You may or may not have heard your friend or loved one talk about triggers. Triggers are usually the reason for things going from good to really bad so suddenly.
Remember Big Red gum? Remember Lemonheads? Just the smell would make your mouth water and you could taste it in your mouth even without eating any. I bet you can probably taste it just from reading this, can't you? Your body is involuntarily reacting to this trigger, the smell of or even just the mention of Big Red gum or Lemonheads.
Did your grandma bake a lot? Maybe the smell of apple pie brings back good memories for you. That smell automatically takes you to a place rich with memories.
You probably don't realize it, because they are innocent enough, but these triggers cause involuntary reactions in your body and in your mind leaving you in a certain place for some period of time. The examples above are usually pleasant triggers and therefore we either don't realize or we don't mind being in this place where our body and mind are reacting involuntarily.
For a person living with PTSD though, the triggers usually have a negative connotation attached. Instead of smells producing pleasant tastes or causing the recall of happy memories, these triggers cause unpleasant involuntary reactions. These triggers usually leave the person with PTSD trapped in a very bad place. A lot of times they are experiencing panic attacks and/or flashbacks before they even know what is happening to them. This is an extremely scary place for us to be trapped and while we are usually aware of the trigger, there are times in which we are not consciously aware of what the trigger was. This causes a feeling of being very out of control of our lives.
I always describe it as being as quick as the flip of a light switch. All of a sudden, you find yourself in a very dark room and can't find the way out. Most likely some kind of injury will occur in the midst of stumbling in the dark trying to find a way out. It is a scary and defeating place.
A good topic of conversation for you and your friend or loved one might be about what you could do that would help him/her have an easier time finding the way our of that dark room. There may not be a quick answer to this question and it may require lots of trial and error but maybe, possibly there could be some benefit and healing from the process.
If you have a question about what it is like to live with PTSD, please use the link at the top of the page to submit your question to be answered in a future blog.