We know that people with life-consuming issues deal with certain thought paths or things in their surroundings that “trigger” impulses. Impulses lead to choices, and choices lead to decisions. Decisions. Well, they sometimes lead to dire consequences. Attaching the words “Trigger Warning” to graphic photos or videos of the effects of self-injury is an all-too-common way of backhandedly glorifying the behavior. It’s gore for gore’s sake.
Worrying about someone’s triggers going off is no fun either. In fact, the dance between cutters and the ones who love them is one that requires a great deal of relationship savvy. It’s all too easy to get caught up in a “walking on eggshells” scenario where the cutter holds more sway over everyone else’s behavior than is warranted. After all, who wants to be blamed as the reason for a new wound?
Less is said, though, about what happens to a mom’s emotional well-being or anxiety levels while living with a child whose triggers lead her/him to make heart-wrenching, self-destructive decisions. Since Mother’s Day is near, today seems like a good day to bring it up.
Moms have triggers too.
Sometimes it’s hard to reflect on how I became conditioned to a state of low-to-medium-grade anxiety, a “waiting for the other shoe to drop” sense of always-on vigilance. At best, it was distracting. At worst, paralyzing. If I could have stopped every risk from coming along, I would have.
Suffering can be as painful to witness as it is to endure. But I can’t be everywhere at once, can’t make the world stop spinning to get between my child and what might happen. Sometimes it’s misguided to try. Accepting this makes all the difference.
Still, although it’s been a couple of years since anything major has arisen at our house, I notice that when any of my kids has an emotional setback I feel triggered to jump back into Night Watchman mode and brace myself for the worst.
We’ve come a long way. But healing takes time. Recognizing what’s happening in my head and walking through the discomfort to find my peace again is part of the process.
Happy Mother’s Day to all moms everywhere. If you are living with a daughter in crisis, my heart is especially with you. Don’t give up and don’t stop reaching out for help when you need it.