This is what happened when I started paying attention to what really bothers me.
*(Disclaimer: I am not a licensed therapist or medical professional. These are only my opinions on what has helped me on my journey.)
My anxiety rushed over me before I even knew to fret.
A sweet friend of mine had posted yet another picture of her perfect self with her perfect family, living their perfect life as perfect people.
I love this friend dearly. The two of us together, talking and laughing, our kids hanging out with one another, is one of my favorite activities in life.
And yet, here I was, envious…or so I thought.
For a long time, whenever I encountered peppy, put together, perfect women, I believed I was jealous of what they had.
Hadn’t I always craved normalcy and never gotten it?
Hadn’t I always loved to dress cute, be noticed, go here, do that?
No, actually. I really hadn’t loved to do those things. In fact, I hated it. Pretentiousness was one of my biggest pet peeves.
What I eventually realized was that I actually was not envious. Deep down, I didn’t want the life my friend leads.
No, I was angry. Angry that this was the picture being held before me of what society believed was “right,” this belief that as a wife and a mother (especially in the South), I should want my children to dress a certain way, participate in certain activities and choose certain friend groups.
We should live in a certain type of house in a certain neighborhood.
I should look a certain way, work out a certain way, eat a certain way.
I hated the certains.
Even after discovering it was anger, not envy, driving my anxiety, I couldn’t seem to stop the feeling.
I wanted to be able to scroll past and not care, but I couldn’t.
Because this whole “not having what I thought I was supposed to” deal had been stuck with me for quite some time, seeping into my life somewhere around the age of twelve and setting up home in my bitter heart.
It took the season from hell to force me to dig out issues that had embroiled my thoughts and held me captive for so long.
One of those issues was figuring out exactly what triggers me.
By no means are perfect posts on social media my only trigger. Male patriarchy (super controlling father), inattentive mothers (my mom wasn’t exactly June Cleaver), the Evangelical church (destroyed my family of origin), and sexual abuse (no child should endure), cuts me to my core.
Nowadays, when I find myself up against triggers, I listen to them.
I know that sounds weird, but I do. I allow them their space and freedom to reside for just a moment inside me.
Especially after living through a season of being forced to push down feelings due to a person of authority in my life having major issues with emotion, I’ve realized that emotions are powerful, they are real, and they are necessary to be human.
Emotions compel us to act. They move us forward. They allow us to learn empathy.
After I’ve allowed my emotions a moment to set up shop, I do this:
- I STOP and breathe deep.
Closing my eyes, I breathe in through my nose and exhale out of my mouth. I breathe deeply two or three times and try to move more slowly each time.
2. I REMEMBER that whatever it was that caused this trigger has no power over me.
The past is over. And even in the present, the truth is, whatever happened to me only had the power to hurt me that I gave it. Is it okay to let something hurt you? Absolutely. But there comes a point at which the pain will take over if we don’t put it in its proper place. We have to remember that we have control of our own life.
3. I PRACTICE my reframing techniques:
I go back to the memory, put myself in the other person’s shoes (when possible–I don’t advocate this in situations of sexual abuse), and I tell myself that me, the person or the event that hurt me was human and fallen, too. Then, I imagine myself forgiving everyone in the situation.
Humans were created with a built-in need for affirmation. We want to be wanted, loved and valued. We want to feel.
So sometimes we have to choose this for ourselves–no one is going to do it for us.
My trick is to tell myself I’m living in the best of all possible worlds. What is happening in my life is exactly what is supposed to happen. I am creating the life I’ve chosen. This is the life I want. And if there’s anything I don’t want in my life that is in my ability to change, I change it immediately.
Triggers help us figure out what’s still bothering us after all this time on earth so we can heal.
Things that are helping me on my journey lately…walking my puppies, dancing in my kitchen, drinking good tea, reading good books, saving points for cheat days on WW, smelling fresh flowers, loving on my Clayford, enjoying my family…
I’ve been in a season of healing lately. It’s been both incredibly frustrating and incredibly freeing.
I didn’t even know I could live in a space where both existed at the same time, and yet I’m okay.
The frustrating part is that my daily life at the moment includes just trying to make it through the day. It’s ironic that my word for 2023 is Beginnings, and yet, I’m stuck in a day-to-day fog of yuckiness due to my circumstances. I’m learning the difficult way that the branches of wisdom include maturity and self-control, and so I’m attempting to wrap up the final parts of a journey as well as I can before I move into the next phase of my year, where I get to be who I really am and live out what I really believe, the freeing part.
But it’s hard. I’m constantly triggered daily, due to these circumstances. I am so staunchly against everything I’m sitting in the middle of on a daily basis.
Irritations fire around me throughout the day like tiny bb-gun blasts, pops that aren’t strong enough to make you outwardly explode, but just annoying enough to make you want to implode. As a practical person, I seethe in anger over the impracticality of facade. To do something purely for show is, in essence, the very definition of impractical. It’s like buying a fake Louis Vuitton or a pair of Golden Goose shoes off eBay. (Why do people do this?)
It could make the sanest of women crazy, and I’ve never been the sanest of women to begin with.
But I’m also growing. One thing I learned this week while being home with the flu is that there is a direct correlation between my anger over the expectations I’m supposed to follow as a wife, mom and woman in the South and my anger over the expectations that surround me on a daily basis.
It was an aha moment of sorts, coming to understand that my biggest trigger is the failure of people to just be honest about who they really are…
Something I myself have struggled to do my whole life. Aha.
“Keeping it real” is a tricky booger. We all have sides of ourselves that we don’t want anyone to see.
I can’t push people to be completely up front about reality. I’m not completely up front about my own.
In a sense, letting my triggers talk back have given me peace, a chance to just lay aside my anger at the futility of it all and to say…
It’s okay to just be gray, and it’s okay if, for right now, I’m the only one willing to admit that.
See you soon,
Yeah. Sometimes I think about the triggers that restrict my growth. But when I changed the way I looked at things made my life better.
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Yes! It’s all about the growth, and then the patience, too, when we’re in the no-growth seasons. Thanks for reading!
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