Down the Rabbit Hole of Triggers


I have such a rush of emotions right now, but I will try my best to keep this post coherent.

Throughout much of the past year I have been really triggered and then continuously susceptible to further triggers. I thought that I was making great progress between 2013/14 and most of 2016. After a stressful period in 2016, I then was on the upswing again until around February/March of 2018. A lot of it emerges as disruptive thoughts and memories (of being traumatised and re-traumatised)- not necessarily as nightmares, but while I am awake. Usually I am most triggered around sex, when looking at porn, or just reminded of sex.

A list of things running through my mind:

-Often I get anxious thoughts of guilt, like "if these people around you knew what you did/saw, they'd be disgusted with you!".

-I wish I could cry and express my emotions regarding my abuse in a "normal", conventional way, but I honestly can't. I find it so difficult to cry or to be angry at my countless abusers. I just take it all out on myself internally: I have hook-ups or chat with men in a way that objectifies me or parallels the abuse. Role-playing is awful and it makes me re-live the abuse all over again.
This is an extension of the high standards I place upon myself: always finding ways to put myself down.

-I am becoming more aware of the fact that I seek a closure that I can never have. I have no way of obtaining justice or identifying who my many abusers were. I am disturbed by them, disturbed by people who make c/p etc. Because of the lack of closure and "tangibility" of the abuse I obsess about them and wish I could gain access to them or at least their minds and confront them with questions. This probably emerges in two re-traumatising habits of mine, namely seeking triggering sexual encounters (so replacement-perps so-to-speak in a role-play) and reading news stories about abusers, scientific studies, laws etc. All of which only makes my anxiety and/or shame relapse and thus leaves me in a vulnerable position for further triggers.

-Sexuality isn't something that we can turn off. It is an automated driver like hunger or sleep. But is causes me so many of my triggering thoughts and feelings. Even during healthy encounters the memories pop up: or in a search for "healthy", non-traumatising porn, there is continuously creepy, questionable, and triggering stuff which makes me feel guilty or like I myself am a perp. Not to mention it is re-traumatising (the word is not strong enough) on so many other levels. It feels like the abuse is suddenly happening all over again. Even Tumblr which started off as a healthy venue for me became infiltrated with perps and low-and-behold the site is removing all porn because of people posting c/p. I am hyper-vigilant and feel like I can't be 100% safe anywhere- this has all really eroded my sense of security and well-being, especially online but also in the real-world. I often meet certain men and then wonder "could he also be an abuser?"

I know I have been posting similar stuff like this before, but it helps me to calm down in the moment and get my thoughts organised. Can any of you relate? What role has "closure" played for you?
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Staff member

I am glad putting your thoughts into words is helpful. I have found the same thing - triggers result in more triggers until I can vent off to my T, here or to my special supportive friend who already knows all the stuff, past, deep past, present and can tell when I am no longer present. So I wanted you to know you are not alone.

As to closure - I'm not sure that is an attainable goal BUT for me it has gotten soooo much better by regularly making contact with my T, here and my friend - the three legs of my "recovery" stool....maybe a better label would be my "livability stool" because it helps me to vent regularly whether things are going well or barely going. Wise therapists at both of the Weekends of Recovery I have attended pointed out that "recovery" is not linear. We don't wake up to the fact we were victims and then move to permanently ok. LIke seasons the past will effect us in different ways at different times but those experiences were real. They happened and there is no way to undo them or unfortunately forget them. But I can and do live better, happier, and healthier most of the time. Just keep going and this too shall pass. You are better in that you came here and shared. You are no longer alone and here there is no shame or guilt.

Hang in there JayBro, it's roller coater ride right?
After about the same time frame you speak of, 2013 - present, I've been up and down on my path.
I've read so much about self love, forgiveness, etc...
Lately I have been triggered, or upset, angry, not sure what to call it. Basically the same old lifelong pattern...self abuse?
At any rate, just before falling asleep the other night, I had a very simple thought that meant a lot to me. So much so that I got out of bed and wrote it down.
"I am the ONLY ONE that is hard on me"
"I am the ONLY ONE making things difficult"

It helped me get out of being stuck in my head and treating myself like shit.
This path is difficult. I hope you can be kind to yourself while you're on it.
Hi JayBro

If posting here calms you down keep posting. Life is all about ups and downs learning how to deal with them is what we all strive for. When you find a tool to use to help you use it as much as you need. Good luck on your healing journey.

Take care
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Hey Manipulated, Banjo, and Esterio,

thank you so much for your responses. It meant a lot to me as I was starting my difficult day today. I read your responses before I got out of bed (4 am!) and they gave me that extra push to get my day started.

When I finally came home from work I had to deal with more triggering feelings but for the most part managed to dwell through them and not re-traumatise myself. I still feel really awful and flawed, like I am a bad, unlovable person, but your comments were there in the back of my mind reminding me of the contrary.

Recovery is definitely a rollercoaster and by no-means linear, which is frustrating and somewhat terrifying (with thoughts like "is there ever reprieve? will I ever feel safe?"), however it is a fact of our condition and needs to be accepted. I am most upset with myself for "letting myself down" and allowing myself to be re-triggered and re-traumatised. Earlier this year I bemoaned the fact that at 27 I have never been in a proper romantic relationship before, however this weekend's bout of trauma and triggers has made it clear to me that I am currently not ready for one. I still have much internal work to do, such as building up resiliency and re-asserting a healthy sexuality.

I also thought about some initial triggers which really exacerbated this weekend's latest round of triggers [currently I am in a long-lasting vulnerable state lasting months and there are certain groupings of days/weeks which are a lot worse than others]. On Friday I was volunteering with a local sexual health clinic, distributing condoms at bars. In the first bar we went to it was really crowded and this one guy kept following me and grabbing my crotch. Then we go to the next bar and this old guy keeps following me, grabbing me and trying to kiss me... I had to push him off and raise my voice. On these rounds the team always has something to drink and my insecurities and self-defeating thoughts arose after some beer and mulled wine. (I'm in Europe so alcohol is ubiquitous and even a part of workplace culture.) I stumbled home on the verge of crying: not upset at the creeps, but with myself. Then on Saturday I was triggered again by someone on a dating app who likes to role-play and by some porn: and there you have it, I started making things worse for myself again. I was planning to get a lot of studying done for uni and wasn't productive at all. Instead I worked myself up to feeling guilty and anxious that I am just as bad as my perps.

Being at work today, I had a constant stream of clients coming to my office and I had to teach and get some paperwork done. My anxiety would bubble up again every hour but being in public forced me to work on my breathing to ground myself. I made 5 or 6 cups of tea throughout the day and also took some time on my commute to look for mental health and PTSD support apps for my phone. I'm going to download a few and try them out. I also began looking for a new local therapist. I haven't been in therapy for four years and gosh do I need it more than ever!
I also blocked that creep on the dating app and kept thinking about it over and over. Hopefully I will simply forget about him and that I blocked him (thats the thing with blocking numbers and accounts: you still have access to them and they are saved to your own account!)

Treating myself like shit is such a problem for me too, Banjo. Your statements "I am the ONLY ONE that is hard on me" and "I am the ONLY ONE making things difficult" are so true and wise. However, I struggle at times to be kind to myself and believe in similar statements because I fear that I am copping out and legitimising my self-harming behaviours. The negative cognitive distortions are trying to get the upper hand, but I really need to focus on the positive aspects of my own agency in my recovery.


Yesterday and today have been awful for my mental health. Ive been going through my memories and flashbacks, moments of being re-traumatised, feeling so guilty and self-hating, afraid that there is no reprieve... I only had one meal and had to throw much of it up afterwards.
I always said that I had a tough time crying, but now after 10 or minutes of crying and sobbing I have finally been able to physically express my sadness.
I am feeling so lonely and scared right now. There aren't any close friends or family to whom I can talk with and I don't yet have anything set up with a therapist (been trying).
I wish I wasn't isolated and alone right now in my apartment.
Hi JayBro

I am sorry to hear you are having a bad time. Please know you are not alone here. Crying is part of healing it is like you are grieving a great loss and you have had a great loss.

I used to throw up a lot and now I am on 2 medications that have helped one is an anxiety medication (Clonazepam) then they discovered I have a hiatus hernia and take and acid reducer for that and I don't throw up very often any more. Maybe once a month where I was throwing up every time I had to go out.

It is hard to get through memories and flashbacks on your own. I do the same as you isolate at home. I found help for my mental health this year and they have got me now going out most days for something. Some has been appointment and others have been me doing my chores or going for a walk around people. It has been helping my my moods are better, I am not living so much in the past.

I don't have family supports I do have a couple of friends but it is to hard to talk to them about all this they know enough to know I have been hurt and how but I am not able to talk to them as they just don't understand.

Coming here has helped lots as well but not a replacement for therapy. I am sorry you are isolated and a lone in your apartment. I hope you are able to find some kind of therapy soon. I have been through some long periods of time with out mental health supports and it is difficult to get through.

I am around lots is you want to talk.
Take Care


Hi everyone,

After a year of much improvement from therapy (which is still on-going) I've experienced a set-back of sorts over the past three weeks. I was really triggered by a few dates and chats with men who seemed turned on by my abuse history - and combined with stress from work, uni, and personal events (such as a friend dying) and the processing of my two rape experiences at 19 in therapy - it was difficult for me to put my feelings in check and not be super-triggered. In addition, this happened around a time when child abuse and child abuse imagery has been in the news a lot lately where I am because of some awful networks that were both uncovered near where I live and work.

As a result, I began disassociating and feeling like I was that young teen again, being abused online and playing the roles that the men wanted. So many men are into stuff that parallels abuse, I am so confused by it. There is a yearning in me to change the past and to intervene, question and stop my abusers, and this behaviour seems like it is stemming from an effort to accomplish this (?). I have no closure. And therapy is bringing back many memories... my body is reliving the emotions and sensations.

Through dating platforms and a chatroom I let myself be triggered immensely and re-lived periods of dissociation lasting several days whereby I did not eat, sleep, or leave my bed. In just a few weeks I have lost a lot of weight and I cannot eat a meal without throwing up or feeling real nauseous. I also have trouble sleeping - falling or staying asleep is difficult - and several times I have had vivid nightmares, often with a theme of me trying to defend myself, trying to escape but being pulled back in by abusers. I am so scared, wondering when this will end. It is having consequences in my work and academic life. I am also afraid of being just as bad as my abusers or these men and worried that anything or everything is wrong. I always imagine myself being on trial and have picked up the bad coping mechanism of reading news articles on this topic, which only makes me freak out more and it brings up bad memories...
Memories such as all the abusers of mine who wanted me back then to play the roles of their kids, who told me their fantasies, and of people/porn/news stories that creeped me out afterwards and reminded me of those past traumas. I don't know what's worse, the original six-year long trauma that was almost daily or the re-traumatising now?

I am trying to stop shaking and calm down, do some meditation... I have an exam to complete in less than 24 hours. I feel so alone right now.
Glad you reached out Jay. you are not alone.

Perhaps you need to take a break from the apps, focus your energies on your Healing Journey instead.



I am sorry you are in a difficult place. I am glad you are sharing, by sharing you allow yourself to begin to understand the triggers and their impact on you. I lived a life of triggers, which were especially devastating for 3 to 4 years. I was triggered and triggered. I was retraumatized over and over. I should have left but I did not. I allowed these triggers to impact my health and mental well being. A change in environment long promoted by doctors, T and support group was the only way to remove myself from a triggering environment. I was hospitalized, I dissociated multiple times each day and duration increased over time. I know it is a devastating state for you separate from yourself.

My environment was the culprit. Your environment is porn, sex that seems to trigger you over and over. You need to step away from the porn, you need to learn to love yourself and accept the abuse was not your fault nor should you carry guilt and shame. It is a difficult process. I hope you can find a way to focus on some coping mechanisms that are positive. I tried many over the years, mindfulness, yoga, sweat lodges, music, journal writing. Over time with support of wonderful and kind people I began to love myself and accept the abuse is a part of me. I also accepted I did not have to let the abuse, abuser and triggers to control me. I learned to identify my triggers and understand I needed to step away from triggers. To this day I still have some triggers that come out of no where. I now am able to react in a positive way--I breath and think of the good in my life. I distract myself so I do not see the abuse or abuser. We all learn a way to cope that is right for us.

I wish you well and thank you for sharing. Write, vent any time. We are here for each other.

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Hi Kevin,

many thanks for your message, it means a lot to me. I do find that, as you said, sharing my thoughts, anxieties, and disassociating experiences really does help and make me feel "insane" or alone. Especially with guilt and self-accusations. I have never been hospitalised or supervised for dissociating like you have, but sometimes I truly wish that I had that. I find that living alone really makes matters worse.

You are right. My environmental triggers are the news, porn that is triggering, sex dates and chatrooms... especially when I see stuff that reminds me of it (for example the extremely popular daddy-son themes in gay porn and now being transferred into peoples' own experiences in dating where many men want to roleplay with younger "sons"). Currently one of the biggest/most popular gay porn series all over the internet is based on incest scenarios. Even when I am not on a porn site but on social media like facebook or instagram I see memes from gay subculture sites referencing these videos. But I think the worst triggers are creepy people who I have encountered, such as a potential hook up last week who was turned on when I told him about my abuse experiences. I thought: "holy sh*t, this guy could ever well have been one of my abusers!" I blocked him, but it still made me feel really unsafe and dirty. I noticed that many gay chatrooms are filled with people looking to talk about that stuff... again, it only re-traumatises me seeing that and I remember many of my abusers found me through online forums back in the 2000s.

On top of that, there have been daily news articles and reports about child abuse here and trials, political discussions, as well as international news (Epstein's accomplice).

I am trying to fill up my schedule with seeing friends, working more regular hours from home, making set study schedules for my masters, and I need to get back out and enjoy the outdoors. During these last three weeks of disassociating and constant triggers I haven't been leaving my apartment at all unless it is absolutely necessary. I have also been speaking more with friends and families and letting them know about what is going on. A friend suggested that I write down my positive affirmations that I have been working on in therapy and post them up in my apartment. I think the biggest/most important ones for me are dealing with guilt. I witnessed so many horrible things, have been so terribly triggered in the last few years, and carry so much guilt from it. It is debilitating and really makes my anxiety worse, much more than the trauma that was inflicted upon me.

You are very right that I need to step away from all those triggers that are constantly around me: news stories, porn, triggering dates..., it is so difficult, but I need to learn to drop the feelings of guilt, disbelief, and the yearnings for closure. One of my biggest coping mechanisms are my friends and family, my therapist and anyone else with whom I can talk with. I also find that if I can focus on work/uni it distracts me. I am also experimenting with meditation and relaxation exercises. I enjoy jogging and going on bike tours.
But as you so eloquently wrote, we have to not let our abusers and the triggers control us. The longer I do that, the longer it still keeps me captive.
I was getting to a point where you are, being able to handle triggers well... but something happened 3-4 weeks ago that made me loose my cool. The moment it started, it kept getting worse and I couldn't stop thinking about the things triggering me: I would seek them out and make it all worse. It is a vicious cycle that I thought I had put behind me at the beginning of the year.

I really appreciate your message and what you wrote. I hope to reach your level of recovery soon and I would love to try out some of your coping mechanisms.

Thank you, Kevin, and take care!