Mental Health

I’ve Just Been Triggered BIG TIME!


My stepfather called me today to tell me that my older brother, Kevin – the one who molested me and beat me for years – was coming to visit him and my mother (he lives out of state). I’ve had my guard up all day half-expecting my stepfather to call me and tell me my brother wants to talk to me. He didn’t. But tonight, the phone rang. I let it go to voicemail in case it was my brother.

The message was from my stepfather telling me, “Kevin said he’d like to get together with you.” INSTANT trigger! I immediately went into fight or flight mode. I called my stepfather and told him that I don’t want to see my brother, that I don’t want to talk to him. My stepfather knows my abuse history. I reminded him that, when Kevin had told my mother two and a half years ago that he wanted my phone number (she didn’t give it to him) I had written him a letter. In the letter I told Kevin how damaged I am because of his abuse, and that I don’t feel safe having him in my life while he’s still abusing alcohol and having violent outbursts. He had just been arrested for breaking his girlfriend’s eye socket while driving drunk – they were arguing. Kevin had called my mother a month later and told her that he received my letter. He told her, “I owe Barbara an apology. I will write her a letter.” He never did.

I told my stepfather to tell Kevin that I’m still waiting for his letter. Not that it will help, but it’s a start. I need to have my first contact with him (we haven’t spoken in over twenty years) to be safe. If he does write, I will make an appointment with my former therapist and open it in her presence. I’m sure I’ll be triggered when reading it.

My fear is that I will have to be face to face with him at some point. My fear is that our first encounter will be at my mother’s funeral. I’d be a wreck, having to deal with grief over the loss of my mother and at the same time needing to deal with whatever being in his presence brings up. I had a thought years ago that I should probably meet with him sooner rather than later, so that doesn’t happen. But it was just a thought. This, my brother being at my mom’s (which is only two hours away from me) and him saying in real-time that he wants to meet with me brings it all too close to home. I’m not ready. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready.

My hypervigilance is through the roof right now. I’m having intense flashbacks. My inner child Penelope is terrified. It’s like I’m right back in the thick of all the sexual abuse, at the age of eight, when it all started. I’m also having flashbacks of Kevin violently beating me, which started when I was about six.

I’m nauseous, my head is spinning, and my heart is pounding through my chest. I’m taking slow, deep breaths, and trying to do some grounding but it’s not helping. I called my friend who is my next-door neighbor, but she didn’t answer. I went next door, but she wasn’t home. I was hoping to be physically present with someone who could empathize with what I’m going through until my panic passes. I feel that it’s too late at night to call my other friends.

I’m exhausted. I want to go to sleep, but I know that I won’t be able to. Most likely, when I do finally get to sleep, I’ll have nightmares.

It makes me so angry that I still get triggered like this. Just the mention of Kevin’s name sends me reeling back to childhood. I’ve been writing about him in my upcoming book, but I’ve been emotionally dissociated. But just hearing that he wants to meet with me face to face terrifies me.

I was hoping that writing this while playing soothing piano music would calm me down and ground me a little, but it hasn’t. My body and mind are still on high alert and I still feel panicked. I’m just going to have to suck it up and ride it out. But I have a feeling, being this triggered, I’m probably going to have to deal with nightmares and flashbacks for a few days.

25 thoughts on “I’ve Just Been Triggered BIG TIME!”

  1. As an adult, you choose. And choosing he write is a safe choice. You don’t even have to read it…ever. You could just burn it if you wanted. But he is too lazy. And he seems to want to call the shots, maybe seeing in person if he can still intimidate you. I’d stay clear away.
    Even if it may happen that you have to be around him at a funeral, take a friend to buffer you. Or find out when he goes and go a different time. I’ve been at weddings and funerals where the eldest was nearby. If I could go back, I would not have gone at all. It is too much.
    But all that is in the future. It is now that you need safety, and as an adult you have the power to provide it.
    My attackers had ways of making amends, and letters would have been the best choice. They never did. People that make mistakes, or such horrendous crimes as sexually attacking a sister, can still try to make use of their lives with true remorse. But it’s up to them. Drinking and punching a girl-friend is not one of those ways. He is dangerous. Staying clear of him is wise choice and you decide.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your advice. My step-father did tell me that it seems my brother is drinking less. He said he was in good spirits and seemed to sincerely want to see me. I’ve been carrying around guilt for years for keeping him out of my life. I feel sorry for him, he is such a lost soul. Even if he isn’t dangerous anymore, which I doubt his violent streak would completely dissolve, it feels like it would still be dangerous for me to be in his presence. There’s just no way I’d ever feel safe around him. I mentioned to you that we haven’t spoken in 35 years. That was an error. I haven’t spoken with him in over 20 years when I was around 35. I know that’s of no importance but I just wanted to clarify. Thank you so much for your support. I really appreciate it. 💖

      Liked by 1 person

      1. By dangerous I think I meant psychologically. Maybe the guilt you mention is only part of the intense shame that tends to invade when a child is sexually assaulted and no intervention is provided to help her see she is not to bame. I tend to feel what is wanted or needed by others instead of knowing my own feelings and needs or that I even have a right to them.
        Beneath what feels like guilt might be other things like the wish for a repaired relationship but the other person will not reciprocate. You wrote twice opening a dialogue yet he did not and only seems to want it his way. That does not sound like much has changed or that your needs are being respected in any way. I am sorry you are re-experiencing it all again.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree. Thanks for your perspective. You’re right about his wanting things on his terms. After he had received my second letter he had sent me a friend request on Facebook. I deleted it. I wasn’t going to let him off the hook that easily. My stepfather sent him a text for me this a.m. “Barbara needs your apology letter before she will consider any contact.” I’ll see what happens. I have no expectations based upon his past behavior.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I agree with Patricia. He is being manipulative and he is dangerous. He is not going to change. “Drinking less” means nothing to an alcoholic, and in my experience they can be even scarier when sober as they expect those around them to provide the buzz. You are feeling all the guilt, as we do, and he has none. Best to stay away and be safe. Trust your symptoms. If he was okay to be around you would not be suffering like this. 💙

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Well, I meant you already have done so without assistance. That can be a problem area for me.. I admire how you are handling it all, especially the grace and kindness you extended towards him in allowing crrespondence even though he hasn’t bothered.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so very sorry. I just finished reading the book Miss America By Day, by Marilyn Van Derbur, about her experience of being violated for 13 years by her father. It’s an incredible book that explains so much of the dynamics of how sexual abuse affects a person far more than people who haven’t been abused could ever imagine. If your step-father read it, his eye might be opened. Wide. Just a thought. Yes, seeing your brother should be completely on YOUR terms. And yours alone.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi! Thanks for the suggestion of the book. I will definitely read it. I know my stepfather wouldn’t read it. The entire topic makes him feel very uncomfortable. But he is being supportive and is willing to be a buffer between my brother and me.


    1. Hi. He said he felt obligated to pass along the message. He doesn’t realize the extent of the damage that the abuse did to me. He knows I have a history but we’ve never talked about it. Thanks for your concern and support. I really appreciate it. 💖😊


      1. His obligation SHOULD have been to respect you. Sorry. This gets me so upset for you. Even if he knew any of the abuse then he would never bring up his name again, in my opinion

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Im so, so sorry for the trigger. Im also extremely proud of you that you set a boundary with your brother. I understand your fear and why you are triggered. And in the midst of that you are still setting a firm boundary of no contact with your brother. Bravo to you! Thats coming a long way on your journey my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’ve gotten much better at setting boundaries. I feel I need a strong one with my brother. I was surprised as to how intense my trigger was after all this time. I haven’t been triggered like that in years. My flashbacks were so terrifying! I literally felt like I was 8 years old again and right in the middle of all of the abuse. Thanks again for your supportive comments. 😊💖

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Trust yourself. You are keeping yourself safe emotionally by keeping that distance and you owe your brother nothing. It sounds like he has never acknowledged his actions or their effect on you. And if you are never ready to see him again, I think that is okay. It’s your choice. Nobody can make that decision except you. Take care and be good to yourself. Healing is on its own timetable. But trust that keeping your boundary is the right thing to do. Honoring that is always okay. I appreciate your story and the vulnerability it takes to share it. I hope others can read your words and find courage in their situations as well.


    1. Thank you for your kind and wise words. My friends have since told me that I am under no obligation to go to my mother’s funeral because I’m taking care of her now. That’s been my biggest fear in regard to him: the first time being face-to-face with him would be at my mother’s funeral. I don’t know how I would manage the grief and all the ptsd stuff that would get triggered. So I’ve decided I won’t go when the time comes (hopefully years from now). If my other brother and his family don’t understand then that’s on them. I will do what I need to do to protect myself. if I got that triggered just by the mention of him wanting to see me I can’t imagine what would happen if I was in his presence.

      Liked by 1 person

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