Dealing with Triggers

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Airports are triggers for me. Being in an airport, thinking about airports, thinking the word airport sends a signal to my brain that makes my eyes well up with tears. It’s almost uncontrollable.

I’ve had my dog travel with me on all but two airplane trips since adopting her in 2009. The two times flying without her were met with trepidation. I remember crying one of those times. The second time, I think I was too excited to leave the country.

Most times with my emotional support animal, I would start weeping at the TSA checkpoint, either before or after going through the metal and chemical detectors. My dog would stand and stare at me. Sometimes she would nuzzle.

I have to buy a plane ticket for work and wonder if I should bring my dog. Will I weep again? The thought of being at the airport for this work trip triggered tears. I tried to use Sensory Emotional Regulation, but I don’t think it worked. I’ve tried several times in the past using the technique while at airports. I think I might be too involved in the emotion for it to work.

In these cases where triggers lead to emotional responses too powerful for self-application of somatic therapy, it’s probably best to employ the help of a professional. I would try EMDR if I knew an EMDR practitioner who would take me as a patient. (In the past, therapists had denied me help probably because of the intensity of my case.) Or I could see my friend and SER trainer, Cédric Bertelli. I will call Cédric.

Update 7:43 p.m.
About two and a half hours after writing the above, I was feeling down after being triggered by the thought of going through airport security for work. It was bad. I had difficulty concentrating. I felt depressed. I felt like I was going through PTSD again.

I realized by writing that I was too emotionally-charged to successfully practice SER. A few hours later, I tried again. The sensations were clear. Inside my head it felt like spinning and my torso pulsed as if some electrical signal discharged to ground. They were sensations not dissimilar to those felt while on the hospital hotline on 9-11. This trigger needed resolution after the fact. It’s why there is “sensory reliving” with SER.

Eamonn, my therapist, suggested trying to take deep, slow breaths the last time I flew — to meditate in a way. This helped.

Of course, it’s important to recognize triggers in order to handle them in the moment. Some people count to ten. Some use meditation. Whatever way possible, they should be dealt with, so that they don’t escalate into something detrimental.

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