Digging Up Dark Roots, Part One: “Trigger Year”

Currently I am seeing my therapist three times a week. Three times is a lot. I explained to her that I feel a substantial amount of shame over seeing a mental health professional this frequently. “It is like my seeing you three times a week says that I cannot handle my anxiety and depression on my own, that I have some big bad issues I seriously need help with.” She looked at me pointedly and said “Well you can’t handle your anxiety and depression on your own.” I shifted my weight uncomfortably in my seat. I wanted to scowl. Clearly, the truth is that no, I cannot handle my anxiety and my depression on my own. This is a conclusion, however, that I cannot stand to accept. I have a strong aversion to any statement of this sort, one that implies a major lack of perfection and stability on my behalf. “Maybe you do have some big issues”, my therapist suggested. Again, I felt discomfort contort my mind and body. “I just can’t handle that,” I explained. “I am not able to entertain that idea. If I do have some big issues, then I need to get to work pronto to clean them up and fix them, make myself perfect. They can’t be there, those problems. They are simply unlivable.”

Where did my obsession with perfection come from? Why is it that I am so pained and tortured by the thought that I have major personal issues, that I cannot function completely independently? What planted this obsession, what nurtured it, so that it became so ingrained in my over time, as much a part of me as is my love of writing and my quest for truth? It would be so easy if I could pin this down (and all of my other unhealthy/unpleasant cognitive habits) to one specific triggering event, to one specific cause. I would love to so simplify things, but I highly doubt that will work here.

I often think of one specific year when I try to recall where things “started”, to name some point in my life that serves as a landmark where anxiety, depression, various deep personal signs of struggle all stemmed from. This landmark year is the year I was in 6th grade. I attended a small private Christian school. Here, I was bullied severely. My parents tell me that, although I cannot recall it, I would come home and cry every day. I was so upset that I could not focus on my homework, I could not concentrate on anything. Insecurity and self-loathing brewed within me. My class was small. We students only had so many people to pick from when selecting friends, enemies, and so forth. We created a social structure in which positions where assigned and thereafter rigid and unchanging. After someone was picked as a “target” as I was, it became nearly impossible to manipulate the system. At some point, I assume, one person decided to start calling me fat and stupid and other lovely creative insults. Every day after that was “history”, as the cliché goes.

I was tormented daily by the majority of my classmates by day, I was tormented daily by my older sister at home after school, and I frequently witnessed my dad’s psychotic fits of rage in our home by night. Unhealthy and painful situations with my sister and dad, even those directed specifically towards me, were not new in my 6th grade year. They had been going on for quite some time. (I cannot remember a time in my childhood that my dad did not have frequent psychotic screaming fits). Put those together, however, with my experience in school, and it is clear as to why in my mind my year in 6th grade was the “trigger year”.



How much of my having unhealthy cognitive habits, etc. really come from this year?


I am quite a complex person, and I have only just begun to peel away at part of my story here… More of this to come.


As always,




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1 Response to Digging Up Dark Roots, Part One: “Trigger Year”

  1. My mom died April 4th last year. In the same week I decided to quit my job and I found out the guy I had been dated had cheated on me while I stayed with her in the hospital.

    I don’t write any of that for sympathy. I write it to give a foundation for what I want to say.

    When I finally got back to Orlando I didn’t have a place to live. I didn’t have a job. And in my head, I didn’t have anyone to talk to. Mom was gone. My life was falling apart. And deep down, at the core of who I was, I didn’t see a reason to fix anything.

    It took about a week for me to call someone. A therapist. My friend had recommended this person to me a while ago, and me being me, had never called or arranged anything. I knew this was different though. I knew that even though I wanted to not need help, that I needed it. Professional, unbiased, detached logical help because I didn’t know how to start with any of it.

    I know the shame of admitting to seeing someone. I’ve been seeing my therapist for over a year now.

    My hope is that one day you come to a place where you do not see it as shame. There is nothing wrong with having major issues. Through my sessions I’ve been able to open up about darker, older scars like my rape and my parents’ divorce, things totally not related to any of the issues I’ve gone through the past year, but things which were still eating away at me on levels I didn’t even realize.

    There’s a book called, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.” It’s actually a pretty deep book despite the shocking / amusing title. In the book the author explains that there’s this misconception that blame and responsibility are connected. If you take responsibility for something going on then you’re suddenly the person at fault.

    That’s not the case though. The example used in the book is stepping outside your front door one day and finding a baby in a basket. You’re not your fault someone put a baby on your doorstep, but you are responsible for how you handle the situation.

    I’m not my fault my mom died. It’s not my fault I was raped. It’s not my fault my parents’ marriage didn’t work out. I am, however, responsible for how I respond to, and handle those situations going forward in my life.

    It’s not your fault you were bullied. It’s not your fault that your home life was toxic. There’s most likely a lot of situations in your life that aren’t your fault, but they are still events which happened to or around you, and so you ARE responsible for how you choose to react to those situations.

    No one is perfect. Everyone has issues, and a lot of us feel shame for “not adulating well enough.”

    Having been a person who has sought out mental health counseling I think it’s extremely brave and responsible of you to try this avenue. We wouldn’t feel shame asking for help moving a 100 lb box. We wouldn’t feel shame asking for help if we didn’t know how to do something. Why are we so ingrained to feel shame when it comes to seeking help for mental issues?

    Wanting to be healthy is a valid, worth-while, and honorable priority. Just because it’s in regards to mental health doesn’t in some way diminish or tarnish the help you receive, or your character for seeking out that help.

    Don’t feel shame. If three times a week is too much, maybe try for two times a week instead. It’s not that you can’t handle your issues. You’ve been handling them since your 6th year. Ideally, your therapist will help show you how to move past them. You’re going to be the one doing all the work. It’s going to be hard, and a lot of it is going to be uncomfortable because you’re going to be working on changing thinking habits you’ve had for years, or confronting emotions that have been buried for ages.

    You are going to be the one to change you, not your therapist, and I guess that was my biggest hang-up when I first started going to my sessions. I didn’t like the idea of being “broken” and someone else having to “fix” me.

    Your journey may be vastly different from mine. Just know that any change you want to make is going to come from you, not your therapist. They may show you things, ask you things, suggest or recommend, but only YOU are in control of yourself. You don’t have to do anything they say, just like you don’t have to listen to the annoying evil voice in your head.

    There’s no shame in trying to be a healthier you. *hugs*

    Liked by 1 person

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