Triggered

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Torn and confused

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Triggered
« on: June 19, 2021, 09:20:16 PM »
A couple of weeks ago I was triggered by something and I'm having a really hard time. I thought maybe sharing here would help me process.

I work at a primary school. One day one of my students came to me with a very rotten piece of fruit in her school bag. She was upset and worried. I told her that it's ok, we all forget things and helped her clean it up without fuss. I reminded her to clean out her school bag every day and that was that. Problem was, the whole time all I could think about was the time that happened to me and ended up shaking, sick and upset.

When I was nine or ten I left a sandwich in my bag for too long and it went mouldy. Being a kid, I just left it there. I knew it was there but I was scared of being caught with it. I'm pretty sure a couple more sandwiches went in there with it and I just zipped up that bag and tried to keep it hidden. One day my mum found it and she raged out. She gave me the worst beating of my life, called me every name under the sun, made me pull my own pants down so she could belt me for every book that had to be thrown away. I hadn't thought of that incident in many years but up until this day with my student I always just accepted that it was my own fault, that I was disgusting. But I looked into this little girl's worried face and I knew she needed guidance, not anger. She needed help, not blame.

For the first time in a long time I felt small. I felt like I was a scared, helpless child again and ever since I've been dreaming about it, thinking about it all the time. I'm even having issues being touched by my husband. I realise now, upon lots of reflection, that it was about image to my mother. What if someone at school had seen it? What would they think of her?

I see now that it wasn't my fault, that I was just a small child with a small child's problem solving skills and she was the adult in the situation and behaved badly. But I just can't seem to shake it.

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Starboard Song

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Re: Triggered
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2021, 09:00:18 AM »
We have injustice meters. There's a little needle that goes up and down: up with a perceived injustice, and down is a mystery. The perception of injustice doesn't just happen at that moment. It recurrs with every memory and every echo.

It sounds like you know this, but our injustice meters are natural and pretty damn useless. I think we all share this experience of yours, becoming triggered and then having a hard time shaking it.

Please be kind to yourself, knowing that your reaction to that memory is very natural. You'll get there. You'll shake it.
Radical Acceptance, by Brach   |   Self-Compassion, by Neff    |   Mindfulness, by Williams   |   The Book of Joy, by the Dalai Lama and Tutu
Healing From Family Rifts, by Sichel   |  Stop Walking on Egshells, by Mason    |    Emotional Blackmail, by Susan Forward

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doglady

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Re: Triggered
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2021, 09:02:17 PM »
Hi T&C,
I can relate. Iím sharing my story as I hope it validates what you went through. When I was a young teen, my mother insisted I take liverwurst sandwiches to school. She told me I liked them. I didnít. I went through a stage of leaving them in my bag and feeling lots of shame about the mouldy mess in there. The hiding the mess, worrying about the smell, being scared someone would find it, etc. It consumed me. Eventually I dumped them under some trees in our garden, where my mother of course found them. She then shamed me in front of my whole family and some members of extended family, regularly bringing it up, shrieking and harassing me about why Iíd done it, that she just Ďcouldnít understand where sheíd gone wrong.í Shame heaped upon shame to the nth degree. While I can now see what I was doing was a childís Ďsolutioní to a problem, at the time I thought I must have been the worst kid in the world, and that it was some terrible kind of madness/weirdness/sickness I had that would cause me to do this. I felt so alone.
Many years later at my wedding she announced to the guests, as part of her interminably awful speech about me, that I had done this Ďstrange collecting and hiding mouldy sandwiches ďthingĒ as a teenager,í and that Ď[Doglady] became a mental health worker to sort herself outí. Yeah, that was pretty damned triggering. My amygdala screamed to get me out of there. But I sat and took it. No one seemed to react, which was even more isolating. Iím feeling so sick and shaky even as I write this.
I hope I havenít highjacked your post but I just wanted you to know that you are not alone. This stuff can trigger you decades later.
We need to remember that what we did was not a capital offence even though it was treated this way. We were shamed beyond any reasonable limit for this. That was not ok.
I wish Iíd had an understanding teacher like you. I could have done with one back then. You handled the situation gently and with understanding, something neither of us got. The little girl in your class is very lucky. I hope both you and her and doing ok.
As SS says, we get triggered and can have a hard time shaking it. The fact that youíre dreaming about it, thinking about it a lot and having a hard time being touched by your husband indicates you are reliving a highly traumatic experience. I think when we recognise we are triggered, we need to acknowledge it for what it is, then we need to accept thatís whatís happening, and dig down a bit into the cause if we can, and remember that what we did was completely understandable under the toxic circumstances of the families we were brought up in, that can really help. Sometimes we need extra help, though - to confide in someone who nonjudgmentally gets it, or to speak to a therapist if symptoms persist or worsen. Iíve also found Pete Walkerís book very helpful in this regard.
Self-care is so important, too. Itís vital to comfort that little child inside us who is still there and who didnít receive that love and compassion we so needed from our parents.
And tell yourself what you told that little student in your class. Thatís what your inner child needs to hear. You are valued. You are loved. You can validate that we all make mistakes and there is no need for shame about it. You can forgive yourself. I hope this helps a little.

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Torn and confused

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Re: Triggered
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2021, 08:14:08 AM »
Thank you both so much, just being heard and understood helps so much.  Doglady, I didn't know how much shame I still felt about the mouldy sandwiches until I read your account, your words were exactly my feelings as a child. I'm sorry for your experiences and I hope you have some distance from that toxic situation now.

As for your comments about my work, you have no idea how much that means to me. I often wonder, if just one teacher had recognised what was happening, how my life might have been different. I now dedicate myself to being an advocate for children. My kids (at work and my own children) know that I'm always a safe place and if that helps just one child, it's worth it.