Friday, August 24, 2012

C-PTSD - don't forget the triggers!

One of the most popular articles on this blog is about C-PTSD, an invisible shadow which blights the lives of so many of us.

There’s plenty of information about this condition available on the web, yet there aren’t really many articles which teach us how to cope with it.

There’s a good reason for this. C-PTSD is very much an individual thing. It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ condition, far from it. C-PTSD is your very own ‘tailored’ condition which is made to measure your own situation. Indeed, if it were a suit, it would be straight from Savile Row, it's impeccably tailored to you, the individual.

One of the best tools you can use to arm yourself against the seemingly unforeseen attacks (which can render you an emotional wreck for what usually appears to be no apparent reason), is to try to recognise the triggers which unleash the condition.

The external triggers tend to be the ones we watch out for, and are more aware of, because these usually provide a direct link/memory relating to the traumatic situation which caused the condition. External triggers are therefore the ‘easy’ ones to spot. They are tangible, and we can recognise them easily. Over time, we learn how to cope with external triggers and develop our own mental defences against them and the emotions they release. Obviously it’s going to be much easier to cope when you know a certain event, place, or even a smell, may set off that dreaded tummy fluttering, nausea, detachment, anger, fear and frustration.

But what about the internal triggers?

The internal triggers are the elusive ones, because we never really know what they are or which situation might evoke them. We may even forget over time that a certain emotion or feeling may trigger us, and be taken completely by surprise and left dazed and confused after the spectre that is C-PTSD suddenly rears its ugly head after a period of absence.

This happened to me very recently. Having enjoyed several months of light with virtually no lurking shadows, I was caught completely off guard and sent spiralling by what should have been an innocuous event.

I won’t detail the event itself; suffice it to say it should not (under normal circumstances) have unleashed such an emotional storm.

It was to do with a feeling of (lack of) control over a certain situation, and to be honest, it left me reeling.

This is why C-PTSD is so threatening. We can be lulled into a false sense of security, thinking we have it under control, only to be knocked off course when we least expect it.

What negatively compounded my recent brush with it, was the fact that I didn’t realise I had been triggered, or what it was that triggered me, until several days in. Only when the emotions started to subside and I was able to think about it rationally, did I realise what had just happened.

It was comforting to know I wasn’t losing my marbles after all, but it was also a stark reminder that this damn condition is an absolute bugger to shift. I had to go back to reading my own article on the subject, and the research I did about it during the really dark times, to remind myself just how difficult it can really be.

We certainly shouldn’t underestimate the power of C-PTSD, and the havoc it can reap, but equally, my recent experience has left me feeling somewhat defiant as well. It’s feels as though an uninvited and most unwelcome old acquaintance has forced its way back into my life against my will, and I’m annoyed with myself that I didn’t see it coming, and therefore let it in again.

Now I have recognised what it was, I can deal with it. It’s not easy, but we learn over time what works for us individually. Just as the condition itself is moulded around you and your character traits, so the coping mechanisms are equally as individual.

Personally, I find it an enormous relief just recognising and understanding what the problem is and where it came from. I also find that talking to somebody helps. It doesn’t have to be a therapist. A good friend with an open mind is just as good as anything else.

Running helps me too. I’ve blogged about this as well, and can certainly recommend exercise as a way of relieving the stress. It also gives you some time to get your thoughts straight, because C-PTSD has a really uncanny way of screwing up even your basic thought processes.

So, I have taken the time to remind myself about C-PTSD in all its guises, and in particular those very personal triggers which vary so much from person to person. It’s worth taking some time to do this, in order to avoid being caught off guard the way I was.

Know your triggers! Banish the shadow!

There’s a very helpful article about C-PTSD here


  1. I found your article through After Narcissistic Abuse on Facebook. Thank-you so much for sharing your journey and insights, it is helpful. It's as if I wrote your article; I recently had the same experience. I did some very deliberate things to help me to grow through it as I refuse to be a victim and is seems like you did the same. I believe we help ourselves by intentionally making an effort to help others. I spend a great deal of time reaching out to others. Your article was such a gift when I needed someone to reach out to me so I may continue to empower others. Thank-you, peace and joy on your journey.

  2. triggers are as you described, I find the same as well. Blogging helps me, do you find it usefull?

  3. Thanks for the kind comments Anonymous. Glad to have helped.
    Miss PTSDandDID: Yes, I find blogging and journalling very useful for recognising triggers, and dealing with the whole issue. Hope you're OK x

  4. I wasn't aware that adults without histories of childhood abuse/neglect could be given a dx of CPTSD.

  5. Hi Diffdrummer.

    No, you don't have to have been abused as a child to suffer from this disorder. Many people who have suffered prolonged periods of stress in adulthood are also diagnosed. Being 'trapped' in a domestic situation which is either emotionally or physically abusive can lead to C-PTSD