The human mind is miraculous. That we have the capacity to recall and relive beautiful moments is a blessing. The smell of rain can bring me back to summer evenings on my favourite swing on the covered porch at the cottage. The taste of maple walnut ice cream has me sitting in a sunny kitchen with my grandfather. Anything from the Deep Purple Machine Head album and I’m hanging with my grade 10 boyfriend. The colour orange makes me smile – always. Maybe it’s because in 1967 I had a pair of orange patent leather sling back shoes with a flower on the front that made me feel like a fashion model. A hand cradling the side of my head and I feel safe. I’m not entirely sure why, but I won’t question it. It simply is and I love the feeling.
For all the beautiful memories there are equally horrific ones. Some are probably pretty easy for most people to understand but some surprise even me. How can it be that a certain gait can cause my heart to start racing? Or sometimes just one word spoken in a certain tone…..or the cadence of a sentence overheard in a coffee shop has me trembling. Sitting in a team meeting at work and suddenly a wave of panic rolls in from seemingly nowhere. Struggling to regain composure and trying to understand what is happening, what has caused my brain to try to take me back to that room where my abuser first touched me. Feet planted firmly on the ground and in a nano-second that seems like an eternity, I am 5 again. I tell my brain to STOP and come back to present. Upon reflection I realize that the trigger was the simple act of someone not acknowledging my presence. Talking around me but not looking at me. That very act has reminded me that I am not worthy. That I am so dirty that no one wants to even look at me. SHAME has rushed in.
Triggers are a fact of life for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I’ve had years where they overtook my life and so I did everything I could to numb myself. (that’s at least ten blog posts worth of content..) Where I am now is a different place. I’ve done a lot of work with some therapists and other survivors and learned to move through them. I understand the triggers. And if or when I don’t, I’ve learned how to ground myself and minimize the impact of the memory.
I have a few methods I use to get back to ‘now. One of them is a touchstone. A beautiful piece of amethyst that is smooth and soothing. It was given to me at a survivors group and I treasure it. When I am in a particularly bad place, I pull it out and work it between my fingers. It reminds me that I am not alone. That I am safe. That the past is that. I am now okay and strong and able to make a CHOICE. My choice is to continue to THRIVE and in doing so help others.
What are your triggers? What have you found to help you get through them?