Faces covered with various types of masks and hands covered with gloves is becoming more common as a result of the global pandemic.
As I walked through the aisles of the store, I noticed several people were wearing masks and gloves. I didn’t think much of it, other than thinking I wouldn’t be able to wear one for long because anything covering my face makes me feel as if I can’t breathe. I turned the corner to go down another aisle, but as I did, I noticed two men wearing black masks covering most of their faces, almost like ski masks. Both men were also wearing work gloves.
I felt my heart immediately begin to pound. I started feeling hot and sweat began to run down my face. My mouth was dry, and my eyes were blurry and suddenly, in my mind, I was reliving a nightmare from the past.
I turned to go down another aisle, but now every person I saw wearing any type of mask reminded me of the past.
I realized I was holding my breath, so I reminded myself to breathe and to take deep breaths. I had to repeatedly tell myself that I was okay, I was safe and that nothing bad was happening to me… it was just a trigger that led to a flashback.
There was something about the combination of type of masks and gloves those men were wearing that triggered me.
I’ve always had similar experiences like this where something triggered me and reminded me of horrible things or caused me to have flashbacks, but I never told anyone because nobody knew the things that happened to me. Until I went through therapy, I didn’t know what a trigger was… I always wondered what was so wrong with me.
A trigger is a psychological stimulus that prompts recall of a traumatic event. To put it simply, a trigger is anything that reminds you of a traumatic event.
In therapy, while processing everything I went through in the past, I constantly experienced A LOT of triggers. I would see someone who reminded me of someone from my past and it would trigger me. Certain smells began to trigger me. The sound of someone’s voice would trigger me. Staying at hotels triggered me. A scene from a movie would trigger me. I had triggers that I didn’t even know were triggers.
I learned what helped me stay grounded when I had these triggers, which was reminding myself that I’m safe, that this isn’t real and by taking deep breaths. I eventually began to recognize my triggers and processed them with my therapist.
As I began to heal, I had fewer and fewer triggers. I still experience triggers from time to time, but I deal with them when I have them and I no longer allow my triggers to consume my thoughts.