• Michelle Partington


One of my previous posts covered the symptoms of PTSD. Considering my current position having to cancel events I had pre - arranged I thought it appropriate to mention the triggers which are hindering my progress, especially when stepping foot outside my front door!!!!

Triggers in the true sense are defined as 'small devices that release a spring or catch and so set off a mechanism - an event that precipitates other events...'

PTSD triggers can happen at anytime and although I can pre-empt some of them I cannot do anything about those which come out of nowhere. The symptoms I experience can be triggered from a particular smell, taste, sound, feeling, situation, person or a thought. I also experience triggers when I place myself in stressful situations. Some of the symptoms I experience are both physical and emotional and include: my heart pounding as if its trying to break out of my chest, anxiety, sadness, frustration, fear, muscle tension, tiredness, sensitive to noises, headaches to name just a few. Sometimes I ache like I've done a full workout and I end up so very drained. Then I'm that wound up from being so hyper - vigilant all the time that it takes me a really long time to go off sleep. When I do sleep I have horrendous dreams but thankfully not every night. Sadly a couple of those dreams have resulted in me wetting the bed or waking up out of bed and on the floor in the corner of my room.

I will use the most recent social event that I almost pulled out of due to my anxiety. I have been attending a stand-up comedy workshop to try to build up some confidence again, get me out the front door and give me some light relief. What I didn't account for was how much I would panic at the thought of doing it but I thought "I have committed now and it will only help me" so I did it. I was becoming extremely anxious about going into Manchester at night time. I rehearsed the bus times and route over and over to try to plan ahead. I needed to make sure I knew every bit of detail of the journey and the venue prior to the actual night.

As time approached for the first week of training I was naturally nervous as we all were after signing up for a course where most didn't know each other. I unfortunately had the added pressure of getting there knowing that crowds and noise where big triggers for me. What I decided to do was to just get out and do it. So with headphones on I walked across the road to the bus stop for the No. 32. Despite the fact the bus stop was almost outside my door I went out far too early so I didn't miss the bus. It was really busy in Manchester as it was rush hour but I focused on my destination, I didn't really look up until I arrived at the venue. The return journey was just as bad with the stressors around. Once I returned home I was completely washed out and the following day I physically felt like I'd run a marathon!

The following week was the same but I thought I could handle it so I naively volunteered to crew for the Women In Comedy Festival. Most of the shifts I'd been rostered for where in the evening which initially I thought I could do. As time neared, palpitations started coming, my chest tightened, anxiety attacks appeared and my sleep was being severely affected. I had to admit to myself that I was just not ready to put myself in that position. I was gutted and angry with myself as well as the military for putting me in this position. I had to drop out of the crew but I will absolutely do the 5 minute comedy stand-up so I can say to myself that I started and finished something at least.

I have been reading Facebook posts from the Women In Comedy page about how much of a great time people are having and I'm absolutely gutted I'm not strong enough to join them. Perhaps I should have gone for crewing during the day to give myself half a chance. I tried to run before I could walk - not like me at all :-)

I am taking steps to limit the triggers I know about but some I cannot prepare for as I have already stated. The sort of triggers I'm affected by are blue light sirens, fire alarms (not the bell ones), any loud bangs, gunshots during shooting season and security radio's that click before sending a message. As well as that I struggle with big crowds of people in pubs, supermarkets, shopping centres and on public transport. Lots of noises affect me such as in a pub where they are playing loud music and lots of groups of people are shouting to get themselves heard. I try to avoid people who are having arguments and shouting because it builds on my already heightened anxiety levels. Various news features and TV programmes such as 'Our Girl' affect me and although I want to watch them it just brings back too many unwanted memories. Seeing people in uniform & carrying weapons makes me want to be physically sick which was evident last week when I visited RAF Cranwell. This list is not exhaustive as various triggers appear unexpectedly, sometimes I don't even know what's triggered my reaction.

To cope with a lot of the triggers I avoid busy places. I go shopping earlier, later or mainly online and I always wear my headphones when I'm out and about on my own. I avoid busy bars and do not really go into any clubs. When I start to feel myself having a panic attack I take myself away from whatever has caused it and work on deep breathing to calm myself down. My writing helps me for sure which is one of the reasons for doing these blogs.

I apologise wholeheartedly to people I have to let down. As long as I am kind to myself and the people around me are appreciative of this then it can be managed accordingly. I will make sure I venture further into the unknown but I think its best not to push myself too soon. The comedy workshops are good because it is only a small group which works really well for me.

Please be patient with me and I will also learn to be kinder to myself.

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