Trauma Triggers: The Ultimate Gaslight (*UPDATE: Two Hours After Posting This, I Feel Much Better!)

pilot-light-2I WAS HAVING THE BEST YEAR EVER. Feeling calm, peaceful — without psychotropic medications! —Β  and very grateful for all the blessings in my life.

Grateful for my best-friend-husband, whose cardiologist says his heart has healed to the point that his test results look like he never had a single heart attack, let alone two. Grateful for my stepdaughter, who has been living in the trailer in our back yard since July of last year and has become a true daughter to me. Grateful for my natural-born children, all grown up and living far away with busy lives, but still keeping in touch nearly every day by text. Grateful for my grandchildren, most of whom are also grown, one a young mom working her way through nursing school, and another attending Harvard University. Grateful for our small church family. Grateful for our few good friends. Grateful for our two adorable rescue dogs, one a small poodle, the other a big terrier mix, both of whom we found abandoned on the streets within the past couple of years.

I’m also very grateful for our small, solidly built 1930s Craftsman style house on the western edge of the great high plains. Our little house is snug and safe now, with a new metal roof that our pastor, a carpenter by trade, helped put on after two big hail storms and a Goliath blizzard destroyed the shingled roof. He refused to take any money for the work he did on those blistering hot 100+ degree days, so we put some extra in the offering box. πŸ˜€

I have found that gratitude makes all the difference in my overall health and mental attitude. Gratitude and praise has made me strong enough to get a lot of writing done on my memoir during the past several months. Truly, 2016 has been a terrific year for me.

That is, it was a terrific year until several days ago, maybe a couple of weeks ago — I’ve lost track of exactly how much time has passed — when I walked into the kitchen and smelled gas. As it turned out, it wasn’t a simple matter of a pilot light that needed to be lit. Something was wrong with the stove, and it was leaking deadly gas fumes into the air we breathe.

I’m very grateful that I discovered the gas leak before something tragic happened. And I’m grateful my husband knew how to turn off the gas and disconnect the stove. I am thankful, too, that he agreed to dismantle the stove and sell it for scrap metal, and replace it with a new electric range.

He agreed reluctantly, because installing an electric stove means the electric company must add more power to our house, and the kitchen will have to be rewired. All of which costs money we don’t have, so we will probably have to take out a loan, on top of buying the new stove on credit. My husband, who does most of the cooking because he enjoys it and he is very good at it, prefers to cook on a gas stove. So this is a sacrifice for him on several levels. But he loves me and he understand. For his love and understanding, I am especially grateful.

My husband understands my trauma triggers, even when I don’t fully understand them myself. He also has PTSD, from combat in Vietnam. So he knows from personal experience how trauma triggers work.

After years of therapy, plus the benefit of an in-house stay at a Veterans hospital in 2005 for an intensive trauma treatment program, my husband knows that you can’t just think away a deep trauma wound. Although my husband and I have come a long ways on our respective healing journeys, some trauma events leave indelible scars on your soul. This has been proven by modern brain imaging technologies. As imaging scans have shown, both the structure and function of the brain, in humans and in animals, can be altered by overwhelming trauma.

Brain imaging technologies have also found that the injured brain can heal. It’s called neuroplasticity. However, the healing process is typically very slow. It can take years of living in a safe, healthy, affirming, and loving environment for the severely traumatized brain to heal.

When something triggers an old trauma wound, you feel like the trauma is happening all over again. To the injured part of your brain, the trauma is not in the past, it is RIGHT NOW. Even though, as in my case, the trauma happened more than fifty years ago.

The gas stove goes bad. Gas fumes fill the air. Suddenly I am pulled back in time to the winter of 1965-1966. The ultimate gaslight… my ultimate trauma.

I am twelve years old. My mother is trying to gas us all to death.

But it's just a house, right....?

Comments are closed while I work on my memoir. Thanks for stopping by, and God Bless.

*Update: Two hours after posting this, I feel so much better! Maybe writing and sharing this was therapeutic enough to get me out of the anxiety and depression I have been battling since the stove went bad, or maybe someone read this and prayed for me, or maybe both things happened. For whatever reason, I feel like myself again. Maybe now I can finish my memoir. Thank you, Father God, and thank you, sweet WordPress people. YAY!!