Tuesday, April 19, 2011

And Then Some Triggers Stopped!

Our girls both suffer from PTSD.  It's there, we know it, we deal with it the best we can. 

When you suffer from PTSD, you are often subconsciously triggered into various emotional states and the reaction to the trigger becomes out of your control.  Reactions can be rage, fear, withdrawing, spacing out, for a moment your brain becomes locked into a negative place and it is especially difficult for a child to get "un-stuck".

I am mostly going to focus this post on my younger daughter because she has had the more difficult time with her PTSD.  My older daughter talks through her feelings, but Layla didn't have the words or the understanding of why she went through so much hurt. 

When my youngest daughter is triggered she reacts poorly, typically with a tantrum, but recently with going into a "frozen" state.  A trigger can come in the form of any of the senses.  We're not just talking the simple 5 senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, sound.  We're talking about at least 9 senses, and maybe more.  Here is a great read on the various senses at Today I Found Out.  

Some of the triggers we have encountered (and these are just the big ones I know and understand):
Black Men
Police Cars/Lights
Sirens From Police Cars
Certain words like "Stupid, brat, crazy, shut-up"  (not necessarily spoken by us to her, rather overheard somewhere)
Shut Doors-except when sleeping
The Intersection near Department of Social Services
Major Changes In Weather (for example we went from 40 to 70 in a days time and it heightened her)
Fear of being alone
Fear of rejection (this could be asking us to pick her up, but we can't so we hug her instead)

I've written about the black men trigger before, and we've watched that almost cease since she started EMDR therapy.  About a month ago, we were eating out of town at Red Lobster and a black waiter passed our table, I immediately watched her entire body and face look scared.  I looked at her and simply said, "That's not HIM, we're far from home."  Her body then instantly relaxed. 

We've worked hard on the concept that police are good, they keep us safe as a society, their job is a hard job, but they do it to help protect people.

Our biggest hurdle right now is her fear  misconception of rejection.  This morning she wanted my husband to pick her up.  He can't because he's pulled his back before lifting her.  So he offered to hug her instead.  This to her meant "he must not love me or her would hold me".  So she started to unravel a bit.  She course corrected quickly though and did not melt-down.  That is MAJOR progress.  For awhile, we couldn't even tell her "No" without getting a horrible tantrum.  I realize a "fit" is normal when you tell a child "no" but for her "no" translates into "you don't love me".  

Triggers are hard to pinpoint sometimes.  It is all about becoming in-tune with your child and watching what happens before they react.  Most of the time when I step back from the crazy stuff, I remember I said or did something, or we passed by something in the store that set her off.

I said all of that to say this.  For the first time since the girls came home, I took them to the mall alone without any issues.  We were shopping for summer clothes to wear in Florida.  I didn't have one single bit of trouble from them.  Neither child got triggered into a fit.  We were there for about 2 hours.  That is a VERY long time for them to keep themselves in check.  I was so happy to have that day.  I think that it proved to me that the EMDR therapy has been effective.  We have watched a lot of progress in the last month.  I am sure we will have trouble in the coming month, but at least I know that the "good" days are possible!


DannieA said...

Glad to read that EMDR also worked for the little one!

I am a fan of EMDR as I participated in that when seeking help for my PTSD as an adult....but always wondered if it worked for kids as well.

Lindsay Mama to Nine said...

I am exvited to read this! We have been activley considering EMDR for our kiddo's for the PTSD of the Earthquake....thank you for the post. My children are all triggered by Black Men as well. WHAT an accomplishment to go shopping minus a blow-out!!!! That. is. AWESOME!