“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch,
a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment,
or the smallest act of caring,
all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
— Dr. Leo F. Buscaglia
Yesterday I was asked about PTSD triggers and if I still got them. I answered that yes, every now
and again, usually when I least expect it.
He said, “What do you do?”
I thought about it genuinely so I could give an entirely accurate answer about what I do that was
I told him, “Hugs have always been the best for me! Love, tenderness, and patience from another.
Someone who gives me their time without acting rushed (even if it is an inconvenient time for
them, it is not indicated to me in any way). I never feel them diminish my pain or minimize how
bad it was or that I should be over it already.”
I thought back to the times when I had been triggered by a “memory” of violence towards me. For
each memory I could recall, I found myself mostly alone with anxiety, my heart racing,
disoriented, fearful and sometimes with a cold sweat. The tiny hairs would rise on the back of my
neck just realizing it was 11 p.m. and I had not locked my front door or closed the blinds. I dreaded
walking to the door and windows that late. I would have a flash of a vision where a man is pushing
open my front door before I could reach it in time to lock it.
Even after I locked it, I would go to bed with this nervous feeling, and sometimes I would have to
get back up and check my closets. Still today, there are times when I come back from extended out
of town trips and walk into my house, and I’ll walk in my front door feeling very apprehensive.
The anxiety will go on for a while. I’ll lay in bed and think of the closets, and wonder if someone
is in there waiting for me to fall asleep.
“Did someone sneak in and are they hiding in my house? What about in my garage?” When the
trigger happens, I get chills and a strong urge to escape from someone I know isn’t there, but it
feels like someone is waiting to attack me! My whole body feels as if I am in danger!
Feeling this magnitude of fear is not unrealistic when you have been a victim of a violent crime
against your body in your own home. If you have had multiple incidents, you may go through
more triggers, but not necessarily. We are all different.
I was diagnosed with PTSD in 1998 and suffered for many years with much worse symptoms.
Psychologists tried helping me, and it was a challenge to have only 50-minute sessions. The
sessions brought up more triggers, and I couldn’t relax because I’d be focusing on the 50 minutes
The counselors were good. They'd crack me like an egg, and I'd feel vulnerable and start to open
up a bit. I'd start to talk about 30 minutes into the counseling appointment. By the end of my
session and by minute 50, he’d look at the time and say, “Oh, gosh the time goes by so fast,” and
I’d find myself apologizing for the tears. Shifting gears like that was hard on me. I’d be trying to
get myself together in the middle of a trigger because I had to drive home and I was almost always
I felt like Humpty Dumpty who fell into pieces that were scattered everywhere! There was not a
single soul who could put me back together again. I had to do it alone somehow. I prayed, but this
does not always work. I had techniques, but I still felt wounded as if I had been attacked all over
I’d sit in my car outside the counselor’s office, wrapping my arms around me tightly. I’d feel
regret, shame, and abandonment after opening up. All I’d wanted was the comfort, to be held, even
rocked a bit like a child.
I have no guilt for those feelings now. I just knew the appointments were not the answer. I worked
hard to get through the symptoms and would continue on my own.
I have learned that the best healing is talking with someone who genuinely cares, is safe and won’t
gossip. They are excellent listeners. Most of all, it’s “the hugs.” Living alone for the last four years
has shown me creative ways to cope. I had a friend an hour away that would call me on my iPad
and stay on with me until I fell asleep. I wouldn't feel so alone, and it was much easier to fall asleep
(except for those moments that I'd wake up because the sound of snoring that was coming from my
friend on his iPad).
These are the moments I will always be grateful for, and they have helped my healing immensely!
Never take hugs for granted and appreciate the time that your loved ones genuinely give you.
Top 20 PTSD Insights
- “Just because I have PTSD it does not mean I am broken, I’m actually strong because I have survived.”
- “There are many traumatic events where someone has to fight for their life. When you are faced with death and have to fight for your life you are at risk for PTSD.
- “Respect my no. may have triggers I do not wish to talk about and may decline an invitation that causes me to revisit trauma.
- “When you respect my boundaries, I feel safe.”
- “Help me make new memories. I am focused on the present and finding joy. Please be understanding of my symptoms of PTSD that will come to me anyway.”
- “Help me feel grounded by speaking softly.
- “Understand, healing from PTSD takes time
- “I’m learning how to work with PTSD instead of ignoring it. Please help e by doing the same.
- “Learn about my triggers. Sit with me without opinions or suggestions. Let me cry on your shoulder. Validate my feelings.” You don’t have to figure me out just be with me.
- “Try not to minimize my feelings or symptoms, they are real.
- Please educate yourself about it
- “Simply listen.”
- “Allow me to talk about my past without saying, ‘Stop living in the past.’ A listening ear for the moment is all I need.”
- “I have a friend ask me what my triggers were so he could avoid them. He didn’t ask about my traumas out of curiosity, he actually cared and wanted to make sure he didn’t do or say anything to accidentally trigger me. He really cared and checked in with my feelings.
- “If you don’t understand what it means, please take 10 minutes and look up what it is. Just because my scars aren’t visible doesn’t mean they aren’t there.”
- “Please don’t tell me my coping mechanisms are silly or irrational. If I need to sleep with the lights on to avoid flashbacks, let me. If I need to lay on the floor, don’t question me. Allow me to be the judge of what I need. Let me take the lead on where and how I want your support. It may not makes any sense to you, but for me, it’s everything.”
- “Understand that some situations are scary. I cannot tell you why. It’s just a feeling. If I am emotionally uncomfortable and need to bail, I am not being a baby.”
- “Don’t be afraid to talk to me. My fears and panic attacks aren’t contagious. Just simply be there for me.”
- “Understand that my reactions to you or situations may have nothing to do with what’s going on in the present and everything to do with what happened in my past.”
- “Believe me.” I am probably hiding grimmer facts because I don’t want to see you hurting because of what I told you.
Thank you for caring