Ajar Thread: Unusual Triggers

[Specific content notice for domestic / emotional abuse for the post itself; general content notice for the comments]

Do you have any triggers? What are they? How do they affect you?

I’ve been coming to realize that I did not resonate with most conversations around triggers because mine don’t seem to follow others’ narratives.

By all accounts, given the jagged (and frankly, at times, rather fraught) trajectory of my life, I’m doing quite well.

I believed for most of my life that I was too physically revolting to attract anything but pity, let alone a partner. Somehow, I have a wonderful partner who has stood with and by me for over four years.

I was told my whole life that my writing was worthless and useless. Somehow, I’ve got a home on a lovely blog network after a life-changing stint with a platform on an excellent group blog — and a book contract to boot. Through my writing, I get to travel to awesome places and meet cool people because of it. I have been able to participate in community-building.

I was told my whole life that I’d need a man to take care of me. I graduated into the depths of a recession that held me hostage to hustling for work — any and all jobs that would have me — for years, to the point where I’d given up on believing I was worth anything at all. Yet somehow, I have a full-time job that enables me to take care of myself (and someone else, even if just barely). Thanks to the aforementioned community-building, I know people who throw me a few bucks, no questions asked, when I’m having a tough time before payday.

I’m living a life I would envy if I were not living it.

Being happy and fulfilled does make it easier to deal with past sadness and trauma, but it hardly erases it. In fact, now that I’m thriving instead of surviving, I’ve been noticing my triggers a lot more.

Today, a coworker of the same ethnic background responded to an older male coworker calling her name with that Desi between-“huh”-and-“hah”-sounding version of “yes/what?” — and I felt myself flinch. Nausea, light-headedness, body aches, paranoia, and a twitchy inability to focus followed. Some part of me decided that my initial reaction of “ugh, Dad’s gonna get mad that she said that; time to start cleaning so he doesn’t have a reason to pick on you, too” was appropriate.

When I was a child, my father insisted that saying “huh” as yes/what? was completely disrespectful, that we had to say “jee” (a very formal version of “yes/what”) instead. This was not true for anyone else in our extended family. He would yell and fume and rage and stomp and frighten if we carelessly said the wrong “yes/what?”. It worked. To this day, I flinch when I hear that “huh” used as “yes/what?”, especially when the responder is younger than the caller, and double if the responder is a younger girl/woman and the caller is an older-than-her man.

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Ajar Thread: Unusual Triggers
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8 thoughts on “Ajar Thread: Unusual Triggers

  1. 1

    it’s fading now, but, a red, full moon is probably the weirdest trigger I had. Even years after I left belief rationally, and when I was living away from the religious community which encouraged the particular combination of eschatology + prophecy which had a place for the red moon right before some very horrible predicted times, both real world and theologically, I still could be shaken by seeing a harvest moon I didn’t expect. I remember one day after I’d been having quite a good week, catching a glimpse of the moon and all of a sudden I couldn’t think, move, or breathe. Since then, it has gotten much better though.

  2. 2

    I have one trigger that’s pretty self-explanatory: since I’m arachnophobic, surprise-spiders freak me out (general fear response + feeling i have critters crawling all over me).

    Another is the sound of the phone ringing. Not all phones, only when it could conceivably be for me. I don’t really know why the possibility that a phone might be ringing and it could be for me freaks me out so much. maybe I had a period in life where all phone calls were bad news or something, or I’m far more stressed about the prospect of phone conversations than I think.

    I also can’t deal well with people discussing their depression when their depression is a non-permanent or new condition. E.g. when someone says they’ve found a thing that makes them feel “like before”, that immediately makes me feel like shit because I don’t even remember a “before”. Not quite a “trigger” maybe in the usual sense, but a topic of discussion I tend to avoid to not aggravate my own depression.

  3. 3

    Wind chimes. My mother used to wear these three bracelets that would make a soft clinking sound as she walked as they bumped into each other. It was the most terrifying sound of my childhood whenever it was the first clue she was nearby, because it was so soft that you wouldn’t hear it unless she was right next to you.

    There’s not a lot of things that match the sound of those bracelets, but occasionally wind chimes in a soft breeze get close enough to strike that same unholy terror in me.

    1. 3.1

      Conversationally beautiful women and models are my triggers. Especially if I have known the models in real life. I suffer with Body Dysmorphia and I took some what seems now as bad advice and started taking up freelance modeling. I did it for around 3-4 years, I didn’t get as far in the industry as I thought I would and I hated most of my pictures. Sooner or later people I knew started to take up freelance modelling too and before I knew it people where getting further than I ever did in 3-4 years within just year. And for some reason that triggered my Body Dysmorphia big time and now seeing her pictures or any other woman that is either a model or just very beautiful it triggers all the symptoms of Body Dysmorphia and puts them into overdrive.

  4. 4

    Uhm, not weird or exceptional, just very specific.
    Some phrases my mother used*, spoken by somebody I have some kind of relationship with, somebody whom I respect or value in any way. That’s kind of fortunate because the regular internet trolls can’t get me, but it also means that something that started as a friendly discussion on the net can tumble down into shaking and crying on my side while the other person will only notice when I shoot back a very angry and hurt reply.

    *weirdly, this even works in English when my mother doesn’t know a word of English

  5. 5

    Family gatherings seem to do me in after I moved away. My mom would always tell me to come, which didn’t seem like a big deal in abstract but by the day it happened I’d hit a wall. Most of the time I couldn’t go. After the fear faded I’d get furious that they kept putting me in that situation. They’d just go full bore blame and guilt trip over it although that doesn’t make sense now. It didn’t help and my view of family was largely something they got to craft as I grew up. If they didn’t like how it turned out, why would I be the one to hold responsible for it?

    Oddly a claustrophobic weekly meeting at a former job struck me similarly but it didn’t generate as strong a reaction. Still not entirely sure why. I stopped going after I realized I had absolutely nothing to do but sit there and feel awful for an hour.

  6. 6

    I hesitate to comment because my experience was relatively mild: emotional manipulation with a side of slut shaming. But I have been triggered by a few odd things, which is in keeping with this post.

    “Forever in Blue Jeans” by Neil Diamond. I never liked this song, but it was one of my ex-primary’s favorite songs to perform. He sang it for small gatherings almost every week while we were together. The few times I’ve heard it playing since I left him, it brought back a flood of memories and tears.

    A mention of a commenter’s stuffed pony collection on the Pharyngula Lounge thread brought back a memory of my ex-secondary, who bought me a Rainbow Dash plushie. He promised to give it to me when we next met in meatspace. We broke up before that could happen, though. I couldn’t keep reading that Lounge thread because of the images rushing to mind.

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