Date: August 17, 2017 09:05AM
Hi Betsy93, The things that really, really hit home for me is that you've been de-converting, alone and in pain for years, and haven't been able to talk to anyone about it.
Most healthy humans have a finite capacity for stress, and I see your condition much like an over-inflated balloon ready to burst. Talking and sharing helps to relieve the pressure, so you've taken a very courageous step forward to relieve some of that pressure, and you should be very proud of your incredible strength that not only pulled you through years of pain, but also is now reaching out for help.
The denial was so strong about anything in me having been harmed, that not only did I never talk about the wrongs done to me, I couldn't even think about them. I was in a constant state of distraction for well over a decade, and I dismissed much of the numbness by telling myself that maybe all people were mostly numb. I appeared confident and strong to other people, but inside, I carried a deep sadness that never let loose, and thoughts of suicide were constant companions. The numbness let me turn those off and on like a faucet, so I thouht I'd just carry on like that as long as I lived.
Nope, my brain had other plans for me. Like you, eventually, mere (specific) words triggered the real fear and panic lurking within, and I began to feel - really feel - the depths of all I had suffered and lost. I couldn't stop the pain anymore, my facade was crumbling, and there were the additional terrors of being out of control and vulnerable, not knowing how or why it was happening, not knowing how to cope with the pain.
Healing was being born within me, but I didn't know that at the time. It felt more like the "me" who had gotten me through all of those long and lonely years was sick and dying, and I wanted her back.
I had to reach out for help, just as you have, and I initially sought help online. The anonymity helped me to bridge the yawning gap between other humans and myself. I had not realized how very, very afraid of them I had been, how I never let my guard down, how I had received zero training in recognizing the "dangerous" ones from the "safe" ones.
If any of this sounds familiar, you have taken a huge step forward, and I would encourage you to keep reaching out, keep trying to understand that you are on a healing journey, unique to your own pain, your own needs. None of us have the same "story," but there are strong similarities in the wounds and suffering, and in the paths to health. Eventually, you can reach out to other humans in face-to-face meetings, one-on-one and / or in groups.
For now, it is most important that when you become triggered as you described, that you find a place of safety. Whatever comforts you, no matter how childish it may seem, that's what you need to do, until the worst of the triggered state passes. Comforting yourself will help it to pass. I felt most safe in my darkened bedroom, door closed and locked, surrounded by my dogs.
The only "rule" in comforting yourself is that it involves no self-harm of any kind. Think of it as creating the safe space you would want for your child, but it is for you, your scared and lonely child within. Comfort her as you would comfort your beloved child, with all the tenderness and patience she deserves.
Ask, where do I feel most safe? Does hugging a pillow or stuffed animal help? A cup of herbal tea? Whatever it is, that's what you should do.
A word about triggers -
It's not like you asked for it, right? It's not your "fault," or a weakness of any kind. It is your brain's and body's way if saying, "Pay attention!" Ugh. Triggers are "a normal response to an abnormal amount of stress." They are an autonomic flood of hormones that result in a "fight, flight or freeze" survival response in humans. That's a "good" thing, except, ...
When there is no "actual" danger present, and your mind and body are responding to a "trigger" that your subconscious mind has associated with danger. In your case, something the atheist said triggered a very real terror for you. You are not "losing your mind," but coping with a very high flood of hormones, which are meant to make you fight, run or freeze (you don't get to "pick" which one of those you will feel - your body does it on its own).
Your rational, conscious mind looks around for the "danger," finds none, and the result is usually self-deprecation, judging yourself to be "crazy." It's simply not true. Your mind is telling you that something in the "trigger" has hurt you in the past, and to beware. That may or may not be a valid association, and that is for you to discover. That discovery work is a path of healing.
All of those "numb" years I had, unbeknownst to me, I also employed a little mental trick called "avoidance behavior." I subconsciously avoided any human contact (sight or sound) that "might" bring on a trigger. Little did I know that those triggers would turn out to be the best clues (and hard gifts) to uncovering, conquering and ridding myself of the fears wrongly planted within me by others.
Again, I applaud your courage in posting, and hope you can recognize how your strength has helped you to survive, and that you can continue to draw on your inner reserves, all of your survival skills, to now focus on healing. There are many good and kind "regular" people and many professionals with whom you can connect to offer the support you deserve. You are not alone.
My heart. and my best wishes, are flooding in your direction.