“I’ve been triggered.” I hear this all the time in the benzo community. I, too, used to get triggered easily and often. It’s one thing to cope with everyday, ongoing symptoms; it is quite another to cope with those bursts of intense thoughts and feelings.

What can we do to avoid being triggered? The truth is, not very much. We can’t live our lives in isolation with no input of any kind from the world around us. That wouldn’t be healthy. However, we can do our best to create environments as stress-free as possible and be around emotionally trustworthy people. We do our best to stay on an even keel.

What can we do if we get triggered? First, recognize what is happening in your nervous system. A significant surge of stress hormones has surged through you, fueling your thoughts and feelings. You may feel a rush of fear, terror, anger, rage, sorrow, or grief. Or, you may feel overwhelmed and helpless. Take a moment to inhale through your nose slowly. Pause. Exhale even slower. Repeat a few times. These types of calming breaths send a signal to your threat-detection circuitry that you are safe.

Next, ground yourself. Look around. Use your senses to mentally and emotionally come back to the present moment. Remind yourself that you are safe. Engage in gentle movement: walk, sway, dance, swim, yoga, tai chi, etc. Movement helps the body metabolize stress hormones.

Distraction helps. Busy yourself with an activity that uses your mind, and if possible, your hands. Remind yourself that these intense thoughts and feelings will soon dissipate.

Seek out people with whom you feel safe and spend time with them. Let people know that you are upset and need their physical or emotional help. Do not remain isolated if you are so triggered that you feel you may become a threat to yourself. Always seek help. Always. Always. Always. No exceptions.

What types of things trigger us when we are in benzo withdrawal? Anything. I used to have a surge of terror when I saw someone wearing a bandaid. A bruise anywhere on someone’s body sent my mind reeling and my heart racing. If a pregnant woman walked by the house, I turned into an absolute train wreck. All I could think was her new baby was born to die eventually. My triggers mainly were death-related, but not all. Some triggers came from old trauma and past dysfunctional family dynamics. Anger and rage took over my mind and body if a family member said something that even remotely hurt my feelings. It is normal in benzo withdrawal to have these types of thoughts and feelings, but you must never act on them in ways that are harmful to yourself or to others.

Triggers fade away as you heal. As your GABA receptors repair themselves and your nervous system becomes more stable, your triggers will become a thing of the past. Until then, it is important to know how to cope. Triggers are not indicators of how you are healing. They only mean that for now,  you have a nervous system that is out of balance.

I am curious how you cope with your triggers. What helps you the most

(Photo by Melanie Wasser on Unsplash)