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Being Triggered is Not a Choice

It’s terrifying to feel helpless to your own emotions. No one ever wants to feel dismissed by others. It’s hard to prevent emotional triggers. Having emotional triggers signifies the presence of past trauma that you haven’t healed yet. Don’t let anyone dismiss your feelings, because “you went looking for it”. Even if they or someone else that they know has “had it worse” than you, it does not make your emotions or your past trauma any less valid.

I’m here to tell you that having emotional triggers is not a choice. There are preventative measures you can take to heal. It’s ok to accept that you may never fully be able to control your emotional triggers. There are still times where I suddenly enter a downward emotional spiral into an event from my past. I may wish I could have handled things differently, replaying the trauma over & over again in my head. When you don’t take the time to heal & reflect on your past trauma, it’s only natural to have emotional triggers. As always, I hope that reflecting on my past trauma & emotional triggers will help you make sense of your own so that you can become more self-aware & start your own healing journey.

Here are some of my emotional triggers:

FEELING ABANDONED

The Past Trauma

When my younger brother was born, my mom & sister suddenly started ignoring me. I felt abandoned & unloved at only three years old. While I accept now that it was never their intention to make me feel that way, it’s still traumatic for a three-year-old. A few years later in the third grade, my two best friends chose to not be my friend anymore. I experienced the same trauma of abandonment all over again. I no longer had anyone to play with at recess, nor did they want to come over to my house to play anymore. They never even told me why they didn’t like me anymore. They just up & decided one day that they’d rather play with anyone else but me.

The unhealed trauma that I experienced & forced myself to forget from childhood only made things worse as I grew older. My mom & sister never purposely abandoned or stopped loving me. They were just too wrapped up in the excitement of my brother’s arrival. But when my two best friends abandoned me, it felt way more personal. Because it was an actual choice they made together that I had no control over at only eight years old. I was forced to make new friends with other kids in my class who weren’t even nice to me. But I had little choice in the matter because it was either to have mean friends or no one at all.

How It Still Affects Me

As a young adult, I hate whenever someone ignores my texts or cancels plans at the last minute. Especially if they proceed to publicly send Venmo payments or comment and/or post to social media with others, who I can only assume they chose to communicate & spend time with over me. This gives me full-blown panic attacks. Unlike when I was a child, I trust my own judgment & specifically allow certain individuals into my inner circle. When those close to me ignore & publicly disrespect me, it feels more personal because we’re grown adults, not children. I expect the people I allow in my inner circle to be mature, communicate honestly, & be just as faithful with me as I am with them. Especially when I express my boundaries & communicate how their actions can make me feel, I can’t help but assume that they are purposely choosing to hurt me.

FEELING MANIPULATED

The Past Trauma

I went to a predominately white private Catholic school from Kindergarten through 8th grade. Being one of the only brown girls in my class, I’m an easy target for ridicule. While it was thankfully not every day, the boys in my class made fun of me. It could be my frizzy hair, my huge teeth, the hair on my legs, or simply imitating my laughter or mannerisms in a way to put me under a negative spotlight. Over time, I became shy & socially awkward to prevent myself from doing or saying anything that could potentially make the boys in my class want to make fun of me again. I became too embarrassed to be myself. Rumors & lies were spread about me that made me cry. Secrets that I told my close friends in confidence would get threatened to be revealed if or when I’d ever step out of line.

How It Still Affects Me

I’ve been getting mean YouTube, Instagram, & Twitter comments since I started my YouTube Channel in May 2011. For over a decade, strangers try to publicly bully me into deleting my online presence. I am my most authentic self on my public Social Media platforms. I know that I’m not for everyone, but I can only be me. While I’ve grown a thicker skin, there are still times when the unkind comments still trigger me. Society tries to convince you that words can never hurt you, but insults like “You look nothing like your pictures in real life.” & “Why are you so fat?” can cut deeper into your soul than anyone can visibly see. I’m learning how to love myself & not seek outside validation from others. If I hear enough insulting remarks from strangers or even worse, people who do know & claim to love me, I lose my sense of self-worth.

As an adult, when I feel that someone has misconstrued my intentions to force me to behave or react in a way that is out of character, I can’t help but blame myself & replay my actions over & over again in my mind. While I like to ensure that I surround myself with honest & trustworthy people, when I realize that I’ve been manipulated, it crushes my self-worth & makes me question my own intuition, instincts, & judgment. It’s too late to go back in time & change the circumstances. I’m forced to hate myself & lie in the bed I made surrounded by my mistakes.

Learning from my Emotional Triggers

In the past, friends & family tell me to simply avoid putting myself into situations where I could be triggered, & block out anyone who was being mean. But over time, the best way to deal with my emotional triggers is to keep my heart open, hold my chin & head up high, & always treat others, especially my enemies & haters, with the utmost kindness & respect. I do my best to breathe, take a step back, & think about what is happening & consider why I’m feeling this way before overreacting.

I’m happy to say that now that I can identify my emotional triggers. I’m getting much better at managing my emotions as well as my subsequent actions. By really taking the time to always feel & move through my emotions slowly, I’m able to express how I feel in a way that is healthy & productive. And I take my emotional triggers as a sign of what I still need to heal to prevent it from happening again in the future.

XO Denise

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