God and Sexual Assault

Triggers and Trauma

What are your triggers?

Today I stopped at Kohl’s on my way home to get something. I love 30% off coupons and Kohl’s cash. 🙂 I wore my mask of course, but I was not ready to run into the woman who allowed my abuse to happen. Also, she added to my low self-esteem with her constant comments about how I need more make-up, should dress like “this”, and that no one would want to be friends or married to someone like me….you get the idea.

I live in the same city I grew up in, so I run into things that remind me of my trauma pretty constantly. I have begun to deal with them better as the years go on, but seeing her today really threw me. Thankfully, with my mask, weight gain, and no longer wearing glasses she didn’t see me (or just plain ignored me). I hid behind a clothing rack and then made my way opposite of the check-out line where she was.

Thankfully, I ran into a friend I work with at the church food pantry and we talked for a bit. That was God watching out for me. Once I made it back to check out she was gone. I checked out and headed to my car. I was shaking from the whole experience. My mind began playing things she’d say in my head and I came home and journaled. Made some of my new acid free coffee and then vegged on TV.

It was a little while before I remembered what I am supposed to do when I am “triggered”. That’s the term used for trauma survivors who encounter something that makes them remember the trauma. I learned early on in therapy that our minds are like a theatre with a spotlight. What you have the spotlight on is what you focus on and what’s in the background isn’t as prominent. I realized I had the spotlight on her and her statements.

I made the conscious effort to move my ruminating thinking off her and her voice and onto other more productive things. I got up and cleaned the kitchen, began rearranging some things, and opened a package that came with new toys for my not spoiled kitty. 🙂

After a couple of hours I was able to sit down here and write this. That is progress. Though, I wish it didn’t throw me off at all. That’s just not realistic. Take for example if you were beaten while looking at a red ball. When you encounter the color red or a ball – or both – it’s going to most likely trigger your trauma.

What are you triggers? They could be people, places, voices, smells, texture – just about anything that affects the senses can be a trigger. Recognizing and knowing them and how to handle them when they come up is a great step toward healing. It will help keep you from staying stuck in a rut or turning to unhealthy ways of dealing with your emotions and trauma. (Like eating a carton of ice cream…yum)

I pray you are doing well during this crazy time and remembering to take care of yourself. Remember this is a marathon not a sprint. Healing of trauma takes time so remember to give yourself grace in the process.

© 2020 Susan M. Clabaugh. All Rights Reserved.  

Susan is an author and speaker who loves to share her journey of God's redemption and encourage others as they look to God. As a former elemetary teacher with a passion for teaching, Susan also owns her own tutoring and consulting business where she empowers students and parents in reading. Susan lives in Lee's Summit, Missouri, with her adorable and grumpy Persian cat, Mia.

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