitbly that I was the only one who didn’t know that I’d be out of reach for a few weeks. (In fresh POW! Having a blast! I and only adding to the vivacity of life, rather than my life suffering from it, and et cetera).

Oh. Oops. (Blushing).

Some things? Will become knee jerk.
Other things? Have already been for a long time.
Many more? Will become… just as easy, and just as non-impact. Given the attention &/or space they rate.
 
I find that lot of people have a problem telling stressors and triggers apart.

Stressors take you to a state of very high stress but do not totally shut down your ability to function.

Triggers - Usually trigger memories, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, followed by being reduced to being non functioning.

Example - my wife coming up from behind and surprising me is a stressor. Someone sneaking up on my right, leaning over from my right shoulder and frightening me may trigger me.
These were definitely a trigger. My ability to function went way down. It is hard sometimes to keep the labels straight one some things and I am probably guilty of mislabeling things at times, but this was truly an incident where my ability to function was dwindling the more that I stared at those presents. I was shutting down more and more.

And to the OP, it sounds like you did good by hiding them away and easing things for yourself a bit. Is there anything you can do for the future to avoid having to navigate this sorta thing? I totally get if not, I am the same. Just something to wonder about for future I guess
Thank you. Hiding them away has eased things. I think that I amy have to navigate this every year, but now I know that if the gifts arrive before Christmas, they don't go under the tree and I can put them in their own place until after. The gifts are a reminder of past abuse and I don't need that under my tree. The gifts will come and I won't stop them because, well, I am not there, at least for now. They aren't necessarily from abusers, but huge reminders of a lot of traumatic stuff.
 

Friday

Moderator
I find that lot of people have a problem telling stressors and triggers apart.

Stressors take you to a state of very high stress but do not totally shut down your ability to function.

Triggers - Usually trigger memories, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, followed by being reduced to being non functioning.
Not from an academic/scientific description/definition, specific to PTSD.

Which I’m qualifying, because -yep!- in most of psych a stressor is “just” a major life event like job loss, the death of a child, etc. There’s no scaling, because ANY stressor can activate a pre-existing condition…. And the stressor can cause the whole durn rainbow of responses.

But with PTSD? Triggers are trauma specific, stressors are trauma adjacent, and stress/stressors life stuff. All 3 CAN cause a symptomatic reaction, but none are inherantly greater/lesser than any other… someone can be triggered and recover in seconds, meanwhile a stressor can cause as severe a reaction as rapid decompensation leading to psychosis. And vice versa. Ditto, stress levels alone can take someone to being completely nonfunctional &/or kick off a symptomatic reaction as severe as either a trigger or stressor. Or can be relatively mild. The degree of reaction is not what determines if it’s a trigger or stressor or stress… with PTSD… but how linked to trauma it happens to be.

For Stress see The ptsd cup explanation
For Triggers & Stressors see Stressor vs. Trigger - What Is A Trigger?
 
All 3 CAN cause a symptomatic reaction, but none are inherantly greater/lesser than any other… someone can be triggered and recover in seconds, meanwhile a stressor can cause as severe a reaction as rapid decompensation leading to psychosis. And vice versa.
Thanks for stating that. I get that and it makes sense. I often feel ashamed of my reactions, but I know they are realand have causes,
 
Top