• to initiate or precipitate (a chain of events, scientific reaction, psychological process, etc.)
  • to fire or explode (a gun, missile, etc.) by pulling a trigger or releasing a triggering device
  • to become active; activate

First thing Monday morning I had a session with my coach. I didn’t have a specific topic nailed down, but had about 3 things that were swimming in my head, so I just started talking. Talk, talk, talk about how I want to do this, and I need to decide on this, and I feel lost about that. A few minutes later my coach says, “Wow. Sounds like you’ve been triggered.” 
And Holy Moses, was she right. 
I thought about the last 2 weeks and some things that had happened. Not necessarily monumental events, just little things that planted themselves in my brain, and then the fire started. For me, in this particular instance I’m writing about, is body image. And let me tell ya, when it's body image, it's not just a piddly fire. It's a god damn inferno. 
Week before last I was running in my neighborhoods while pushing both my kids in the stroller. I was feeling amazing, finally feeling better from an injury and so happy to be back doing what I love: running. A car pulled up beside me, slowed down and a women about early to mid-60’s rolled down her window. She smiled and asked me, “How come it’s always the skinny girls that are running?” 
I was speechless (which is rare for me). My first reaction was to stop and launch into an enormous explanation, an angry explosion. Who does she think she is, thinking that I run to be skinny? How dare she assume that being skinny equates happiness and health? And who cares what type of body I have, why does that matter? Is that supposed to be some kind of compliment? And on and on and on. My head spun out of control with assumptions of what she really meant and I can’t imagine what the look on my face was like. However, I said nothing. 
On Saturday I went to a workshop that was held at a beautiful private gym. I went to use the restroom and there it was: The scale. You might be thinking, “Yeah, so what?” But for me, and I think for a lot of people that are in recovery from disordered eating and exercise, seeing that scale was...terrifying, haunting, exciting, curious, frustrating, confusing and triggering. So many thoughts. The angel and devil quickly had an argument: Don’t get on it. It’s not that big of a deal, just step on it. Don’t do it, you haven’t weighed yourself in 9 months! Well, you’ve been exercising again, let’s just see what happened. If you step on it, you might go back there, to that place. Are you that fragile that you can’t handle what it says? Yes, you can, just do it. Prove that it’s not a big deal anymore. 
As I washed my hands I stared at it on the floor in the mirror. And I walked away. 
These two things happened and that’s just it: They happened. In my mind I’ve come to the conclusion that being triggered = BAD. And what happens afterward, or how I handle it (or don’t handle it) determines and defines who I am and where I am in terms of recovery. 
Today, I learned and accepted that I don’t have to go down with the triggers in my life, whether they be about body image, perfectionism, relationships or anything. Sometimes they suck, and sometimes they hurt, but I can choose to look at them as a gift. Sometimes they’re wrapped up in a pretty bow, sometimes they feel like a block of cement, sometimes it's a box of dog shit, but no matter what, they are my gift to myself, and I just need to ask, “What did I learn?” That’s it. They don’t need to mean anything profound all the time. They don’t define me. They don’t grip me. 

So, what did I learn? I learned that backhanded compliments about my body are hard to swallow. Thinking about it further, any comment about my body is hard to swallow. But, I don't need to make assumptions about what that person meant. And I learned that sometimes the scale looks scary. And there's a part of me that's curious about how much I weigh. That's it. I can get so caught up and lost if the "what does it all mean?" and will run on that hampster wheel all damn day. And if I need to cry, I'll cry. And if I don't, I won't. But being triggered doesn't equal anything. 

So, think about what triggers you. Perhaps there are times when you feel so overwhelmed by something, or really wanting to launch into a new project, or control something, anything in your life. Think about the past few weeks or even months and if anything happened, however small that may have triggered you. And just be with it. 

Photo courtesy of Soul Rider


Kendra said...

My first comment was eaten!!! (no pun intended lol) Seriously relate to this and the thoughts. In recovery and life we have to be vigilant and mindful that we cannot control what happens to us, but we can control our choices and our reactions. I think you have shown two very tough situations and how you processed through them both, even if terribly hard. I find the womans comment sad, because I think it speaks to the more pervasive issues of comparison and criticism and idealization of grass is always greener & hate to say this - but jealousy. I think the scale is a monster a lot of women struggle with even if rationally we know we arent defined by a number. So hugs 2 you my friend - great post.

Alex said...

Thank you for writing about this Andrea. I feel the same way. I had a pretty rough weekend myself and definitely felt triggered. I think for me, when I let my expectations get too high, and then it fails me, I have a hard time recovering from that. I am telling myself today to just move on and that it is a new day. It really helped me knowing that you went through the same thing as me. Thank you for being honest as it really does help to know that we are all not alone, and that every day, every comment, every stare or every scale, affects each of us the same way.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you wrote about this. I always equated being triggered with being weak. You put it in a different perspective for me. Thank you.

Andrea said...

@Kendra- I think many who suffer from ED or any addictive behavior have anxiety around the disorder itself and the thoughts. The mind spins when confronted with triggers. I love that you used the word "Mindful". It's really what it all boils down to.

@Alex- Thanks so much for your comment. I think I'll write a Part 2 to this post; the homework I got from my coach and how it helped. Your comment just reminded me of it. Stay tuned...

@Lindsey- I think people put different outcomes on being triggered. For a lot I think it's what you said, being weak. Me too. I'm trying on the idea that when I'm triggered, I shrug my shoulders and say, "Okay, I was triggered. What did I learn? Okay, move on." It's feeling pretty good ;)

karen pery said...

So here's mine: I find it hard to accept most comments, compliments or remarks that are kind about my looks, skills, abilities, you name it. If I don't hear what I want to hear when I want to hear it, the way I want to hear it, it may as well have not been said - and mind you, I'm talking about praise! For me, the learning comes from knowing I am strong enough to be vulnerable (and vulnerable means being open to receive what comes at me with grace and some humility - good or bad). Keep putting it out there, girl!

Kim said...

Bravo! Well said...written. I rec'd your friend request today via facebook and took a look. You are incredible. This blog post truly resonated with me as I experience very similar situations - and the bottom line is, what do we make it mean?

I was recently at a women's conference about loosing weight. I was there as a coach (to learn more about coaching this niche) as well as a participant as I have struggled with eating issues in my past.

95% would be considered obese by medical standards. I am considered "thin". Labels! How I detest them. I was approached in the bathroom during a break and asked why I was there? I was told that I obviously didn't have a weight issue, so why would I be here. Hmmm. This gave me a wonderful opportunity (and gift) to share my own story of struggle and how it is all rooted in the same place. They overeat; I didn't eat. Big ah-ha moment for them and they thanked me.

I thought I was over it. The following morning I was approached while getting tea and a woman said to me, "what are you, a size 0" "and what is your story of being here anyway". Hmmm. I was stunned. My mind swirled. So I told this table of eight smart women my story and once again they gained a new perspective. And so did I.

See this was a gift. I realized I had issues with being judged. And what I made that mean was the root of my own judgments of myself. Through coaching I am now at a place where I decide who judges me. I decide my worth. I decide. Bottom line.

Thank you for sharing your own it brought up mine and with that comes greater clarity. Thank you...
Kim Higgins