Leaning into Triggers

My triggers are getting worse by the minute. I’ve mostly kept them to myself this year and have tried to logic and breathe my way through them. I’ve fought back hard, but am losing the battle, one trigger at a time.

They have been pretty severe lately. I see something, think something, or hear something that causes me to go into a panic attack more than four times per day, easily. When I am triggered, my heart starts racing. My chest is thumping. My fingertips are tingling. My face feels flush. I have a dull ache in my stomach. My brain wants me to sprint. Or, sometimes I’m frozen and can’t move or talk. Later I’m probably not going remember what was happening after my panic attack started. I’ll remember why it started, but not much past that.

What triggers me these days seem pretty run of the mill. If our home office door is closed with my husband inside, I’m anxious. Almost anything my husband does with his cell phone triggers me. Texting, reading emails, deleting text messages, and on it goes. If my husband is gone longer than I expected, it triggers me. I saw my husband simply packing his laptop into a backpack, and it triggered feelings of abandonment. I had to ask him that night if he was planning to leave me.

The single most frustrating and debilitating trigger is the unexpected plot twist on a movie or a TV show that includes infidelity. I can’t take it. I literally freeze in my chair and can’t breathe. Or talk. I will start to cry; just a few tears down my cheeks. I excuse myself and go to our bedroom and cry. It is inescapable. It seems every gosh darn movie or TV show out there is about cheating, cheating, cheating! Both my husband and I are OVER IT with the constant infidelity plot lines!

Logic doesn’t fix triggers. When I apply logic, my body is still jangling an alarm bell that something is wrong. My husband IS NOT cheating on me, or having emotional affairs with other women whatsoever. It is frustrating that I can’t talk myself down off the panic attack ledge.

“Lean into your triggers.” This is what our psychologist advised in our last marriage counseling session.

“Lean into your triggers. It might be three to five years before they stop happening.” He also said it is NORMAL to have triggers. As your mind sees things or hears things that seem similar to the period of time when the infidelity was happening, it is going to sound the alarm whether we like it or not.

Oddly enough, as things start to seem good in the relationship, the mind is going to say, “Hey you! Don’t trust him! You don’t want to go through that again!”, and trigger.  Repeatedly.

I’ve been withdrawing and isolating myself when I trigger. I don’t want the turmoil to spread to my husband. I don’t want to make him angry with me or fight and argue about my feelings. I don’t want to have to justify my feelings. I also can’t help what my body is doing. If I could make it stop, I would make it stop, like yesterday! These triggers are wearing me out. My body feels like it has fought a war (and lost), at the end of every day. I’m so exhausted from fighting this trigger war against an enemy that doesn’t exist.

Back to the advice: lean into my triggers. He’s right. I know he is, even though I’ve not leaned into one just yet. This is my newest assignment to work on with the hubby. When I see the office door shut, I’m going to knock on the door. It gives my mind the opportunity to experience being welcomed by my husband into the space. When I’m feeling a trigger leading to a panic attack, I’m to tell my husband in some routine sort of way. I am thinking about saying, “I need help. I’m feeling panicked.” His assignment is to lean into me. He will be gentle, welcoming, offer a hug or hold my hand, and say something that is reassuring.

As I thought about this assignment, I thought of a few times when I have accidentally stumbled on a hug and soft words at just the right time, and it was very calming. I feel really hopeful this is going to help me, and I’m really glad my husband is on board. I will let you know how this goes. I’d like to know if anyone else has tried this to get relief from triggers, and if it worked. Comments always encouraged.

I feel a lot of peace and tranquility at the thought I don’t need to go through these triggers alone anymore. Leaning in. What a concept!

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