Just about anyone with Dissociative Identity Disorder is familiar with triggers, traumas, and flashbacks. Hopefully, you and your system are in a position where the traumas have stopped but what do you do about the triggers? While working with a trauma therapist will definitely help with triggers long term, one of the best things your system can do is to have a safety kit ready for when a trigger strikes.
WARNING AND DISCLAIMER
Because of the nature of D.I.D., it’s possible that something in this article could be triggering to your system. Please use caution and your best judgement when reading this article. Safety first!
Disclaimer: We are not doctors, therapists, or mental health professionals. We’re just a bunch of alters that are speaking from personal experience to help other systems live their best lives.
What Is The Purpose Of A Safety Kit?
With a million and one things for your system to work on, it’s helpful if your whole system understands why creating a safety kit should take priority. This will make it much easier to get your whole system on board with creating a kit that will keep all of your headmates safe.
The number one reason why your system should keep a safety kit around is because it keeps you safe! I know that sounds like an obvious statement but it can be so easy to become desensitized to the words “trigger” and “safety”. But even if you and your system have heard the words a hundred times, the fact of the matter is that preparing for safety issues is the best way to make sure you won’t have unnecessary problems when dealing with a trigger. Having a safety kit ready makes it more likely that your system will be able to take care of themselves quickly and effectively and who doesn’t love that?
Another reason to have a safety kit is because it will give your system much needed support. In a perfect world, every system would have tons of loving and helpful external people around them when dealing with a trauma trigger but that just isn’t the case sometimes. Creating a safety kit as a system kind of makes it feel as if you’re getting external support from your headmates. Sometimes that extra “I believe in you” from a beloved headmate is all that it takes to make a flash back more bearable.
We have a phrase in our house and it’s “You don’t have to be scared if you’re prepared”. When it comes to safety kits, that’s absolutely the case! Preparing for things in advance allows your system to decide how things will go with your trigger; not the other way around. By creating a safety kit, your whole system will get a chance to pinpoint potential issues and create an effective plan to minimize problems. Doing this will help your whole system to feel more calm and confident in the face of a trauma trigger.
One of the best parts about having a safety kit is the convenience. In the heat of the moment, do you really want to go fumbling around for comfort items if you could have just had them with you all along? Creating the safety kit means you won’t be stressing out about remembering what medication you’re on, what your therapist’s number is, or anything like that. Your system has more important things to worry about, you know?
What Should Be In A Safety Kit?
Anything that will keep you safe! That means when creating a safety kit for your system, be careful to not include any known trigger items. Every system is different and every alter is different so go over things with each alter before adding it to the kit. The last thing you want to do is to trigger someone twice!
There are the things that we really encourage systems to include.
**Pro tip: When creating your kit, do your best to keep them uplifting and encouraging. Getting triggered is serious business but that doesn’t mean that the safety kits need to be all doom and gloom. Let your safety kit be your “happy place”.
While an emergency plan is not the only part of a safety kit, it is a pretty important one! An emergency plan, sometimes called a safety plan, is essentially a single piece of paper that maps out exactly what your system needs to know for an emergency. An emergency plan for a system should include four key things:
These are things like 911, your doctor’s office, your therapist’s number and any one that your system should call in an emergency. Depending on the severity of your trigger, your system may not need to call anyone on this list. It’s still important to have all of these numbers just in case.
External Support Group Contacts
These are numbers for external contacts that your system trusts to be emotionally and physically available in the event of an emergency. Even if you call these people all the time, it’s still a good idea to include their phone numbers on your emergency plan.
List them in the order that your system should contact them. For our system, it goes Husband, sister, friend #1, friend #2, Mom. Every system’s list will look different so add whoever your system trusts.
Pro Tip: It’s a good idea to let these people know that they’re on your emergency plan. That way, they won’t be surprised if you call and they’ll know how to give you what your system needs.
Internal Support System
Similar to your external support contacts, an emergency plan should include a written out plan of who should be contacted internally in the event of a trigger. Ideally, every alter will be able to help every other alter handle a trigger. For many systems, more than one alter is triggered by similar things so that’s not always best.
Map out which alter will respond or be called for each headmate. For example, if alter A is triggered, they’ll ask alter B to be co conscious with them and to help them through it. If alter B can’t help for whatever reason, alter A will get alter C. We suggest you have three tiers; a plan A, B, and C for each alter.
The middle of a crisis is no time to map out your plan of attack. The “activities” section of your emergency plan is meant to lay out the steps your system should take to get steady. Even if you and your alters know the steps by heart, it’s still a good idea to write them down. It’s not unusual for a trauma trigger to be very disorienting and having it written down will help the fronting alter and any external helpers know what needs to be done.
Every system’s list of activities will look different but our system’s looks like this:
Write two list of activities: one if the fronting alter is triggered and one if an internal alter is triggered. The above example is what our system does if the fronting alter is triggered and is unable to go into the headspace.
Review the activities with your headmates and get everyone’s input. The goal is for every alter to feel safe so make sure to include everyone in the process.
Something To Steady You Physically
After your system has written your emergency plan, the next thing to do is to take care of physical sensations. Our systems are both triggered when two or more senses experience things that line up with one of our traumas. While we can’t control or eliminate everything, we keep things in our safety kit to help prevent as much as we can. Below are some examples of things you can put in your safety kit to steady yourself physically:
In the event that we’re triggered, once we’re steady enough to “change our state”, we’ll start using items in our safety kit. For example, if the combination of something we smelled and tasted triggered us, we’ll use a mint strip to wipe out the previous taste. We’ll smell the coffee beans to wipe out the previous smell and we’ll put a dab of Vicks on the rim of our nose to keep the smell out.
By doing this, we can limit or eliminate the triggering information that our body is registering. Every system is different so brainstorm ways your system can safely and easily “change your state”.
**Pro tip: If you use the items inside of your safety kit when you’re happy and things are going well, you’ll be able to train your body to use those items as a positive trigger. That will make these items more powerful and it will lead to your body changing states more easily and quickly.
Something To Steady You Mentally
Once your system has found things to change your physical state, it’s time to add things to change your mental state. For most alters I know, when triggered, they’re feeling scared, powerless, and trapped. The goal of changing your mental state is to pull the triggered alter out of those unpleasant feelings and into more positive ones.
The opposite of those common trigger feelings are calm, empowered, and free. Ask your alters, “During a trauma trigger, what would help you to feel calm, empowered, and free?” For our system, it looks like this:
We wrote these things down so that the helping alter can use them as a reference point. In the middle of the trigger, just repeating the date can be enough for our system to start to feel better. In addition, these can also help:
If it’s going to help your alters to feel more empowered, add it. The more the merrier! Every alter will be different so go ahead and ask around to see what kind of things would help your alters to change their mental state.
Getting Your System To Use The Safety Kit
Creating the safety kit is important but it’s not going to do your system any good if you never use it! After you’ve created your system’s safety it, it’s time to practice using it. Here are the best ways we have found to get our system to start using their safety kit.
Make Sure The Safety Kit Is Accessible
The first step to making sure your system will use the safety kit is to make it easy for everyone to get to. You don’t want to keep your safety kit hidden where no one can find it. That’s not going to help anyone!
You want to make it simple for all of your alters to get to in the event of an emergency. If you can, it’s helpful to make several duplicates of your safety kit so you can store them easily. Some good places to keep a kit are:
If it’s safe to do so, it’s a good idea to keep them somewhere visible but use your best judgement with this.
Make Sure Everyone Knows About The Safety Kit
The next things is to make sure everyone knows about the safety kit. It’s not going to be very helpful if an alter doesn’t know it exists. Depending on how your system is right now, you can either talk about the kit at the next team meeting, broadcast it inside of the headspace, or ask everyone to spread the news “word of mouth” style.
No matter how you are able to communicate it, you just want to make sure everyone knows where it is, what it’s for, and how to use it.
Encourage Guided Play With The Safety Kit
A step we highly encourage is using guided play as a way to make sure all of your alters know how to use the kit. It’s especially helpful for littles but it works for alters of all ages. This step isn’t mandatory but it definitely helps make the safety kit more effective.
Guided play is a fantastic technique that many early childhood development professionals use to teach young children about safety procedures. For this, you’ll ask an alter to pretend that they’re triggered so you can walk them through the correct steps together. This gives you the opportunity to ensure that they’re using the kit correctly, to gently encourage alternative ways of doing things, and to make sure that all of your alters are familiar with the kit.
Improving Your Safety Kit
After your system has had a trigger and used the kit, this is a great opportunity to improve the quality of the safety kit! Ask your headmates:
As your headmates grow and expand, you may find new triggers or that old triggers aren’t a problem anymore. If something in the kit ever stops being useful, feel free to tweak it! This kit is meant to work for your system so don’t be afraid to change things around.
Now that your system knows how to make a safety kit that will work for your system, what can you do next? Check out this article to learn about how to plan for the holidays and all the potential triggers that come with that time. (This article specifically deals with staying safe during Halloween.) That will help your system to keep moving in a positive direction!