PTSD and moving past the triggers to better change.

The other day I found myself in a situation that I think I HAD to be in. As a result, I think I experienced my first REAL challenging trigger.

I need to step back for a second…In September of last year, I decided to stop seeing my counselor. I wan’t NEAR ready to stop seeing her, but finances just wouldn’t allow for it, even with her working with my fee to keep it as tolerable as possible. She bent over backwards for me, in doing so. I was never diagnosed with having PTSD, but if I was able to continue seeing her, I’m completely convinced that I would have been. I have read quite a few articles about this disorder, though one in particular (seemed like someone was writing my life on paper) solidified the fact in my own mind. Sooo…here we are.

Time for a game plan… #1, all I know is I don’t want a ‘repeat’!

First, I want to thank those of you that helped me get my focus back on track. I have a direction to go again, in my healing process. Judy brought up a much needed point… “Boundaries”

Whether this stems from being raised in a co-dependent atmosphere, with a seemingly co-dependent roll-model or not, the fact remains I have had a problem dealing with negative emotion directed at me. After leaving my abusive situation, this issue has grown exponentially. I need to get a handle on it, that’s for sure. I believe that this fear, in and of itself, is at the root of everything. I’m afraid of standing up for myself or voicing discontent with how someone might speak to me, or act toward me. This has been an issue during most of my life, to some degree.

When my x would do or say something that was in DIRECT VIOLATION, I would try to talk to him about it. It would take me a few days to gain enough courage to confront him, but when I finally did, I was hit with gaslighting, manipulation and anger. He would shut me down, turning all ‘eyes’ on me. It wasn’t him at all. The thing about this is, after getting hit with it EVERY time, try as I did to keep him from getting inside, he still did. I actually questioned everything that I KNEW was going on. I second guessed my own perceptions because his were (though they were LIES) still realistic-sounding. I fell into a pattern of second-guessing myself, and everything I knew. He stopped me from speaking out. He also put a psychological stopper in my ability to be at ease in public situations. I was silent in the relationship, after all. I was silent everywhere. Fear based silence. I allowed him to take my boundaries and invalidate them, entirely. Couple that with an already low self-view, and you have quite the pile of poopy, now.

He took ALL power away from me that I had…at the time.

I do realize this now, and the LAST thing I want to do is reaffirm the lies he set so deep in my own psyche. This last year after leaving that situation, has been spent silencing HIM! The direct assaults on my dignity, the lies about my mental state, and so-on. Positive affirmations, thinking, and input were the ticket there! But they weren’t the ‘magical’ cure-all. I had to pointedly learn what the lies were, and decidedly move my thoughts in a better direction I (either verbally or mentally) would TELL MYSELF which was bullshit, which was his input and not my own, then decide to replace it with my OWN POSITIVE ONES at that exact second. This was a pretty easy exercise for me to put into place. The difficult thing about it is being patient. The negative input was pretty continuous for a while. “Garbage out” I got the mentally audible lies taken care of, pretty early on. They were the obvious ones. It’s the deep-rooted ones that are causing me to be afraid to validate my OWN boundaries, that I need to squelch.

This is going to mean taking pretty much the same steps I took in the beginning, but with more active attempts and as much of a direct approach as I can muster. This one is going to be a battle for a while, I think.

So, what do I need to set for a game plan?

As with most emotional and psychological healing, the first step is recognizing that I have a problem… Okay…I’m there.  #2, recognize the root of it. There are several but with one new, BIG root in the middle. I choose to visualize a time when I was doing landscaping in Arizona:

Desert tree
Desert tree (Photo credit: Nathan M. Nelson)

One job we were doing, the man who owned the housing project requested a Thornless Mesquite tree in the front yard of a model home. These are pretty hard to come by, generally. My boss happened to find one growing in the desert that didn’t have any rhyme or reason for why it was there. Just one. It might have been part of someone’s yard at one point, but non-the-less it was there. He chose it for the yard of the model home.  We set out one day soon after, with shovels in hand, and tylenol for breakfast, with a plan to safely dig up and transport this firmly established tree. I swear we dug for 8 hours! The thing about desert plants and trees is they all have a main tap root. Desert trees’ tap roots grow straight down, in search of a water source. They are long, thick and strong, almost like a second tree. I think we dug down about 6-8 feet, before we realized that it just wasn’t going to end. Out came the ax. We broke that tap root, thinking that a hefty dose of vitamin B1 to the tree after transplanting, would keep it from going into shock. Stupid thinking, I know… Within a couple of weeks, that tree died right there where we planted it. Why? WE SEVERED IT’S MAIN VEIN! We severed the root.

The monster has a tap root. One that he uses with cunning skill. Gaslighting, manipulation and brainwashing. He uses it to grow that tap root straight through what makes US strong, healthy trees (I know…bear with me). It’s like a parasite that uses all life energies around it to survive, while sucking that same life force dry from living things around it. The damage he caused also has it’s own tap root. Separate from him, it’s developed into it’s own ‘living’ breathing entity, in a way. That’s what gaslighting and psychological abuse creates in the survivor. It’s it’s own seed, that grows when we ‘feed’ it. Another thing, with the tap root firmly placed, you can cut the tree without killing the tap root. Often times, a new tree will grow from the root. The only way to kill it entirely, is to sever the tap root. See where I’m going with this?

Caving into the impulses to hole up, or loose our grip entirely, only strengthens the parasitic seed, so carefully placed by the Narc or Psychopath. How do we “chop” that root? DON’T FEED IT! Sever it completely! For survivors, this is a little more difficult than pulling out an ax and letting it do the deed. The ‘AX’ for us is in our habitual responses to scenarios that conjure up the fear, or needing to beat feet out of that place. Change our response. Change our views. The fear first starts as a momentary thought or a type of breath we take. We need to learn to recognize what triggers trigger the PTSD triggers, then respond in kind with a more healthy reaction. It’ll take a little more time for me to learn these steps, and how to best direct my responses to situational input. With practice this should get easier.

Whatever we “FEED” grows stronger. Eventually the tap root that is left by such a deplorable parasite will whither.

Looking forward to this new direction.

I would like to hear from those of you who have grown past this point in the process. Any advise?


9 thoughts on “PTSD and moving past the triggers to better change.

  1. It is necessary that you succeed AND fail. Not succeed OR fail. Both will happen through this process. Regardless of what others “think” about your reaction to their reaction to you, it’s your reaction and you must own it. And it’s perfectly normal to change your understanding of your reaction. Sometimes it takes multiple attempts to figure out where the root is. There could be fused roots. Co-dependent roots. So, the location and how you define the root may change the deeper you dig. (Your analogy works well, by the way.) For example, you might go into this exercise thinking it’s something buried in your childhood that messed with your self-esteem or boundaries. However, on closer observation, you may discover it has something to do with something else completely! Never close the door on possibilities. And always remember that the peace that comes with overcoming your triggers is worth all of the hard work.

    1. Paula, thank you for your input. This particular spot finds me just moving my big toe into bigger waters. I don’t know what piles of slime my feet will find in the process. I’m just now delving into it. I don’t like failure in any form, but i do understand that it’s needed every bit as some successes. I think my earlier lessons are some I can glean from, in order to find peace just in the process. I might fail, but that leaves the door open to something much better, or more needed in the wake. Now, i really need to keep concentrating on moving my feet FORWARD. I bet it’s going to get pretty difficult in the coming days, weeks and potentially, months, but it’s the end result that will be the prize. Glad you are here with me.

  2. Pingback: Roots to Blossom post set me thinking… « The Project: Me by Judy

  3. Once again, youve described one of the things I battle every day…all those negative thoughts, those lies that where implanted in my being for all those years by a big weed!! Not only was he able to convince me, I convinced myself that all these short comings and insecurities and many llies he used against me didnt take much for me to believe!
    Oh and the silence…I remember suffering in silence sooo many times..All in fear of reactions. Thanks again. Garbage OUT!!

    1. Though I’m sorry that you are going through the same battles I am, it’s almost nice for me to know that we’re not walking down this path alone. We are walking together. I have some links in the “blogs I follow” section… for instance, that are positive reads. When I first got away, my first item of business was to drown my x’s lies (you know, the ones that relentlessly echo in you head, with little or no provocation?) and voice. Of course this was figuratively. You’ve probably learned to recognize your x’s lies vs your own thoughts. Every time you notice one of HIS creeping in, take a quick glance around and find SOMETHING, no matter how silly, to focus on for that second. At that same time tell yourself SOMETHING about it…something you like…. I fought daily to have the beginning of my day NOT be about him. Somewhere alone the line, that actually was successful. Positive affirmations (I actually googled that. there are some that are ridiculous, and some that are useful, you can actually sign up for a newsletter, and have the “affirmation of the day” emailed directly to your inbox.) are a great way to help. some of this might seem silly or stupid when you put it into practice, but the point is to SHUT HIM UP! The mentally audible lies actually are pretty easy to quiet (in my experience, though my time with my X was relatively short), though it does take some time, determination and resilience. At first, some might get in and you might think it’s YOUR own. That’s when reflection comes in…its needed for you to remember a time he did or said something like that. You might remember his voice, too. Let yourself get angry, and (yell if you have to) say, “THAT’S NOT MY THOUGHT”. I don’t recommend doing this in, say, a mall or anything, but somewhere where you are alone.For me, the best place was my car. That’s one of the most common places the negative thoughs would be intrusive. Then immediately replace it…drown it…silence it…with something that IS your thought. Make it POSITIVE. Those negative thoughts will lessen. It’s a great feeling when you wake up one day and realize that you aren’t hearing his lies anymore!!

      Ok…sorry for the book…

      Now, the new idea…I recognize that this deeply set psychological bag of lies are directly from his gaslighting and conditioning. I also recognize that he couldn’t grow something that wasn’t already there: The tendency for me to have wobbly boundaries, a damaged psyche, and anything else put there by a less than perfect home life when I was a child. My past and tendency to be co-dependent, gave him the compost he needed for his tap root. He built on my weaknesses and made them more firmly established, while somehow claiming everything for his use, putting his “stamp” in it. (Ok I’m sensing something here that I need to think about some more). sometimes its painful for me when the lights come on…Its the old shit that is allowing his shit to grow, though he’s been out of the picture for over a year now. Tap root…

      I’m just now stepping into the great “unknown”… you and I can walk together, with Paula and anyone else taking this big step. It’s not about him (The narc, psychopath, etc.) anymore. it’s about “ME”…It’s about “US” who are trudging through this process.

  4. This has really made me think. I often don’t trust my own perceptions and judgments. I know it was started from my abusive parents, but that root remained. So when I met someone who was not abusive, or did not mean to be abusive, I still got hurt, because that root was so deep in me and still feeding me putrid, rotten thoughts. And then, when depression got its grips on me, and the first thing the doctors and therapists tell you is that depression makes your brain lie to you, causing you to mistrust everything in side your own self. It was from that place that my husband unintentionally emotionally abused me. My situation set him up to gaslight me, Wow. I see this now. He became the one I trusted, more than myself, and that unhealthy boundary has caused an imbalance and much resentment between the two of us. My diseased root is so strong within me, that even though it has been hacked and severed, it only takes one drop of malnourished activity to set it growing again. I am so grateful to have found such a supportive environment here to discuss these issues. I am determined to kill that root, once and for all. I thought I could grow blossoms on my diseased root, as I named this blog. But now I’m thinking I need to grow new roots completely. Hmmm.

    1. Roots to Blossom… I’m SO GLAD this has helped you, too! You touched on something that is my biggest problem as well; trusting my own perceptions and judgments. We are in a place where retraining our conditioning is a MUST. There’s no rule-book or “how-to” anything, here. I learned early on that the brain is a muscle that can be retrained. It’s not really a muscle, but it’s retrainable, non-the-less. This is a knowledge that I’ve forgotten somewhere along the muck. The first step is the most important. I love a quote from Yoda (from Star Wars) that applies here. “There is no try, there’s only do or do not…”. We are in a place that success is a must, if we are to become fully whole. There will be failures since the road is unclear, but there should be some success along the way, too. The final result is one I have in my sights. There will be shadows that will make us think it’s not gone. We have to learn to combat them when they show. We’re in this together.

  5. Pingback: Severing Diseased Roots to Overcome PTSD of Sexual Abuse | Roots to Blossom

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