DID & Me: Mystery Triggers – An Example

DID can be a pesky thing sometimes.  This is because parts of your life may be hidden from you.  Other ‘parts’ of yourself may be stuck back in time – seeing things and realizing things with old fashioned notions, feelings, and fears from their day and not ‘yours’.  Sure – a person bitten by a bee will have a reaction the next time they see a bee.  They may find just the buzzing of one (or something that sounds like it) sets them off.  It’s just one of those ‘quirks’ or ‘triggers’ trauma survivors often report.  Triggers can come in many forms – a scent, a sight, a sound; sometimes just a single word.  It depends on what a particular survivor went through as a small child – or sometimes as a big one.

For some there are also be “mystery clues” – mysteries to the person experiencing the trigger, but clues to something in their past.  Something which lets them know something went on.  Usually it is something quite traumatic; hence most triggers generate feelings of anxiety, which is, by the way, a MIXTURE of emotions which you MUST sort through to make any sense out of! – eg. fear and anger and hatred all bundled together into that indescribable ‘something’ that we as humans tend to label as “anxiety” symptoms.

Most survivors can link a trigger to a particular event.  They may know, for instance, that a red lit room fills them with a unsettling feeling – they may even know from what.   For instance, there may have been a fire, or a religious sect’s decor.  I know for me it means “danger” – because the ‘red light’ used during nighttime war maneuvers before they learned that blue works so much better.  (I knew that long before the military figured it out: red light is much too easy to see, but blue?  Deep dark blue?  Not so much . . .)

But then there are triggers for which you have no explanation.  When you see something and it makes you anxious – and you don’t know why.  You may not be able to identify the emotions without examining it – figuring out what that general anxiety consists of or what caused it.  You see (think, feel, hear) something and you get hit by this wave of . . . “stuff”.  You don’t know why – just that it’s there.  That’s the way it is with triggers sometimes: you don’t know why a certain thing has ‘set you off’ into an ‘anxiety attack’.  But most adult survivors CAN figure it out – that cigar scent resembled an old Uncle’s smell, a cologne tickles a memory of grandpa, or old sweat something else . . . You have a ‘source’, a thing you can ‘combat’, rationalize, remove that past ‘fear’ (hatred, repugnance, anger) from by realizing what ‘it’ was that triggered you.  (It generally relates to that abusive incident or traumatic account you may only barely remember – or not.)

But sometimes goes even deeper.  And the bitch of it is that it can hit you in unexpected places.  For instance, this last weekwhile I was at the beach with my wife on our annual vacation – our honeymoon retreat for the last twenty-six years or so . . .

We were walking through a trinket shop on Market Street in Charleston, South Carolina – it doesn’t matter which one – while our wife shopped.  As for me?  I’m an old bachelor (in some ways), a child in some others – and an adult to my wife.   (Sometimes.  Sometimes ‘we’ can relax and just be kids.  Sometimes . . . sometimes she holds me in her arms while we press tight against her . . . sometimes ‘recovering’ from something . . . sometimes just to be held; think we are loved . . .)

And then I saw it.  I didn’t even know what it was at first – but I saw it was green and shaped like an old military self-propelled howitzer.  A cheap toy, about five inches long – no real detail . . . but as soon as I saw it I felt a wave of hatred, anger . . . a tinch of fear – but mostly hatred and anger towards this thing . . . a silly toy.  What was it about this, a toy?  And not even a good representation of one?  Why should it ‘set me off’?

I couldn’t figure it out.  It bit, then nibbled through my day . . . putting me in a suddenly quiet mood (something my wife notices) – and an upset mood (something I notice).  No known reason . . . just this deep seated hatred of this thing, this toy . . .

Since I’ve spent a LOT of time looking through photos of tanks, self propelled guns, howitzers and toy tanks, self propelled guns, et cetra trying to figure out what set me off and why.  I wish I had picked up the toy and looked on the bottom; doubtlessly there would have been a ‘model’ number . . . but I was too ‘stunned’ by that wave of hatred and  to think of doing that – I just looked away and walked away, feeling upset.  I’ve looked at American tanks . . . but no – no unusual feelings, no hatred / rage.  However, when I started looking at some of the Russian ones . . . not yet realizing they were Russian (I was just looking at the photos and not descriptions) – certain ones would ‘set me off’ – and others not.  Ditto some of the Chinese photos.  Mostly of older tanks, and always of howitzers.

Here’s one, just in case you don’t know what a “self-propelled howitzer” looks like.  It is MUCH more detailed than the one which ‘set me off’.  (and yes, the photo sets me off some – and again, I have no clue.)

There are several varieties of these things . . . and oddly enough, even without knowing which nation they were from, certain ones – those from the Cold War era – our enemy’s guns . . . they stir these feelings, without me knowing why.

It is odd – but not, given my childhood.  I remember us being handed packs of cards – they were like playing cards – and on the back of them would be the silhouettes of tanks and planes – Russian gear.  “We” were supposed to learn to identify them by sight – knowing each one, its name, and roughly what it’s capabilities were.  A lot of them were on airplanes – but the tanks?

Apparently one of them ‘stuck’.  Why the anxiety, hatred, desire to “kill” the thing?

I don’t know.

And that’s part of what it’s like being “DID”.  Sometimes you know something you don’t – and sometimes you find yourself stretching for something you should know – and just can’t lay a finger on.

Mystery triggers.  Never much fun.  And always a surprise (like a cold slap in the face).  And really?  Quite unavoidable.  I just take ’em in stride – handling them as “best I can” while going over the clues and cues they provide . . . clues to my hidden past and selves inside.



About jeffssong

JW is an adult childhood abuse survivor with DID*. He grew up in a violent family devoid of love and affection. He is a military brat and veteran. He no longer struggles with that past. In 1976 JW began writing "The Boy". It took 34 years to complete. It is currently on Kindle (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004T3IVKK ), or if you prefer hard copy, on Amazon ( http://www.amazon.com/Boy-J-W/dp/1461022681). JW resides somewhere in the deep South. He is disabled and living with family. Note: Please feel free to take what you need; all is free to all. With that in mind, keep it that way to others. Thank you. We have 3 Blogs - One for our younger days, 0-10 (The Little Shop of Horrors); one for our Teen Alter and his 'friends' (also alters) with a lot of poetry; and finally "my" own, the Song of Life (current events and things)
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4 Responses to DID & Me: Mystery Triggers – An Example

  1. aynetal3 says:

    Thanks for your story. It tells well what being in the middle of a life with dissociation is all about. My middle son is a Marine, but has spent his time in either Japan or DC. I am pretty sure he would’ve had problems dissociating as well as he had been in actual combat. I look forward to hearing more about your story. I’m always looking for stories with content. Yours is all this and more thanks!

    Our best,


  2. Michael says:

    I remember the flash cards. There were all sorts of them that we had to memorize. All types of weapons from different types of hand guns, different explosives you name it. All the ships and all the planes.

    We did not really memorize them. We were hypnotized and that was supposed to make it stick in our brain for retrieval later. For a while in the 6th grade I would draw them and not know how I knew what they were. I would have been 12.

    I also remember a hang out. A officers unofficial club. It had a spiral staircase. Some of the tables were large wire reels. The bar was planks with blocks. The roof was metal and made a racket when it rained. Floor was gray concrete. There were some mirrors behind the bar and a few neon signs. There were not windows and there was a braided rug with lots of burns. There were prostitutes that spoke Spanish. Some of them very beautiful.

    No ice. Lots of whiskey. Very bitter dark beer. It was in some sort of hanger that had all sorts of military equipment in it including a two small planes.


  3. Mustang.Koji says:

    Thank you for sharing your troubles and reactions to things. We all have them in one form or another, I believe. I can only suggest one thing… Perhaps you are just a great patriot.


    • jeffssong says:

      🙂 Yes, we are VERY patriotic and all things military run down nearly to the core. I’ve learned to take my ‘troubles’ with both a bit of a grimace and a grin – a sense of humor always helps things. Plus: look at all the valuable lessons I’ve learned! I’ve had folks say “how horrible your abuse is/was!” – but I say if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be able to understand – nor help – folks who’ve gone through some terrible things.

      And yes: I was steeped in the “American Way”, courtesy of the American military – and I love our land. Having been to foreign lands, I know what it means to be HERE – and I treasure it. While America may not be perfect – may even be in ‘decline’ – I cannot question her principles of liberty, justice, and equal treatment (and opportunities) for all. I just wish more Americans would realize their heritage is not going to just fall into their hands – that you must WORK for such things – “lifting one by one’s own bootstraps” instead of waiting for the government to do it. After all, Freedom includes the freedom to act in order to secure one’s happiness – or not to act at all. But if someone chooses to do the latter – then the onus is on them, as well as their own Fate. Destiny is something we chose as well as something given – it’s what you do with those things you’ve been handed that counts. And THAT, IMO, is the “American Way”.


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