Daily Triggers and Alpha Dogs

I know that with my version of PTSD, there are little triggers that set me off. Its always seems that as soon as I have learned all my triggers and how to mitigate them, a new one will rear its head with a whole new set of problems. I try to rationalize my way through it and try to use the knowledge I have gained from the other triggers to lessen the effect but I know it will take time. Time and experience are the only way for me to dampen the trigger into a controllable place. Some of you that are reading this might be thinking, well what in the world would a civilian find in their little civilian world that would be a new trigger to PTSD. Quite frankly, just about anything can do, even just the change in habit or schedule can act as a trigger for a sympathetic response. What was my new trigger, a puppy. I know how ridiculous it sounds, a puppy triggered my PTSD. Not so much the puppy as his presence in the kennel in our room last night. That extra noise, the breathing maybe even the heartbeat elevated my level of awareness. I slept as I did when I was over there, just barely below conscious.

The Boltinator

I heard every noise he made, every breath he took, I had dreams about the dog because my brain wasn’t fully asleep. I woke several times from thumps he made on the cage and began the scramble for my gun. Its strange how a baby animal can freak me out so much, I mean really what’s he gonna do gum me to death. And yet there I was in a heightened state of awareness. I wonder if its not so much that he scared me as he is a puppy and perhaps I was worried about him. Either way he had my 6th sense of paranoia rocking last night.

So How to begin to deal with it? Well first I need to add him to the routine, the mental check list. If there is ever a bump in the night I go down the list of possible normal reasons, girlfriend, lola (our other dog), the pipes, the floorboards… I will cruise down my list and as long as another noise doesn’t happen and it falls into one of these things I am out like a light. I have done this for so long I tend to do it subconsciously. Now I need to add Bolt (FND) to the list. This will take some time and thought. The next thing I need to realize is that Bolt isn’t a threat but an asset. He has ears like satellite dishes and I am pretty sure he is picking up CNN right now. I need to realize that in the coming weeks he will become part of my little fire team and let me know when something is wrong. This should make me at ease with him. The third and probably the most simple and yet difficult one, is to chill out. Its a puppy, how could a freaking baby animal throw me so off kilter. Its a statement like that, that makes you realize how jacked up you really are. So I covered how to deal with a puppy as a trigger, how about the rest of the wide world? It has been the same habituation process for all of them. Add it to the assessment list, remove it from the threat matrix, and tell yourself to chill the hell out. All new triggers can be approached this way, even if that trigger is sleeping under your legs right now. How do you deal with new triggers? Can you think of any as weak as my puppy trigger, lol? What was the last new trigger you encountered?

There are going to start being more authors here shortly, and so we will now start including a “by line” like so.

By Dan “Wild Man” Wilden 31B2P/ Army, MP, Sgt, Airborne

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4 responses to “Daily Triggers and Alpha Dogs

  • mike orban

    Very well put Daniel. I spoke of triggers on my radio show yesterday. I will contribute a more thoughtful response
    later. In the mean time, I’ll pose this question(s). Do any of you see a problem with putting military PTSD in the category
    of traumas suffered by rape, auto accidents, being robbed at gun point etc? I have a very strong opinion and wonder what you think?

  • mike orban

    one more question. When you read articles or hear comments(about PTSD) in/on radio , newspaper etc. that come from the VA or those in the professional world, do you think they understand PTSD as you experience it?

  • mike orban

    Okay ‘Wild Man’ I’ll add this trigger which is as strong today as it was 40 years ago. the Gecho(sp) lizard
    on Geico Insurance commercials. When I lived in South Florida there were tiny Gecho lizards everywhere.
    The sight of a gecko lizard takes me back to the jungles and our Cambodian scout Soli Hwang. We spent
    weeks living and ‘humping’ in the jungles. Soli Hwang was a great scout, the best I knew. He had grown up
    with war and life in the jungle. He was a guy who just made us feel safer and actually be safer. He could pick
    out signs, smells and sounds before any of us and he knew what those signs meant. He understood the animals
    and even insects and what their activities meant about danger. When we would set up at night, get our claymores
    and trip wires out, booby trap a trail if needed, we’d then settle in to dine on our WWII dated c-rations and LRRP’s
    (the forrunner of MRE’s(?). I’ll never forget the first time I saw Sali Hwang snatch a gecho lizard and as casual
    as you like kill it, clean it and put it on a stick to roast over his tiny fire ( before dark). He then ate it with the pleasure
    of an hors’ deourve (sp). But onct the gecko lizards takes me back to that memory i think back more on this
    great man and soldier and remember how in a small firefight he had grabbed an m-60 and charged into the
    machine gun fire of a Vietcong bunker and knocked it out. I could say more but don’t want to bore you and you get
    the picture. So tiny little gecho’s do it for me and while others see a cute little insurance ad on TV, I see Sali Hwang
    and his fine dining in the jungle. I can’t give advice on any of this stuff, only share my experiences. I have
    learned to accept this trigger and others as part of my real experience in life. For me it was harder to deny
    the memories than it is to embrace them without with fascination. And of course we are here to experience the triggers
    so I am grateful for that.
    Mike Orban

  • breed3231

    I mentioned the startle response issue before when I told you about the exploding popcorn guy, but I had it happen again the other night when a light bulb blew. For me it feels like an equation or formula.

    Something triggers the startle response. quickly gain hyper-arousal. Identify the case. Determine response.

    POP!!! (duck)…one…two…blown light bulb= no action required.
    SLAM!!!(Jump)…one…two…”it came from the computer room”…three…four…(increased heartbeat)…five…book fell off the desk/shelf=no action required

    What happens when you cant identify the cause?

    By the way: BOOM!!! (jump)…one…two…exploding popcorn guy?= Death stare and threat of superkick

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