I have been struggling with what exactly being triggered means and when it happens. Specifically, why does my wife get triggered? What causes it? I know the obvious things. I recognize when she sees something or someone that reminds her of my acting out. It’s the things I don’t know, the subtle times. It usually occurs right before we go to bed. She likes to decompress at night, to relax after we do our intimacy exercises. Those are the times her mind goes to places I don’t know and can’t control. That’s what I am learning to do, not attempt to manipulate or control her thoughts or where she goes. My counselor has been clear that I need to allow her to feel her own pain and deal with it without trying to keep her from doing so.
I have spent a lifetime with her attempting to manipulate her feelings, change her focus, and keep her thoughts and moods in a positive place to keep her from looking too deeply into me. I am not really practiced at reigning that in, at staying away from trying to control her moods. It’s scary and actually pretty freeing. When I realize I don’t have anything to hide, it helps when she is triggered. It’s painful and hard, being the brunt of her anger and rage. However, staying engaged really keeps it from spiraling. When I stay present, answer her questions, reassure her with facts and not empty platitudes, I see small chinks in her anger and distrust. I can live with that.
The one part I am struggling with is when I am triggered. For me, it’s been difficult to realize when that is occurring. This weekend, we had a difficult few days. My wife was upset at me. I happen to be an introvert. I don’t speak without thinking. I mean I have to be clear on what I am going to say before I say it. This sometimes causes issues. Like this weekend. She told me that she didn’t like how I did something. I don’t even remember what it was. I didn’t respond quickly. She immediately said that obviously I was now mad and she said she was leaving for a while. Before I could say anything she was out the door and gone for several hours.
About an hour or so later, I realized something. My anxiety was ramping up. A whole lot. It had been ramped up ever since she left. It took that long for me to recognize where my thoughts had gone. I was thinking she was leaving me permanently, I didn’t deserve her, I was obviously not good enough, I could never be good enough. After an hour of these thoughts and a sinking sense of worth, I realized what was happening. I was triggered. I felt my addiction truly for what it was. I recognized the same feelings I had before I acted out or planned to act out. The same sense of insecurity, lack of self-worth, abandonment. All those overwhelming emotions that I always sought to avoid through acting out. Through feeding my addiction.
I was triggered. That was what this was. I took a very deep breath, texted several guys, asked for prayer, talked to one of my accountability partners, and just recognized what was happening. I survived. I didn’t slip. I didn’t act out. I went down a bad path, but thankfully I realized what was happening. I get being triggered now. I am trying to make sure I know what triggers me. I have been so focused on what triggers her, I haven’t spent time making sure I knew what led me to a very unsafe place. I know what to journal more on now.