Trigger-Free Holidays

Melody van der Veen | Web Design & Development Chair

Who’s nervous about this Thanksgiving, or the holiday’s in general?

One of the first questions that come to my mind is, “How will I navigate any questions or mention of what I have gone through by loved ones, family, or friends?” I want to remain trigger-free and in control throughout the holiday gatherings I plan to attend, and I think that this may be possible.

While there is no clear answer as to how all individuals with trauma should handle inappropriate or uninvited questions, I start by asking myself, “Can I give grace to this person without being victimized?” Ideally, the answer is yes in every situation, but when someone is in the process of healing, this isn’t always the reality. There are real brain and body responses to triggering that can take over a person, and not everyone understands that.

I have let so many things slide over the last two and a half years. People have said things to me that I could never have imagined up if I tried. I find that those who ask these types of audacious questions are the same as those who wonder why I’ve ignored conversations with them or why I possibly ignore them all together.

The answer is: I don’t want to get triggered.

When you have been a victim for so long, it can be difficult to identify when victimization is happening. Since I have seen this play out in my own life, I have decided to set some clear guidelines for myself. I’m determined to not let victimization be my reality anymore.

Here are some of the guidelines that I’m going to try out if someone brings up or questions me about my trauma:

  • If my chest tightens and I begin having a difficult time breathing, I’m being victimized.

  • If I can’t focus on what the event is about, because my mind is consumed with traumatic thoughts, which possibly lead to a panic attack, I’m being victimized.

  • If I feel silenced or that a conversation was throne upon me about my trauma rather than directed by me, I’m being victimized.

So what happens if I do get victimized?

I’m still trying to figure this one out. Using trial and error seems like the only way I’ll find an appropriate response to those who victimize me. My goal is to not come off as (if I can control this) defensive and emotional, but rather educational. Maybe for the grandparents I’ll say, “I’d rather not speak about this topic at this time, but thanks for your concern.” Ideally, I’d follow up a statement such as this with a short education as to why it is inappropriate. If I can’t get those words out at the time, my husband suggested I write them down in my phone and send a short email about it later.

My goal isn’t to just avoid being victimized myself, but to educate people, so that they don’t unintentionally victimize other survivors as well. It will be a process to find the balance between being gracious and being victimized, but as I continue on this healing journey, I believe that understanding and living in this balance, with the goal of education, will help further integrate the trauma into my life story.

Phase 3: Reconnection & Integration

There are three phases of trauma: (1) Safety and stabilization (2) Remembrance and mourning (3) Reconnection and integration.

As I enter into phase 3 of trauma (I’m getting there, slow but surely), my hope is that despite the words and behavior of those around me, I will be able to live fully, where my life is not defined and organized by the trauma and I’m able to recognize victimization, while taking steps toward empowerment and resilience. See more about the phases of trauma HERE.

I hope for myself, and any survivor reading this, that you have a trigger-free holiday season.

The Army of SurvivorsComment