TRAFFIC TRIGGERS

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Well, we made it to the house on the lake in the Adirondacks near where my younger brother Stevie stays in the summer managing lakefront rental properties… but not without some rather flowery language on the way.

“Dam fucking dam! Stay the fuck away from those fucking shit-heads,” I shouted, referring the wedge of cars, campers and trucks Samuel had just boxed us into.

“I am,” Samuel replies in the whiny defensive tone of a 12 year old.

“You child,” I retort, unwilling to dissolve into a heap of sobbing tears like the one on the way to the Adirondacks just two weeks ago.

“Just once I’d like some respect and consideration for my feelings. Just once!” I say evenly, containing the rage, not calling him the slew of names boiling up, my tongue, lips and teeth working hard to block their exit.

This has been an issue throughout our marriage, an assertive driver with a wife whose body escapes her grasp, heart racing in traffic, and wanting to open the door to jump out rather than be trapped in-between traffic with no escape. I need air space around me, but am put down for needing it. 

“You have to learn how to drive in traffic,” Samuel replied, disgusted.

I become quiet as I think of ways to respond, some not so nice. Later after the boiling died down he gets behind another vehicle a little closer than I’d like.

“Fall back some, will you?” I ask.  

“You have to learn to trust,” he says, assured that he knows what he’s talking about.

“Just go the speed limit, and stay back. I’ve asked you twice,” I respond, the list of ways to ‘off’ him becoming a mental check list I re-check with relish.

“I am, I am,” the adolescent responded again along with, “You have to learn to trust the driver.”

He doesn’t get it. He never will. The rage-beast still exists. I thought she dissolved years ago, but a loved one not bothering to understand my plight brings ‘her’ back in full force. I calm her down before speaking because I want him to HEAR me, not become defensive or angry.

“Right, take a wife who has had a horrific, traumatic childhood and suffers permanently from post-traumatic symptoms, and take her into traffic boxing her in!” I exclaim, fed up.

My mind becomes busy stringing together names to call him that seem fitting; You ignorant selfish insensitive ogre. I don’t say them. I want him to hear me, to understand.  

I haven’t explained my needs this way before, using the term PTSD, nor referenced my childhood that way. But it’s as if he didn’t hear me because he cuts me off with more defensiveness. He is sure that the problem is in my inability to trust. I know it is not. My body takes off without my permission.

How do I get him to understand?

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12 thoughts on “TRAFFIC TRIGGERS

  1. Ah this is a tough one. Do we teach ourselves to desensitize or do we try to explain? I’ve not got this right yet😢. If this is the first time he is probably trying to digest it. I have a hunch that we all have different triggers: And i guess traffic isnt an obvious one for a non survivor? .(Mine is contamination..wtf???) Maybe ask him what his worst nightmare feels like and then explain how PTSD is reliving it. Seriously though are there any resources you could give him to read? Hope you enjoy the Adirondacks xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a good idea. Ask what his worst nightmare is…
      And the answer to the dilemma is both, try to desensitize if possible, and explain.
      He did back off once I shouted expletives…
      Seems there ought to be a mid-way between tears and shouting to get him to pay attention to his passenger. Duh…

      Like

  2. Have him read what you wrote here! It perfectly describes the emotions that being in a car trapped in evokes. I am the same. I feel helpless in the car with my husband driving. No control. and that makes me scared and that brings up emotions and that then turns to anger or sadness. I understand rather be angry than sad like last time. I think he would understand if you explained it like this and he knew he was talking to someone who was feeling a crisis and it had nothing to do really with him.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh man, I’d a gone nuts in the car with him. My heart goes out to you. I know the feeling.

    I can’t stand to get in any car with any driver. As a general rule, I’d rather walk no matter how far I have to go. Jack doesn’t drive anymore, thank God, so I don’t have to deal with that.

    I remember one boyfriend who drove so aggressively (he told me he had to be aggressive on the road to let other drivers know not to mess with him!) that I closed my eyes for the entire ride every time I got in the car with him.

    Anyway, the frustration of your husband not only not getting it, but blaming you for not trusting “the driver” would make me crazy.

    I explained repeatedly to Jack for years exactly what happened to my body and brain during the trauma period and that certain scenarios can sometimes trigger me into fight or flight or even rage in a second.

    I could tell he didn’t really get it (he’s macho and from the “Greatest Generation” who had a different mindset and philosophy of living versus us more self-reflective baby boomers) but he was open to the idea of something he didn’t understand. It helped big time when he was flying a few years ago (he’s a pilot) and another plane almost crashed into him and when he landed and was safe again, he trembled uncontrollably for a minute or two and then he was fine. He couldn’t understand why he shook. I explained that was the fight or flight hormones rebalancing after the emergency and said how I didn’t have a chance to release those emergency hormones for four years when I was little because I never “safely landed”, so I got PTSD. So I guess I’m wondering if there’s anything from your husband’s life you could bring up that might give him an a-ha moment of what it’s like for you in the car or in life. Like if there are scenarios that “trigger” him into anger or incredible stress, but which don’t bother you or other people.

    Or maybe he’s not really hearing that this is a high-stress situation for you and instead is interpreting it as pure criticism of his driving or somehow a reflection of him doing things wrong.

    In the end, we can talk until we are blue in the face, but if someone doesn’t get it, we can’t make them. You are incredibly articulate so maybe it’s not a matter of you finding the right words to make him understand.

    I’m just thinking out loud here, dear basil buddy, and going on too long. You know the situation better than anyone. I just wish you didn’t have to deal with it!! And could just enjoy a leisurely ride to the vacation spot. : )

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This happens to a friend of mine, sort of. She’ll think her partner is driving 90 mph when he’s only doing 30, and she’ll freak out. He’ll remind her to look at the speedometer. Just curious, but what if you as passenger wear an eye shade (Mindfold brand is amazing) and listen to something with headphones on that would distract you- music perhaps of some sort. So that you aren’t triggered?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Being in the car is tough. Hubby is usually pretty good about it, and I do feel safe with his driving. However, this past winter, we were driving back home in a snow storm, and he was driving very fast and –in my mind— unsafe. The roads were icy , hubby was really tired but refused to stay the night where we were, and I was scared. The panic and giant amount of mad you can feel in those moments is almost inexplicable. I hope one day your hubby is able to really hear you and validate those feelings. You deserve to feel safe while driving.

    As far as triggers for PTSD/trauma go, apparently driving stuff is a big one. I’m obsessive about having GPS on so I don’t get lost. I ALWAYS use it. Bea told me that driving is something where it is so very easy to feel that loss of control, that sense of vulnerability, that loss of safety, that it is a common trigger for PTSD.

    With hubby, I explained it like there was Alice, and when the trauma happened a part of Alice split off. That part (little girl, angry part, teen part, miss perfect, whatever it is) grew along with Alice, she ran parallel to the rest of Alice’s development. So they really are separate, dueling realities when they are in conflict.
    And sometimes, even though Alice might know it’s silly, or Alice might not want to react or behave in a certain way, that part gets triggered so strongly that she can’t be reined in at these times. These are the times that part really needs to be listened to— even if it seems silly or makes no sense to you.

    I hope that once you got there you were able to relax and feel safe again. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

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