Has someone ever said something to you or treated you a certain way that stops you in your tracks? You could be having the best day, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, all is good in the world. And out of nowhere, when you’re least expecting it, someone dumps a bucket of ice water over your head. That’s an emotional trigger, my friend. We all have them. A trigger can be a word or a phrase, an insinuation, a look, any number of things. For me, they usually revolve around someone insinuating that I’m ‘dumb’ or treating me like I’m ‘less than’ or accusing me of something that I didn’t do (which has happened a lot, by the way). Most of my triggers have resulted from experiences I had as a child. They’re like shadows that follow me around that can materialize at any given time. When I experience a trigger, my response is pretty immediate. I withdraw into myself and then I either become depressed or angry. And who do I usually take it out on? Me!
In the recent past, when triggered, I would turn to food to comfort or soothe myself. Ice cream or candy or caramel corn or cold cereal or pizza or Chinese food was the best salve to heal my fresh wounds. But as many of you know, I’m working on changing my ways of handling ‘hurt’ and ‘pain’ and ‘discomfort’. ‘Feeling’ emotions is such a new thing for me. I am so used to numbing them out. And, holy cow, it isn’t easy! It requires communication and honesty and understanding, and most of all, vulnerability. It is tough being ‘vulnerable’. When I grew up, ‘feelings’ were never discussed. If you felt bad, you just had to figure out how to ‘get over it’. Nobody talked about pain or hurt, they just got on with life. Everyone was just trying to survive, putting one foot in front of the other. Somewhere along the line, I developed insecurities about myself. There are so many! I didn’t have a lot going for me as a kid, but the one thing I had was my intellect.
I wouldn’t say I was a ‘Brainiac’ but people referred to me as ‘smart’ or ‘bright’. Of the 4 girls in my family, I was the ‘smart’ one. The others (Diabolical Debbie, Cactus Annie and Stallion-the oldest) were pretty, impetuous, and talented, respectively. We were each assigned ‘a label’ of sorts and I held firmly to the label I was assigned. I still do. I don’t like to be perceived as ‘dumb’ or ‘ignorant’. I cannot stand it when someone responds to a simple question with ‘I don’t know’. Of course, I recognize that there are existential questions that none of us have the answers to, however, most answers are easily accessible these days. Me? I refuse to be one of those people! I may not know the answer right this moment, but if you just give me a minute or two, I will get it for you. And if you wait long enough, I’ll even wrap it in pretty, shiny paper and attach a beautiful bow! If you want to trigger me, insult my intellect or intelligence. Works every time.
Another one that really winds me up is when someone patronizes me. When someone acts superior or dismissive and insinuates or implies that I am inferior, you can almost see me blow a gasket! Look down your nose at me or give me the ‘once over’ with a smirk on your face? I wouldn’t recommend it. I cannot guarantee I won’t stomp on your foot. I’m not sure if it has to do with growing up poor/lower middle class or what the origins are but my reaction is always immediate and long lasting. I’ve had a fair amount of people treat me that way and once they do, I usually find the nearest exit. I actually have had three different doctors (two pediatricians and one surgeon) treat me that way. The pediatricians treated me like I was clueless as a parent and the surgeon actually talked to me like I was 5-years old. Once I get the ‘treatment’ from someone, when they imply that I’m inferior or ‘less than’, I don’t forget it. It stays in my memory bank for a long, long time. And I don’t stick around to allow it to continue any longer than necessary.
In both cases with the pediatricians, I never returned after being lectured on my ‘poor parenting’. I was so pissed when they implied that I wasn’t doing ‘my job’. I take a lot of pride in being a mother and I didn’t appreciate being talked down to like that. My kids were fed and loved and nurtured and they were all great kids. Were they perfect? No. Did I wish they hadn’t done some of the things they had done? Of course. I wasn’t perfect either and I made mistakes but did I deserve getting ‘read the riot act’ by two different pediatricians? NO! And the surgeon? Oy vey! He always scheduled my appointments for first thing in the morning, and then he wouldn’t actually ‘show up’ until an hour later. I don’t do well when you expect me to be on time and then you saunter into the room an hour late and start treating me like a child. He’d always lean in real close and put a hand on my knee and then say in a patronizing way, “How are we doing today? Are we doing alright?” I wanted to say, “If you keep talking to me like that, I’m going to punch you in the face.” But I never did. I held my tongue and then I cancelled all future appointments.
The other thing that gets me fired up is getting blamed for something I didn’t do. Having said that, I have done PLENTY of things that I shouldn’t have done and I will readily own them. But if you want to pin something on me that I didn’t do? I can tell you, we are not going to be friends. Have I intentionally tickled someone when I was in elementary school to make them pee their pants because I wanted them to know how humiliating it was? Yes. Have I shoplifted? Yes, I did until I was 10 and almost got caught. That 10 cent box of Lemonheads at the convenience store just wasn’t worth losing my freedom over. Did I pee on someone’s hide-a-bed during a sleepover and not say anything? Yes. Did I dig up a ‘no parking’ sign and move it to the center of the football field in high school? Yes, indeed I did. And I have to say, I’m quit proud of that achievement. Anyway, enough with the confessional, I’m supposed to be focusing on the stuff I didn’t do that I was blamed for. I have two great examples from my freshman and senior years in high school.
Two separate times, when I was in high school, I was accused of the exact same thing! What was I accused of? Taking drugs. In both cases, because I was acting ‘strange’, I was escorted from the classroom to the principal’s office and interrogated. Do you have any idea how humiliating that is?! The first time it happened, it almost seemed a little humorous because it was so absurd. I am not kidding you, other than prescribed pharmaceuticals after a major surgery, I have never taken drugs. I am one of the most ‘square’ people you’ll ever meet. Up until I joined the military, I had never even had a sip of alcohol. Marijuana? Never. Not once. The hard stuff? Absolutely not! I like my thoughts to be as ‘clear’ as possible. How did I feel when I was hauled off to speak to the principal and threatened with expulsion when I didn’t do anything wrong? I was a-n-g-r-y!! It felt like a twisted dream that I’d gotten sucked into. All I was doing was laughing like an idiot (which wasn’t uncommon for me) and then the next thing I know, I’m sitting in the principal’s office.
What made it even worse? When it happened yet again! The second time around, I was a senior and it was during ‘Yearbook’ class. I was laughing like an idiot and before I knew it, I’m back in the principal’s office, being accused of taking drugs. Come on! Seriously?! Why was it always drugs? Didn’t they ever consider that maybe I was just a weird kid that laughed a lot? I have to tell you, that really took the wind out of my sails. I was so over high school once it ended. I’m not one of those people that says, “Remember how great it was in high school? It was so much fun!” No, it sucked! There were so many cliques and I didn’t belong in or to a single one. The folks that hung out on the periphery? They were more my speed. When I got out of high school, I never looked back. I did go to my 20-year reunion and it felt like I’d been transported right back to that time when I felt like a nobody. All the ‘rich’ and/or ‘popular’ kids sat together and I sat at the table with all of the outsiders. No thanks. It was a ‘one and done’.
Ugh. If I were still reacting or responding to ‘feeling bad’ as I did up until just under a year and a half ago, I’d be heading to the kitchen right about now and filling up the 1st of 3 bowls with sugary cereal and then plunking down on the couch in the livingroom to ‘numb out’ in front of the television. But I’m not going to do that today. I’m going to eat my yogurt with granola, read up on current events, and head to bed. It just isn’t worth punishing myself anymore over ‘feeling bad’. Is it easy? No. It’s fricking hard! Is it worth it? Yes. Without a doubt! I am worth it. Thank you so much for stopping by. For the folks that are ‘following’ me, I am grateful for you and the continued interest you have in reading about the variety of things I talk about each day. I’m no poet laureate or anyone with significant credentials to speak of but I do enjoy the opportunity to share things about my life and family or to just make simple random observations. If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.
2 thoughts on “January 18, 2021 – Emotional Triggers”
OMG I absolutely LOVED this blog. I too find being blamed for things I didn’t do a HUGE trigger. I will immediately end friendships over it, I can’t be dealing with that bollocks. I related to so much of what you wrote and I think you’re doing an amazing job xx
Thank you so much, Janet! I needed that little ‘pick me up’!! I suspect something significant happened to both of us that ‘left a mark’ at some point. I try not to be reactive but sometimes it’s difficult. Much love to you, my friend!! xoxo
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