Responding to Triggers

Today after Mass, a friend came up to me to apologize for so much pregnancy talk at our homeschool gym class this past week.  At first I wasn't actually sure what she was talking about as I didn't recall being upset by anything at gym.  The truth is general pregnancy chatter doesn't bother me at all, unless it revolves around one of those trigger topics.  This also made me realize that it would be an incomplete picture of my grief journey, if I didn't come back to the triggers and talk about how I am learning to reduce my reactions.



There is a part in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when Hermione has to explain to Harry what a girl could possibly have been thinking in a certain scene (this scene is in both the movie and the book and they are virtually identical- yeah!).  Needless to say it's a long and convoluted through process that leaves Harry and Ron somewhat dumbstruck.  They can't believe one person could possibly think all of those things!

This post might feel a little bit like that.   There is a great amount of internal effort involved in choosing not to live my life in grief.  Because I want to live my life in the joy of Siena's life rather than the sorrow, I am using my brain as a tool to experiment and try new things that will make that possible.

Trigger 1:  Ungrateful/complaining pregnancy talk. Fat thighs...at least he/she is healthy (with a tone of relief that you aren't one of *those* moms who has another outcome)... bad timing.  Things that downplay the absolute miracle that every single pregnancy and every single baby are.  Anything that takes pregnancy for granted.   I've found that the only real way to avoid being triggered by this kind of talk is to stay away from places I might see or hear it.  Usually in person, I find people are fairly sensitive to this when I'm standing right there.   Unfortunately, online (even in small private groups) it is easy to forget that I'm reading/listening along and it is impossible to discern tone of voice.  I've left a couple groups as a result because I just can't cope.   I left not because I felt like I wasn't welcome, but because I felt that I know that pregnancy IS hard sometimes and that everyone needs and deserves a place to vent.   I was getting sucked into other people's drama (which may have been completely justified as they were having a hard time) and it was affecting me so I walked away.  It wasn't easy, but it was smart I believe.

Trigger 2:  Ultrasounds.   I actually knew about this trigger before she was born and when I shared it with one of the high risk nurses, she actually made an effort to keep me out of the general waiting room for moms coming back from their non high risk ultrasounds mixed in.  It didn't happen every time, but I really appreciated it when it did.  Otherwise, this one is a little harder.  Cutting down the time spent my Facebook newsfeed is one thing that I have done.   Thankfully, the further away we have gotten the more the first pictures in my mind are pictures of Siena instead of her ultrasounds and this is getting easier/less of a trigger on its own.

Trigger 3:  Talking about Siena.  Practice makes perfect.  I've been trying to force myself into talking about Siena more.   As I've been talking about her more I've been meeting people who knew Siena before they met me!  Which is really kind of neat, when you think about it!  I still don't know how to respond to certain "introduce yourself and your family" questions and I tend to stick with the nutshell version adding words like "kids at home with us" and if anyone asks for follow up I will add.  Mostly I don't think people notice though.

Trigger 4:  Isolation.  Do you know what cures isolation?   It's shocking really, but making yourself leave the house and be in the company of other people...even the same people who didn't make the effort to come to you when you asked.  I know, I know.  If you've ever had a deep despair or grief, you will understand why that is one of the hardest things but it's true.  So I'll keep pushing myself out of the comfort zone of my house.  Saturday I went to an open house for a new ENDOW study in our area and ended up chatting with a friend there, going out to lunch by myself, then back to that friends house to pick up a book she wanted to lend me and chatting for another hour...then stopping my another friends house on my way home.  I'm at little risk of becoming a social butterfly, but people with people does help and if the people aren't going to come to me (which is pretty clear at this point they aren't) I will go to them and try hard not to have negative feelings about that.  Plus being with people gives me more time to practice talking about Siena so it has a duel positive effect.

Trigger 5:  Friends who are struggling.  I felt so bad putting this thought of mine into print where anyone could read it and I still have mixed feelings about allowing myself to dwell on it but it's a real thought so I will own it as such, even when it feels uncharitable.  I have discovered that while I am not particularly well equipped to hear a lot in terms of venting right now (although I can handle some), I do have the ability to do things for those of my friends who are having a hard time.  I've been looking for one thing that I could do, one burden I could help lighten that is reasonable and making time for that small act of service.    I feel like I am acknowledging the situation even though my small act may have little overall impact.    It's good to feel productive, even if it's not the way I would be in the same situation a year ago, or a year from now.

Trigger 6:  Noise.  This is actually one of the hardest ones to respond to proactively.  My poor brain just can't handle it!  We had some fighting kids in the car on the way home from town today and I was so overwhelmed by it.  I ended up having Tim pull over (out of the way of traffic, not in a busy road/place) and sending one to stand by one wheel well and one by the other with the open side door between them while they cooled off because I just couldn't take the noise!  I usually love having some music on in the background during the day but I've had to basically turn it all off!  I think my brain is so busy consciously processing things that normally come automatically it just can't handle the extra input.  I wonder if that's what Caleb feels like in a noisy room?

Trigger 7:  Facebook.  I've already mentioned I have been staying away from my personal newsfeed too much, but other than that there isn't a lot I can do about this one.  I actually think they may have done some sort of trolling of my previous post on triggers where I said bad things about them because when I shared the link for that post it had terribly low circulation....one of my lowest of the last month actually.  So that's what I can do about that!  The biggest thing, I think is to reduce use overall and stay away on days when I might be sensitive to those circulation stats.

I know that the joy in Siena's short life was worth every single moment, but my first instinct is to feel hurt, angry, upset, self-centered, and a wealth of other emotions that don't feel all that great to have even if it sometimes seems like it would feel good to wallow (and be assured...sometimes I wallow).  It is possible to be intentional in choosing the joy-path one step, one trigger, at a time.


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