Coping with Suppressed Memories and Triggers


So, as most of you know I am cranium-deep in processing repressed memories after some major triggers cracked open my grey thinker like a coconut, and for awhile I positively HAD to pause writing.

A repressed memory is what the brain perceives as an unsafe memory or trauma.  I’ve read that our brain literally partitions off that repressed memory apart from the usual memories.  It’s a safety mechanism and a survival instinct.  We never know when, where or how that partition will open and let us recall a suppressed memory, but the key to open that door is being triggered- or in a therapy setting (for example, hypnosis.)

A trigger can be anything that causes a victim to recall (and sometimes relive) a crisis or threatening situation that they went through.  It could be something as subtle as fabric texture against the fingertips, or something as obvious as  a threat brushing against your coat sleeve in a crowded room.  Sometimes it’s a smell or a sight.
It may be one thing or a combination of things put together that our subconscious recalls happening during the repressed trauma.  Everyone’s triggers are unique, and exclusive to them.

They say the best thing to do is avoid the triggers.  Some of us know what sets us off, but alot of us don’t, and it’s trial and error.  And for me, it is impossible to avoid my usual daily triggers but I do my best.

I have many triggers unrelated to each other.  Each trauma I have had in my life seems to carry its own signature response.   For example, somewhere in my early childhood years, something happened with a dark empty window at night.   We lived in the country and I remember getting in the bathtub and as I did, I saw a face in the window contrasted against the darkness.  As a child, I became terrified and it stuck with me.

So, I learned several years ago that there are certain combinations I must avoid.  I cannot linger near a dark empty window that has no coverings, especially at a certain time of year, at a certain time of evening, while doing a certain sequence of things.  It sets me into such an uncomfortable fear that feels so ridiculous.  I must have all the lights on, and I must check- repeatedly- the locks, and give the windows a wide berth.  And oddly enough, I love windows, and cannot stand dark smothering rooms without fresh air and light.  But at night, even now, I struggle with this.

Currently, what I have been coping with is a completely different set of triggers I had not anticipated.  A certain sequence opened up not just one memory.. but many.

Remembering was excruciating.   Reliving, and the flashbacks.. truly, it was as though it were happening all over again.  This is called abreaction.  It feels completely real and you re-experience what your mind’s decided was unsafe to remember.

Recovery writing did just what I’d hoped it would do, although honestly I was becoming afraid to leave the house, I began avoiding people, and then the memories flashed through me and in front of me like the worst horror flick.  That was when I realized I needed help.  The PTSD was consuming me.

I’m now enrolled in a TREM (Trauma Recovery Empowerment Model) support group for 6 months and I absolutely love it.  Strong supports systems are essential when you are ready to remember (or more so, when your brain is ready.)

I do firmly believe forcing yourself to remember before you are in a safe mindset to handle it could set you up for a living nightmare.

Note to self- set up your support before you set yourself up!

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