I Get Triggered and That is Okay
By definition, a trigger is a lever that you pull to fire a gun.
“YOU ARE NOT SAFE!”
The definition of a trauma trigger is not too far off from that. In short, it is something that sets off a memory or a flashback. This causes a person to go back in time to the feelings and memories of the event of his/her original trauma.
“GET OUT. GET OUT. GET OUT. GET OUT.”
I get triggered.
I get triggered and it’s frustrating. Sometimes I can work right through it and be just fine. Other times my emotions and adrenaline are heightened for days as I work to calm myself.
For years, more than I’d like to admit, I didn’t know what a trigger was. As a survivor of abuse I had been triggered for years, but had no idea. Honestly, I felt a little bit crazy.
It could be anything. It could be running into someone from my past. It could be a scent, a genre of music – really anything!
Sometimes I get mad at my body for it. Sometimes I hate the fact that my body remembers that bad, scary, awful things happened to me. Sometimes I wish I could delete the memories.
But what if I could be thankful for a trigger?
Last week, when I was thinking about a trigger and what it really meant for my brain and my body, I let my thoughts go deeper into the meaning and definition of a trigger. I hadn’t ever really thought of being thankful for a trigger. How could I? They were so frustrating and encouraged me to remember and feel things that I’d, truthfully, like to never acknowledge again.
As I let my brain wander I thought back to a song my mom used to sing to me when I was a child. It was a song she had written just for me. “She’s beautiful, my daughter…lying so peacefully. Snug warm and tight…”
One day, when I was in high school, I was having a particularly hard day. My mom came in my room to tuck me in and started singing that song to me. I instantly felt safe. I felt loved, and felt so much comfort in this song. But, guess what?! I did not remember the song. After my mom had sang the entire song I looked up at her and said, “I know that song. Why do I know that song?” She explained to me where the song came from and that she would rock me to sleep as a baby while singing that song to me. My brain remembered…but I did not.
This seems simple, but at that moment I became thankful for my limbic system, the part of my brain that remembers and sends me triggers. The good and the bad. Yes, I get triggered. Yes, it sucks. No, I can’t control that it happens. But, I can also remember the good. I can be triggered to remember the good feelings. I can feel safe when my mom sings me my song. I can feel at home when I smell cinnamon rolls baking, I can remember the fun times in high school when I hear Soak up the Sun by Sheryl Crow.
I can be triggered to remember the good, and those feelings I would not trade for anything. Those memories are so special to me that I wouldn’t want to be rid of them if I had the choice to get rid of triggers all together.
More than anything, I’m thankful for my brain, and my body for looking out for me. For doing it’s job, trying to keep me safe.
I get triggered.
And that’s okay.
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