Mental Health Matters: Triggered (Part III)

As a writer, I’d love to end the story with, and I never returned. As a person showing up in authentic spaces, I’ve created for myself, I want to tell the rest of the truth.

Of course, I returned. I had to get my purse.

But I didn’t want to.

That evening, I’d stayed up well past midnight journaling: writing and processing, processing and writing. It had worked when my father died, so perhaps it would work with this situation. I wrote until my eyes were heavy. Part I of this series is the result.

“I don’t belong here,” I told Dwight the next morning.

“Here in Covert or here in your family?”

“Both,” I sighed.

But we had a wedding to attend. I’d decided the only way I could live through the remainder of my time in Michigan was to drink, to remain self-medicated so as to numb any future pain.

Forget pranayama.

Forget exercising.

Forget cognitive behavioral therapy.

I didn’t want to feel the heat rise should my grandmother tell me to speak up or beg me to engage in meaningless conversation.

So, I drank until I ran out of the liquor I’d bought for myself. Then, I started on what was available, which included bottles reserved for college dormitories.

By the time my cousin went from Miss to Mrs., and by the time the last car backed out of the driveway, I…was…drunk.


Dwight, my aunt, her beau, and I stood in the kitchen. I don’t remember what set me off into a Shakespeare-like soliloquy, but I projected all of my thoughts from the time I was sixteen to present day onto my aunt. For over two hours, I expressed my likes, dislikes, wants, and needs from all the adults who raised and didn’t raise me. I cried and purged. I spewed almost every part of my life, from stories I’ve written for this blog, to words encompassed in an unpublished memoir. I left it all there in that kitchen in Covert, Michigan.

I’ve gone back and forth with myself about sharing this, but I’ve decided it’s okay for a few reasons:

Healing isn’t linear. I’m not sure where I first read this, but it resonated. In this culture, we act as if there’s a magic healing wand. I blame popular media, as well as the instant nature of society. Once you do x, y, and z, then you’re “cured” of your trauma and you live happily ever after. That’s simply not the truth. I’ve spent years working on myself. Most days, I’m super good and never think about my past. Other days, I visit my grandmother and feel like an oppressed teenager who’s learned to silence my own voice before someone does it for me. That doesn’t mean I’m not healed. It means I’m a human being, who can be triggered.

People are not perfect. We want the “I Have a Dream” speech MLK, but we don’t want to hear about his alleged adulterous behavior. We want our heroes unblemished, like fictional Marvel caricatures. But Spiderman loses frequently, and Tony Stark seems to be a bit of a jerk. I’ve written The Greatest Thing About My Grannie and meant every word; however, I also see her as a multidimensional human being who isn’t always very nice or emotionally supportive. Likewise, as I noted at the beginning, I’d rather present my own self as a whole person, rather than a perfect being who walks around quoting pithy reflections.

One moment is one moment. Everyone asked how the wedding was, and I wanted to say, it was good, except for the part when…but there was no need to repeatedly mention this situation. Doing so would be a form of unnecessarily beating myself up and carrying energy that needed to dissipate in my grandmother’s kitchen. The best thing to do was to contemplate what happened, apologize to my aunt for the timing and manner in which I expressed myself, and move on. It was one moment.

You can be gifted, helpful, and flawed. When we returned home, I received several pieces of good news that have come and gone. Someone from the United Negro College Fund (UNCF)/Mellon Mays Conference contacted me about a paid presentation. One of my essays was published in another anthology. Dr. Dinardo’s institution, St. Clair, and their SRC revised our video on situational anxiety and showed it on IGTV. I know that a lot of people believe you have to have it all together before you can be impactful in the world. I’m here to tell you…you don’t. Your favorite celebrity is proof enough of that.

I began this series with my husband’s question, “Can you imagine living here?”

My answer is clear. Not only can I not imagine living in Covert, Michigan, I also have no intention on returning.  

Watch Dr. Dinardo’s keynote, “Emotional CPR: Catch Triggers Before They Escalate” to learn how to recognize and rein in triggers before they get out of hand.

76 thoughts on “Mental Health Matters: Triggered (Part III)

  1. Beautifully written. I love how honest and vulnerable you are. It takes a lot of courage to bare your heart and soul to strangers, and I thank you for sharing your story with us.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow, all three of these sharings are powerful. I look forward to checking out the Triggered talk by the doctor tonight. My mother can trigger me like no other, and I believe she knows it and enjoys it in a passive aggressive way. I never know what I’m going to get when I spend time with her and yes, it brings me back to being a little girl and I still don’t know how to overcome it except to avoid her.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I read your Triggered series with both appreciation and respect. For you Kathy are constant with your message and how you deliver it. Your honesty and openness have a great purpose. I also love how you end your series, “You can be gifted, helpful, and flawed.” Amen to that!

    Wishing you and your loved ones a peaceful Thanksgiving! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Khaya! I appreciate your saying this. I truly hope someone reads that ending and realizes (like I had to) that they don’t have to be perfect all around to use their gifts.

      And thank you for those well-wishes.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have had to pace myself and read one of these each day. I love the way you tell a story no matter how sad the situation. I think the best thing about your posts is how relatable your word are. I’ve felt how you felt, though not under the same circumstances. It allows me to process a lot of things that I’ve given little consideration to.

    Thank you again for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I enjoyed this whole post KE, all 3 parts. When I visit my mom, I often feel the same way you do when you see your grannie. She has a way of controlling that makes me wonder, as you said, if I gave her my power or she took it. Like I’m a naive child, even though I’m 51, have experience far more than she has, and am quite capable of managing my own life. I would like to have the sort of relationship with her that so many of my friends have with their moms (close, BFFs) and I keep trying, but I wonder if it’s futile, if I should just cut my losses and stop tormenting myself. Your posts give me perspective as I work to sort things out. Thank you. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Joan! I think this is a common dynamic…After I got my PhD, my grandmother frequently would say, “I’ll always know more than you do.” I always thought it was the oddest thing, like we’re not in a competition over here lol But I think it’s challenging for some parents/parental figures to see or be in relationship with adult-children.

      Of course, I don’t want to advise, but I will say, seeing and accepting people for who they are and then making decisions from that perspective has been super helpful for me this year.

      Happy (almost) Thanksgiving (if you’re into that sort of thing).

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m so glad you decided to share this story! It illustrates two things so well: healing is indeed a life-long process and triggers can “send us back” at any time; and that yes, good human beings are ALWAYS also flawed. That’s just what it means to be human, and the sooner we accept that, the better off we are, individually and as a society. Thank you for this post…it was good for us to read and actually very affirming.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for this comment Ann. I hope you can feel how much I appreciate it. I really went back and forth with myself about publishing it at all, but I felt so fraudulent if I didn’t, you know? I’m so glad you get (and appreciate) why I shared it ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m only sorry I missed the two previous posts…I’m not sure how that happened, since I follow your blog, but I think Word Press is acting up a bit since I didn’t get them. Sure glad I got the notice of this one! Thanks again..

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for sharing!!… there are narrow minded individuals in all societies and even members of family… I simply do not let it bother me and neither do I run from it…“Confidence is knowing who you are and not changing it a bit because of someone’s version of reality is not your reality.” (Shannon L. Alder)… 🙂

    Hope all is well and have a wonderful holiday, each day filled with peace, love and happiness!.. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Nobody is perfect and everyone is perfect in his/her unique way. We don’t need to be fixed, we don’t need to be repaired. All we need is someone to listen to seek understanding. Empathically and compassionately. And most of all non-judgmentally.
    It’s tough to set boundaries when it involves family. It goes against the loving side in me. It took me years to understand that it is OK to love myself more. It is not egotistical, it is enabling myself to love myself and those who let me be me. Perfectly imperfect.
    Thank you for sharing your unique story and your lessons learned, dear Katherin. I wholeheartedly agree that you don’t have to have all your own affairs in order to be able to guide another soul.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Most definitely Patty…I know you get me ❤

      I like that you say, "it is OK to love myself more," because it really is. It's okay to look out for ourselves in ways that no one else can, because what I've learned is ultimately, we're really the only ones who have to live with ourselves, even if we're in relationship.

      Thank you for reading, commenting, and journeying with me Patty. I appreciate it ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Here I mentioned stuffing my face, and your choice was to have a drink. Numbing behaviors help us cope during these situations. it seems you have a lot of clarity about it, Katherin. I can see that so many people relate to all of these triggers. I get them sometimes with my middle brother. He can says cruel things and we were always at each other’s throat while growing up. I tend to overlook his mean streak, and then I get blindsided again.
    I think your conclusion was best. To remove yourself from that situation as much as possible. That’s what I have chosen to do also.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly Judy. Once I realized that many people have coping mechanisms that are often numbing behaviors, I was able to give myself and others a little more grace. I’ve seen the sibling dynamic play out with a few people as adults. It’s almost as if people revert to being 10 and 12 or whatever age they were when they were bickering.

      As far as the conclusion, I think it is. This is not to say I won’t ever see my grandmother again, but I definitely don’t need to be in that area. It’s a hard decision, but we have to do what’s best for ourselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you ! It’s so true , you may think everything mental is taking care of but sometimes random stuff can really bring up some things . I do kind of loath the whole well you’re healed so you can never have a panic attack , feel stressed , or just not like certain things that remind you of the issue . It’s definitely something that should be debunked.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Family patterns and some of the ways cause such deep wounds and trauma. I have found myself highly sensitized and easily triggered this year too. It has been an year of awakening to what I am willing to put up with and what boundaries are absolutely necessary for my well-being and healing. Your authentic sharing is supportive of so many unshared journeys surely. Healing is a very personal and non-linear story. I have just now even begun attempting writing what truly is without trying to make it nice. And the freedom is sweet. It is painful to get there though.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I had goosebumps reading this entire magnificient post Dr. G!

    Goosebumps.

    I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I numbed myself with alcohol (especially at weddings!) and then one day, I wrote a letter to myself (December 2005) and decided to quit drinking. The next day shame was too much to bear. It literally broke me in 2. Dissociation is for real. (to be continued in person when we finally meet in person 🙂

    I write this to underscore the magic of your words. Why it is imperative that you risk vulnerability. You were born to write. And every time you do: You strike a chord in every single one of your readers with what’s happening behind that beautiful smile of yours.

    So many parts of this post resonate with me: “Healing isn’t linear.” especially today.

    But most of all: I am honoured to be on this journey with you. To experience so many synchronicities, a world apart. To receive your lessons and your grace with every word you write.

    Thank you for sharing my videos too. They are created from the same place as this post. LIFE. Healing. Acceptance. Falling. Getting back up.. Creativity weaves it all together.

    Incredibly grateful!
    Dr. D xo

    (Grateful for Dwight too! I love this photo of both you)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So, thank you a million times for this comment Dr. D! We have the most unusual synchronistic relationship lol I still can’t believe how perfectly that video fits what I’d written/experienced.

      As far as the drinking goes…I realized just THIS year, during the pandemic that I drink when I can’t deal. Of course, I can have a drink for other reasons (i.e., celebration, etc.), but pandemic has shown me this particular aspect.

      Dwight’s the best, and there’s no doubt in my mind he and I are connected for so many reasons.

      And of course! your videos are like the psychological soundtrack of parts of my life lol Plus, you’re so succinct in messaging that I have to share.

      I appreciate you and all you do just as much as you do me ❤ #twinpowersactivate

      Liked by 1 person

      1. and back to you! It’s amazing how, subjecting oneself to the same situation, where disempowerment first were established, how difficult it is to break out within the situation. Away from it one is fine, back in it, the same paralysis occurs in spite of all the work one has done. I find it true for myself and I suspect most others who are dealing with this. The trauma bond can be so strong!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s it, right? I knew it was a trigger because I felt just fine the farther I drove away, and especially once I arrived back to my state. It’s the weirdest thing…that trauma bond.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hard to break. I’m listening to a series of meditations on the topic; to come back into one’s power. Your three posts on the incident does it nicely. I laughed at your getting drunk and subsequent spewing your feelings. Skewed perhaps but man it sometimes breaks the spell so one can, actually, get the words out .

        Liked by 1 person

      4. That’s what all of my friends said 🤦🏽‍♀️but I think you and they are right. What’s the name of the meditations, if you don’t mind telling me?

        Like

      5. Sure I’ll share. I have the series of five downloaded on my phone but can’t see how to find and copy the url. I’ll go onto the laptop tomorrow and maybe will find it there. In the meantime, you can search Denise Lawrence, How to empower yourself and it should take you to the 1st video in the series.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I blame popular media, as well as the instant nature of society. Once you do x, y, and z, then you’re “cured” of your trauma and you live happily ever after. — Yes, I also blame this idea of “closure,” which doesn’t exist in the ways we’re told it does.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Thank you for sharing this story. Reading them induced an ‘aha’ moment in myself. I have been feeling ‘insideout’ these past few days without any real explanation. Now I know I have been triggered. Time to start journalling.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. You do such a great job of presenting your own self as a whole person. And I really appreciate it. These “triggered” posts are really great. Thanks.

    Liked by 3 people

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