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Triggered by actions. Reliving Trauma.* Potential Trigger Warning *

ABC01
Community Member

Hello,

4 weeks ago my beloved cat was killed by my next door neighbours dogs. They had dug under the fence and I found him dead. We followed council laws and our property was safe for him,but the dogs dug under the fence and we didn’t see it coming. For 2 yrs we have lived next to them and everything was fine.  When I found him I lost it screaming hysterically. I can’t get that image out of my head. The look on his face. The fact that it was just another normal day for us like the last 3.5 yrs,and now he was dead infront of me and in my arms.

 

 I haven’t been okay since. I have spoken to mental health professionals and am being treated for a variety of things. PTSD being one of them.

 

I keep getting triggered by my own dogs, who had nothing to do with my cats death. I understand that. My cat was raised with our dogs and they all got along like family. They loved each other. However now,when my dogs pick up their toys and shake them in play, all I can immediately think of is my cat. My mind freezes,my body feels a flush of dread,it stiffens up and pain goes through my body.My teeth clench and my neck stiffens to the point my head gets a sharp headache. I understand that my dogs are just playing with their toys. There isn’t anything violent about it, just play. But my mind still goes there.

 

Does anyone have any advice on this?

Thank you for any suggestions.

 

ABC01

13 Replies 13

ABC01
Community Member

Hello,

 I am struggling with an unexpected and violent death nearly 4 weeks ago from today. My love one was stolen from me and they died young,so their life was stolen from them. I have never had an experience like this before and am struggling to cope. My mind is so overwhelmed that my speech is affected, just trying to get my words out. I shake alot and am scared to be alone. It feels like nowhere is safe. That it doesn’t matter how good or kind of a person you are, the world still punishes you. They weren’t born into this world to die like that. Why were they punished? And now I am alive and here without them and will continue to be. I feel stuck between an impossible acceptance and time moving forward unwilling. I don’t know if I can ever be the same again. Or I won’t be permanently damaged by this. I have come to the forum to talk about this and possibly learn from others.

Thank you,

ABC01

Kai
Community Member

Hi. I know you have heard it a lot the last few weeks but I’m sorry so for your loss. Losing someone close to you is one of the worst pains you can experience. 
having them ripped from you for no reason is one of the many cruelties this world has. 
if you are open to some advice mine would be: 1. let yourself break down and feel the pain the tears all of it, not letting it out builds it up and makes it harder.  2. It can be easier to hold on to hate and resent for however they were taken from you, I’ve found if you can a knowledge it and let yourself feel it, it can then be easier to eventually let it go. 3. You have probably already been told to think of all the good times you had together. 4. Eventually you will feel yourself starting to move on, let yourself do this, it will take time but it will happen.

 

Without knowing you I can tell from your post that they meant a lot to you. I may be a complete stranger but I want you to know that I’m thinking of you. It may seem impossible now but you can get through this.

 

-Kai

ABC01
Community Member

Dear Kai,

Thank you for your response and the kind words. I always knew the world was cruel,but now I fully believe it. I do love them,beyond words. I don’t know if I will ever find closure, but perhaps I will grow around it?
Thank you for your words of encouragement. Sometimes something so simple can be so powerful.

 I wish you well too,even if you are having a normal day. I wish you well.

ABC01

sparrowhawk
Community Member

Hi ABC01,

 

I am so sorry for your loss. To lose your beloved cat like that would have been absolutely devastating, not to mention finding him. What you say about not being able to get the image out of your head, and those feelings of anxiety, are classic features of trauma and post-traumatic stress. 

Our brains are pretty fascinating really. Because the trauma you went through is still raw and deep, you’re probably more likely to have reminders. You love your dogs and you know they’re not malicious, but their action of play is taking you instantly back to that day. It’s connecting with that traumatic memory.

 

I wonder if you have spoken about this particular trigger to a professional or to anyone in your life? There are little things you could do. You could separate yourself from your dogs when you’re finding yourself getting triggered, and just taking some time to do deep breathing or journaling or anything that helps you level out. If there are other people in your home, you could ask them to take charge of playing with the dogs for the time being. I know dogs will randomly play with toys at any time, but this could be helpful. You could also make sure you specifically take time to cuddle them and be with them, especially when they’re tired or relaxed. This could help your brain rewire and associate dogs with love and goodness. You know that your dogs aren’t violent, but with trauma it over-exaggerates - so dog = scary. 

I hope this helps in some way.

Dear sparrowhawk,

 

Thank you for your kind words and suggestions. I have this question written down for my next psychologist appointment. And will discuss it with them.

 I like your suggestions about my dogs. However most of the time it happens spontaneously. They are just picking up a toy from the toy box and off they go. But I can remove myself from the area. I also remind myself they had nothing to do with that day. I am trying hard not to have avoidance and then that becomes a bigger issue. 
Most of all, the guilt that comes after the panic is hard to deal with. I am not guilty for my emotions or reactions. I am guilty I couldn’t stop what happened from happening and my beloved boy had to endure that. Then I want to cry. 
I also can’t discuss it with other people in my home,as I don’t want the same thoughts to start happening in their minds when the dogs play. If it doesn’t bother them, or they aren’t associating it, I want it to stay that way.

 

Thank you again for your response. I appreciate your voice.

 

ABC01

Hi there ABC01,

 

I am glad to hear you are planning to discuss this with your psychologist. That is a great idea. 

 

I understand what you say about your dogs. Sometimes they just play spontaneously, and you are able to remove yourself from the area. How do you feel when you do that? What is it like for you?

 

I hear your strength in working on having perspective and reminding yourself that your dogs were not involved in what happened. I also hear your hesitation in becoming avoidant. Avoidance of situations/people/things that remind us of a traumatic event is very very natural. It’s sort of a way to keep ourselves safe. But at the end of the day, it can actually make the isolation and pain of trauma worse. I sense you recognise that your dogs need you, and avoiding them would not help you or them. 

Guilt is such a big topic in itself and, again, is so common with trauma. You might find yourself wishing “if only I’d done xyz differently” or “if only I could go back”. I recommend it’s also something you bring up with your psychologist. You say you want to cry - do you allow yourself to cry, or are you able to?

 

I hear you wanting to protect other people around you, but I wonder if they might be able to support you if they knew even a little bit of how you feel? Sometimes, it can be very strengthening knowing that we don’t need to carry pain alone. What are your thoughts on that? 

Dear sparrowhawk,

Thank you for your kind response and questions. I will answer them as honestly as I can.

When I remove myself from the dogs playing, I feel like I am trying to escape the triggered response that runs through my body. I am trying and failing not to think about the moment that happened to my beloved boy. Then it makes me really dislike dogs as a species. As play,have we as humans encouraged them to be violent?  What is the difference between my dogs and other dogs then? Should I have taught my cat to be afraid of dogs? But then how would they have been able to live in the same house together? I couldn’t be able to explain to my cat that our dogs love him and are family,but all others aren’t and are dangerous to him. That is how my thinking works.

Crying is a hard topic. Sometimes I cry freely, sometimes I start/am crying only to abruptly stop and that scares me. Sometimes I want to cry and my body and face start the motions,but then nothing happens at all. That also scares me. Sometimes I am doing something and then I suddenly burst into tears. I feel on edge all day and night,even in my sleep. I try to hold it in to be able to just function sometimes.

I have limited support in person/home and whilst I would desperately liked to share,it is 9/10 times met with a practical response without empathy or emotions - or told they have already told me everything they can and are just repeating it now. That is why connecting outside of that circle is so important to me right now.

Thank you so much for listening to me and offering me a different perspective.

ABC01

Hi there ABC01.

 

You are always welcome. 


I understand. You’re trying to escape the feelings and the triggers by avoiding your dogs, but you can’t stop thinking about what happened. That is sometimes the nature of trauma. Flashbacks can come quite unpredictably, and they can make us feel like we are failing. But you are not willing them to happen, nor are you controlling them - though there are things you can do to lessen the impact.

 

Your thinking is quite understandable, too. You have witnessed a traumatic event, so you go into that all-or-nothing thinking which coexists with trauma. A dog did this, so all dogs are violent, and you are trying to justify how your dogs are different - perhaps even trying to find a reason to know that they are not violent. You have physical proof (the fact that your dogs are loving and playful) to assure you that your dogs aren’t violent, but your mind can overlook that. It’s part of trauma and can be very difficult to manage.

With crying, I’d just say let it come as it comes, and try not to hold it in. If you sob, that’s okay. If you only cry a little, that’s okay too. If you can’t cry at that time, again, that’s okay. I see crying as an emotional release, I’ve done it a lot as I process my own trauma, and it’s helped me just to let myself cry. Holding in emotions can make you even more tense and anxious.

 

Thank you for sharing that about your home situation. Do you have anyone in your life you feel comfortable talking to? I am glad you are in contact with a psychologist also, this is a great help especially if you feel like you can’t talk to people in your life. And I and other forum members are always here if you need to chat. 

sparrowhawk 

useraip
Community Member

Hi, I’m sorry to hear about your experience. I have struggled with death related PTSD, and something that helped me gain control over it was the technique grounding. Basically whenever I would sense a trigger, your dogs playing in your experience, I would quickly try and remind myself of where I was. So, you think of 5 things you can see; 4 you can feel; 3 things hear; 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. This reminds your brain that you and those around you are not in danger, but instead safe and okay. Everyone’s experiences are different, but hopefully this can help you in the future 🙂