My kitchen is a scary place. I go there and remember all of the times I had to deal with family and friends and strangers either with cooking, baking, preparing food, cleaning, or doing something not at all related to food. Traditional cookware is a trigger. Bakeware is a trigger. Knife blocks, cutlery, utensils, tools, silverware, dishes, etc. All are triggers.
And as I contemplate what to keep and what to get rid of, I realize that brands, types, styles, even materials the cookware, etc. are made of are more triggering than the memories. I love the idea of having a wok again. Cooking with a wok means I can make traditional Chinese food I grew up with. But every time I look at a wok I feel anxiety. Every time I try to choose one to buy, I feel anger and other negative feelings. At home, I have a small/medium stainless steel sauce pan with a cover. Every time I use it, I feel shame. After I use it, I can’t bring myself to clean it right away.
What Happens Now
Now, when I look for anything kitchen related (whether it’s dish towels or cake pans), I have to ask all of us, is this item something that will trigger us once we bring it home? Will buying it make us feel good or anxious? Will we use it or hide it? Will having this item at home cause anxiety or excitement? Will a part of us come out during its use and break it because the anxiety and other emotions got so overwhelming the need to destroy the trigger overcame everything else? Because yeah, that’s happened to us in the past too. broken cups & plates; tarnished silverware; rusted cast iron, etc.
And buying what I like, what I choose for myself is a trigger in itself. The fear that someone will come and take what is mine away from me exists in some of my parts. The urge to destroy what I like as punishment exists in other parts. And the need to hurt the self because of the rule breaking drives me and some parts to not buy anything out of paralyzing fear. The triggers start thoughts ruminating; the rumination feeds into obsessions; obsessions trigger compulsions until one or all of us finds relief by giving in to those compulsions or having a panic attack because the coping strategies aren’t working so well.
The Trigger Cycle
Which brings me back to my original feelings of:
Why buy cooking utensils? Why bother trying to cook? Is the enjoyment that comes from cooking and baking worth this hassle? Why not continue to avoid it? Eating isn’t necessary, and you don’t deserve to be healthy anyways. It’s not like you’re an important person who does important work. No one will miss you. But if you go out and get (insert item here), you will (insert threat here).
This cycle happens whenever I try to do something good for myself. Examples:
- Buying clothes that fit
- Sticking to a budget
- Deciding to replace my cookware/bakeware/etc
- Cleaning my apartment
- Buying garbage bags
- Wearing accessories and looking stylish
- Eating food I enjoy
How do you handle your triggers?
The OCD and Rumination Cycle
I’ve been avoiding buying what I need – not exactly the best coping strategy, but it works for now because I am trying to avoid buying too much stuff right now. Where I live now is great. All of us enjoy it and are relatively happy. We feel safe. But we also know that this place is where we grew up; full of triggers just walking around outside or going to work; and often end up encountering people from the past.
So the decision has been made (by all of us) to move to another state as far away as possible from this one where no one from our family or past that we know of resides. This will happen around the end of next summer. And since the price of moving a lot of stuff cross country is ridiculously expensive, why not take the opportunity to sell/get rid of everything unnecessary and use the savings to buy after moving in?
Makes sense right? But is this another case of avoiding self-care or of being practical? Am I hurting myself by not nesting where I’ve lived for a year and plan to spend another year? Or am I being smart by only buying what’s necessary to facilitate self care and then selling it before I move. I can always re-buy later or give my self a limit of boxes to ship to my new place rather than move everything.
As you can read here, examples of ruminating thoughts, obsessive thoughts, and inability to make choices.
How the Cycle Is Broken
I break the cycle by using CBT and DBT with a judicious dose of meditation most of the time. When that doesn’t work, self-soothing and sensory grounding usually do the trick. And when all else fails, a text message or call to someone I trust for some support will help me clear my head.
I hope the quote helps you remember the importance of self-care the way it does for me.