How can I avoid a dissociative reaction to a trauma trigger?

I don’t want to dissociate anymore it’s exhausting when I come down from an episode. I feel hungover. I generally have no idea what has happened and I am unable to consciously help others help me.
Asked by Liona

First I want to start with encouraging you and noting how great it is that you have reached out to really look for some insight and help with this situation. Dissociation is a hard thing for us to experience and can leave us feeling like we are completely out of control in our own lives and what we have going on. This is one of the stressors that we can really be in a place to need to process through and work with a therapist as it can be really overwhelming and leave us with a great deal of additional stress in our lives. Knowing that there is a history of PTSD present, the trauma that we have experienced can be re-triggered when we are working through dissociation and it can really be a hard thing for us to manage. 

There are some skills that we can work on implementing into our daily lives to allow us to remain more present and aware of what is going on in our lives so that we do not dissociate. We call these grounding skills and they are meant to just keep us present and focused on what is actually going on around us. One of the top skills for this is called the countdown method, which works to engage all of your senses in the moment so that you can remain present. This is done by just closing your eyes for 15-20 seconds and then when you open your eyes, identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. This takes a few moments tops, but it is something that really gets you focused in the moment. Working to practice this skill 1-2 times each day when you are calm allows it to become something that you do naturally and so when you start to notice that you are elevated it comes so much more naturally for you to be able to utilize this as a skill that helps you to really calm down. 

Once we have developed some of these skills, we also have to be more aware of the things that are triggering us to become elevated and emotional so that we can be conscious of what things might lead us to dissociation. Working to take 5-10 minutes at the end of each day to process through your day and look at what things elevated you, so you can be more aware of the things that are harder for you to manage. We have to have the insight into what things are elevating us so that we can be in a place to feel more prepared to manage them. 

Finally working to just communicate with the people that are important and close to you in life so that they can offer the support that you need during this time is really important. We need to feel supported while we are working through these kind of stressors and struggles. Pairing family and friend support along with therapy can really help to get through this situation and be in a place to have less dissociation and feel more in control of your own life.