Monday 10 March 2014

Am I "triggered"?

TW: Speaking in some depth about certain triggers. Seriously, if you are affected by posts to do with abortion then please avoid this post. I will be speaking in depth and I really really don't want to make anyone feel worse. 

I don't think I'd have been able to write this post if it wasn't for the fact that I'm a little drunk right now. It's not good, but it does help me open up.

I'm still unsure as to whether I should describe myself as "triggered". I have Depression and Anxiety (both moderate to severe) but I am not diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I'm not sure if this needs a Trigger Warning in itself, but it is a post where I describe the thoughts and feelings I have deep down when I see posts/status'/articles about a particular subject, so I'd rather err on the side of caution.

The topic that I suppose triggers me (or at the very least, panics me) is abortion. Even the word itself makes me feel a little panicked. I still feel safe (well as safe as I can be) though, as long as I don't spend too much time reading about things. I stay very much away from pro-life comments for example.

I have spoken about it briefly in a previous post, but when I was 19, I had a medical abortion.

I'd not long split up with an ex, when I found out I was pregnant. I wasn't on the pill at the time, but we'd used a condom and, as far as we were aware, nothing had 'gone wrong' as such. My periods were pretty irregular anyway, so it took a few weeks before I'd realised that I'd actually missed one. It took a friend to suggest maybe taking a pregnancy test, just to be sure. It had never even occurred to me! But then again, there's a reason they don't say contraceptives are 100% effective. She was actually really supportive. She even bought the test for me, when I felt too ashamed to. It's ridiculous, I shouldn't have felt ashamed, but society likes to make us feel that way for "getting ourselves" pregnant at a young age. The truth is if anyone (with a uterus, womb etc) is fertile and sexually active, it doesn't matter how old they are or how safe the sex is, they are still just as likely to get pregnant as each other.

I kept saying to myself that the test would be negative; although that little voice at the back of my mind said differently. There were two tests in the pack. The first was faulty (there was supposed to be a line come up to show it was working too apparently, but it didn't), the second came up very quickly as positive.

The next week or so (I can't remember exactly how long) was a real blur. If I wasn't feeling upset, I was feeling very numb. It was as if I was going through the motions, but I wasn't 'really' all there. I was a student at university. I was on a course that meant a lot to me and, as well as focusing on that, I also wanted to live a little. Be an irresponsible teenager for a bit longer, be the confident person I always knew I could be, but being bullied at secondary school really suppressed that. I felt as if my only option was not to keep the baby. I felt I had no choice, I simply wasn't responsible enough. I didn't even try to question that.

After the initial GP visit, I was referred (or given a number for? I can't remember) to a BPAS clinic for a consultation. It was over an hour away, so I needed to find transport there. I didn't want to go on my own so decided to confide in one of my hallmates. She was amazing, I owe so much to her. She drove me to this place and comforted me as the nurse did my scan, confirmed the pregnancy, made sure I was happy with my decision then referred me on to the women's hospital in another city. This one was even further away. This nurse was actually quite nice; which I really needed as I broke down.

The women's hospital wasn't quite as nice. I think I'd rather take a trip to the jobcentre than go there again. It was that bad. Everyone in the waiting room looked so upset, there was a deathly silence in the room and one of the women lay across two seats crying. The nurse called my name. She had a very stern tone to her voice. I didn't like it at all. You'd think there'd be some compassion here wouldn't you? My hallmate and myself followed this nurse to her office and she talked me through what would happen next. From what I can remember, there was no checking whether I was ok (yes, I was crying again. I'm so damn good at that!) etc, just "do this, come at this time, do this, this will happen, then go, here's a leaflet". She told me that, after taking the second tablets, I would be in a lot of pain. She said it would be traumatic. Is this professional? Anyway, it was a fairly quick appointment. I took my first medical abortion tablet, got my second appointment, then left soon after. My hallmate said, afterwards, that she wanted to slap the nurse when she described how I'd feel after these tablets. I wouldn't have blamed her.

The second tablets were a lot more uncomfortable shall we say. Whoever made them must be very cruel, considering where they go. They were hexagonal! Anyway, it took a while to take them. I was shaking, really upset and nervous. The nurse came to ask if everything was ok (that was the ONLY time she was actually nice, she was probably just trying to hurry me up though). After this, I was to wait in the waiting room for a few minutes, to make sure nothing serious happened (yay, more things to turn me into a nervous wreck...). They were satisfied and let me go. I'd only been out of the building for a few more minutes, when things started happening (I won't go into gross detail) and I had to be buzzed back in so I could dash to the loo. The pains started soon after and we had to stop somewhere again. I couldn't make it back to halls, so my hallmate stopped at her parents house and they let me stay the night. I could barely walk at this point. I DID NOT expect to be in this much pain, it was agony.

Codeine got me through the next few weeks. I dragged myself to lectures, did badly on exams but thanks to internalised stigma, I didn't let any of my lecturers, tutors etc know what I was going through, so I spent those exams high on codeine, gritting my teeth and struggling to concentrate. I got through it though. That's got to be an achievement. I can't be that crap then can I?

Although I do know it was technically the right decision for me, to this day, I still wonder. I want to have children so much. There's no medical reason why I shouldn't be able to, but I still have this worry that maybe this was my only chance, and I blew it.

Anyway, back to the point! When I see posts, pictures etc about abortion, these are the things I feel:

  • I feel as if all the colour has drained from my body. It's this panicky, anxious feeling that doesn't seem to want to go for a while.
  • I want to face it, I want to read the post, but (most of the time) I just can't.
  • I feel very upset
  • I feel guilty. It's not something I'd think of ANYONE ELSE, just to clarify. This is a completely personal thing. I feel as if I did this terrible thing and I barely even thought it through until afterwards.
  • Similar to above, I feel ashamed
  • It takes me back to that time, those pains (fibro pains suck, but those particular pains are hard to forget) make me cringe. I can still imagine them and that thought is very prominent when I'm reminded. 
  • I think back to what happened, what the nurses said, the scan that I stupidly looked at out of curiosity. 
  • It takes over my thoughts. I try to block it out but I can't help having all these emotions and feeling like I can do nothing but think of them. 
  • I want to do anything to escape my mind and body. Literally anything. 
Is it a "trigger" as such? I'm not sure. I'd really welcome thoughts on this, if anyone's happy to comment :)


  1. Hi. This is Stephen Parry (StephenParry80) from Twitter.

    First of all, I think it's very brave of you to type this. I am sorry to hear of your experiences, but I know it's not sympathy you need or require. :)

    You talk about triggers. What you have described in your post about abortion really wasn't long ago. I am of the belief that most, if not all, things will heal over time. I always believe that people need to heal/come to terms with things on their own terms, in their own way and in their own time, accepting help where possible.

    You say you want to have children. Amy, I don't like cliches, but they do tend to be true. It's a cliche, but the fact is life can often surprise people. Who knows what may happen 6 months, 12 months, 2 years or 5 years from now? I wish you nothing but the best of luck in working through this and - who knows? - you may one day have children. :)

  2. Hey. It's Kirstie of off the twitter.
    I had to have a surgical, i was not in a situation to have a child plus i was not mentally stable.

    At the time I was numb, it was only couple of months after it sunk in. I know 100% it was the right thing to do, but nearly 10yrs on i feel guilty & have what ifs.

    The fact you have written this is a feat(??) in its self & i can relate, i was lucky my best mate, boyf & Mum knew.

    I just wantef to say I understand & can relate.

  3. Thankyou so much to both of you, for the lovely comments :) I still feel a bit strange with this being so out in the open, but if it's a good thing, then it's worth it.

    I'm so sorry to hear about that Kirstie. I felt/feel exactly the same to be honest! I don't think it's something that you just forget about. Thank you again. It's so good to know I have people to talk to about this. If you ever need to talk, then message me anytime (you too Stephen!) xx

  4. I don't really think the triggering is PTSD-related. There /is/ a condition based on PTSD called Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome (PASS). Having PTSD is something that affects a person all the time -- the symptoms are almost always there, teetering on the edge, and not always related to one specific theme (e.g. in this case, abortion).

    PASS, although not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association or the American Psychological Association, seems like a slightly milder version of PTSD that is more targeted. (It also sounds like a lot of regret, which can be a contributing factor to depression.)

    1. I didn't want to assume it was PTSD and I was actually quite hesitant to call these "triggers" if it wasn't the appropriate term. I'd not heard of PASS before, so will definitely look into it further. I'll be seeing my Psychologist for the second round of CBT soon, so I will talk more about my feelings/triggers related to the abortion too.

      Thank you very much for this comment, and thank you for reading! :)

  5. Amy I think you're a lovely, brave person and I think you'll really be helping people by speaking so openly. I looked up to you at school and still do now!

    1. Thank you so much hun, know I think the same of you! I'm so glad we've kept in contact :) This means a lot to me, thank you. I hope everything is good with you! xx