Triggers are a very common experience in people who have suffered any kind of trauma. Dealing with them can be difficult, but finding the right coping mechanisms for you can make a huge difference. So here’s the big tip:
As you learn about your prefered coping mechanisms, write them all down in a note in your phone (or a list in your wallet. Whatever works best for you). That way, you always have some solutions handy when things go south. I know that sometimes when I get triggered, I’m so anxious that I can’t think. I can’t remember what to do and how to calm down. Having a list of possible solutions ready can make a huge difference. I also add phrases and quotes that make me feel better. The only issue is that sometimes it’s hard to remember you even have that list.
The good news? If you’re comfortable with it, you can share all this information with a friend! A few years ago, I sent my boyfriend an abbreviated guide on my triggers. It told him what the most common causes are, what my most common reactions were and what he can do to help me. I had him save a note in his phone for reference. We’ve never had to use it, but it’s comforting that he has it just in case. I hope this helps some of you!
As an example, here’s the “Guide to My Triggers” that I sent to my boyfriend:
Most common causes:
- Getting touched on side of ribs
- Depictions of sexual assault or triggers
Most common reactions:
- Type 1 trigger: Getting so scared that I can’t think, tense, difficulty breathing, flashbacks
- Type 2 trigger: Anxious, tense, not feeling present, sometimes cover the side of my ribs with my hand
What you can do to help me:
- Let me know that you’re there for me
- Ask how you can help. If I say I don’t know, recommend something from this list
- Don’t touch me without asking
- Remind me to breathe
- Specific to type one triggers: Remind me that I’m safe, grounding (ask me to name five things I can see, four things I can hear, three things I can feel, two things I can smell, one thing I can taste), less talking preferred
- Specific to type two triggers: distractions help, ask me to recite Shakespeare, listen to the Nutcracker Miniature Overture, talking through it might help
Thank you for reading this article. You can find my backstory here.