Thanks For The Triggers, Creep.
Beady-eyed, he smirks, his lips curl back from his bleachy-keen teeth; he admires his crimes as glory. Like a rat on the run with food, he scurries away with pieces of his victims' sanctuary and security. His shallow words reflect utter indifference to decency. Criminal and bully, he's a carbon copy of the boys-will-be-boys club of mediocre men who use their privilege and proximity to violate people. The recent legal and media inquiries confirm his pattern of invasions and violations. His adamant denial of accountability reeks of long-standing comfort with trespasses against women — he's been at it for a while. For me, the continuous unfolding of truths featuring his face on my phone, tv, and computer amount to a force-fed diet of triggering moments—he's familiar, a poster boy of violations and violence. While these images and headlines threaten to pull my peace asunder, they also remind me that triggers are potent catalysts in healing self-worth. Uninvited ushers into the most painful pages of my story, they are also opportunities to pry my joy free from the grasp of shame. Sharing my story over the years has mended me, restored my self-worth, and inspired my commitment to supporting other women's self-recovery. When I saw his face, something and everything about the repugnant representative's story discomposed my core. Sensations of panic and feeling trapped arose as my body remembered; I've met this creep and his ilk before. It took years for my mind to recall that night, although my body always knew and carried the trauma within for decades. Super bowl 1991, my roommates and I went to a party to watch the game. The following morning I woke on a couch in that same house, my clothing soaked without explanation. My body ached, and my head throbbed like no other time in my life. Murky-minded, I had no recollection beyond the end of the game and celebrating the win. I felt embarrassed and rushed home to shower. "I got too drunk," I told myself. For years, that evasion suited the story I adopted to explain the black hole of time; it diluted my shame around something I could not quite recall. After that time, whenever I'd experience anxiety around sexuality and safety, I'd resist the discomfort through various forms of avoidance. I did not understand nor possess the language to identify that my physical, emotional, and energetic responses came from triggers attached to trauma. Instead, I accepted myself as unworthy of a loving connection. There is no venom more toxic than self-loathing and the denial of self-worth. While using both to navigate self-care, my wounded worth led my heart into unhealthy relationships. These harmful connections led me towards seeking help. Over the years, I've worked on owning my story, healing traumas, and reclaiming mental health. My second marriage ushered in my first breakthrough and redirected the course of my life towards wholehearted self-love. In these efforts, I've learned much about both denial and acceptance. I've learned that healing happens when we are ready and sometimes when we least expect it. Triggers don't abide by our schedules or comfort. They aren't the enemy; they are triage.
Though I'd rested comfortably on decades of trauma recovery, learning to accept and love myself, an old photograph recently knocked me on my ass. I was in a state of shock; this image packed a punch. It was a trigger that moved through every cell of my being; my heart raced, my hands trembled, and my breathing became shallow. I felt as though I would throw up. In the photograph, I lay on the house couch where I'd attended the Super bowl party. I remembered waking up to hearing my name, laughter, and the snap of a camera. My face mirrored my feelings; confusion, distress, humiliation, and rage. Then, I knew. I was drugged and raped the night before by people I considered friends. One of the guys gave me that photo a couple of weeks after that night. I know now, thirty years later, it was to see if I remembered anything that occurred. And that was the second the rapists tested my memory and efficacy of the drugs I'd unknowingly consumed in my beer. The first was the morning after when one of my "friends" joined me at a yoga class. At the time, I thought it unusual—he never came to a session before that day. Never did I consider it a nefarious observation of my sobriety and memory. The photo clarified the darkest parts of that night and verified the weight of shame I'd tethered to my self-worth for years. Hot tears splashed out to the floor—it was the release of liability, the rain of relief, and the reckoning of many long-held, misguided beliefs about myself. This trigger was ever-present—in relationships, in bed with lovers, and in my self-care. It was always there. I'd seen the photo other times in the decades since that night; I never stopped to look at it but never threw it away. A part of me must have known it would be a significant impetus to my healing, leading me into more profound self-acceptance. The intersection of unrelenting media of the repugnant representative and rediscovering that photograph is undeniable and precise. Images and headlines of the reptilian rep and his criminal activities above have triggered me into more profound healing. He's not the first seedy soul to trigger my trauma. However, the recent news of his nasty-hearted violations and entitlement club of males who hunt, steal, and defile women unlocked deeply held memories of the night when lowly creeps took from me what I would never have given. Leaning into this trigger reminded me that healing trauma is a lifelong dedication; it moves us both backward and forward. Trauma triggers often arrive when we need them most; they herald our self-worth's imminent expansion. We can release ourselves from shame, blame, and self doubt. We move into trust, self-love, and empowered expression. Lovingly listening and attuning the memories and places that carry the scars of defilements helps us to retrieve our stolen power. We claim our right to exist and rise to our divinity. It is our birthright. And when we do this, we open the way for other women to own their stories, step into more profound self-acceptance, and love themselves wholly. So, yeah. Thanks for the triggers, creep. I've put them to work in the name of women's rights to peace and safety and reclaimed more of my beautiful, undeniable worth.
Laura Phoenix Power is the author of An Expression Of Love, a positive co-parenting book, and Indigo, a collection of verses on self-love and self-acceptance. She is a mother, storyteller, poet, speaker, and coach. Find her writing in Medium, The Urban Howl, and www.lauraphoenixpower.com. She is passionate about inspiring others to heal their souls and nourish the landscape of their well-being. Her writing encourages others to honor their unique stories and believe in their right to wholehearted joy.