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theswordandthepen

coping with safe but triggering locations?

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So, one of my traumas took place with a person who lived on my university campus, but in a different building to mine (we can call him That Guy). Two years later, I make friends with somebody who lives in the same kind of accommodation. I don't realise at first, because of the way the buildings are named, but when I got there for a party, I immediately began panicking. I felt like I was in two places at once, the-building-where-I-was-now, and the-building-of-two-years-ago-with-That-Guy. The new friend lets me hide in hide in his bedroom from the main party (I said I was getting claustrophobic), and I calmed down enough to realise that I was not going to have a good night if I stayed, so I made my goodbyes. New Friend was totally understanding and nice, and has anxiety too, so even if he didn't know it was trauma related, he still was really good about it. I definitely want to continue spending time with New Friend.

However. New Friend has invited me to another party, in a week's time, that will most likely take place in his building. Now, the building is safe. New Friend (as far as I can tell) is safe. That Guy does not live in that building. This is just an association trigger.

Does anybody have any advice on how to handle this so that I can try and enjoy a party without feeling terrified and out of time? I know that it's that building, now, whereas I was caught by surprise last time, and I was also already tispy when I got there, which wasn't conducive for a clear state of mind. So, if I go to this party, I do have the advantage on those two counts. But, I'm still kind of panicky about it. Any advice?

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Not a doctor and (probably) don't have PTSD, but, from what I've read:

Go with someone you trust and have an anxiety PRN, and maybe go to similar buildings when possible in the days leading up to that (preferably with someone you trust, and maybe even taking an anxiety PRN beforehand) as exposure therapy.

Trying not to avoid the trigger and keeping yourself feeling as safe as possible while still being actively triggered is the best way to teach your brain the trigger isn't a real danger.

But, it's probably going to be difficult on you, and depending on how strong of a trigger it is (and probably lots of other factors) you may or may not be able to unlearn it enough in that time to enjoy the party.

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So I did end up going to the friend's flat beforehand and was more okay with the idea, and then the day of the actual party, That Guy turns up. Turns out they had mutual friends. So that was ironic.

I left and was ultimately okay by the end of the night, but now his face just keeps popping into my head? I haven't seen him up close properly for... 2 years? maybe? For him to then be literally within touching distance because his spatial awareness is shit and he bumped into me while I was trying to make my way out of the room. (He didn't seem to recognise me, so at least I wasn't dragged into conversation and/or a fight).

So, like, in all the big and important ways: I'm coping! No self destructive coping mechanisms, minimal nightmares, etc. etc. But... I cannot stop thinking about him and his stupid face and that "oh shit" moment of recognition. So that sucks.

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I can relate to locations trauma...

It really caused me a lot set backs over the last 4 years, I was very optimistic and naive at how powerful trauma really is, it crushed me being in a location I experienced multiple trauma in. I thought it was going to take me a years to wind down a former life so I could start a new one. Had no idea that this was going to cause disassociation and all kinds of other hell.The only way I got out of it is someone kicked my butt... I snapped out of it but the cost was really great prior.

I do think in your case having a friend of a therapist go with you as many times as you need to really start to see that your location is safe would help. I wish I had, had myself.

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I totally understand the location issue.  Long after my trauma, my dad built a house with a beautiful view of the valley where it happened.  It's still a sensitive thing for me when I visit.  Ironically, My pdoc actually lived there at some point.  Ha! he also lived in the apartment complex where I'm currently living when he was an undergrad at the same university I graduated from.  This is 200 miles from the other place.  It comes in handy when talking to him about my childhood because I can reference specific places or roads and he knows where I'm talking about.  

It's taken many years, and lots of exposing myself to the valley where my trauma took place.  When I first got my drivers license I'd go looking for the specific place.  I've never found it, and I kind of grew out of trying.  I'll probably never know, but I can enjoy the beautiful view from my dad's patio and not always remember the awfulness that happened to me out there.

I guess time and exposure have helped to dwindle down the effect the location has had on me.  I wish you well.

h

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