Category Archives: Triggers

My Plans for this Evening are…

One of the things we did at Sheppard Pratt’s Trauma Disorders Program, was every evening after dinner, we convened in our small group to go over our progress on our goals for the day.

In 2007/2008, everyone led off their share, by saying “Our goals for today were A, B, and C.  Today….(explain what we accomplished towards these goals).  My safety is….(explain any issues with safety), and my plans for this evening are….(explain what we are going to do to wind down, make sure parts are in their safe places, use coping skills, etc.).

During our last stay in 2018, it wasn’t as structured, but still had the same goal.  We reviewed what progress we made on our goals and chatted about what we were doing that evening.

It’s still a helpful technique, to wrap our mind around the day’s events. There have been days I’ve been surprised to find out I had gaps of time loss, and a little internal communication helped improve awareness.  It also helps parts feel heard and not ignored or avoided.

Here’s our basic outline for our night check-in.  I hope it helps give yous some ideas that are helpful!

Evening Check-In:

  1. Read off goals for today and progress/outcomes of working on these goals.
  2. Celebrate successes! Even small wins can be huge for some parts.
  3. What number am I on the Crisis Continuum right now?
  4. Did we experience any triggers today?
  5. Is anyone having intense emotions right now? (If so, are there self-soothing skills, grounding skills, imagery, or other things that might help you contain?
  6.  Do I need to ask anyone (external) for help right now?  If not, try to engage with an outside person before bed in a positive way (e.g. give 1 complement to them).

Then when we get into bed and get ready for sleep, we’re usually in a safer space.  We pay attention to our body to help parts relax any muscles they have tensed (facial, neck, or lap muscles) and do deep breathing to fall asleep well.

Tomorrow is therapy day! So, here’s to a good night’s sleep!

Doing Memory Work with No Memory

After my last post, I lost about 36 hours of time.  The good thing is, whoever was fronting didn’t jet off or go anywhere.  During this blank period of time, I apparently self-harmed, forgot how a cell phone works, and even talked to my therapist on said forgotten-how-this-works cell phone.

I had a 2nd session with our therapist, K. after coming out of this dissociative episode on Thursday evening.  I don’t remember much of this session   It’s really vague.  I just remember going back and forth with her on intense feelings of suicide and depression.  She kept trying to remind me that these thoughts are from a time in the past when I was being hurt, and I am safe today.

Yesterday (Friday), I stayed home from work.  I was exhausted, probably from all the switching.  Around 2pm my cell phone rang, and it woke me up.  K’s name is on the caller ID, so I answer.

“Good Afternoon, Nel, it’s K.” She cheerily says.  “Where are you?”

“Ah…hi, K.  At home.”  I groggily answer.

“And you were sleeping.” She states.

“Yah.” It doesn’t surprise me by now that she can read me through the phone.

“Then, I’m glad I called.  I was thinking you could have your regular Monday session early tomorrow (Saturday).” She says.

“What? Why?” Now I’m confused. Why is she calling me?  Why does she want me to come in early?

“Well, because now you’re missing work.  I think we should meet before Monday, so we can work a little on what’s going on, to increase the probability you won’t call out sick on Monday, too.” She responds.

“Oh.” I say, flatly.  “I guess, ok.”

“We could meet on Sunday, if you prefer.” She waits but I don’t respond, “Or if you’d rather keep your Monday session, that’s fine, too.  I just thought I’d offer.”

“No, it’s ok.  I’ll come in tomorrow.”  I say.  “I trust your opinion, so if you think coming in before Monday is important, I’ll do it.”

“Great! Since I know you’ve been sleeping so much, how about we meet in the morning tomorrow?”

I sigh, “Ok.”

“And you’ll bring your homework.” She adds.

“My homework? What homework?” I’m totally confused.  Not even a vague, ohhh yeah, she assigned homework.

“Mm-hm.” K. says. “You were going to invite Clara to do some collaging.”

“I don’t remember.”

“I know.” K. says seriously.

“This is what I hate about dissociation.  It makes me scared when I can’t remember what I’ve done.  Like, it’s not there at all.  Not even a vague recollection.”  My stomach is now curled up in knots due to the anxiety.

“Nel, I’m sorry you’re so scared.  I can only imagine how frightening it must be to not remember things you’ve done.”  She says empathetically.

As always, I’m uncomfortable receiving kind words, so I move to end the phone call.  Surprisingly, she allows me to direct the conversation this way.  But not without repeating she will see me tomorrow with homework in hand.

After the phone call, I dig up an envelope full of magazine cut-outs that I brought home from Sheppard Pratt.  I internally ask Clara if she would like to help choose some things for the collage.  I don’t get any verbal response.  I don’t even feel like she’s there.  But it’s not hard to start picking out things.

I go through 2 more magazines and pull out some more things.

Then, someone pulls out our acrylic paints.  Pink, blue, and purple gets dropped on a blank canvas page, and we go to town.  Someone makes an imaginary landscape of brightly colored trees alongside some water.  The cutouts are purposely placed above or below the water.

When we’re done, Mina and I come back forward.  I’m floored.  I have no idea who has done it, but the artwork is both beautiful and frightening.  It draws you in with its beauty and then floods you with fear.  It’s like a deception.

As if to purposely trigger.

I know I should put it away, but I want to keep looking at it.  Eventually, after a couple hours, I do place it aside.

We went to therapy this morning at 10am as promised.  We brought in the painting/collage, hugging it to our chest.  Switching is all over the place.  I switch to Clara, which I believe is in System 3, but a different layer of the system.  I switch to an O—- part in System 5, or maybe a T—- part in System 4, I’m not sure.  There’s so much deception and flooding going on, and it’s all vague to me at best.

I’m not sure what work got done, if any, and now I’m co-conscious with Mina and Meg (Meg is one of our teen protector parts).  We were so tired when we came home from the session, we managed to each a bit of rice and passed out.

I wonder if she gave me any homework.

Why is therapy a slow process?

K. and I are reviewing treatment goals. 

“Of course,” She says, “There’s the ongoing goals of monitoring triggers, safety, improving internal communication…” She pauses while thinking.  “And we haven’t even gotten to grieving loss yet.”

I was trying to listen, but I lost the tail-end of her sentence.  “We haven’t gotten to what yet?”

“Grieving loss.  Loss of control of the body, loss of self-identity, loss of safety…”

I started to get floaty and check out.

K. nodded, “Aaaand, now I’m triggering you.  I think we’ll stop there.”

I can’t even talk about treatment goals without dissociating. :/