People like to joke about the word “triggered”. It’s a big laugh about lefty liberals being mentally weak and unable to take criticism, unable to take a joke. It’s used as a criticism. To mock people.
It is not a joke.
It is especially not a joke when the person doing the triggering is your own child. Your child who you love and adore, value over all others, and who even at their most angry has no comprehension of the fireworks bashing around on the inside of your brain when they’re doing something triggering. They don’t mean to, and even if they did, the can’t comprehend what it is anyway. And the whole time you’re being mentally broken by the fireworks of panic, you have to maintain at least some degree of composure because there are little human lives depending on you to parent them.
I have, at various points, been triggered by all three of my children in different ways.
It doesn’t happen all the time. If I’m feeling at my most strong and my most healthy I can ride through most things they throw at me. But if I’m feeling bogged down by the weight of life already, if I’m already struggling to process a stress or anxiety that is really pushing into me, what they add to that load can be incredibly difficult to carry.
Miss Rose will, when fully enraged (which thankfully is rare) stamp her foot with huge force. It shakes the floor. The rage in her beautifully little face, the impact of the foot on the floor, I feel it. It hits hard at my chest and catches my breath. So much of me feels that stamping is a great way for her to externalise her anger without harming anyone or breaking anything. It’s also a classic child tantrum manoeuvre. There probably isn’t a child in history who hasn’t stamped at their mother when angry about some perceived injustice. But I beg her not to do it. I have, at times of weakness, broken down in tears because of her stamping at me and I cannot tell you how pathetic I feel when that happens. When I cry it immediately calms her and she comes to me, holds me, and tells me she’s sorry. The pain of others is something she instinctively needs to fix, and then I feel like an emotional blackmailer and hate myself even more.
Her other move that I struggle with is when she’s being clingy. I feel her pressing against me where I sit, her arms snaking around me, her fingers pulling at my clothes, her breath wafting against me. I feel suffocated. I can’t breathe. Sometimes it’s fine and I cuddle her back, I know she’s feeling insecure or vulnerable, maybe poorly or sad, and all I want to do is give her the physical comfort she needs. But sometimes I can’t handle it. I feel intruded upon, like ownership and control of my body is being taken from me. I need space. I have to get away from her. And how terrible I feel when that happens I cannot express. Moving away slows my heart rate and usually I am able to come back and give her the cuddle she needs, but in the moment I betray that and I hate myself for it.
In a similar way Baby Boo has triggered me by being so permanently attached to me that I feel out of control of my body. Violated. Owned. I hate it. I have to put her down, or in the arms of another, and take a break. When she’s crying and clawing at me I feel my head fog coming and I have to escape. She’s a tiny baby who knows nothing except her need for comfort from mummy and I run away. I run away.
My step son triggers me because, in the words of Jonathan McKinney, I cannot show him that I’m the baboon with the biggest, reddest ass. When he gets angry he will sometimes hit out. I have taken fists to the face, the arms, the head. I was kicked in the belly whilst I was pregnant. I panic. I cannot handle it. I’ve been broken to tears and a shaking wreck because the moment those tiny, male fists land on me I just cannot handle it. I know he’s a little boy not a grown man. I know I am bigger and stronger. I know I’m the parent. But I just break. I panic. I am afraid. The swirling , exploding, fog of fear in my head won’t let me see my own power and strength and instead breaks me into a cowering, woman below the anger of a dominant male. There are no words for how much I hate myself for that. I have taken to backing away from him should anger flare up, avoiding the confrontation, and in so doing that I am failing him. I am failing to parent a child who needs me. A child I love and am responsible for.
Being triggered is not a joke. It stops you living your life normally. When your own child is the one doing the triggering, you take them down with you.
My children aren’t harmed or neglected through this struggle, but they are negatively impacted. Made to feel that they’re doing something worse than they are, because if I was not being triggered I would be able to handle it so much more successfully and parent them through it.
But hitting walls and stamping feet has been a precursor to pain. Fists to the face have carried genuine weight and power. Snaking hands and breath on my neck has been followed by violations of my body and self that haunt me. I wish it were different.
I am not a snowflake. I am dealing as best as I can with something I can only assume those who joke about triggers have no comprehension of. And I’m pleased for them. I wouldn’t wish these triggers on a soul. I wouldn’t wish panic attacks on anyone. I wouldn’t wish anyone’s child to be carrying the burden of seeing their mother in that state.
But if you aren’t triggered don’t mock those who are. Respect what they’re going through. Because it’s not an easy weight to bare.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!