Do you know when you are triggered?

I don’t have to feel dirty just because someone brought their dirt to me. It is not mine to take.

Confidence happens over time. It isn’t like I can read a book or have an experience and suddenly I am confident and secure. It doesn’t happen that way. I wish it did. Putting myself first at this stage in my life, with my daughter grown and graduated from college, feels like the right place for me to be. And I gain a sense of accomplishment and more confidence every time I stand up for myself and keep my promise to myself not to play second fiddle in my own life.

Sometimes it is hard though, recently I had a confrontation with someone where I didn’t feel heard or understood. As much as I tried to explain myself, or have them see my point of view, they were not interested in it. They had a certain view of me that included untruths. Things they had said about me that simply were not true. It produced extreme anxiety for me to be around this person. Not only because I thought they were being unreasonable but also because it triggered me. I know I have come a long way in my growth because in the past I wouldn’t have even realize I was triggered. But this time I did.

My family of origin didn’t want to hear my point of view, they just wanted me to play my role as the youngest girl. I did this for a long time, until I ventured out on my own at 23 and never looked back. I was done with the way they treated me. I was defiant and angry and I let my family know that. For as many books I read about healing my inner child in my 20’s it never really fully sunk in. There was still a part of me that let my mother’s words run part of my life, because I wanted to prove her wrong. I never really did the work to find out what I really wanted. I did things that were the opposite of how I was brought up, so I was still using my family as a guide.

In my marriage, I really did think I found my soulmate. We were both the youngest of large families, and we could relate to each other about not being heard as children, or even as adults. But I didn’t know how to talk about my true feelings, because I didn’t even know what they were. I would want to be close, and then withdrawal suddenly. I wanted to be an artist and writer which my Ex husband supported at that time, but after a few rejections to get my work published, I threw in the towel. As the years went on, I changed into a person I didn’t recognize. I was angry, short tempered and unsatisfied. I wanted to accumulated money and things. I had moved to Portland Oregon from San Francisco to live a simpler life, but when I went back to work in finance when my daughter was 7 all the things I wanted to leave behind came back full force. My job became my source of self worth as I spent most of my energy trying to move up the corporate ladder and make more money. None of it really satisfied me though. I drifted so far away from anything that made me feel peaceful and happy that it took a complete breakdown to get me to change.

After my breakdown, I decided to stop drinking and start to look within and find out what my true feelings were. There were many days that the silence of being sober made me question if I would ever be happy again. I had shut down my inner voice for so long that it was scared to speak to me. When it started to speak it was so quiet and scared. But hearing it made me want to dig deeper and find out more. Because I wasn’t drinking I started to get bored with happy hours and gossip, and I started to go to book readings and women’s groups. As I became friends with women that encouraged me and felt the same as me, it made me feel that I wasn’t alone or crazy for feeling so lost and confused. I started to become a different person, someone that I liked better, but my husband didn’t recognize. I really wanted him to embrace my journey, but it made him feel insecure as he could see my confidence coming back. It eventually led to our divorce last year.

My first year of being on my own felt like vacation. I moved to the beach and even through the pandemic, I was so grateful to be in such beautiful healing surroundings and not have to answer to anyone. But in the past few months I have wanted to diver deeper to find out what I want the rest of my life to look like. So I have made it a priority, to let my guard down so I can see underneath all of my defenses and find out what really speaks to my soul. I have done this through yoga, meditation, and spending more time with people that I know have my back. So, I feel more vulnerable lately. So, when I recently had a situation where someone was trying to say untruths about me, or make me feel ‘less than’, it triggered all my old feelings that I thought I had resolved. A huge part of me was in disbelief that I was once again in a situation where someone was trying to do this to me. I looked to the universe and asked, ‘Why are you teaching me this lesson again? I have already learned it 100 times over!’ A part of me blamed myself that I found myself once again having to defend myself against a bully.

This time was different though, in the fact that I knew I was triggered and I didn’t let myself completely go to that dark place. I would touch on it, but then realize that wasn’t reality. This time was different then my family and my marriage, because this time I could defend myself and easily walk away. I didn’t have to stay and take it. I didn’t have to let my body freeze up or lash out in anger. I could state my truth, which is all I can do. This time I saw an end to it. I thought to myself, by next week I will be over this. This is just a moment in time, and a feeling that will be gone in a few days.

And I was right. Because I feel ok now. I even feel happy. I went to my yoga on the beach class last evening and I felt such joy and gratitude to be living here and to have so many people that love what I love, in my life. Yes, I was triggered. Yes, I felt anxious and sad. Yes, it made me go to a dark place. But, it is over, and I have the structure of my life set up in such a way that I can get right back to things that make me feel good.

This morning when I got up I understood why the universe gave me this experience again. Because I can only gain confidence by going through an experience. How do I know I have truly changed unless I am tested? The universe wanted me to see the space that I have created between someone else’s actions and me. It wanted me to see how far I have come, and that the hard work I am doing on myself is working. I have learned that just because someone says something to me or about me, it doesn’t mean I have to take it on and be a part of their world. The person I used to be would have taken it on, and been easily manipulated by them. But because I know when I am triggered, I can be kind to myself and get support from my friends who know and love me, and who truly have my back. I don’t have to feel dirty just because someone brought their dirt to me. It is not mine to take. It is them, not me. Not only do I know this now, but I feel it. I can even have empathy for the other person because not so long ago, that was me. Angry, frustrated and so far off my center that I could only gain significance by making someone else feel less than me. I get it, but I don’t live there anymore. I have changed, and this experience was brought to me to show me just how much I have changed and so I can only be grateful for it.

The universe asked, ‘Do you really see and value your true self?’ And I answered, ‘Yes, I see myself, and even with all my faults, triggers and past mistakes, I deserve to be number one in my own life!’

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    1. I used to get triggered and react constantly, in fact that was kind of my life. And all my emotions would go into reacting and trying to change the other person. Such a waste of time, now that I look back. It is so nice to know when I am triggered and just let those feelings BE rather than them taking me on a weeks’ long journey into unhappiness.