Empower Yourself By Recognizing Your Triggers


Learn to identify them so peace and joy can find their way back to you.

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One minute you're living life, feeling great, and having fun. The next minute you see something or someone says something, and bam!

It's all over.

You're inexplicably nervous, crying over nothing, or enraged for what seems like no reason.

When this happens, you might feel ashamed, worried that people will think you're unstable.

You might feel broken, like nobody could ever love you.

But these episodes might not be your fault.

You could be getting triggered.

Like an invisible time machine that takes you directly back to your trauma, triggering can happen without warning.

Even unremembered injuries can come back to haunt you.

I understand how it feels. It happens to me.

When I was younger, I thought I was going crazy.

Then, a therapist had me read up on PTSD. Suddenly, my life made sense.

Suddenly, those confusing episodes that made me feel out of control had context. I could forgive myself and slough off some of the shame I'd been carrying.

If you get triggered, you're not insane.

It's more likely that you've been damaged, hurt, or traumatized. Possibly your emotional wounds have gone unacknowledged and unhealed.

In my first year of University, at the bar one night with friends, I was struck with an unbearable wave of grief. I ran into the bathroom and began weeping.

I thought I was losing my mind.

Everybody else was partying, as I was having a nervous breakdown in a bathroom stall.

I felt like an idiot.

It took a while, but I eventually pulled myself back together enough to spend the rest of the night drinking myself into oblivion.

Events like that happened to me often, and I would either get over emotional or disassociate.

Years later, in therapy, I managed to unravel what was occurring during those episodes.

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I also had a severe trauma when I was a toddler that I repressed for most of my life.

But I also had a sibling whose coping mechanism was to take her frustrations out on me. I was bullied at home all my young life.

There was no safe place for me.

Lashing out at me gave her relief, so she did it often.

I understand now that's the only way she knew how to cope, but that doesn't lessen the damage.

I can remember specific incidents that changed me, feeling the trauma of her actions altering me in real-time.

Unfortunately, since she wasn't the only person who traumatized me in childhood, I had multiple triggers to deal with.

As a young adult, I'd get triggered often and not even know it was happening.

When I was a waitress in my 20's, I got a table of college-aged guys. They were old enough to drink but probably not much older.

I approached the table and immediately went into a flashback.

Suddenly they were the boys who terrorized me in middle school. Then I flew even further back to the teenager who sexually abused me when I was about four.

I became paralyzed with fear. I couldn't speak properly and started stuttering.

I must have looked like a deer in the headlights.

I broke out in a cold sweat and had to go into the bathroom to settle down.

I broke down in tears. I was so afraid.

I had to pass the table off to someone else.

Trying to cope with the fallout of being continually triggered made life exhausting.

I had frequent bouts of depression and thoughts of suicide.

Triggers can happen anywhere, and they can be as subtle as they are obvious, so watch out if you think they're happening to you.

It can be a smell, a place, or even a time of year that makes you feel unhinged. Learning to recognize them is a good first step towards managing them.

Practicing mindfulness can be helpful.

Being able to step back at the moment and say to yourself, "What is going on here?" can help you start to gain control.

Tapping or EFT is another good technique for coping. It's my go-to when I have difficulty getting grounded.

Getting triggered can happen anywhere to anyone, so the first step to is to notice when it happens and why.

Always seek professional help if you can, but starting a trigger journal might help if you can't.

Try writing down your unexplainable emotional reactions.

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Write down each episode in detail.

Try to become aware of when you feel your emotions getting out of control. Write down when it occurs, who you were with, the situation at the time, and how you felt.

Having a written account can help you be objective and analytical. Maybe there's a pattern, a person or type of person who triggers you.

Sometimes recognizing a problem is the first step towards finding a solution.

Try to remember you're not crazy.

Lots of good people have emotional issues that overwhelm their lives. It doesn't mean you're unlovable or beyond redemption. It just means you have a problem to tackle.

Take control of what you can and try to figure out what triggers you.

That way, you can start to work on a solution.

Armed with information, you can learn to cope.

Coping better can help create the space in your life to allow joy and peace to find their way back into your heart.

***This is not a substitute for your doctor's diagnosis. If you're already on a mental health plan with a professional, stay on your prescribed course. If you feel like you're in crisis, make sure you get professional help. This article is meant to enlighten you and give you some insight. It's not a treatment or diagnosis.***

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Musician, writer, toddler wrangler. Author of "How To Be Wise AF" guided journal available on Amazon as well as "The Automatic Parent" due out in Feb. 2022.


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