I was turning into the last quarter of a six-mile walk when I spotted two construction trucks lining the road. They were parked in front of a house that sat a bit further than midway down a cul-de-sac. I stopped dead in my tracks as I watched the men go back and forth from their trucks to the outdoor project they were working on.
Do I dare keep walking my usual route?
I’ve walked this particular neighborhood many times, know several people who live in it and lovingly call it the ‘hood because it’s anything but with its beautiful homes on spacious, large lots. I always feel safe walking there, even when I’m alone.
My thoughts were all over the place. From: I will not let them dictate where I will and will not walk. It’s the middle of the day for Pete’s sake. To: don’t be stupid, be safe. Turn around and walk away. Back to: you give them the power if you walk away. You can always scream you’re on your period if they try something. (side note: this was something a cop told a group of ladies to say at a defense class many years ago.) To: if something were to happen you know people will blame you. After all, why would you walk down a road by yourself knowing there are men there?
All those thoughts in a matter of seconds. I looked around at the houses on the rest of the street and there was not a neighbor or dog outside so I turned and walked away disappointed, angry, confused.
I finished the six-miles (except for that one little bit) but not without realizing we aren’t as far as we’d like to think in this world. Maybe we haven’t come a long way baby. I’d like to tell you this was many years ago instead of this past summer but I can’t.
For the rest of the walk I had flashes of things that I had put to rest long ago…
Like being disappointed in myself for letting them/him “win”.
Like berating myself for not having my phone with me at all times. Just in case. Just because. There may be a man. In the middle of the day. In a safe neighborhood. Or in my childhood home so I could swim.
Like telling myself I deserved what I got for having a bathing suit on when I was molested as a young teen. Never mind the fact that I had just come in from swimming. I was told that if I hadn’t been dressed like that…
So I exchanged the swimsuit for a cloak of shame that I wore until my early 30’s when a therapist told me it didn’t matter what I was wearing, what happened to me was wrong. He had no right to violate me. Period.
I should be able to swim in a bathing suit just like I should be able to walk down a cul-de-sac where construction workers are working without fear of being hurt. Without men justifying bad behavior or others excusing it because I’m the one who should know better.
I’m sharing this with you because this triggering, these thoughts, happened on a bright sunny day as I was doing something I love to do in a safe neighborhood. It caught me by surprise. But that’s what triggers do sometimes even after years of therapy.
I can only imagine what the news and social media outlets are doing to trigger some of you who are reading this. You can’t scroll through Facebook or watch the news lately without seeing loud opinions on both sides….I Believe Her. Confirm Kavanaugh Now. She’s a liar. He’s a rapist pig.…have brought out emotions, finger pointing and a marathon blame game of he-said, she-said played under the big top of Barnum and Bailey’s circus.
This post isn’t about that or even them. It’s about you who may be tempted to put that cloak back on, blame or berate yourself or send yourself down a spiral of no good.
Take care of you. The counselor I see off and on now will ask at the beginning of each session how I’m doing in three areas: mind, body and spirit because all three make up the whole you and all three are important.
Here are some things I’ve been doing in each area to keep myself healthy during this high trigger time:
Mind. Turn off the news and put your phone down. I like to stay informed and want to know what’s going on too but I can watch for ten minutes and find out what I need to know. Social media was nothing but exhausting and had me so worked up mentally with all the name calling so I stopped scrolling. Watch a movie, read a book, meditate, pray, make affirmation cards, take a nap, take a class, look at recipes, have coffee/lunch/dinner with a friend…anything to engage the mind in a positive way.
Body. Get up and move. Get the positive endorphins going. Did you know you can’t be angry/depressed while you exercise? Ask a friend to take a walk in the park. Get outside. Breathe in some fresh air. Get your hands in the dirt. Take your shoes off and walk in the grass. (There is scientific evidence that this grounds you and there are microbials in the dirt that helps combat depression!) Eat healthy. It’s so easy to eat junk while mindlessly watching the news circus or scrolling through social media. Watch your alcohol intake. By watch I mean limit. Get the right amount of sleep for you and your body.
Spirit. Be still. Light a candle. Drink some tea. Read through the Psalms or Proverbs. Start a Bible study. Go to church. Connect with a small group. Serve others in some way…a nursing home, preschool, animal shelter or hospital. Volunteer somewhere. Write your favorite scriptures on a note card. Fresh sheets and new jammies are always a good thing.
Last but not least ask for help if you need it. Talk to someone, a friend, pastor or counselor.