Suddenly, though, I couldn’t sit still. I needed to leave. Well, it wasn’t so much that I needed to leave but more so that I just needed to go—demonstrating the difference between the two as I started pacing around the room, sliding my phone in and out of my pocket to peek at the unchanging screen over and over again, as if awaiting an urgent message that would excuse me from my current, static state. I walked over to my purse and touched it, careful not to pick it up and make the room think I was, in fact, leaving, but desperately wanting to. I ran my hand over my coat that was draped across the chair. I wanted to put that coat on my body. I wanted to pick up my purse and walk out the door. I wanted to go.
But go where?
To do… things.
What things, exactly?
I wasn’t sure.
But there was so much to do. I could feel it.
I wasn’t sure.
But I needed to be doing it. Now.
I needed to figure out how to change that taillight. I needed to feed the dogs. I needed to walk the dogs. I needed to walk. Ugh, but the snow… that’s why I hadn’t walked them earlier that morning. That’s why I hadn’t walked very much at all that day. I needed to move.
Wait a minute…
Why exactly did I need to move?
I just did.
because I hadn't moved enough…
What’s moving enough?
You know… a normal amount.
That’s when I saw it. I had been triggered. I couldn’t sit still because I had, almost unknowingly, begun to fall into old, obsessive, manic thoughts about my body and movement. The brand of anxiety currently building in my body was one I hadn’t felt much in recent months but spent the better part of my life accompanied by. That shaky, panicked feeling that something was undone, that force that pushed me to pace the room and convinced me that I need to go, to move, to do something—anything—but sit still, that nagging feeling that I hadn’t finished, that I didn’t do enough, that I wasn’t enough; I knew this feeling well and I hadn’t missed it one bit.
As I walked out of the door, finally having excused myself to feed the dogs, I could tell I was on the verge of giving in to those old compulsions that had fed my eating disorder, body weirdness, and intense anxiety for the better part of my adolescence, teens, and young adult life. I was seriously considering going home and walking—or jogging? It's not that dark yet, really—the dogs at 8:00 p.m. in over four inches of snow. I was starting to build a laundry list of to-do’s, as if checking a few more things off the list would earn me my self-worth back. I was starting to do all of these things and I hated it. I hated this feeling, this person who left parties to do... what exactly?
So I called my best friend.
“I think I was triggered,” I told her. It's not that I hadn't been triggered before, it's just that this was the first time it had happened in a while. It was also one of the first times I'd caught it this quickly. As I recounted the evening, I saw it the triggers so clearly: the fitness tracker my boyfriend’s Mom got for her birthday and the Instagram post I had double-tapped mindlessly about a friend not closing her movement rings. Both tiny moments I hadn’t planned on being triggered by. In fact, I even verbally admitted that, while everyone is entitled to their own body autonomy, fitness trackers were a “slippery slope" for me—a phrase I often relied on when trying to own my truth while not launching a full conversation on food and body weirdness. I had done my best to stay aware and alert but you don’t really get to plan triggers, do you?
That’s what makes them triggers. They sneak up on you, often when you’re least on-guard and even when you think you’re past being triggered.
The moment the words fell out of my mouth, I could feel my anxiety start to ease. It didn’t erase the way I was feeling but it felt like a small recoupment of my power. I climbed out of my car to pump gas, and we talked about what happened. We talked about the frustrations of triggers, of the seemingly endless pervasion of diet-culture, and about how empowering it was to be aware of it’s sneaky power of us. When I got home, I felt a little better.
I was still a little anxious. I could still acknowledge those thoughts lurking in the back of my head, telling me that I hadn’t done enough and that, ultimately, that meant I wasn’t enough. I still felt a nagging to move, to walk, and to busy myself.. but I was aware of it.
When Neil got home, I apologized for leaving so abruptly. I told him what had happened. I told him that this is why, should I ever attempt to purchase a new fitness tracker, I needed him to hide my wallet, tie me to a chair and make me re-read this very post—and perhaps a few others on this site.
And then we watched a movie.
And ate some trail mix.
And drank a beer.
This is difference between me now and me then, I thought as I sipped. I’m the one with the power.
(which is why you could find me doing the same old, same old the next morning, including enjoying a baked good gifted to me by one my lovely clients)