I recently did a post about triggers and how I realized the cause of one of mine during a counseling session. This past Friday, I was able to bring up another recent trigger I experienced, and my counselor did a therapy with me that was sort of like EMDR but involved holding these paddles (?) that vibrate through your right then left hand. For those unaware of what EMDR is, it stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. I’ve had a counselor do EMDR with me years ago, and it basically consisted of watching her move her finger back and forth like a metronome while I thought about a traumatic event and how it made me feel. We had success with that, and it helped, so I was willing to give this a try.
My trigger moment? A couple weeks ago I was shopping at a Sam’s Club and needed to go down an aisle. As I started to walk that way, I noticed about a dozen men stocking the shelves with pallets everywhere, talking with each other and laughing, and I could tell before I even got there that the end furthest from me was blocked off. I automatically felt incredibly nervous and full of tension and really did not want to go down that aisle, but I also didn’t want to have to go to another store to get what I wanted when it was right THERE. I ended up facing my fear, walking down the aisle about halfway to what I wanted, then turned out and left. Actually, if you want the truth, I grabbed the nearest one of the type of item I was looking for. Normally, I would have gone further down and compared prices, but further down would have meant being boxed in by pallets, shelves, and the guys. Since this was so soon from my counseling session, it automatically made me ask myself while I was going through it, “When’s the first time I ever felt this way?” Right away, I knew the answer but not necessarily as one specific moment but as an amalgam of moments. High school, walking down the hallways past the lockers, kids staring and snickering. One specific time definitely stood out later on though. Tenth grade. The last year that I attended public high school before missed days (due to bullying) turned into being basically kicked out and removed from school. (I would later go to an alternative-type school in what should have been my 12th grade year and finish 2-1/2 years of high school in 6 months.) I still remember this guy in my class who was nice but as I got older I realized he was very inappropriate with how he talked to me. He told me his friend liked me and wanted to go on a date with me. I didn’t believe him at first. He gave me his friend’s phone number, who was another guy who I never really talked to or had talked to me much at school, by the way. By the end of the day, he had me convinced the guy might truly like me, so I agreed to call him. He seemed to actually like me and we talked for a while. I honestly don’t remember any details of the phone call because the next morning is all that stuck out for me. When I got to school, people were staring at me but turning away as I looked toward them. I could see people snickering and laughing at me and whispering about me in the corner of my eyes. I already dealt with bullying by several guys at the school, but for the most part, it seemed like I was invisible to most people. I saw my lone friend and asked her what was going on. Turns out they were all laughing about my phone call to this guy. I felt like I was in some kind of movie. I just wanted to crawl in a hole and disappear forever. I was completely devastated. I do remember seeing the guy later and he said it wasn’t a joke and that he actually liked me, but I didn’t believe him. He never tried to call me after that, and I never called him or talked to him again. As a side note, this guy happened to be friends also with a couple of guys who went to my church. I did not know that at the time. I found out quite a while later in a tragic turn of events. The two friends of his were on their way to his birthday party and died in a car crash. Even after what this guy did to me, I still felt horrible that he lost two friends.
As I held those paddles in my hands and the vibrations started going back and forth, my counselor asked me to think about how that moment made me feel. I answered that I felt ugly, fat, and worthless. She then asked me what I wanted to feel in that moment. I wanted to feel beautiful, worthy, like I am good enough. She then took me through thinking about how it made me feel and visualizing it in my head then forward to how I wish I felt as well as visualizing that moment. As we went back and forth with this activity, a strange thing happened. I felt more and more like that one moment that affected me so much now had very little, if any, effect on me. As she asked me what I noticed, I felt weird answering because I kind of thought I was going crazy, for lack of a better word. It just did not seem real. Fortunately, counselors go through the therapies themselves first so they themselves will know how it works, so she knew exactly why I was feeling that way. The therapy was actually working. I found myself beginning to think about that moment and just not caring. My inner voice was walking down that hallway screaming at my haters, “I am beautiful! I am wonderful! I am amazing! I am good enough!” I felt empowered. By the end of it, I felt like the next time I’m in that situation with a bunch of guys talking and laughing with each other, I’m not going to care if they are laughing at me or not. That moment no longer brings up this empty, worthless feeling inside me. It now brings up empowerment, and oddly enough, happiness. I made it through that time in my life and I am still here! I may not be everyone’s ideal of beauty, but darn it, I AM beautiful because I am ME. I am so ready now to work through the triggers that I am aware of and understand and hopefully be able to dig up the ones I don’t understand. I’ve carried way too many burdens for far too long, and I am so excited to unload a lot of them. For now though, when it comes to this one trigger, I have turned my worthless into feeling good enough.