Triggers (Are) Was My Normal

by | Jan 18, 2022 | It's Complex...PTSD | 0 comments

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Triggers Are Trying

I am not sure what is more exhausting—having triggers or writing about them. For me, the answer is both. I have lived with triggers causing my intense reactions my entire life. I didn’t know any different, so to me, they were functional. I thought it was normal.  

There is nothing functional (normal) about how I react to certain situations and experiences. I am beginning to realize what that means, what it means that the trauma and abuse that I experienced when I was a child is still alive and well within my brain. And why wouldn’t it be? It was what I learned.

I don’t have to live with these dysfunctional reactions. There will always be things that trigger me. I need to work on retraining myself to react differently to those triggers. That is what healing looks like.


What Are Triggers?

Triggers are words, symbols, situations, items, sounds, smells, colors just about anything that the mind correlates to a negative experience and causes a reaction based on it.

I just got done with a therapy session. My therapist and I talked about what healing looks like to me. It is reacting in a functional way to triggers. Instead of spiraling into the depths of self-hatred, I will step back. Sounds pretty amazing to me, not immediately throwing myself into a fight, flight, or freeze reaction.

FUCK YOU, AMYGDALA. I love (need) and hate you all at the same time.


“The amygdala is the oldest part of the brain and is designed to quickly detect threats in the environment. When we experience a threatening situation, the fight-or-flight response is triggered: the amygdala sends signals that increase blood pressure, adrenaline, and the hormone cortisol, mobilizing the strength and energy needed to confront or avoid a threat. Although this system was designed by evolution to deal with physical attacks, it is activated just as readily by emotional attacks—from ourselves or others. Over time increased cortisol levels lead to depression by depleting various neurotransmitters involved in the ability to experience pleasure.”


My triggers are many, and I am sure that I am still finding new ones because how I learned about the world was abusive, so I don’t have many non-fear-based triggers. All my reactions are based on survival. That does seem to be a common theme for me. How do I protect myself?

Increase Volume

I don’t like yelling. Although it isn’t the yelling per se, it is the sudden increase in volume and sharpness in a person’s voice. It is very jarring to me to have that occur. I shut down for a moment, and then I started to look around to see how others were reacting. Do I need to leave (flight)? Do I need to sit still in hopes I become invisible (freeze)? Or??

Unfortunately, there are family members (in the family I married into) that do that. All is well, and then BLAM! LOUDNESS! And just as quickly as the SUDDEN INCREASE, the volume goes down to a more normal level. Shit. Even writing that made my heart rate increase.

Sigh. It is a communication style that does not work for me. I can work on my reaction to it. The problem is sometimes I don’t know when it will happen, and by the time it does, my amygdala has taken the reins, and away we go on the flight-freeze adventure.

Foundation of Loud = Danger

When I was growing up, this was the world I lived in, one that things might be okay for a few moments, and suddenly, with no seeming cause, the world erupts in yelling and screaming. When my parents were still together, fights would break out between them.

With my father gone, those outbursts would often turn towards me. I could almost feel the air crackling before the anger erupted. My mother would turn towards me, the scapegoat, and unleash all that pent-up anger. That could happen in a matter of seconds. Nothing good ever came from those moments. Nothing.

There is a reason I did not speak much as a child. And why I am a soft-spoken person now.


Too much going on around me (like when I was in Vegas). Vegas is well, VEGAS! Everything in Vegas is designed to get your attention. That, combined with being very alcohol-oriented, was a bit rough for me. I don’t think I will be going back any time soon.

I learned about my overstimulation when I was there, which is the good thing that came out of that trip. Overstimulation for me is tied to my hypervigilance. My brain is trying to take everything in, and it can’t. There is too much.

Foundation of WAAAY TOO MUCH!

I feel in danger because I can’t take everything in and process to determine if I am safe or not. If I am unsure, I am in danger. That is how my brain works. Having that danger first thought process saved my life.

Hypervigilance was another way for my brain to keep me safe. I pay attention to EVERYTHING. It’s exhausting. It never stops. No matter where I am, walking down the street, a restaurant, grocery store, etc., I am aware of ALL THE THINGS ALL THE TIME.

Growing up, I would lay in bed listening to the sounds of the house. How did things sound? Was it safe to get up? Should I stay put for a bit? If it wasn’t safe, what do I do? Because hiding in my room was not an option either. Someone would notice and call me down.

This I Do

Hoodie Sequence

I cannot modify or control other people, only myself. If I can’t leave the situation, the hoodie goes up. It is the way I can burrito in public. It is how I cope when the world is TOO MUCH and I can’t be present.


I also have a mantra that my therapist and I worked on when we started working together about a year ago.

Sharing this helps others realize they are not alone



  1. Hold My Tea, I’ve Got This | Daily Superheroism - […] here is what I have figured out (with the help of my therapist). My triggers are going to continue…

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