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PTSD and Trauma Triggers: Learning How to Cohabitate Safely During Quarantine

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After working from home for two years — having the house to myself, getting settled in my routines, scheduling my time in each room of the house as I please — it is a major adjustment to have my husband home each day. And considering how easily I can be triggered, it has taken a lot these last few weeks to learn how to cohabitate safely. 

Having to interact during the day every day is difficult for me. It’s something I’ve been fortunate enough to only have to do one or two days a week. Not every day. Where I don’t have enough time to be alone. It’s a constant suffocating feeling that someone may cause a loud noise or cook something that smells or invade my personal thoughts and space. Even if that person is my loving husband. 

I need a lot of alone time. Real alone time. Where no one else is around. It’s how I recharge. It’s how I feel safe. So having my husband around these last few weeks — all day, every day, day in and day out — has left me feeling scattered. Scrambled. Unregulated. 

I need quiet throughout the day. Stillness. So my body feels safe. So I can hear myself. But with my husband home, working via phone and video conferencing most of the day, no matter what room he’s in or how much I add to the background noise with fans and music (I even wear noise-canceling headphones most of the time), I feel like I can still hear him. Like I can feel his voice. Booming inside me. Rattling my concentration. Taking away my thoughts. Ready to step in or out of any room. At anytime. From any angle. Surprising me. Startling me. Making my body feel unsafe. 

And it’s not just because he’s here. All day. Every day. So I’m never alone. It’s because my routine has had to change. My schedule has had to change. Two changes that make me feel anxiety. Panicky. Overwhelmed and confused. And put me in danger of dissociating.

It’s as if, when out of my routine, my body doesn’t know what to do. Where to go. How to be. If I make my body do something at a time it’s not used to doing it, it resists. Starts to panic. And becomes disoriented. Also putting me at risk of dissociating. 

In an attempt to combat this, my husband and I created a schedule for who will be in which rooms during which times. Which is great. Until I need more time. Until my body needs more time. Because it is when my body is rushed, made to go off of the schedule it knows, out of its routine, that it feels unsafe. 

And even though we’ve both been good about sticking to our schedule, one day recently, we weren’t. And I had to fight hard to stay present. To keep from dissociating. To keep myself in my body.

When I don’t know when someone may be coming and going, it puts me in a state of unrest unlike anything else. So when my husband left early for the grocery store the other day, and I was unable to get ahold of him, I had no idea what time he’d be home. So my body sat tense waiting. 

I tried to do yoga, but every sound made me look out the window wondering if it was him. My body always prepared to encounter danger. Needing to see what’s out there. It’s probably why I fell in love with our house on the hill — where you can see everything.

I was on edge. 

Then he came home. And I didn’t think through that he’d have groceries to unload. More food for our quarantine supply for me to find a place for. It was a disruption in my routine. But that wasn’t all. My husband is a very social person. And being at the store made him come back in a social mode. Where he needs to talk and to laugh. Connect and make jokes. But I hadn’t completed my morning routine — I wasn’t anywhere near ready to interact yet. 

I wanted to be loving and tried to give him what he needed. So we talked as we put the groceries away. But my body was antsy, unregulated. Needing to be doing yoga instead. To be taking a bath. To be following my routine. 

Once the groceries were away, my husband went to boil water for tea. And as he began filling the kettle with water, my body began screaming, “No, he can’t do that now! There can’t be a kettle steaming right next to where I do yoga!” And as my words tried to catch up to what my body was saying, the lid of our stainless steel kettle scraped across the top of the kettle and made a sound so high in pitch that it went straight to my reptilian brain. And I was triggered.

I left the room, searching for some sensory tools to re-regulate my system. I saw my phone and put on brainwave activation music. I went into my office and saw lavender, which I applied to my wrists and jawline. Then I went into the bedroom and saw my mini trampoline, which I jumped on until I could think clearly again. Landing safely in my body. 

There have been small struggles like that daily since the quarantine. And it’s been hard for both of us to adjust. I try to give him what he needs and he does the same for me. We both communicate our needs. Try to create safe environments for each other. And I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be quarantined with than him.

If you suffer from PTSD, see tips on how to help yourself cope.

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PTSD and Trauma Triggers: Learning How to Cohabitate Safely During Quarantine

Jenna Grace

Jenna Grace is a writer and educator with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sensory processing disorder (SPD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder (SAD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) diagnoses. She writes and speaks about topics including healing from trauma, coping with neurological disorder and practicing mindfulness in order to help others and to explore new meaning. Visit her website for more of her stories.

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APA Reference
Grace, J. (2020). PTSD and Trauma Triggers: Learning How to Cohabitate Safely During Quarantine. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 3 Apr 2020
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