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Therapy becomes trigger

Discussion in 'Treatment & Therapy' started by MamaHopeful, Jul 3, 2018.

  1. MamaHopeful

    MamaHopeful Member

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    I'm in a state of PTSD terror/trigger so I'll do my best making sense.

    I start with a new therapist and do great for 2-3 weeks. I feel so hopeful and feel awesome. And then BAM the therapist themselves becomes a giant trauma/trigger. Just thinking about the office or the smell of their perfume sends me into a giant panic attack. This then causes me to panic further because I just want to get better. The intrusive thoughts/memories are of the therapist. It's like I think of them, and then have a giant rush of terror. As though it was the trauma itself.
    Has this happened to anyone else?
    Am I going crazy?
    Why does my brain think these images/memories are so dangerous and terrifying?
    I just want to get better. With my entire heart and soul.
     
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  3. Swift

    Swift I'm a VIP

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    Hey @MamaHopeful.
    No, you aren't going crazy. Yes, I've experienced similar.
    The therapist would trip my "this person is in my space and trying to hurt me" circuits and then...
    I spent about six months saying very little to my therapist other than some fairly graphic language I won't repeat here. And... new Ts are always panic-inducing for me.
    Maybe, partly because you want to get better so badly, it makes your anxiety worse?
    How's your pacing with therapy? Are you going in there and talking heavy trauma all at first? Or is going in there enough to freak you out?
    I'm so sorry you're struggling. This sounds terrifying.

    I used to be an EEG tech, and I've read almost everything I can get my hands on about PTSD and neuroscience. I try to understand my own PTSD as a brain-thing. Of course, I'm not a doctor or a psychologist, disclaimer disclaimer yada yada.
    So... why does your brain do this?

    PTSD fundamentally alters the structures in your brain. Not irreversibly. But it does change them.

    The three main parts that are active or inactive in PTSD I think of as
    1. your back brain, which is near the bone you can feel on the back of your head, comprising your amygdala and your brainstem. In PTSD, this part is enlarged and works overtime. It controls your danger circuits, sending messages to all your bodily systems to freak out.
    2. Your hippocampus, which is in the middle of your brain and shaped like a seahorse, from the greek hippo meaning horse, and kampos meaning seamonster. This controls the "where and when" function of your brain. In PTSD, this part is smaller and doesn't work properly.
    3. Your frontal lobes, which are near your temples. These control 'thinking' - things like language, ie words, verbal memory and critical thinking, task planning, etc.

    So... essentially what happens when our PTSD is triggered... our front brain sees something potentially dangerous, our hippocampus can't distinguish that the danger is in the past and not the present, our amygdala sends the signals to our body to freak the heck out.

    What I'd guess is happening, is that you're feeling unsafe in a therapy environment, your amygdala freaks out and your hippocampus can't tell that it doesn't need to be afraid of whatever the danger that caused your PTSD is.
    Re: the therapist overlaying your intrusive thoughts...
    This is an educated guess, but still a guess: I'd think that the back 2/3 of your brain sense danger. The front bit, your logic brain, tries to provide a rational explanation of why you're feeling so in danger. Your brain isn't ready to deal with it's trauma memories, so your frontal lobes substitute your recent, less traumatic memories of your therapist as the "cause" of what's making the rest of your brain freak out.
    But yeah, you're not crazy, this is all how the brain works..
     
  4. MamaHopeful

    MamaHopeful Member

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    Thank you so much for this reply.
    I wish I had a trauma therapist who could explain this to me.
    I couldn't find a trauma therapist here, so I am in a DBT group. The group is great but the other people in the group feel triggering. I'm tired of the intrusive thoughts. Nonstop the last two days.
    I found a PTSD therapist but she ONLY does CPT and soul retrieval.
    I want so much to find a therapist that feels safe, and feels like home. Someone I can attach and connect with. When my trauma firt happened in 1997, I had this. She has since retired.
    I feel hopeless without a good therapist. Hopeless is not a good way to feel. I just want to get well. So when these "bad" days and intrusive thoughts return it levels me.
    -Michelle
     
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  5. Swift

    Swift I'm a VIP

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    No worries Michelle.
    What's CPT?
    And.. I'm from a small area, and have never actually had someone who called themselves a "trauma therapist". My first T was actually a psychiatrist, and brilliant, and my current one does neurofeedback.
    I ask if they have experience with trauma, and my specific stuff which is CSA.
    My GP is also probably the best part of my health team.
    Do you have access to medical care where you are, financially or otherwise? I'm from Aus so it's not too bad finance-wise. But sometimes getting there is half the battle.
     
  6. MamaHopeful

    MamaHopeful Member

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    I've had the hardest time finding support since this all happened in March. I've seen many therapists. One said PTSD is a myth and it was just OCD and told me to watch horror movies nonstop. One told me to put crystals in my vag. One said I had brain damage from taking paxil. My doctors tried to give me a billion drugs. Not feeling supported here has been a huge part of the problem I think. We recently moved here, and I just want this to all go far, far away.
    When the intrusive thoughts/memories/anxiety rushes come every ten minutes, I don't know how to cope or what to do.
    DBT gives skills but they honestly aren't working like I want them to. When I'm having a flashback and I splash my face with ice water I feel even more afraid/shameful.
     
    Swift likes this.
  7. Swift

    Swift I'm a VIP

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    It sounds like you've had absolutely rubbish help.
    That's not a reflection on you, just, what the hell is going on with those people?
    It's late, I'm a log off now.
    Keep us posted!
     
  8. MamaHopeful

    MamaHopeful Member

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    Because of the bad help I've had, I'm afraid to even begin with someone new.
    I just feel so defeated when I've been doing SO WELL and then out of nowhere the intrusive images and feelings are back.
    It makes me question everything. Maybe I am crazy. Maybe it is OCD. Maybe I am hopeless. Maybe this will never go away....
    Sorry to sound negative. It's just tricky.
     
  9. Justmehere

    Justmehere Help support myPTSD - more info in Social forum Moderator Premium Member

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    It took me a long time to time helpful therapies for me. Even the best trauma therapy is going to feel uncomfortable and triggering - which makes it hard to sort out when it’s time to cut and run and when it’s time to stick it out.

    I did DBT and some of it doesn’t help and some of it does. If strong sensations like cold water on your face don’t help you ground, take that as good information to know more of that might not work and a clue as to what might work better. For me, when things like that done help me ground, I take it as a clue that I need something softer. Like wrapping up in a soft blanket.

    DBT skills usually don’t work as well as people would like at first... with practice, they work better and better. By practice, I mean using them a lot, even when not triggered and overwhelmed.

    Have you talked to the therapist about your concerns about the group?

    You could also consider asking if theyhave any suggestions of a solid trauma therapist to work with as well.
     
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  10. MamaHopeful

    MamaHopeful Member

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    Thank you. I spoke with her yesterday and hope she will have some suggestions today.

    Is it normal for PTSD to leave and come back without notice?? I feel fully recovered and then BAM out of nowhere I am knocked out for days in a state of absolute terror - it's hard to even eat. Is this normal???
     
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  11. Justmehere

    Justmehere Help support myPTSD - more info in Social forum Moderator Premium Member

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    Yep, that’s pretty common. PTSD is cyclical. Early in recovery, it felt like a cat that snuck up on me and pounced. Over time, I was able to recognize the signs it was coming and it wasn’t so much 0 to 60 all the time.

    Something else that gets said a lot around here, because it’s true, is that it usually gets worse before it gets better in treatment. By going to treatment, you are dealing with what you have been avoiding. It’s goong to be hard for a season. It stinks.

    I have had a couple of trauma therapists tell me too that stuff comes up when we feel most ready and safe to deal with it. I’m not sure I agree that’s always true, but I think this could be accurate in some situations.

    By being in a DBT group, you are choosing to not avoid but try new things to approach it in a new way.

    Therapy, and especially a skills based group like DBT, can sometimes be like learning to ride a bike. One goes along, and all of the sudden the bike wobbles. In time, you’ll learn skills to handle the wobbles and ride over the bumps in the road without falling off the bike. It’s harder if you have the experience of crappy bikes - like crystals in your vag or PTSD not even being a real disorder. Ugh... DBT is a solid type of therapy when things are very unsteady.

    I’m glad you talked to the therapist and I hope she has some helpful suggestions.
     
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  12. MamaHopeful

    MamaHopeful Member

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    thank you so much for this reply.

    it means the world to me.
     
    Swift likes this.
  13. hithere

    hithere Well-Known Member

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    Do you Cognitive Processing Therapy-the "12 session protocol"? What is soul retrieval? If you Cognitive Processing Therapy how did that work for you? How do you do soul retrieval?



    *I meant: Does "CPT" mean Cognitive Processing Therapy-the 12-session protocol?

    Also I am dealing with yesterday's session-and it was TRIGGERING and I have been completely destabilized by the therapist, though obviously the therapist is completely clueless to what they did or what they are doing ... it's horrible-it's a whole day of being completely over taken by unwelcome emotions that are off the charts.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 3, 2018
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