My PTSD, Triggers And How I Manage Them

My triggers aren’t limited to my posttraumatic stress disorder. Because I have CPTSD, it’s ahem more complex than PTSD from concrete traumatic events. (This isn’t to say CPTSD is more advanced or whatever; they’re variations, with trauma coming from different events, factors, and points in life.)

As such, I’m triggered by different things, not always associated with trauma.

The thing about triggers is they’re not a guaranteed way to get a reaction. I’m not triggered every time I’m exposed to one of my triggers—which is something people might not understand. I am aware of my triggers, and I am also aware of how well I can manage any possible reactions if I’m exposed to them. Just because slamming doors triggers me doesn’t mean I’m going to have a mental breakdown every time someone slams a door. (I might have in the past, before I started therapy and learning how to manage my mental health.)

Here are the triggers I’m fairly certain are related to my PTSD:

  • loud footsteps
  • slamming doors and cupboards
  • hands moving to my face
  • yelling/loud voices
  • walking near moving trucks or cars

My PTSD triggers need to happen in real life. I need to hear and experience them to be triggered by them—a video game with stomping sounds, or a movie where people yell, won’t trigger traumatic flashbacks and my fight-flee-or-freeze response.

Here are the triggers unrelated to PTSD:

  • corpses
  • death
  • suicide
  • self-harm
  • bodily mutilation, on humans or animals
  • existentialism (I’m not even kidding with this one)

I’m still bouncing around on how I feel about the PTSD diagnosis, but I’ve been diagnosed twice with depression by medical practitioners in different cities, so I’m going to say I have depression. The triggers above are more likely to initiate “bad vibes” and a depressive mood, or make me incredibly upset.

The way I manage my triggers, and when I’m triggered, depends entirely on how I get triggered and what triggered me.

If I’m triggered in a verbal conversation with someone, or by something happening around me, I make a quick note to the people around me (who know about my mental health) that I’m not comfortable with the topic or the environment. My biggest response to my PTSD triggers is to get anxious or angry. I’ll complain about what I hear, because that’s the only way I can tell myself, “This isn’t a precursor to harm. It’s a trivial thing. People can complain about trivial things, things that don’t matter too much.” If you follow me on Twitter, I have occasionally talked about living with people who have heavy footsteps.

The triggers I struggle with more are the images and videos. I feel sick when I see photos of hurt people or animals, especially ones that are like, “Little Benjamin the beagle needs emergency surgery after being attacked, help the crowdsourcing campaign!” followed by a picture of little Benjamin’s hurt body. Just fucking don’t. It’s a graphic image. Content warnings for graphic imagery occur on television, but not on the Internet, and that’s why I need to avoid social media when I have bad mental health.

I could elaborate more on the specifics and individual situations, but it’ll be faster and more efficient to sum up my known triggers, how they influence my mental health, and how I attempt to manage them.


Trigger: loud footsteps, slamming doors and cupboards, yelling/loud voices, walking near moving trucks or cars
Effect: fight, flee, or freeze response; irritability; anxiety
Management: I’m still trying to figure out how to manage this trigger. At the moment, it leads to a bunch of complaining about whatever noises I’m hearing.

Trigger: hands moving to my face
Effect: knee-jerk reaction to get the hell away from you; fight, flee, or freeze response; accelerated heart rate; flashbacks; anxiety
Management: I snap or explain the situation to the person who triggered me.

Trigger: corpses, death
Effect: anxiety; suicidal urges; upset stomach; symptoms of grief (crying, loss of appetite, sadness, etc.); hopelessness
Management: I’m usually triggered by images of this one, but occasionally written or heard can trigger me; so getting away from the pictures helps, along with distracting myself with puzzles and other cognitive engagement (like games!).

Trigger: self-harm, bodily mutilation, suicide
Effect: urge to hurt myself; upset stomach; crying; suicidal ideation, urges, or rumination
Management: I’m only triggered by visuals of this trigger, and I manage it with deep breathing, distracting myself with puzzles and games (cognitive engagement), meditating, and doing “body scan” exercises to remind myself of compassionate touch/perspective on my skin, instead of pain.

Trigger: existentialism
Effect: suicidal ideation, urges, or rumination; anxiety; hopelessness
Management: I end and avoid conversations or discussions rooted in existentialism. Considering my purpose on the planet, or wondering the meaning of my life, is a sure-fire way to make my mental illness difficult to manage.


My intensive short-term therapy last year ended up being the best place for me to learn how to manage my mental health when my mental illnesses are triggered. I left out some of the more situation-specific triggers that can worsen my mental health, but on the whole, this post is fairly exhaustive of my life. Not every trigger has the same reaction and the same way of dealing with it. I’ve spent at least a year now trying to figure out the best solutions to navigate my mental illness without reinforcing harmful behaviours.

It’s been hard.

Therapy Diary: Dissociation

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

My dissociation manifests in a few different ways and feelings, and I can compare it with a bunch of metaphors. But it all boils down to a single feeling—of rather, lack of feeling.

My dissociation means I’m not part of reality. I’m not fully in the world I’m interacting in. My body is doing one thing, but my consciousness is distanced.

Sometimes my dissociation is heavy and sometimes it’s light. I’ve described it as half of my existence floating behind me like a helium balloon; or half of my existence being dragged like a suitcase with a broken wheel.

You’d think that being dissociated is easy to notice. But I only notice the way it feels—the heaviness or lightness or distance or closeness—once I know I’m dissociated.

So the disconnect is something that shows up as irritation or lethargy. It’s only after a bit of wondering, “Why am I reacting like this?” that it dawns on me: “Oh… I’m not all here.”

And then what? What do I do once I realise my consciousness isn’t within me?

I try meditating for a few minutes. I try doing a vinyasa or two. I try lighting a scented candle. I try taking a warm shower or a cold shower. I try reading a book. I try playing a video game.

But none of those are fool-proof, sure-fire ways to reassociate with the world. They’re only baby steps.

It’s almost impossible to eliminate the dissociation the day it happens, or even the day after. Sometimes it lasts for a few days. I’ll power through it, but there are days I just can’t. I need to sleep and let myself succumb to another reality (the surreal of dreams).

My therapist told me that it takes time to feel safe enough to “come back” after being dissociated. So I don’t push progress or obligation on it.

“If I Can Do It, So Can You”

Now to Then

17-year-old with a chance to get away. Where is far enough? Where is too far? What can be achieved while there?

16-year-old with a sibling, recently deceased, a month away from 19.

Police officer.

16-year-old astonished by broken glass shining like a sea on wooden floors.

Police officer.

16-year-old watching a tray of homemade cookies dumped into the trash. Right there. Watching it happen.

16-year-old with a red handprint smear on a cheek.

16-year-old trying to protect the brother who would die next year.

Police officer.

16-year-old and 15-year-old and 14-year-old and 13-year-old and 12-year-old with self-inflicted scars. Grounding. Reconnecting. Punishment, because everyone else was right and this pain is deserved.

14-year-old who told lies about smears of red.

10-year-old curses and more redness smears on a cheek.

Police officer.

10-year-old in a dingy swivel chair, hand placed on a grimy Bible, a coat puffy and protective in a stuffy room. Face the camera. Tell the truth.

8-year-old hiding from broken glass.

Police officer.

A child’s parent wanted The Brady Bunch. A child’s parents tried to make it on their own, tried to avoid debt, failed and failed again. A child strategises, attempts to survive before puberty, and then through it, and then they want to know what the child will do at the beginning of its 50 years of adulthood.

Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt

Everything is my damn fault and I need to do everything by myself and nobody helps me and how am I ever going to get a job when I can’t live properly let alone interact with a customer and I sometimes lie catatonic in bed because my mind makes poison in order to feed me and I’m made to feel bad for trying to do anything and for needing help to even get to a job because I live in an inaccessible place and brain.

Now

I saw a chance to get away when applications to colleges and universities were thrown at me. I took it. I took it and didn’t think of the loans. I moved away, free, still not legal (#OctoberBaby), and then the money hit me. It still hits me.

There I was, carving a path for my future while my tools continued breaking and I needed to rent them repeatedly. I’d get the money back somehow. I’d pay for the tools I used, the years it took me to carve through this mountain.

Do not judge my adulthood existence by your journey toward your adulthood. A tree planted in unsuitable soil cannot grow tall and strong, but this isn’t evident until it has grown up some.

Existing is a battle when you have mental illness and are an abuse survivor. In my first year of university, I was almost forced to withdraw from school because my grades were so poor. In my second year of university, I wanted to commit suicide.

It’s hard to consider making money when you’re simply trying to live. To breathe. To wash your damn body. How can I put on a face and say, “How can I help you?” to a customer who might yell at me? Especially if every yell at me brings back memories of trauma.

I sit on 40K and will never have children until I can ensure (and insure) they don’t go through the same financial strife. The same guilt of being another indebted child as I am. My mind and its pools of poison tell me that I owe something to everyone.

And sometimes society tells me I owe something to certain people. I owe nothing to people who biologically created me, but failed to take care of me. Who failed to repair a link every time it was broken. Who failed to say sorry when they hurt me. Who failed to acknowledge that they hurt me.

I owe no explanation to people who managed to work their way through high school, and then college or university. I owe no explanation to people who question my anxiety about finances. I owe no explanation to the acquaintances who want to know why I don’t want to pay $7.99 + tax at a restaurant for a shitty entree, and thus do not want to go out.

We can’t all work through the strife. When you’re a child and all you do is work on living… when you’re a child and your life is only strife… when the glimmers of pleasant memories come so infrequently that you think they’re just nighttime dreams… You can’t make your adult self part of the economic sector without wanting to die. Without waiting for something to jump out of the bushes and tear you apart. Without beating yourself up for not doing everything correctly, for slipping up, for accidentally breaking something at work, for getting an order wrong, for working overtime, for crying in the break room, for snapping at a customer, for avoiding people because otherwise you’ll break under the weight of your own guilty and traumatised conscience.

I am very unemployable, and it isn’t my fault. I’m trying to be better.

I am very much in debt, and it isn’t my fault. I’m trying to work through it.

I chose to go to university. I chose to go into debt. I chose to try and earn something—to earn a degree in the hopes of learning more about myself and about a future career field. I chose and I chose and I chose, and my priorities (1. not dying; 2. not hurting myself; 3. wanting to not do either number 2 or number 3) aren’t the same as yours.

I am not the same as you. We do not have the same story. We do not climb the same mountains. You, with a tall mountain of responsibilities. With crags and nooks that require effort to ascend.

I, with a tall mountain of responsibilities. With wolves and banshees chasing after me. With avalanches called upon by the demon of my childhood. With crags and nooks like yours, but just out of reach of my stunted motivation.

I am not the same as you. Your journey—where you gained something through hard work, by hustling, with careful planning—is not my journey.

My journey—where I needed to work hard to continue going, where I gained an, “Alright, if you want, but we can’t help yet,” and self-doubt, and where I had no rest since my memories began—is not your journey. It is mine. And you have no right to wonder why it is so different from yours as you sit on a rocky outcropping, eating organic trailmix, and ask why I’m still so far down, battered, bruised, with the handicaps of scars and pain slowing me down. The least you could do is shut up. The most you could do is offer some help.

In unrelated thoughts, a happy birthday to my brother today. You would have been 24 and that blows my mind—not the age, but how long you’ve been gone. You stopped ageing when you died and now all of your siblings are older than you.

Therapy Diary: Day 7

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

My first short-term therapy session was on January 15 and the last was on March 18. It’s been two months since I last saw my counsellor and I can definitively say that even this short amount of counselling was helpful.

What’s Changed?

I’m doing more yoga and I’ve been approaching it differently than I did last year. There’s something more to it now. Before, it was focus on shape and form and getting a pose correct. Now, I focus on how it feels: how I can feel my strength or my weakness; my inhales and exhales. In particular, I can feel a connection between all of my body parts. Yoga has been one of the best practises I could have chosen, since it drastically lowers my dissociation—though I still struggle with it.

I’m also more aware of what sets me off/what triggers me. In particular, what triggers my anger and my panic attacks. I can’t even describe how this has helped me be able to even deal with life. From talking to people to running errands to sitting alone, I’m aware of my emotions and understand how to express or disperse them.

What’s The Same?

My depression is still fairly the same. I’m not that happy and barely anything gives me joy. But I’m trying not to dwell on that, on how I should be, or how I want to be. I know my friends have noticed it, and I’m trying not to talk about it because it’s a cyclical conversation. I’ll start talking about being depressed and it increases. This isn’t something I’ve learned to resource/cope with/deal with/etc. Pick a synonym.

I’m also still struggling with my dissociation. It isn’t as intense as it was in January, but it’s still around. I feel like the film on top of a stew left to cool on the stove. Like, I’m still part of the stew—or my Self—but it isn’t the same. I can’t simply stir the film back into the stew to have a whole stew—a whole Self.

What Next?

I’m going to be completely honest here: I don’t know.

I do not know what to do next.

I know I still have a lot of work ahead of me, but I’m not ready to take on more. I’m just going to continue doing what I’m doing and hope that, little by little, something else will change. I guess there won’t be anything new to do: simply practising what I’ve learned in the hopes it’ll become habit or second-nature instead of a conscious effort.

Therapy Diary Day 7

Therapy Diary: Day 6

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

Pre-Session

I woke up at 6:45am because someone was being loud outside the house, on the street level below my window. I take too long to get back to sleep, but I wake up to my alarm and snooze it—not because I want to keep sleeping, but because I want to do some light yoga to help get my body awake. And not as stiff.

My morning prep is routine and a bit of a blur. I make a cup of coffee—instant, hazelnut flavour. Measured meticulously so I don’t fuck it up and make it overly sweet or bitter or watery or milky. It’s divine. Cheerios for breakfast, along with a banana.

I’ll do the dishes when I’m back. I’ll probably be five minutes late for my 11:00am appointment, but that’s okay. Better late than never.

Session

I feel like I’m relaying everything I’ve learned. I still haven’t mentioned to her the various hallucinations that have started cropping back up. I’m not ready. But she remarks on the differences I’ve told her, and encourages me. She gives me some more advice, as she normally does, and all I can think about is my pride.

I say, “I don’t know,” a lot, and don’t feel bad about it.

We talk about the past, the future, and my memory. I get more advice on a technique to deal with my childhood trauma—and the things that trigger it—in order to help with my thought process. That kinda cognitive behavioural stuff, y’know.

I’ve been being kinder to myself and it shows. My dissociation is still strong, but I said it was more like I was attached to my body as a balloon on a string, instead of my body dragging along a suitcase. She enjoys my analogies. She’s big on them.

Since I’ve been doing yoga daily this week, I think I’ve been more mindful and present in my body. Starting off, she said we would be working on mindfulness. At first, I thought it was that mumbo-jumbo about “being present” and “being here” and “being aware” that doesn’t have a specific recipient. Present where? Where is “here”? What am I aware of?

But that was the point. I’ve learned how to be more all-encompassingly mindful. I’m more aware of others and I’m more aware of myself. I’m not so much in a fog as I once was.

I talk about my former room mate (who she later said was “Satan room mate” and I laughed), my boyfriend, and my bunny. I know that having my rabbit with me has helped me put to practice what I’ve been taught.

Everything goes back to the same system of roots. The same seedling that grew into a tree, strengthened by the many events and situations that developed its foundation and how deep it planted itself. I’m encouraged to sow new seeds and nurture them.

I haven’t made as much progress on my psychosomatic connection, but that’s okay. There’s no rush to an “end” since this is all stuff I need to continually practice and refine. The sparkly feeling in my shoulders is back. I’m more aware of where my emotions sit in my body—the physical reaction to my feelings, to put it simply. I just don’t know what to do with it.

This session progresses really quickly.

Post-Session

I have another cup of coffee because holy crap this instant coffee tastes so good. I’m less disoriented today than from previous sessions. We didn’t reschedule immediately, so I’ll have to make an appointment at a later date. I’m not sure when I’ll schedule it for, but I don’t want to simply not reschedule.

This has been too helpful to neglect. I don’t think I’ll “regress” or anything like that. I’ve learned too much and grown and changed so much that doing so—going back to how I was—would be literally impossible.

The rest of my day is incredibly productive. Work work and school work get done. I even make some progress on taxes.

Starting this therapy was an act of self-love.

Therapy Diary: Day 6

Therapy Diary: Day 5

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

Pre-Session

I’ve had a gruelling morning. My co-worker and I were attempting to make some changes on our employer’s website—something that should be easy for me—but ran into obstacle after obstacle after obstacle. All I’m gonna say: if you hire a third party to register and set up your website, make sure you save the credentials for logins to your registrar and host. Fuck. We had hoped to relax after an assumed quick fix by watching a movie, but didn’t have time to do so.

I’ve been plagued by migraines all week, but today has been alright. Some slight discomfort, but nothing as terrible as Monday or Tuesday. Last night I didn’t sleep very well, unfortunately. The initial stages of falling asleep seem to be the most difficult for me, all the getting comfortable and feeling restful. On top of that, my sleep was broken up a bunch.

Initially, my session was scheduled for last Friday, but the headcold I had came first and I prioritised sleep above therapy. It was a good decision. The offices then bumped my appointment up an hour—a small scheduling error on their part—and I’m glad for that. Means there’s less time for me to build up any nervousness.

Today, I plan on telling my therapist that I’m not sure where to go from here. That I feel like I’m talking in circles. A few of the exercises she gave me have helped immensely, so I want to get more of those. They’re concrete. I can work with them more easily than with abstract thought mechanisms.

In my class yesterday, my professor gave me the best definition of Freud’s id, ego, and super ego theories. I think I’m going to mention it to my therapist. I think my super ego is overdeveloped, in a sense, and has suffocated both my id and ego. Like an iceberg turned upside down.

I’ve also been dwelling in a lot of dissatisfaction and discouragement. And I want to mention how terrible I am with setting goals and my whole attitude toward them in general.

We’ll see what happens. I have about an hour to kill until I need to go to the building. I chose the 3pm slot instead of the 2pm slot, since I figured I wouldn’t face the dilemma of “Do I knock on the door? Should I wait elsewhere?” if the 2pm slot remains free—which it might not.

Maybe I should do some yoga. Or take a shower. I definitely need to eat lunch. I’m still nervous, but this time because I’m not sure where or how to continue. But I know that the best method to resolve this is not to just stop going—it’s to mention it to my therapist. The key is communication, after all.

I’ve been craving junk food all week. Maybe I’ll get something tonight. But maybe I won’t.

Session

I arrive a little late and the door is propped open. A gentle knock. The standard routine—she signs me in and I remove my coat and boots. Lotus position.

Head nodding. Some resources to reference back to. I feel very good about myself.

I’m understanding more this time around. My nerves have dissipated. I don’t think I’m ready yet to dive into one of the techniques she’s had me go through each session, but it’s in my mind and I’m aware of it. That’s already a step in the direction of utilising it. It’s like a habit I have to pick up.

A good analogy. Praise. A sparkly movement in my shoulders.

She sits beside me to explain the resources and it’s the closest we’ve ever been to each other. Her winged eyeliner is on fleek omg. All of our interactions have been in this dim room, her a few feet away in one chair or the other. I’ll re-type these sheets when I have some spare time this weekend. One of them looks especially helpful, but I want to change the format. I’ll give the current column set-up a try, since there’s no harm in trying it that way. But I get the feeling a mind-map layout would work better for me.

Nebulous thoughts.

She moves my awareness elsewhere and it confuses me. I realise how comfortably out of my body I’ve been this week. My emotional reactions have been stunted somatically. I think that’s the next journey to take.

2 weeks until the next one. I think the time to process and experiment and put in effort by myself will help me.

Post-Session

I think I’ll treat myself to some greasy, carb-filled food today—simply because I want to and don’t feel bad about wanting it. Maybe a buffalo chicken poutine from a small restaurant around the corner.

Since I didn’t cry this time, and I don’t feel shaken up or moved around, I can dive right into some schoolwork I have.

Progress. Onward.

Therapy Diary Day 5

Therapy Diary: Day 4

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

Pre-Session

I woke up late. I had a meeting with my employer and co-workers beforehand. My appointment is earlier in the day, which is alright. I don’t have a chance to feel anxious for the session. But I also don’t have much time to get ready for it, either. I eat breakfast and shower late, and then arrive 5 minutes after my appointment is supposed to start. At least this time around, the door is open and I don’t feel awkward approaching it.

Session

I have trouble focusing and being present. Some of what I say feels like verbatim repetition of earlier sessions, but again: patterns. The time flies by quickly, despite the long bouts of silence from me. In a way, my counsellor helps guide me through a meditative exercise. I tell her often that it is difficult, and that having difficulties learning something new makes me feel frustrated. My crying this session is less violent. Just tears and a head-filled sadness and emotional release.

I talk about my body image issues and receive tools for combating my hyper-critical thoughts and judgements about myself. She emphasises balance over removal of the thoughts.

A bridge analogy. Fluidity between extremes. A flow and an ebb between deep sea and shallow shore, rather than a metronome tick between left and right. I think of the moon and its cycles from full visibility to full shadow. Something in me feels peace, but I don’t know where and have trouble accessing it.

Post-Session

I feel like I learned the most in this session. It will be three weeks until I’m in here again, the dimmed light and green walls making me feel almost safe. Instead of leaving and feeling a little disoriented, unsure, and emotionally shuffled, I have taken away knowledge. I am more aware of how to be mindful.

I return to my journal, left closed after the page from the first session. I want to make lists and find the thoughts I need to balance out the ones I currently have. There is effort needed. Pure effort. A desire to make a change. Learning how to try has been one of the hardest lessons for me to start, let alone master.

I can think of a future.

I am motivated to look forward to something.

This is definitely progress.

The fourth session in my therapy experience.

Therapy Diary: Day 3

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

Pre-Session

I don’t want to go today, but it’s too late to cancel without needing to pay a cancellation fee. I don’t know why I don’t want to go, but I’m not thinking hard on it.

I know I’m doing something good for myself. I am reminding myself to be patient, to be kind to myself, to be mindful of how I express and feel and react.

When I arrive on the hour for the beginning of my session, the door is closed. The meeting room adjacent, with its windows and boardroom table and multiple chairs, has a few people sitting around in it. I hesitate outside the door. Should I knock? I knocked last time, but something tells me I should stop. I kill time by going to the bathroom and then come back. My instincts were right. I hear voices near the door and it opens. I give a small smile to the person coming out of the door, and feel awkward standing right outside. I know how it feels to walk out of that room. She smiles but I can tell she was crying. I know the puffy face. I still don’t know the protocol. Perhaps, for future sessions, I’ll wait around, be a few minutes late, and see if the door is open when I arrive.

Session

At this point, I feel like I’m repeating myself. Didn’t I say this before? Didn’t I relay this information already? But these are patterns, not verbatim repeats and replays. And all these things I feel, all these parts of me, have one source. Not multiple sources. There are roots in a poisoned ground, and all these shaking leaves, these rushing winds past branches, come up from those series of roots.

I am a computer and my files are being defragmented. I am being rearranged, and it’s taking time, but once the process is done–not forever, of course; it will require maintenance–but once it is completed this first time, this long-haul and messy process, I can access things more easily.

There is nothing inherently wrong with me. I have just been broken so many times without any repairs.

Metaphors, analogies, comparisons. Because emotions are hard to talk about.

Post-Session

When I return home, I notice Netflix has added Inside Out. Watching it—this was the first time—was a serendipitous moment. Content from my session lined up with this beautiful, fantastic, and (I believe) important movie. I feel a bit better. I don’t do much else for the day, but that’s okay with me. I need to be alone and let my emotions do their thing, my files rearrange, my branches shed their leaves and regrow.

Still nervous and scared.

The third session in my therapy experience.

Therapy Diary: Day 2

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

Pre-Session

I’m nervous again but I get the feeling that this is normal and will possibly lessen as I get more comfortable with this interaction and entire shift in mindset.

Before my session, I run a few errands. It is 3 minutes before my appointment time and the door is closed. Last session, it was propped open. I am nervous, hesitate, then lightly knock on the door. My hands are overflowing with my overcoat and personal effects—I thought I would be late and rushed to get here, despite the fact that the two places I went were in the same hall. I am grateful for the “Just a sec!” response. I put things away and the door opens.

Session

I feel confident.

And I know I’m faking most of it.

I try to pay attention to some things, but I am hyper-aware of myself and how my gaze blanks out straight ahead of me, toward a filing cabinet and a poster that has Comic Sans in the titles.

We are always growing, changing, and learning—even the people who are unkind, or seem to judge and reject us.

Sit with an emotion to see what it does.

Be kind to yourself.

I blank on things to say and talk about. I don’t know why, but I’m not going to explore the why. I’m only going to explore what I want to talk about. For next session, I hope I can remember the ones I forgot for this one. And I hope I can have the courage to mention the ones I was still too afraid to mention.

Post-Session

Am I a fake? This is all pointless and I’m failing at it. I can’t open up enough. I can’t get comfortable and let myself do this. I feel blocked and resistant and I don’t know why. I think a part of me doesn’t want to get help, or be helped, or learn something about help and being helped.

And of course I blame myself for this. As if something is wrong with me, when really there isn’t anything wrong or different or abnormal. Everyone I know has mentioned the difficulty of starting therapy.

I still feel like I’m the only one doing something wrong.

Even safe spaces have adjustment periods.Therapy Diary: Day 2--Blog post about my personal experience going into therapy for my mental health. Day 2 = The second session.

Therapy Diary: Day 1

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

Pre-Session

I slept like shit last night. My mind raced and my body found small nuisances, like a stuffed nose, dry air, and the weight of too many blankets. I think it was around 3:30am when I finally managed to pass out? And of course I woke up at 8:30 .

I blame nerves and anxiety.

My appointment is for 3:00pm and I can’t concentrate on the other tasks for today, since I’m worrying about how the first session will go. This will be the third time I’ve seen a therapist—the first was in 2010 and was… okay. My mother asked me about each session, wanting to know what I talked about. It was a fucking nightmare and made my progress worse. It was only a short term series of appointments, too. Once the term was up, I didn’t know what action to take afterward. I think I was okay for a while.

The second time was in 2013, almost two years ago from this third time around. I saw the therapist a couple of times, but then stopped. I don’t remember why.

I know the logistics of a therapy session. I know more or less what to expect.

I guess I’m scared of letting myself be vulnerable and opening up to someone who can help.

I don’t have much trouble being open. But I do still censor and monitor myself when I am open, particularly when I know how the recipient generally reacts to what I might say, especially when the person is only a listener.

Right now, I need more than a listener.

I could be much worse than I am, but I want to prevent the Rock Bottom Effect; I know I’m edging toward a cliff, and I’d rather get help now in walking away from the cliff, or building a safety wall at the edge of the cliff, or taking some other precaution so I don’t metaphorically jump off the cliff.

I know I’m going to cry. I’m a crier even when it isn’t in the context of speaking about my feelings, thoughts, and experiences.

I’m going to make a list of what I might say, only to avoid fumbling and rambling. Maybe write down what I hope to get out of therapy, and anything else that comes to mind, so I have a better starting point.

I hope I jive well with the therapist. She has a cool name.

Session

“We become thinkers.”

“As you watched everything happen, you learned how to strategise and how to survive.”

“You were just a little girl.”

I cry a lot and she draws my attention to how my body responds to my thoughts, how my voice changes, the positioning of my hands, my breathing. She talks about anatomy and autonomy; about curiosity and survival. I wish I had brought water. Crying and breathing and talking for 45 minutes turns my mouth into a bundle of gel, from mucous and saliva and air mingling together. I’ll remember for next time.

I revealed a lot about myself from the first few minutes and questions. She clarifies the pronunciation of my name. I ask if I can remove my boots, and then get into a comfortable seat on the couch.

She’s good at what she does: a Buddhist, non-judgemental, experienced in her field. I’m grateful for her position as a guide more than a listener. Instead of talking at her about my experiences, receiving a few questions, she directs me inward and explains and uses analogies.

I sense a glimmer of progress.

Post-Session

I still feel disconnected and dissociated, but that’s okay. When I return home, my eyes puffy and my face salt-stained from tears, I drink water and prepare a cup of herbal tea. After sitting at my desk and sipping half of the orange spice tea away, I grab a notebook and journal some thoughts and make some lists. Judgement. Rationalisation. Criticism. Curiosity. I am an expanding puzzle, missing parts of my frame. Who cares about the picture when there are pieces of emptiness riddling the scene?

I cry some more, because that’s what I do. I will see her next week and I’m hopeful, nervous, and excited for what will happen.Therapy Diary: Day 1--Blog post about my personal experience going into therapy for my mental health. Day 1 = The first session.