My friends parent triggers me, and I have an expectation that all parents are mean to their children

Mythia

New Here
I have two very close friends, one female friend who has also gone through childhood trauma, and one male friend who has never dealt with anything like that, as far as I know. I am still living in the place where my trauma took place, I just sleep in a different room now, so it's still hard to feel safe and comfortable, especially around my family. My whole life I've escaped to friends houses to feel "safe" from my abuser and my parents toxicity.

My female friends house is perpetually coated in cat hair, so spending large amounts of time there can get uncomfortable as someone with allergies, so we usually spend time together at our guy friends home. His mother is very nice and I've always felt welcomed, but the other night that illusion of safety was shattered.

My male friends father has always been cold when I am at their house, but I've sort of accepted that he is the way he is. However, his demeanor and the way he talks to his son (my friend) has always made me uncomfortable. It seemed harsh and I wished he were kinder. One night my friends and I decided to have a fun cooking night and make crepes.

We we're in the process of cleaning up when the father came over, agitated by the noise level and clanking dishes (he was watching TV, and the kitchen and TV room are joined) and yelled at my friend about it while me and my female friend stood there awkwardly. Looking back, he wasn't screaming at or insulting my friend, but his tone immediately triggered me. I tried to keep cleaning up for a minute, but I couldn't stop myself from crying once he left the room. I began to tremble full body and my thoughts just became static. I replayed the words of my friends father over and over in my head, wondering if there was something I could have done to make that interaction not happen. No one said anything for a minute and I tried to hide my crying.

I told my friends I needed air and went outside to try and ride out my panic attack. It was the worst one I've had to date though, and I couldn't calm down on my own. My whole body was shaking and I was holding myself rocking back and forth sitting on the driveway in the middle of the night. I think I started having flashbacks, my eyes seemed to stop working, and I couldn't stop crying. It was freezing, so that helped me feel more present, but I still felt like I was unraveling.

I didn't bring my coat and after a few minutes my friend came to check on me. He brought a blanket and sat with me and had to tell me over and over that he was safe, I was safe, his dad wasn't angry at us. Then he said something that really struck me. He told me that his parents weren't mean to him and that he was okay. I think it was at that moment that I realized I had gotten used to parents being mean to their children, and how broken my own relationship with my own parents is.

We haven't really talked about it since, this was several weeks ago, but I still feel embarrassed. I feel like I overreacted and got upset on behalf of my friend when he wasn't at all bothered by the interaction. I also feel guilty for projecting onto his dad. I can't tell if his father was actually being mean to him or if my perspective is just badly warped? And it feels foolish, but I no longer feel any sort of comfortable around his father, even though he didn't do anything to me or or directly speak to me. I'm not certain how to deal with these feelings, but I don't just want to sit on them until I get triggered and lose control again.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Being aware of a trigger is a great step forward. Now you know this is a trigger, it means you might not respond the same way again. I totally understand the fear of going through that trigger again. I get like that. I believe if that was how I responded then that means that is how I will respond every single time. But that is trauma talking. Because it's not actually true.
With awareness, it creates possibilities for different ways of feeling and responding

You have nothing to be embarrassed about.
Or to feel guilty about.
The dad won't even know. And your friend has said it is ok.
They won't be holding this in the same way you are. It won't be a big deal to them at all. Because they don't have this trauma.

Do you have a therapist? Do you have grounding techniques?
Is there a way you can separate out this friend's dad from your parents?

Maybe trying to find ways to undr you are safe, even if your body and reactions are based in trauma, to let yourself know this person is different and safe so you can believe that?

Your friend sounds great btw. Really supportive. And I am touched by him explaining to you that he is safe and ok. Sounds like that was a really important thing for you to hear. And he knew that. That sounds like a profound moment between you both.
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
another vote that you view the new awareness of the trigger as a big step forward. yes, panic attacks are embarrassing, but letting a new awareness facilitate growth and psychic healing is a tremendous benefit.

for what it's worth
when my kids have friends over, i deliberately detach myself from the event, which can look cold to the unaware. the visit is about them and their social development. i'm just there to supervise.
 

Mythia

New Here
Being aware of a trigger is a great step forward. Now you know this is a trigger, it means you might not respond the same way again. I totally understand the fear of going through that trigger again. I get like that. I believe if that was how I responded then that means that is how I will respond every single time. But that is trauma talking. Because it's not actually true.
With awareness, it creates possibilities for different ways of feeling and responding

You have nothing to be embarrassed about.
Or to feel guilty about.
The dad won't even know. And your friend has said it is ok.
They won't be holding this in the same way you are. It won't be a big deal to them at all. Because they don't have this trauma.

Do you have a therapist? Do you have grounding techniques?
Is there a way you can separate out this friend's dad from your parents?

Maybe trying to find ways to undr you are safe, even if your body and reactions are based in trauma, to let yourself know this person is different and safe so you can believe that?

Your friend sounds great btw. Really supportive. And I am touched by him explaining to you that he is safe and ok. Sounds like that was a really important thing for you to hear. And he knew that. That sounds like a profound moment between you both.
Thank you for the reassurance. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who deals with that. I don't know why but that night has been on my mind these past few days. I'm trying to be more aware of my triggers but it's hard because unless I am actually triggered, my brain sort of refuses to dwell on those things.

I am currently looking for a therapist. I was seeing a counselor but I stopped seeing her because she reccomended I see a full time therapist, rather than just our half hour sessions with her every two weeks. I thought it was a good idea but things happened and I just ended up not finding one. I think that was at the beginning of the year. Now I just feel like it will be weird if I ask to start seeing her again.

I do have grounding techniques I try (and tried) to use, but a lot of times my brain just goes static-y like before. Best case scenario I zone out keep counting numbers, or start relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms like causing myself pain to "stay in" my body.

If my friend hadn't come outside I probably would have sat there all night. Our other friend also came to find us but we were about about head inside.

It was a surprisingly profound moment between us. He's usually very aloof and sometimes unaware of other people's feelings, so it was shocking when he told me exactly what I needed to hear to calm down. I went outside when I realized what was happening because in the past if I cried or something he just got very awkward and quiet or tried to move past it too fast, which made me feel silly for being upset. So, I'm very grateful and surprised that he was able to be present for me in that way.
 

Renly

Confident
A very similar situation happened to me when my brother in law was yelling (not at anyone, just out of his own frustration at a situation) and I was completely triggered. I was staying a few days at his house with my sister and I was so upset after he yelled that I had to pack up and leave right away. My sister couldn’t understand my reaction to the situation. This was a few years ago and before I knew I had PTSD, but looking back now it makes perfect sense. I’m still extremely triggered by yelling because of the abuse I endured (but I know I’ll get to addressing it in therapy soon). Our nervous systems were telling us it’s not safe (even though in all reality it was safe)…those associations in our brains are strong. I agree, knowledge is power and now you are aware of this trigger. I definitely recommend looking into getting trauma focused therapy if you haven’t already. You aren’t alone!
 

Mythia

New Here
another vote that you view the new awareness of the trigger as a big step forward. yes, panic attacks are embarrassing, but letting a new awareness facilitate growth and psychic healing is a tremendous benefit.

for what it's worth
when my kids have friends over, i deliberately detach myself from the event, which can look cold to the unaware. the visit is about them and their social development. i'm just there to supervise.
I considered that he might just being trying to give us space, or feel socially awkward around a bunch of younger people, so I tried not to take it personally. Part of me understands that he's just a person and hasn't actually done anything wrong, but the other part of me wants to assume he's being intentionally mean, or at least dislikes me for some reason.

I think it's parlty because his wife's behavior contrasts so starkly from his that I felt sensitive about it. She always greets me and talks to me about my day or something she is excited about. Hell, even their dogs greet me when I walk in the door, but usually I'm the one to say hello to him first, and only because it feels uncomfortable to be in someone's house and not announce myself.

A very similar situation happened to me when my brother in law was yelling (not at anyone, just out of his own frustration at a situation) and I was completely triggered. I was staying a few days at his house with my sister and I was so upset after he yelled that I had to pack up and leave right away. My sister couldn’t understand my reaction to the situation. This was a few years ago and before I knew I had PTSD, but looking back now it makes perfect sense. I’m still extremely triggered by yelling because of the abuse I endured (but I know I’ll get to addressing it in therapy soon). Our nervous systems were telling us it’s not safe (even though in all reality it was safe)…those associations in our brains are strong. I agree, knowledge is power and now you are aware of this trigger. I definitely recommend looking into getting trauma focused therapy if you haven’t already. You aren’t alone!
Thank you. It sometimes makes me feel unconfident, knowing I could be triggered by things that other people don't even worry about, but knowledge is power!
 

Friday

Moderator
It sometimes makes me feel unconfident, knowing I could be triggered by things that other people don't even worry about,
There are a few of these types of threads around, this is just the first one the search feature found for me.


Smart money? Is that most of the triggers OTHER people experience won’t be something you worry about.
 
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