Triggers suck. Absolutely, totally, and completely suck.
The first time I experienced a trigger was about a week after Luke and I started texting. I was at Maria’s house and I was curled up on her recliner, chatting with her and Arcadia and texting with Luke. I was telling Luke that I didn’t like my butt, that it was flat and just not attractive. He texted simply, “Do squats.” It felt like my world had been turned upside down and shaken violently.
All of a sudden there wasn’t enough oxygen in the room, I was suffocating and my heart was going to explode from lack of air. I was convinced I was dying and Maria noticed that I’d gone pale. She came over and asked what was wrong and I showed her the text. She could not understand why I looked the way I did because of it. Then all of a sudden, she said, “He triggered you!” and went running into the kitchen. By the time she got back, maybe 30 seconds, my vision was going dim and I was on the verge of passing out. Something cold was pressed into my hand and I heard, “Drink this.”
I took a sip of what surely must have been ambrosia. I tried to guzzle it but Maria pulled the glass away and cautioned me to sip at it. The sugar hit rather quickly and the danger of passing out passed relatively quickly. It took another three hours to escape from the massive PTSD-induced reaction. Maria told me that the wonderful stuff I was sipping was cherry Dr. Pepper. I don’t drink soda normally but I’m pretty sure that cherry Dr. Pepper was the best thing I’d ever tasted in the world.
What triggered me, you may ask? Luke simply suggested something that would help make my butt look better. The problem with this is that it was the exact same thing that Bubba would’ve “suggested” in the past. Only with Bubba, a suggestion was never just a suggestion….it was a command. If I didn’t take his “suggestions” then I paid – usually by having him scream at me that he’d told me what to do and if I wanted to be either stupid or lazy and not listen to him then I deserved whatever it was that bothered me. It was MY fault for not following directions.
I don’t think I would ever have seen that as abuse if I hadn’t had a three hour reaction like that. I didn’t realize Bubba’s “suggestions” had affected me that deeply. But sitting on Maria’s recliner, shaking for three hours because of a simple text, showed me that there was a depth to my pain that I didn’t begin to comprehend.
My second trigger happened at support group. When I first mentioned wanting to talk to Liz about the sexual abuse, I told her about The Happy Place. Then I didn’t talk about it again for three months. During those months, I attended weekly counseling sessions and weekly support group meetings.
At one of the group meetings, I asked Liz about a problem I’d had that week. I was nervous about meeting the Guardian ad Litem (GAL). I went out onto the back porch and was out there trying to do my self-talk to keep myself from going into an anxiety attack. I simply couldn’t do it. I stayed out on the porch until the anxiety attack had run its course. I asked Liz what I could do when the positive self-talk didn’t work. She said, “You could go to a happy place.” and I immediately threw my hand into my hands and began to sob hysterically.
The words were barely out of her mouth when she realized what she’d said and she started apologizing at the exact same time I started crying. Liz apologized profusely. She said as it was coming out of her mouth, she remembered what that phrase meant to me but she couldn’t make her mouth stop. I got it out that it wasn’t her fault and that I hadn’t expected this.
I’m pretty sure I scared the other poor ladies in group that morning. That time it only took me just over an hour to get in control again. I left the meeting and went straight to Maria’s where she pressed another cherry Dr. Pepper into my hands. She said the sugar helps and she was right.
I’ve had other various triggers since then. I always keep cherry Dr. Pepper on hand, not only for the sugar, but because it represents love to me. Whenever I drink a cherry Dr. Pepper after a trigger, I remember the care and concern Maria showed to me each time she handed me one after a trigger.
For me, it isn’t just a soda, it is a can of love. (And yes, I realize that probably sounds corny, but there it is.)