It was no mistake. It was him. Gina saw him.
Her heart dropped.
She immediately ducked behind the wall. She wanted to disappear. The feeling she felt was so strong and so ugly. It was almost as if someone stabbed her heart and dropped it a thousand floors onto the ground.
She was able to get away unseen, and she went home.
She talked to her friend about it, watched some sad tiktoks, and moved on.
Two days later, Gina could not get out of bed. She was so sad. She called in and stayed home. Gina could not understand why she couldn't stop crying, why she couldn’t muster up the energy to get out of bed, and why she just wanted to disappear.
“Was this about Chris?” Gina asked herself.
“No, it couldn’t be, could it?”
Gina acknowledged within herself that she did not want him back. She acknowledged that she was miserable with him and she was far better off without him. However, it was something about seeing him that made her feel miserable.
Gina had been triggered. She had no intention of ever going back to this man but the feeling was there all the same.
When we face trauma, even something as simple as a breakup or a heartbreak, there lies a sensitive space within our psyche that remembers the pain, remembers the hurt and there are certain things that can trigger these emotions and bring them all back. It is almost like banging a bruised knee on a desk. The damage happened, and even though the healing has begun, it doesn’t make it any less sensitive or tender.
When I first heard that word, I heard it from a 12-year-old who yelled “I am triggered” like it was an answer on Jeopardy. I assumed it was his way of telling me that he didn’t want to clean up after himself.
After that, there was an onslaught of memes about people being "triggered" by posts, speeches, videos, or content. I felt like it wasn't a true representation of what being triggered meant. So if I didn't like what you said and I responded to your post it means that I am triggered?
It wasn't until I went to school and actually went through the Social Work program that I learned what being triggered really meant. It is almost like a re-traumatization. It means not just remembering but experiencing…
And more importantly, I learned why we get triggered. Noting that while time moves on for us mentally (if we allow it) our bodies, our nervous system never forgets. It does not forget the rush of fear, or of pain felt by us. These emotions were never meant to be a bad thing. You see a dog, it barks at you, and you are frightened. It is your body’s way of trying to protect us. If we are put into a space that feels similar to a time we were traumatized and it kicks into high gear. All the fear, all of the worry, and all of the dread flood to us all at once.
And we are triggered.
It could be a song
It could be a movie
It could be a smell
Sometimes it can be something that doesn’t even register with us
So what can we do?
How do we face this especially when simple small things can trigger us and send us into a spiral?
You have to know yourself
What that means is when you encounter something that is a reminder of the past, a reminder of your pain or a reminder of your trauma, it's a good chance that later on your body is going to remember.
Now everybody is different. Some people react to triggers immediately but for some people it lays dormant until it hits them and when it does it really hits them. Once you begin to have a better sense of what things may trigger you, it is easier to recognize when you are triggered. At that point, it is better to get in front of it.
Imagine a car sitting on top of a hill.
Imagine somebody tripping the emergency brake.
Imagine that the car is you.
You get triggered, the emergency brake is now off and you slowly start to roll down the hill. It is far easier to stop the car at the top of the hill (when you were initially triggered) than to try and stop it in the middle of a panic attack or in the middle of a cry session.
When you feel triggered, you need to get in front of it, you need to get real honest with yourself and initiate your coping skills. Acknowledge the suckage and then shift your body into coping.
My coping skill is dance
My coping skill is listening to music and or making new music
My coping skill is taking a walk
My coping skill is coloring
my coping skill is taking a deep breath so that I can readjust my mind
There are different coping skills for different areas of my life - no matter what your coping skill is make sure that you have one that is accessible for those times when you are triggered.
It is in those ugly spaces that we tend to take things out on people who have nothing to do with the issue.
We can project our hurt and trauma onto others.
Being an adult means reflecting changing and healing
In this age of information, there is no excuse for not trying to work on yourself. We cannot hide behind
“this is just who I am” Yes, it is but now what are you going to do with it now that you know that you can?
I am sending you love and wishing you light.
*Artwork by Amaya Jones