All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…

Ruminations on confronting an emotional trigger

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To say I’m still lost to the negative emotions that have been circling me of late would be an understatement. Living in a perpetual state of heightened anxiety is an exhausting place to be. It has already cost me hope and is draining me of what little energy, focus and concentration remains. However, this blog has always been a place of solace and therapy, so where better to try to make sense of a monumental moment of my life (and dent my current writer’s block) than here?

This post was written as a stream of consciousness on Sunday 5 May 2013, between 15:32-16:04. Apologies for any spelling errors, grammatical mistakes and confused rambling that may occur; they’re all part and parcel of streams of consciousness.

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~Humiliation

For the better part of twenty-five years, when confronted with a trigger, my gut reaction has always been to run. Whether it be out of the room, out of my place of employment or even, on some occasions, out of the county. I will do whatever it takes to remove any possible chance of encountering that trigger again. I will avoid songs, movies, streets, shops, suburbs, people and cities – regardless of the detrimental effect this will have on my life. After all, half a decade of isolation has fine-tuned my survival instinct into a brutal, instinctual beast.

However, a few weeks ago, for the first time ever, I confronted a trigger head-on.

I sat in a room with the person who has been triggering me and told them that they were triggering me.

Everyone – from support workers to family to Meadhbh – have been telling me it was a massive achievement; something that I should be proud of, something that I should see as a turning point in the way I approach the trauma and anxiety that has ruled my life for so long.

But I felt nothing but shame, shit and utter abject humiliation. So much so that last weekend I submitted to that brutal beast and left my home with the intent to return to a homeless life far from the town that has been my home for the last eighteen months-ish. So much so that I have taken to spontaneously bursting into tears purely to release the tension within me. So much so that in the last three weeks I’ve had only half a dozen conversations as I resume a state of protective hibernation.

Everywhere I’ve been, everywhere I’ve cycled, every occasion I’ve found myself in has seen me staring rigidly at the ground, never once looking at the world around me for fear people will see me for the wretched creature I believe I am. My cheeks have burned red with blushing embarrassment, my silence – even more than usual – has been deafening and my mind lost to the demons of self-hate, negativity and near constant (irrational) criticism.

But every time I’ve been asked why I’ve felt so humiliated – I’ve not been able to rationally explain it. Not once.

Perhaps because I was admitting a weakness to someone I look up to admire. Perhaps because it proved my inferiority in comparison to the rest of the world. Perhaps because I’m just a worthless piece of shit destined to feel nothing but negative emotions.

Or, as Meadhbh put it, “perhaps it’s easier to wallow in humiliation rather than bathe in the stunningly kick ass awesomeness of Addy!” (She’s a smart one, that Meadhbh!)

~Repetition

Throughout my abusive relationship whenever I showed a glimmer of strength it wasn’t long before my abuser upped-the-metaphorical-stick to beat me back down. She had to, as it’s much easier to control someone who is vulnerable than someone who is showing signs of kick ass awesomeness!

I was conditioned to appease; to say only the things she wanted to hear, to do the things she wanted to do, to share the opinions that she wanted to hear. Any sign of weakness, any sign of individuality, any moment of awesomeness, would lead to abusive tantrums, vicious insults and public humiliation; all to keep me vulnerable and her in control.

As I sat in that room with my trigger only a few feet away, I wasn’t appeasing the situation, I wasn’t doing what (my abuser) would have wanted me to do, I was being the kick ass awesome Addy that only Meadhbh seems to be able to see. I stood up to emotions that – only a couple of weeks earlier – had left me vomiting and bawling on the floor of a public toilet.

Yet, rather than applaud this show of strength, my mind reverted to the mindset of how my abuser would have made me feel. In essence I (in conjunction with Vanessa, the voice of my abuser) ensured I was punished for this (in her words) “outrageous display”.

~Flagellation

So, as Vanessa yelled, screamed, tormented and abused, I succumbed to a flagellating state. Not physically, but mentally lashing my soul with a cat o’ nine tails. How dare I believe I could be so strong! How dare I possess such strength! How dare I demonstrate such a determination to be someone other than a repulsive piece of shit!

Cue the focus on shame. On humiliation. On the tears, cycle of self-hate and irrational decisions to appease she who must always be in control.

Cue the depersonalization. The dissociation. The removal of my self from mind, body and soul as a means of protection against such powerful pain.

Cue the self harm. The self-medication. The repetitious acts I’ve become so accustomed to perform in a valiant effort to reconnect the shattered remnants of my mind.

Cue never once realising that the only reason my abuser, my voices and my traumatized self act like this is because we are scared.

Morbidly terrified of losing control over someone they can see is growing in strength, stature and confidence.

~Amelioration

A few weeks ago, for the first time ever, I confronted a trigger head-on.

I sat in a room with the person who has been triggering me and told them that they were triggering me.

Everyone – from support workers to family to Meadhbh – have been telling me it was a massive achievement; something that I should be proud of, something that I should see as a turning point in the way I approach the trauma and anxiety that has ruled my life for so long.

And they’re right. I know that. I don’t believe it yet, but I know that they are.

Everyone has triggers, not just people who deal daily with mental ill-health and trauma, but everyone.

Confronting a trigger in the manner that I did three weeks ago is something not everyone could do. To put yourself in such a dangerous position, such a vulnerable and humiliating position, is something most people (myself included) would run from. But I didn’t. I may have blushed, I may have looked everywhere in the room but eyes, I may have felt nauseous from fear and humiliated beyond belief. I may have forgotten every goddamn thing that was said after admitting what was happening!

But I still did it.

I still took the first step on the path toward finding more productive ways of dealing with triggers than doing Monty Python and the Holy Grail impressions.

Later this week I will be meeting my support worker to review some of the ideas that were discussed that day (I am being completely honest when I say I can’t remember any of it! Hence, dissociation!) and perhaps from that – and my Biopsychosocial Personal Treatment Plan ideas – something can be implemented to re-empower myself against this particular trigger.

In time, I’m sure I will begin to believe the kick ass awesomeness of Addy.

Until then, I just have to keep reminding myself that it’s okay to feel; regardless whether those emotions are positive, negative or somewhere in between.

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One thought on “Ruminations on confronting an emotional trigger

  1. Good morning Kick Ass Addy,

    Yes, this is what you are to me. You faced a trigger!!

    I have a question, just to think about for you.

    When I face a trigger ( one at a time and slowly) I would feel deep guilt and shame.
    I replay the situation in my head endlessly and the guilt and shame would increase to a fever pitch anxiety and isolation.

    My Therapist asked me to change the words from guilt and shame to sorrow and accountability. With each person and situation I was taking responsibility for “what should have been, what could of been”. I mourned the fact that the people that hurt me did not choose to have a happy, healthy and loving relationship I was offering.

    Addy, will you try this exercise?

    I still fluctuate between hurt and pissed, how dare they treat me like this when I KNEW the love and kindness should be mutual. When it was not the guilt would land on me, it had to be my fault. It is not my fault that they did not measure up. This I feel sad for, but no longer guilt.

    We hide behind guilt to mask a greater emotion that is our RIGHT to feel.

    My arms are around you.

    Like

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