In Part Three of our series on Understanding and Identifying PTSD Triggers we take on the topics of artifacts (tangible and intangible) that can trigger PTSD symptoms. Included in this discussion will be the ubiquitous Hummer and the C-130 Hercules. Calendar based anniversary dates, particular climate and weather types may also contribute to inducing PTSD symptoms in a trauma survivor. Links to the first two installments on PTSD triggers can be found as follows: Part 1 with its discussion of noises, sounds, and fireworks as PTSD triggers and Part 2 with its discussion of smells and odors. Today’s PTSD Spirituality Blog installment on the trigger aspect of the soul wound of PTSD continues below:
Artifacts: Certain objects can also become PTSD triggers. Some people can still handle weapons in general, but just don’t want to handle certain weapons associated with particular traumatic events. Conversely, some survivors of trauma will only feel safe if they have a weapon with them or very close by. Their sense of security has been so damaged that they need to have a weapon near them to feel whole and complete. This is another aspect of the soul damage inflicted by the PTSD-Identity: Instead of risking the trust of someone else, we only rely on weapons to give us security and meaning. Your mileage may vary.
Sometimes, the artifact in question may not even be physical or tangible in the usual sense of the word; it may be a song or TV show. If your abusive ex-spouse used to love playing “Sonny Bono Sings About Love” over and over, you may find that hearing Sonny belt it out one more time can give you a case of the PTSD shivers! Of course, depending upon your musical tastes, simply hearing the singing of Sonny Bono may be the initial trauma that gives you PTSD and not just a trigger for later PTSD episodes.
If a person had a bad experience with knives, they may need to avoid all knives, or they may just need to avoid the type of knife that is directly associated with the PTSD memory.
Depending upon the unique nature of one’s traumatic experience, there are often tangible and/or intangible objects that can trigger PTSD symptoms. It is always smart to create at least a mental list of what these are.
Hummers: In the military, these days, they use hummers. You know that when a civilian drives a hummer they usually have gonadal deficiency syndrome (GDS). They want to feel military, but they fear to actually bemilitary. Yet, for some veterans, encountering hummers on the streets driven by GDS-afflicted civilians, besides showing bad taste, can also bring back memories of snipers and IEDs.
I know of a real estate agent who unknowingly drives away potential clientele by driving a hummer and then saying, “It shows I am a success.” It shows she is successful at GDS (I wonder if she needs GPS to find her GDS?) When it comes to hummers, your mileage may vary, some people find it makes them feel successful or macho. Whatever mileage one happened to get with a hummer, whatever psychological deficiency is serviced, one can trust that with a hummer, it will certainly be low.
Certain Aircraft: There is an Air Force National Guard in the vicinity of where I live. They fly C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. They log in a lot of flight time flying around the Great Lakes region. There’s nothing wrong with that.
A long time ago, in a country far far away, I had several bad experiences associated with different flights in C-130s. Now when they fly by I am usually reminded about those bad experiences. There was a time when they would cause me to physically shudder or blanche. Lately, they don’t. If I hear them I just have to see them and know where they are and then I am fine. I hope that one day I will hear them and not have to then see them. And then one day after that, I may not even notice them.
In some ways, hearing and seeing a C-130 Hercules is a barometer of how my PTSD situation is going that day. If all I do is shudder, then I know I am fine, the PTSD is not going to ruin my day. If I don’t even shudder, then I feel a gratitude that I am still healing from some awful moments inside various C-130s.
Anniversary Dates: Many people who have been traumatized can often associate a date with the trauma. Sometimes it is a particular day. For some people it may be a month or more.
While this is true for the day one was shot, raped, assaulted, or when their priest or pastor came on to them with evil intent, it also applies to other types of anniversaries.
The day a woman becomes a widow or a man becomes a widower may not be the happiest day of their lives. The day one gets the diagnosis of cancer or the bad news about a loved one can become an annual trigger for PTSD.
It is important, as far as it is possible, for loved ones and very close friends, to be aware of traumatic anniversary dates. It helps to explain why that person may become more cranky and irritable. It might explain why they have become more silent or why they are starting to drink more or view porn. Knowing sensitive dates and acknowledging them improves our survivability and reduces the chances that the PTSD-Identity will succeed in destroying our important relationships.
If you were wounded, raped, fired, or assaulted on a certain date, that date may affect you. On that date, and the days approaching it, you may be more vulnerable to your other PTSD triggers. If you have people you can trust, tell them that back around that date you had some hard things happen to you. Hopefully they will not be hard on you for every detail. Really good people will listen and hear as much as you have to say without prying. You will find that the date in question, while still sensitive to you, will now be a little less toxic than it was before.
Certain Kinds of Weather: You may have trauma associated with a particular natural disaster, e.g., Hurricane Katrina. Or, your trauma may be associated with either the federal government’s follow up to Katrina or the role of the Army Corps of Engineers in Katrina, then certain types of weather might also be one of your PTSD triggers.
Me? I love the rain. I find it soothing. Yet, someone who went through a hurricane and the aftermath may have a different view of rain.
Certain Kinds of Terrain: For some veterans, seeing the desert might not exactly be a healing experience. I know someone who nearly drowned as a child. That person cannot go near a lake without having some PTSD symptoms. The near-drowning is now over 50 years ago. But the sight of a lake, up close, causes that time to evaporate and the PTSD symptoms begin to erupt.
Coming Attractions: In our fourth installment on Understanding and Identifying PTSD Triggers we will look at ways to actually deal with them. The PTSD Spirituality blog will offer some ways for the person who struggles with the soul wound of PTSD to be less wounded by their particular triggers. Additionally, we will offer some ways for those who love or care about someone who has been traumatized to better understand their PTSD and hopefully to help them heal.
And, of course, if you would like to enter the conversation, please feel free to comment.
Hope: Regardless, if you are damaged with PTSD or you care about some with PTSD, please know there is hope. PTSD wants us to feel alone and isolate us from those who care about us and from those whom we should care about. It is a tough affliction to live through. But, it can be done. Semper Pax, Dr. Z