Polyamory and PTSD (and other trauma and stress related disorders) Part 2

Part 1

Ways to Manage Trauma and Stress Related Disorders in a Poly Relationship

Okay, I said this about anxiety and the same goes here:

If anxiety manifests in ways that look like jealousy or controlling behavior, do not follow standard poly advice for dealing with jealousy. Learn to tell the difference between anxiety-induced and jealousy-induced behavior. Treat jealousy like jealousy and anxiety like anxiety. Your partner has tools for managing anxiety for a reason. Use them! Treating anxiety like jealousy just compounds the problem.

Similarly, treating PTSD like abuse just compounds the problem.

When someone’s trauma causes them to act other unhealthy manners—including abusive manners—treating them like an abuser doesn’t help. That doesn’t mean their harmful behavior should be allowed to pass. But telling someone in the middle of a triggered response to past trauma that they are guilt tripping you and you won’t stand for it doesn’t help anyone.

Similarly, calling someone out for gaslighting and telling them that you aren’t going to put up with this shit, does no good when they honestly believe what they are saying.

This is also a good place to link to an old rant of mine. At some point in the healing process, people with trauma and stress related start to recognize that their thoughts and feelings are distorted. “I know what I’m feeling isn’t real, but I can’t stop feeling this way,” or any similar statement is not an invitation to tell your partner all the reasons why they are wrong to feel that way.

Managing trauma and stress related disorders starts with everyone involved learning to recognize what is the real person and what is the disorder. This can be as simple as not taking it personally if a partner needs to cancel a date because they can’t drive that night. It can also be as complicated as learning to recognize the unintentional gaslighting of a partner who honestly remembers things wrongly.

You can’t deal with the disorder until you can recognize when the disorder is fucking with things.

Next, focus on small steps. If the very idea of polyamory is triggering flashbacks of past betrayal, scheduling your first date next week will not work. In fact, this is one of the rare situations where I would actually encourage a couple to date together. Either both date the same partner or double dates with both their partners. Yes, this is completely against The Big Book of Poly. Explain the situation to potential partners, be VERY aware of the difference between a triangle and a T, and it can work.

Another option, if you are living with a partner and that partner going out on dates is triggering is for your partner to try having “date nights in.” I hope it goes without saying, but this absolutely needs to be your partner’s decision. Date nights in is something I’ve done a fair bit of in the last few years. Not because of mental health issues, but because my most entwined partner is disabled and we have a young child. Leaving my partner who sometimes couldn’t stand up w/o help alone with a young child (or worse, infant) he might or might not have been able to take care of was not something either of us were comfortable with. So poly partners and potential poly partners would come to our home, usually after the kid was asleep for the night. My live-in partner would put on his headphones and lose himself in a computer game or video. My visiting partner and I would have a “date night” on the living room couch, bed, or front porch.

Now, moving slowly doesn’t mean refusing to make changes. You can start out dating together or having date nights in to reduce the amount of triggering someone in your polycule is dealing with. Eventually you will want and need to move towards dating separately/having date nights out. Exposure is a big part of treatment for trauma and stress disorders for a reason—the only way to heal is to slowly push the boundaries of the disorder. Note, NOT your boundaries, but the boundaries imposed on you by the disorder. And ONLY at a pace you agree to. Note also, I didn’t say “a pace you are comfortable with.” When it comes to trauma there ain’t no such thing. Like doing physical therapy for damaged muscles, if you stick to what is comfortable you will not heal. But it needs to be your pace, and no one else’s. Poly partners can support, encourage, suggest, or set their own boundaries on what they are and are not willing to deal with. They can’t set the pace for you.

Once the effects of the disorder are recognized, everyone involved needs to be involved in setting ways to work around, with, and through these things. For something like not being able to drive, or needing to avoid dogs, this can be as simple as making alternate transportation available.

For problems directly triggered by polyamory it can be more difficult. I suggest having two levels of response for most trauma related problems. “This is triggering me but I can deal with it (maybe with a bit of support.” and “OMFG help!!!”

If a poly partner recognizes signs that someone’s reaction or action is due to a disorder, point it out. “Hey love, it sounds like this is triggering you. I get you are angry and scared. How do we deal with this?”

If there are things that can make it easier to deal with your partner leaving, ask for them. If there is nothing that will help, but now that you recognize being triggered you can deal with it, this is a good time to try to push through. There may be backlash later but you can probably manage until your partner gets back from their date—tell them that. They’ll go out, and you’ll deal as best you can until they come back, and when they come back you can ask for whatever aftercare you might need.

If you absolutely can not deal, tell your partner. DON’T assume that they know how badly you are doing. Have an “OMFG help!” response you’ve discussed and agreed to try ahead of time. Maybe your partner doesn’t go out when you are doing this badly. Maybe they call their partner and switch to a date night in. Maybe your partner doesn’t leave you alone, but helps you contact another partner, friend, relative, etc, to come over and be with you while they are out.

Trauma and stress related disorders that are severe enough to regularly impact dating and relationships—especially if dating and relationships are triggers—definitely need to be discussed upfront. And that doesn’t mean just the person with the disorder discussing their needs with potential partners. It means their partners discussing it with their potential partners. Everyone who might be impacted by the disorder needs to know what to expect. Otherwise they do not have the opportunity to give fully informed consent.

Okay, But What If I’m Just Starting to Date Someone with a Trauma and Stress Related Disorder?

The above discussion is mostly directed at people with trauma and stress related disorders and their long term partners. If you are just starting to date someone with a trauma and stress related disorder—or if you are starting to date someone whose entwined partner has a trauma or stress related disorder—you are in a very different boat.

But it starts out the same. Learn as much as you can about their disorder, how it affects their behavior and how it affects you.

There is a line from the musical Rent that is very relevant here, “I’m looking for baggage that goes with mine.” As I’ve said before we all have baggage. Mild trauma and stress related disorders, especially when they are largely under control, can go with most people’s baggage, as long as you are willing and able to work with them a bit. Severe trauma are stress related disorders are a very difficult type of baggage to match. If your baggage doesn’t “go” with he baggage of someone who has a trauma or stress related disorder that’s okay. But if you find them attractive, interesting, and generally someone you’d like to be in a relationship with, and they tell you some of their baggage is labeled “PTSD” or “Acute Stress Disorder,” don’t give up on them just based on the label. Get to know them and their baggage enough to see if maybe their needs and challenges can actually fit with yours.

Be prepared for an adjustment period. Dealing with something like severe PTSD has a steep learning curve, and like I’ve said before flashbacks can be horrible to watch. In general, the longer its been since the trauma that caused the disorder the better a grasp your potential partner will have on it and the better they will be able to tell you what they need and how it affects things. But that is only “in general” because everyone, and every trauma, is different. My experience has been that trauma from a single incident (bad car accident) causes a smaller range of problems than trauma over a long period of time. That isn’t to say that trauma from a single incident is easier to deal with—but trauma related to a bad car accident will usually only have triggers related to cars. Trauma related to single incident of rape will have triggers associated with that single incident (where it took place, what was done, sex in general). Trauma from a long term abusive relationship can be triggered by a wider variety of things. The trauma isn’t just associated with being in the car—it’s associated with being in bed, and sitting down to dinner, and saying something foolish in public, and the smell of burnt bread, and the scent of the abusive partner’s shampoo, and broken dishes, and, and, and, and…

So depending on what caused the trauma (and how severe it is), a potential partner may not be able to tel you everything about how the trauma affects them. They may not realize that the smell of burning bread triggers them until you get distracted in a make out session one day and they forget dinner is cooking.

What they can and need to tell you is a general idea of how severe the problem is, what areas of life it affects, what they need from you if they are triggered while you are together (or triggered when you are supposed to get together), and as much as they can of their major and common triggers.

Once you now what you are dealing with, it’s a matter of patience, flexibility, and awareness.

When Disorders Become Abusive

I said before that treating a partner with PTSD like an abuser when the disorder causes them to say things that are gaslighting or otherwise abusive doesn’t work. But what does work? How do you respond in a healthy manner when negative thoughts start to sound like a guilt trip?

First off, you need to be able to recognize what is happening. If you can’t recognize 1) what my partner is saying right now sounds like gaslighting and 2) they are saying this not to manipulate me, but because they really believe it, you will not be able to deal with it. And dealing with this is, at least initially very much on the ill person’s partners. Why? Because you can’t even begin to fix something you don’t realize is happening. And from the perspective of a person with a trauma or stress related disorder, all they are doing is expressing ho they feel. Polyamory is supposed to be about communication, right? So why do people keep getting angry when they try to communicate how they are feeling or the way they perceive things?

Once you recognize what is happening, you need to NOT address it right away. Instead you need to address what is under it. Let’s say a partner with PTSD says that obviously they aren’t important, they don’t matter, they might as well just die for all anyone cares about them.

You recognize it as a potential guilt trip. But you also recognize that your partner is genuinely hurting and is really attacking themselves, not trying to get a reaction out of you. What do you do?

In my experience the best way is to address it head on. “I’m sorry you feel that way. I love you very much, and I love having you in my life—even when (you drive me crazy/things don’t work out/we have a fight). I’m sorry I can’t (give you what you need right now/make this right/etc).” If you can do something for/with them, “How about we do X for a while, I think that might cheer both of us up.” If you need to take care of yourself or need to get out the door, “I really need to do this right now, but maybe when I get back we can do X.”

Reassure, offer support, and don’t let their negative thoughts/outbursts/etc keep you from doing what you need to do.

Later, when they are in a better place mentally and you are calm, is the time to bring up. “When you get upset and say things like that, it comes across as a guilt trip/manipulative/emotional abuse. I know you don’t mean to or want to do that. I need you to be aware of the way you say things.”

It will take TIME to make a change. Because they are not fully in control of themselves, because their thoughts and perceptions are distorted, and because they are dealing with psychological arousal, they won’t be able to “stop and think before you speak.” But if they aware of the problem, they will work to be aware of how they communicate and get better. It will probably start with their saying something about it after they calm down, “Hey, I shouldn’t have said that before, I’m sorry.”

I have had PTSD, I have had a long term partner with PTSD, and I have had a metamour with PTSD. Of all the mental illnesses I have dealt with, PTSD is the most difficult in a polyamorous relationship (or, I believe, any relationship). The flashbacks, dreams and memories are horrifying, but at the end of the day they are just a thing. You get through them. The psychological arousal combined with negative thoughts are destructive. Both destructive to the person with the disorder and destructive to the people who care for them.

Mild trauma and stress related disorders aren’t easy to deal with. But most people I have known who are willing and able to do the work involved in polyamory have also been full capable of doing the work involved in maintaining a health relationship while dealing with the disorder. Severe trauma and stress related disorders demand a huge amount of time, energy, and compassion. Polyamory can work with severe trauma and stress related disorders—in fact, a healthy polycule can make the disorder easier for everyone involved and help the person with the disorder heal. But it is definitely not a relationship that is right for everyone.

 

This post is part of the Polyamory and Mental Illness blog series.



10 responses to “Polyamory and PTSD (and other trauma and stress related disorders) Part 2

  1. This was a really powerful and resonant post for me, given that my et-metamour had PTSD, which I’ve written about extensively in my blog. I wanted to add a few thoughts, as a person coming into a relationship with someone who had a partner who had PTSD.

    I also hope that my thoughts are relevent, and don’t sound to harsh. They do truly come from a place of compassion (for both me, and for people who have PTSD).

    The first is that it is EXTREMELY important that everybody be as up front and honest about the severity of the PTSD at the outset of dating. The impression I got from both our hinge and from my meta was that her PTSD was FAR more under control and that she was much further along in the healing process than it truly was –

    I’m going to take a moment here to also say that I’m genuinely uncertain as to whether or not my metamour only had PTSD and severe anxiety disorder, or also had Depedent Personality Disorder, which from what I’ve read up on (and my experience living with her, and pushing back against her attempts become more and more dependent on me). I’m also uncertain as to what negative behaviors of her stemmed from the PTSD/anxiety, and which may have stemmed from poor emotional/relationship role models, who also treated each other coercively/abusively. All of that is a hard thing to untangle.

    – even spending a over a year getting to know her, before the three of us moved in, my understanding, from the way she portrayed herself, was that she was doing MUCH better than she was.

    Had I known how badly her PTSD (and other mental afflictions) controlled her, I would have NEVER consented to move in with her.

    The end result of this (to make a long story short) was that instead of having another person in her court (so to speak), who actively wants to be a help to her, and a support to her, while she gets better, she and I now have absolutely no contact, and I want nothing to do with her, directly as a result of her behavior towards both me and our hinge. Our hinge broke up with her mainly because he came to realize that her cycle of “ok period-esclating attempts to control/abuse-total meltdown” was in fact a cycle that happened several times a year and not the slowly decreasing in intensity and duration (and increasing in time between meltdowns) that my metamour had said it was.

    Had she presented herself more authentically to me, I’d have been far more equipped to handle the difficulties in our relationship. I understand that that would be incredibly scary to her (and any people with PTSD who are reading this). I do genuinely grieve that a person who is in a lot of pain, and who did come to trust me, feels betrayed, angry, and like yet another person kicked her to the curb, instead of helping her.

    But at the same time, her mental illness was taking over my life (by living with her) and she did/said too many things in front of me that were too traumatic for me to continue to have a relationship with her.

    So, scary as it is, I really think presenting the depth of a mental illness upfront is incredibly crucial.

    The other thing that I wanted to share is that I think that the sentence “But you also recognize that your partner is genuinely hurting and is really attacking themselves, not trying to get a reaction out of you.” is unnecssarily polarizing. Based off of what I saw with my meta, it could be both. She could be a genuinely malicious person at times; she definitely enjoyed inflicting suffering on those who she felt had hurt her.

    But at the same time, I know those feelings were also part of a vortex of self-hatred and rage within her. I don’t know if getting better, if learning to love herself and not be so vicious towards herself would have also taken away her desire to be vicious towards those who wronged her.

    I mainly point this out because I think it’s really important to aknowledge that in a lot of these cases, the actions can deliberately be both about internally hurting the self, and externally hurting others, and that it’s important to be aware of when that is happening, and tackle both of those aspects separately.

    Overall, as I said, I really enjoyed this post. Despite the horrible experience I had with my metamour, I would not immediately discount dating someone with PTSD or dating someone who is dating someone with PTSD. But I now know that I would ask for a lot more information up front. If it was painful for the person with PTSD to give that information up front, that would be fine. But I would absolutely place certain limits on the relationship with both the hinge and my metamour until I was able to learn more/get a better view of how PTSD affects their life, before doing or saything anything that could potentially be viewed as me offering more support than I am willing and able to offer.

    As always, thank you for your nuanced thoughts and writings on these extremely hard subjects.

    • Your thoughts are certainly welcome and appreciated!

      I completely agree about the importance of being upfront about the severity of any mental illness, but especially PTSD. As I noted discussing depression, many mental illnesses do tend to be cyclical, getting better and worse over time, and it can be hard for someone in the middle of their illness, especially if they see very clearly how far they’ve come, to give a clear and accurate assessment of how bad their illness will seem to someone coming in with no prior experience. That said, a relationship cannot be consensual if you do not have full knowledge of what youare getting into (or at least, as full as humanly possible).

      Regardless of how much information is given up front, I fully support anyone who chooses to easy into a relationship and “learn more/get a better view of how PTSD affects their life, before doing or saything anything that could potentially be viewed as me offering more support than I am willing and able to offer.” Regardless of whether the issue in question is PTSD, another mental illness, having kids in the home, or anything else, far, far better to move slowly and make no commitments or offers until you know you can fulfill them.

      I’ll stand by my phrasing on PTSD vs abuse. PTSD doesn’t prevent someone from being actively abusive or having a manipulative personality, but there is a large difference between someone with PTSD and someone with PTSD who is also an abuser. This post, and series in general, is intended specifically to address mental illness. Starting next week I’ll be taking a hiatus from writing about mental illness (as you say, extremely hard subject and not always an easy one for me to write about) to write a short(er) blog series on abuse in polyamory. One thing I will definitely be addressing is situations where a mentally is partner is also abusive.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts!

      • I really appreciate your further clarification of there being a difference between someone with PTSD and someone with PTSD who is also an abuser. I think the concern I had with it was that it didn’t make it clear to me (and I fully admit, my perception is currently slanted right now) that there is a VERY clear difference between abusive behaviors that stem directly from PTSD and a person who both has PTSD *and* is abusive. Your further clarification that this post is very much about PTSD in non-abusers and that future work discussing mentally ill partners who are also abuse was enormously helpful and illuminating. I very much look forward to your writing on that subject – it still looms very large in my mental space, though I’m currently in therapy to help deal with that (as well as some chronic injury/pain issues I have).

        I think part of what was so upsetting to me, in terms of my experience, is that I have a life-long history of depression with psychotic features. I’m very comfortable being very upfront about it (which isn’t to say I look down on those who need coaxing or a lot of time/reassurance to talk about their mental problems) and I was very upfront about it with my metamour, going so far as to use specific language in terms of how long it’d been since I’d had a major depressive cycle, the triggers I was aware of, how I coped with them, how long it’d been since I had psychotic features, etc.

        She responded somewhat in kind, in terms of also laying out the parts of her illness that she could quantify in terms of time, triggers, etc. However, after we moved in together (and it was no longer possible for her to put up a certain front behavior-wise, until we separated to go to our separate homes), I learned that…well, the kindest and most diplomatic way to write it is that perhaps she simply enormously misremembered her past (putting on rose-colored glasses in terms of severity, number of things that trigger her, how bad it could get, etc).

        I’ll never know if it truly was misremembering or if she deliberately downplayed her symptoms. Or some of both, even. Sadly, our hinge wasn’t involved in the emails about this, and it never occurred to me to ask him/fact check. When I brought up to him the details she wrote to me at a later time (because they were grossly misaligned with what reality seemed to be presenting me), his response was “Um, no. I’m confused now too, because those descriptions are definitely better than what we went through earlier in our relationship.”

        In the end, though I’m more than willing to entertain a certain amount of gap or discrepancy in reporting on terms of mental health (having myself misremembered things quite a bit at times!), the gap was so enormous that it was part of what caused my trust in her to founder to a point of being unrecoverable. On top of that, as we all lived together, her way of handling stress/conflict/issues coupled with the way she then remembered that stress/conflict/issue after the fact caused me to realize in part that she was currently unable (or unwilling) to grasp the level of abuse and control that she was trying to exert upon our hinge and me.

        It was a really terrible time, the last few months. I’m so glad it is over.

        All that said, one of the things that I deeply appreciate about this series, Jessica, is the way you really honestly put it out there, the really hard parts about your mental illness (and the mental illness of those you love), and how you work through them. It honestly gives me hope that maybe someday my metamour, even if she never greatly recovers from her PTSD and other mental health problems, will find healthier, more honest ways to manage it, and be able to live a life that brings more goodness to her than her current behavior does. It really is an inspiration and source of hope, reading your story.

        I don’t have any experience (yet – knock on wood!) with my own mental illness affecting my polyamory…hmmmm…or maybe I do. I certain was quite depressed for the last few months before the break-up between my metamour and my partner. And I do have experience with chronic physical pain and polyamory (and my whole damn life, when it comes down to it). To add to the voices being open about these things, maybe I should consider doing a bit of a series of my own. My biggest concern is that I wouldn’t really have much to offer, but OTOH, I think about how every voice contributing thoughtfully to the conversation hopefully has an impact.

        Anyways, thank you again for writing, and also, thank you for responding. Both mean a lot. 🙂

    • It was scary and a bit painful to read this post. I also suffer from PTSD and severe anxiety disorder, and over the past several years I think I now have Dependent Personality Disorder, although I’ve never heard of it before now. Can you email me I think I have a somethings to discuss if your interested.

      • Regina,

        I tried emailing you, but haven’t heard back. Please try using the contact form if you’d like to talk.

        Jessica

  2. I definitely understand Liz’s point that disclosure is important when possible. And yet–

    In my case, c-PTSD was a surprise: I didn’t start to think of my childhood as abusive until a few years ago, because I’d normalized what happened. I was not aware that there was a word for involuntarily tuning out in situations where other people were starting to get combative or shouty. I was not aware that there were reasons I reacted with a desire to cry or flee every time my boss yelled at me, when everyone else seemed fine. It was totally consistent with what I’d grown up being told– that I was oversensitive, and that it was wrong for me to have feelings that made other people uncomfortable.

    By the time I got my diagnosis, I’d been in my current relationship for about 10 years.

    I got surprised by polyamory, too: The Partner identified as monogamous up until the last two years of our relationship, when he fell in love with someone else.

    I’d have loved earlier disclosure, too, given that I am monogamous, our lives were already practically enmeshed, and my c-PTSD makes perceived abandonment pretty close to intolerable. But he couldn’t tell me he was polyamorous before he knew it.

    Sometimes not disclosing in a timely fashion is no one’s fault, even though it makes living peaceably much harder.

    • I think you make a very good point. You can’t tell someone something you don’t know yourself. And it isn’t reasonable to expect a partner to have “disclosed” something they had no idea about.

      That said, if you tell your partner as soon as you find out/figure out/get diagnosed, etc, then whether you’ve been in a relationship 2 days or 10 years that is totally “In a timely fashion.” You literally can’t disclose something you don’t know. And anyone who blames their partner for not telling them sooner is just being an asshole. Ideally, do we tell our partners our mental shit upfront? Totally! But life isn’t ideal. If you don’t find out something about yourself until you are already in a relationship, that’s just life. If who you are changes when you are in a relationship, that’s just life too. No blame, no fault. Just life and dealing with it as best we can.

    • For the record, I think your situation is TOTALLY different than the one I had, and I absolutely wouldn’t be upset with you for not disclosing – like you said, you can’t disclose what you don’t know. I’ve been in that position myself too, and it sucks and it’s hard for everybody.

      Part of what made me angry about Lora was when I learned things (after moving in together) like Jon (our shared partner) had been urging Lora to get talk therapy (or some kind of more therapy/help) for years. And Lora herself…part of her “coping” mechanism (I put coping in quotes, because I don’t think it was about coping, I think it was about avoiding responsibility) was to act like things were much better and that she was much healthier mentally than she truly was, once a crisis was over.

      In fact, that’s one of the things that Jon and I talked about at length after their break-up. Her sort of iron-willed “everything is totally fine now, and is going to be fine, because now I REALLY understand that the way I acted was wrong and I’m never going to do it again” actually gaslit him. He couldn’t reconize there was a cycle until I started repeatedly pointing it out to him. Because she had him convinced that every, single time was the last time, even though “the last time” happened at least *six* times.

      I was in a relationship with someone who I loved deeply when I realized that I absolutely couldn’t live without kinky sex. That feels weird to write, both because at that time, I’d never had kinky sex, and also (to be clear) I’m not equating that with PTSD – while my non-kinky sex life was really miserable and felt like I was denying myself something vital, it’s hugely different and not nearly as traumatic as PTSD, obviously. But anyway, the person I was dating absolutely had no desire for kinky sex and thought it was gross. It really sucked for both of us. I felt really guilt that I hadn’t figured it out sooner. He felt kind of betrayed and like he had the rug pulled out from under him.

      Ultimately, we did break up. We didn’t speak for a few years, because it was all really raw and painful, though now, we’re close friends, and that is wonderful.

      But the point is, sometimes things come up in the midst of relationships that we can’t anticipate. I actually wrote about it on my blog recently (http://wp.me/p4QY2o-pL). It is really hard when it happens, and sometimes in can be overcome without a relationship being radically changed and sometimes it can’t. I really think it both cases, it’s truly OK – the important thing is that everybody can be true to themselves – to the person who they now know that they are.

      Anyways, I’ve blabbed on for awhile, and I just wanted to end by saying that I hope you’re doing as well as you can and that you’ve been able to get help for your c-PTSD as well as working things out relationship-wise. That sounds like a lot to deal with. (((hugs)))

  3. Thank you for this post, it resonates all too well with my experiences of PTSD, and the ways it clashes with polyamory.

    I was curious, whether you have any advice of how to deal with a situation in which several years ago, your partner did something, which was for you extremely triggering, to an extant reenacting your trauma, while they were completely unaware of the affect and the significance of that they did for you. Now, as time went by, they did come to a better understanding of what they did, and tried to fix it, but the end result is that you have a sore spot, a very triggering spot, to which they are somewhat responsible, and certain things they would like to do, sit exactly on this spot. You don’t want to limit their hobbies, or their lives, but you also have no way of coping with it, because this spot is you past, but also, their doing. Any ideas?

    • I’m afraid without more information it’s hard for me to make useful suggestions. If i was me, and my partner wanted to continue this hobby somewhere that I didn’t need to witness it, I’d grit my teeth and deal because non-triggering exposure over time and in a safe context has been the best way for me to heal from trauma, and if I know they are doing it but I don’t need o see it, it probably won’t be triggering for me. On the other hand, if it’s something that is rubbed in your face or you are expected to participate in, that’s a whole different situation. And if it is going to be triggering for you whether or not you actually see it…

      My best suggestion is to sit down with them and discuss it. “When you do this, it triggers me. I’m not saying I want you to stop doing it, but can we try to find a way to set things up so I won’t be triggered and/or arrange support and coping tools for me so can be safe while you do this thing?”

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