Tag Archives: trauma

what triggers you by monthtomilestones.com

What Your Triggers Tell You

Pay attention to what’s bothering you.

My anxiety rushed over me before I even knew to fret.

A friend had posted yet another picture of her perfect self with her perfect family, living their perfect life as perfect people.

I love this friend dearly. The two of us together, talking and laughing, our kids hanging out with one another, is one of my favorite activities in life.

And yet, here I was, envious…or so I thought.

For a long time, when I’d encounter women like her–peppy, put together, perfect–I would believe I was jealous of what they had. Hadn’t I always craved normalcy and never gotten it?

But what I eventually realized was that I actually was not envious. Deep down, I didn’t want the life my friend leads; if I did, I would have strived harder for it.

No, I was angry. Angry that this was the picture of what was “right” that was held before me, this belief that as a wife and a mother in the South I should want my children to dress a certain way, participate in certain activities and choose certain friend groups.

We should live in a certain type of house in a certain neighborhood.

I should look a certain way, work out a certain way, eat a certain way.

I hated the certains.

Even after discovering it was anger, not envy, driving my anxiety, I couldn’t seem to stop the feeling. I wanted to be able to scroll past and not care, but I couldn’t.

Because this whole “not having what I thought I was supposed to” deal had been stuck with me for quite some time, seeping into my life somewhere around the age of 12 and setting up home in my bitter heart.

It took the season from hell to force me to dig out issues that had embroiled my thoughts and held me captive for so long.

One of those issues was figuring out exactly what triggers me.

monmil goods logo for monthtomilestones.com with the words an open wound triggers pain. Heal it.

By no means are perfect posts on social media my only trigger. Male patriarchy (super controlling father), drinking mothers (cleaned my mom’s vomit off the floor), evangelical church (destroyed my family of origin), and sexual abuse (abused by men close to me), cut me to my core.

When I find myself up against stories, situations and scenarios where these triggers are present, I must employ three tactics to help me make it through:

  1. I STOP and breathe deep.

Closing my eyes, I breathe in through my nose and exhale out of my mouth. I do this two or three times and try to move more slowly each time.

2. I REMEMBER that whatever it was that caused this trigger has no power over me.

The past is over. And even in the present, the truth is, whatever happened to me only had the power to hurt me that I gave it. Is it okay to let something hurt you? Absolutely. But there comes a point at which the pain will take over if we don’t put it in its proper place. We have to remember that we have control of our own life.

3. I PRACTICE my reframing techniques:

I go back to the memory, put myself in the other person’s shoes (when possible–I don’t advocate this in situations of sexual abuse), and I tell myself that me, the person or the event that hurt me was human and fallen, too. Then, I imagine myself forgiving everyone in the situation.

The final trick up my sleeve is what I call the trick of Absurd Self-Esteem.

Self-esteem has gotten a bad rap as of late, but I think it’s foundational to understanding our value. We were created and bought at a high price (in my view) and the value of anything is the price someone was willing to pay for it.

Humans were created with a built in need for affirmation. We want to be wanted, loved and valued. So sometimes we have to choose this for ourselves–no one is going to do it for us.

My trick is to tell myself I’m living in the best of all possible worlds. What is happening in my life is exactly what is supposed to happen. I am creating the life I’ve chosen. This is the life I want. And if there’s anything I don’t want in my life that is in my ability to change, I change it immediately.

Practice! It takes time, but using these tactics has helped me tremendously on my journey to a best enough me.

Triggers help us figure out what’s still bothering us after all this time on earth.

What are your triggers?

I’d love to hear from you.

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Who Is Telling Your Story?

“In life, finding a voice is speaking and living the truth. Each of you is an original. Each of you has a distinctive voice. When you find it, your story will be told. You will be heard.” – John Grisham

My father is staying with us this week because my grandfather is in the hospital nearby.

Dad’s been spending long days tending to Radio Joe at the hospital so that he won’t be alone.

The time he’s been here has taught me a number of lessons, and I’ve been taking notes in my journal of what I’ve learned.

Care more about the future. Make a plan. Start saving more money for retirement and long term care.

Be grateful. Life is short. Time flies. Enjoy the days more.

Stop being negative. Stop pitying yourself. Stop being so critical and depressed. You sound just like your father.

I sound just like my father.

It’s amazing what a child picks up in the short time it spends at home.

I’m sure some of what we learn isn’t really learned at all; it’s simply the genetic code we’ve been given at birth.

But I think more of what we learn is really learned. We watch our parents and can’t help but to imitate them.

My fear of money; it’s always existed, it seemed. There has only been one time in my life that I’ve truly not had food to eat or clothes to wear, but even then, I managed. And there has been plenty of abundance, and yet, I’m constantly anxious about money, how much we have and how much we don’t have.

My critical spirit, not just of others, but also of myself. I think I’m the worst of everyone and do the worst of everything, and so, oftentimes, I won’t even try to do the best I can because, what’s the point?

My need to be right. I will find a way to prove myself right time and time again. Like a nagging voice, shouting to be heard, I want to be right! If I’m not right, I feel worthless.

My desire to control and my deep fear of control. I not only want to know every moment of the future, I’m terrified of it and escape as much as possible to avoid it.

All of these parts of my personality come directly from my parents, including my substance use disorders.

How do you change what’s so deeply embedded within you?

Well, some people never will. Some people never become aware enough about what’s happening within them to make a conscious effort to change.

Which is why I thank God for the last two years.

After a rough season in my early thirties, I really settled into my late thirties, and was getting by fine, but growing- dare I say- restless.

I wasn’t working outside of the home, other than a part-time preschool teaching job and a freelance writing gig here or there.

I didn’t really know where I was headed. Did I want to get back into full-time teaching? I hadn’t liked it too much when I’d been there, all that grading and parent involvement and dealing with other people’s children.

And yet, it was a steady job, and at the time, I’d been wanting to move my children to a private school that was Christian and more traditional in learning style (or so I thought).

I claimed my reasons were pure, but the truth was, I wanted money for myself and I wanted to move my children so that in a smaller school they’d feel better about themselves.

That thinking, me and my wants, were what had dictated so many moves I’d made in life, long before the decisions I made two years ago.

What I chose to do, going back to work, moving the kids, was a mistake that had been given a clear no by God. He’d all but shouted; I hadn’t listened.

And though He’s blessed me anyway because that’s how He works–He’s a blesser, not a punisher–I know for sure I didn’t make the right decision and haven’t been making the right decisions for quite some time.

The hardest pill to swallow is understanding that human time is linear and there is no going back to fix what’s been broken.

My voice broke some time ago, way back in my past, and instead of trying desperately to get it back, to speak again, I’ve jumped from person to person, place to place, position to position, trying to go and be and do.

I can’t tell you the years I’ve wasted. If such a thing were possible, wasting years. I tend to think God can and will use anything, especially sin.

The last two years have ended up teaching me so much. I’ve dealt with the realization of my age, a friend’s betrayal, job loss, deconversion from the only beliefs I’ve ever known, suicide, death, illness, my children leaving home for college, my first dog dying.

You name it, and over the last two years, I’ve probably lived it.

But I’m learning to find my voice. And I’m learning to speak up with confidence.

I’m rediscovering my value, that I’m worth the price someone paid to set me free, an ultimate price, at a cost of uncloaking divinity to take on my flesh.

On Sundays, I reflect.

I’ll take a drive through the backroads of our town, sit on my deck and watch the hummingbirds, think about life near the calm waters of the lake at our town park.

I found this written in the pages of my planner last Sunday.

a list of what I want by monthtomilestones.com

I found it fitting that the highlighted line underneath tells me to head to my favorite place on earth. I’ve long been a beach girl. It’s where I feel closest to God.

And though I think it was metaphorical, the whole beach and shell thing, it’s exactly what I plan to do.

I’ll find the roaring voice inside me, the one that sounds like the gushing waves of the ocean.

I’ll search for all the little shells of wisdom, different in shape, size and color, and I’ll stick them in my pocket. My fingers will study them, the smooth top, the rough edges.

And I won’t be afraid to show them to the world.

How are you finding your voice? Was it lost? Are you just now discovering it? I’d love to hear from you.

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A list of ways to heal trauma

Are We Hyper Trauma Focused?

I’ve been reading with some chagrin the events that are spiraling out of control all around us.

There’s Afghanistan, but there’s also natural disaster, such as hurricanes and forest fires.

We’ve got a future economic crisis on our hands if we don’t see manufacturing, importing and exporting go back to normal soon.

And then, of course, there’s the dreaded C word. And I don’t mean cancer.

What do you do when life seems to be falling apart around you?

The sad thing is, so many of us know all about life falling apart.

Because before there was anything catastrophic going on in the world, we were dealing with implosions of our personal lives.

Maybe it was a divorce, either yours or your parents’.

Maybe you lost your job, your home, your children.

A relationship ended or you dealt with a debilitating health crisis.

Or, like me, this has been a year filled with struggling through the painful loss of a loved one’s suicide.

The weird thing about personal pain is just that: it feels very personal.

As much as you want someone to relate to you, you feel like you’re alone.

No one could possibly understand what you’re going through.

When my parents divorced, I was only twelve years old.

I hadn’t yet even figured out who I was, let alone understood anything about marriage.

I didn’t get that two people who meet at a bar at eighteen and get pregnant, probably don’t have the best of chances at staying married without a whole lot of work.

I couldn’t possibly know that the work it takes to stay married sometimes costs a pretty hefty price, and often needs at least some sort of understanding of what a good marriage looks like in the first place.

My parents’ parents had terrible marriages, as did their parents before them. How were they supposed to magically know how to make a marriage work?

But to a child going through a divorce, none of that matters.

Children don’t want their parents to be people. They want their parents to be perfect.

They want safe and secure lifestyle, even at the cost of their parents’ happiness.

Selfishness is not a child’s fault; they’re born that way.

It takes maturity to realize how difficult adulthood actually is.

But no matter how much you grow and forgive people who hurt you, sometimes the trauma is still there.

Trauma is a buzzword these days.

We’re hearing and seeing it everywhere.

Apparently, everything causes trauma now. At least, that’s how it seems.

And it also feels like everything humans do in response to anything that happens in life is called a “trauma-response.”

Now, I don’t discount that we all probably had some things in childhood that weren’t perfect.

But goodness, you’d think every one of us was raised by wolves.

I’m not so sure I’m buying into this whole, “heal your trauma” 24/7/365 sound machine.

Especially when there’s some kind of program, mentor or life coach you need to purchase from in order to achieve success.

Call me crazy, but I’m a little wary of following a person’s life plan simply based on a ten-second Instagram reel.

And, hear me out, here, I’m starting to wonder if maybe we’re all just a little too hyper-focused on trauma lately.

I mean, let’s be honest, focusing on your painful past causes you to constantly be looking inward, at yourself.

You become blind to other people’s pain when you’re in pain, but I would also say you become blind to it when you’re focused on old pain.

And I think we can become so obsessed with past trauma, that we miss that there are people hurting all around us.

I personally believe that one of the biggest ways to heal a painful past is to pay kindness forward.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Jesus said that. Many other spiritual leaders practiced it before and after him. ‘

We call it The Golden Rule, and it’s golden for a reason:

  1. Helping others can help you live longer. And don’t we all want a nice, long life?
  2. Giving spreads. One act of kindness carries over to another act of kindness.
  3. Helping others brings joy. A look of happiness on another’s face brings a smile to yours.
  4. Helping others can help with physical pain. Taking your mind off of the trauma that causes clear physical pain, such as headaches, nausea and joint ache happens when we reach out to others.
  5. Helping others leads our children to helping others. Parents who help raise children who are more likely to help.
  6. Helping others makes us feels like we matter. There is purpose in our pain. We can use it for good if we allow.

We are living in a world where, all around us, people are hurting.

There are many of them, the women and children in Afghanistan, for instance, who are helpless.

Have we become so focused on our own trauma that we are ignoring the cries for help from those around us?

I hope not.

Now, more than ever, we need a collective call to action.

We need to put away our own pain for a period of time to do something bigger and greater for our world.

Research ways you can help the various crises going on around you. Pick one or two and focus on making a difference.

Even if it’s not financially, you can help raise funds, minister to those in need, pray for those who are hurting.

You can make a difference.

We can make a difference.

But we must work together.

There used to be a time in the world where this was a no-brainer.

People weren’t so focused on their own hurts, habits and hang-ups.

There was a time when we recognized that life was simply messy, that good and bad things happened, the rain fell on the just and the unjust, and one day, like it or not, our time would come to pass on.

We seem to have a bit more trouble accepting those truths nowadays.

It’s like we all want to live in some perfect utopia, with perfect minds, bodies, homes and families.

We want a perfect world.

We think that hyper-focusing on “fixing” will make that perfect world possible.

A perfect world is not possible. We must realize that at some point and move on.

But we can be good. We can be decent and loving and forgiving people.

It’s time we focus on what we can be instead of what we wish we could be.

It’s time to move from the vision of a perfect world to a vision of a loving world, instead.

How have you become hyper-focused on self? What did you do to heal your trauma and move on? I’d love to hear from you.

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A list of ways to heal trauma

Healing Your Unmet Needs from Childhood

Many of us grew up in homes where one or both parents were stable, kind, loving and set good, healthy boundaries.

But many of us grew up the opposite of safe and healthy. In unstable homes, one or both parents were unhappy, unkind, and didn’t allow us to grow as needed.

Some of us couldn’t function on a higher level of consciousness because we were too busy trying to make sense of what was happening around us. 

Human beings come into the world with two powerful needs: the need to eat and the need to feel loved and accepted. 

When one or both of those needs are warped or missing, it throws off the ability to live a “normal” life. We are scratching and clawing our way to survive instead, desperately searching for what we didn’t get. 

I grew up in a home with two loving parents. Early in my childhood I felt safe and happy. 

But not too many years into childhood, everything changed. 

My father joined a religion that destroyed our family. 

My mother’s childhood trauma, which she’d successfully buried for over a decade, reared its ugly head once my father’s behavior changed and my mother’s mother developed breast cancer and passed away. 

As a child just trying to have my daily needs met, the feeling that life was falling apart left me confused, sad, and angry. 

Trying to understand my father’s extremely controlling decisions was baffling. 

Sorting through my mother’s trauma, now coupled with fresh abuse that had occurred to me, was equally as confusing. 

It would take many years to begin to heal, and in between the trauma and the healing were many years of mistakes, mismanagement and messes to clean up. 

What I’ve learned from growing up with unmet needs is this:

  1. Unmet needs will cause you to question just about every aspect of your life. 

When your basic needs are not met, there is a level of distrust that forms, not only a distrust for others, but a distrust of self. 

It’s as if you feel like there has to be something wrong with you, because as children, we have an uncanny way of making ourselves the center of every problem. (Part of that is simply that children are self-centered, and unfortunately that selfishness can be detrimental when we turn it on ourselves.)

Because we become so distrustful, we begin to question every decision made by us and others, overthinking and over discussing every situation until we are filled to the brim with anxiety. 

  1. Unmet needs will cause eating disorders, alcohol use disorder, body dysphoria, sexual promiscuity and more. 

When you grow up in an unsafe environment where your basic needs are not filled you will search for every way possible to fulfill that need. 

If you’re needing love and acceptance, you might find it any way possible, be it physically, mentally or emotionally. 

This might look like promiscuity, hanging with the wrong crowd, or even “healthy” things that are not healthy for us because we’re using them improperly, such as an unhealthy addiction to popularity, people-pleasing or exercise. 

Unmet needs also lead to comforting ourselves with the wrong thing. 

Maybe you use alcohol to escape. Another person might sit in front of the TV with a bag of Lays potato chips and reality TV. (I did both.) 

When we freeze and distract ourselves, it’s a coping mechanism that unfortunately only brings more anxiety because we are filled with shame afterwards. 

  1. Unmet needs lead us to relinquish control over our own lives. 

Probably the most harmful part of trying to have our needs met is that the above issues cause us to give up control of our life. 

We grow distrustful of our ability to make decisions so we allow others to make them for us, even when they’re not in our best interest. 

We end up dating or marrried to someone with the same qualities of the people we were trying to escape. 

Or we become the epitome of people-pleasers, desperately seeking to make everyone happy in order for us to feel “loved” and “safe.”

What happens in all of the above cases is that we end up hating ourselves. 

We wake up one day and realize that most of our life hasn’t been lived for us, but for other people, and we’ve allowed it simply because we were trying to have basic needs met.

Is this you? 

Have you spent your life searching for the basic needs you were supposed to freely get as a child? 

Did you grow up in an environment where you were forced to survive instead of thrive? 

Here are some tips for overcoming unmet needs:

  1. Go back. 

As hard as it might be, take some time one day to be alone in a quiet place. Maybe light some candles or turn on some consciousness meditation music, and close your eyes. 

Put yourself back in that environment, and pinpoint exactly what it was you needed that you didn’t get. 

It might be that you grew up in a home that seemed fine. Maybe you had great parents, but you needed an affectionate mother and she just wasn’t the touchy-feely kind. 

Maybe your parents had expected to have a sports star, but you were the book nerd. They still loved you, of course, but you always felt like you’d failed them. 

Or maybe you grew up with significant lack and trauma. That’s okay. Even so, go back there, and pinpoint those moments that you felt hurt. 

  1. Offer your younger self the love you needed then. 

When you go back to that moment, don’t judge the little girl or boy you were. Don’t judge your parents, either. Don’t judge at all. 

Instead, offer your younger self what you needed and didn’t get. Tell him or her that they are beautiful, whole, worthy and loved. 

Allow yourself to feel a little silly. It may seem fruitless to go back to a time you can’t change, but I promise you, going back in time to that spot and talking to yourself is cathartic. 

The kind words you tell your younger self will be worth it. 

  1. Start getting comfortable with discomfort. 

The hardest part of healing is allowing yourself to feel discomfort. Many of us have been self-soothing and surviving for so long that we’ve become accustomed to running for comfort in all the wrong places. 

But you have to sit with a little discomfort as you grow. Learn to say no; be fearless about setting strict boundaries both with yourself and others. 

Telling yourself no first might be the hardest step. Our brain is wicked-good at taking care of us, but oftentimes the care part gets twisted. 

My body (my habits) might want a chocolate-chip milkshake for escape. My brain says, “Yes! Survive! Zone out!” but my higher-self says, “Nope, not good.” 

You have to be more comfortable allowing yourself to feel the discomfort of no. As you grow more comfortable setting boundaries for yourself, you’ll grow better at setting them around other relationships, too. 

The survival mechanism inside you became adept at doing whatever was necessary to make it from day to day. 

But you want more. As a society, we all need to move from surviving to thriving, right? 

So go back, offer yourself some healing and then get to work. 

Set those boundaries, tell yourself and others no, and form new habits that take you to a better place. 

Because you have the right to make your own decisions, and it’s time you took back the power to determine the outcome of your life. 

Have you had to heal from childhood trauma and unmet needs? What are you learning as you set boundaries for yourself? I’d love to hear from you.

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