On Sunday I felt it. The subtle creep of anxiety and the faint quickening of my heart.  It was there, hovering and looking for a crack in my recent contentment, sniffing eagerly for a place to slide in.

I was sitting on the edge of discomfort, a place I hadn’t been in many weeks. It wasn’t entirely unexpected. It had been a busy weekend, starting from the moment I left my office on Friday. I had an important personal commitment right after my workday, busy prep for a dinner party Saturday morning including a whirlwind dancing session with my mop and vacuum.  Soon after we packed the family into the car and scurried off to a birthday party that quickly filled our Saturday afternoon.

After the part we raced home, stopping for a few quick errands that would supply some key ingredients in preparation for our dinner guests. We’d been warned that Sunday morning would bring a planned power outage and thus were up, showered, and out early to join our neighbours for breakfast at a local family restaurant.

Couple what seems like everyday commitments with several sleepless nights and by the time we finally settled into a quiet Sunday afternoon I was running on empty. And I still had loads of laundry to tackle, a kitchen to unearth from the chaos of the previous night’s dinner party, a dishwasher to empty and re-load, lunches and dinner to make and Monday morning to prepare for.

But this is where the pattern stopped.

Not so long ago I would have spent hours wallowing in useless self-judgment and feelings of inadequacy because of feeling rushed, scattered and overwhelmed. When you barely have time to breathe, you can forget to give yourself a break.

Today I recognize it’s all about the triggers. My triggers.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to do since being diagnosed with depression has been learning to recognize my triggers—the things I do, choices that I make, the habits and behaviours that contribute and fuel my my anxieties and drag me to places I’d rather not go.

When I set out to conquer my demons, I expected that I would have to make difficult decisions. I didn’t think it would be easy, but I was also completely unprepared for how telling they would be and how significantly different the image I had of myself was from the person that I actually am.


I’m reclusive and crave the regular solace of quiet. I’m physically and emotionally tied to a set routine, for my children and for me.

I need to read. It’s like a meditation that calms my mind and feeds my soul.

I need to protect time  for quiet reflection, to focus entirely on my family and to enjoy and nurture my own interests.

I need to reserve the time I need to fully prepare for a busy work week so that I can tackle our schedules with calm resolve

I need to thoughtfully consider the promises I make, remembering how easy it is to over-commit, and how that leads to guilt and resentment.

I need sleep. Lots and lots of sleep.

I need to forgive myself these triggers, and embrace them as my own.


I’ve lived a life ignoring the importance of personal boundaries, thinking them a weakness, rather than the key to my own vitality. It’s because of a lifelong belief that I am meant to have it all, but it also comes from a deep-held insecurity that I am not good enough.

All of them involve time: protecting time, being mindful of time, slowing down, doing less, simplifying. The poetry of it is almost intoxicating.

My whole life I’ve thought that being enough meant keeping up and doing everything. Now, FINALLY, I know that being enough means doing what is best for me. What’s more, I truly believe that if I do,  if I freely acknowledge my own limitations, that everything else will continue to slip perfectly into place.

Brené Brown, a sociologist and author once admitted that she is “a much more compassionate person because [she] is a boundaried person.” I can see how this would be, how much easier it would be to give of yourself then you give to yourself.

And so, I’m not surprised when the dark starts to whisper in my ear. I expect it when I over-extend myself and ignore the rules I’ve worked so hard to embrace.

But this time I was ready for it. In acknowledging my limitations, I feel like I’ve taken away their power. I used to cry for hours because I felt broken. I believed myself deficient, because I would never again be able to do all that I had once been able to. But I now know that I’m not broken at all.

I just haven’t been living my life the way I’m meant to live it.

Image: ‘Spark‘ by jimtsap via a Creative Commons license.


32 thoughts on “Triggers

  1. Ironic Mom says:

    I think we’ve had some similar patterns recently, but I too can recognize triggers…that’s so big. I mean it is REALLY BIG. To be able to see something, and make some little adjustments is not that difficult but it still is momentous.

    Like you, I too need lots of reading time at night…at least one hour (and that’s after I’m ready for bed). As a result, if I’m out till 10 on weeknights, it means I’m not asleep till midnight.

    Here’s to keep moving forward.

    • Christine says:

      When I’m out late, and I have to rush through my evening routine, I almost panic. I need it just so. I used to fight it, but now I realize it’s easier to just give in. And hey, what’s life without lots and lots of time to read. There is just too much good stuff out there.

  2. Christa says:

    This is huge, Christine, and beautifully said. I’ve been hearing a little voice say “Slow it down” for a long time and the more I listen, the better life gets.

    It’s not easy though – good to have company with a similar list!


    • Christine says:

      Thanks Christa. You are right. Just because I know doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sometimes I feel like I’m battling demons. But I’m learning to make friends with those demons, realizing that they are just trying to tell me important things about myself.

  3. Lindsey says:

    It seems to me that this is, again, a return to the needing to trust ourselves, to knowing what WE need, even when the world avers otherwise, to pay attention to the internal voice. Not easy, but your story inspires to keep up my efforts to do all of those things.

    • Christine says:

      I’ve ignored that internal voice way too long. It’s very freeing to let it be loud and proud. Or at least, to continue to work toward letting it be loud and proud. To be honest, I’ve come a long way, but I expect there is still a long way to go.

  4. Cathy says:

    I’ve learned some of my own triggers – hunger for one. I simply fall to pieces when I’m hungry – and there are times when I don’t even feel hungry, but I know I am. As for the stress, I need my downtime, my alone time. I need my space. I start feeling smothered when I don’t have that.

  5. Ugh!! The boundaries! Why is it so hard for me to stand firm, realize and respect them?

    And you’re right–when they’re stretched, I’m out of whack and churlish, and then NOBODY wins.

  6. It’s good to know what you need so you can claim it. And you should claim it…it makes you happier, your children happier, your whole household happier. But let me in on the ‘lots of sleep’ secret, will you? 🙂

  7. I am right there with you on having difficulty with too many social engagements, and I often feel the drive to keep up and keep going, even when it is (in hindsight) not in my best interest to do so. Protecting my time has been key to my mental health, but I find it much harder to do now that I have two kids. Because I miss my friends, as well. Ultimately it’s all about balance, but being boundaried definitely increases my happiness.

  8. Thank you for putting all of this into words! I want to live this lesson ever more, particularly as I’m learning to navigate this online world. I’m slowly getting conscious of what triggers me feeling overwhelmed, overstimulated, jealous, and down about what I’m able to accomplish in a week or day. I looooove your last insight about not being broken, but simply living in a way that doesn’t work for your particular wirings.

  9. Knowing our limits is huge. Thanks for reminding me of mine.

  10. “Rushed and scattered and overwhelmed.”

    So relatable, Christine. And knowing those triggers (and cutting them off at the pass) – it’s so important. Good for you, listening and responding.

    Those triggers change; our ability to manage them evolves as well. One of the nice things as we continue to learn about ourselves.

  11. Justine says:

    Good for you for recognizing these triggers – it’s so important isn’t it? Recently we’ve hosted some friends with their kids that had no boundaries. Free form bedtime, mealtimes, etc. And while it works for some (although it hardly looked that way to us as they pushed the limits of the adults repeatedly), we knew we just couldn’t handle it because all of us in our house need the structure to function well. When we know to expect blocks of time meant for the family, each other and our selves, that’s when we really thrive.

    Like you, I’ve learned to cut down on commitments and to treat Sunday evenings as sacred quiet family time. For working mothers especially, I think it’s important we have that so we can start our week with a more peaceful/stable mindset as once Monday hits, it’s go go go for the next few days. And it can consume us. Here’s to wishing us both luck that we are able to manage our time better for the sake of our sanity.

    • Christine says:

      We seem to be moving along on the same path in many ways, and I have to tell you Justine, knowing you are out there brings me tremendous comfort. Thank you, my friend.

      Here’s to sacred Sundays! We should start a meme!

  12. ayala says:

    Good for you for realizing the triggers and finding your inner voice to tell you that you’ve been doing too much. You need to step away and take a deep breath and realize that by having boundaries you may have to say “no” but in the process you will be happier and at peace. It happens to me as well. I have placed boundaries in order to save myself.

  13. denise says:

    Oh sweet friend. What a fabulous, glorious post to read. I am so happy that you are loving yourself, listening and learning. I soooo relate to almost everyone of your words…it’s almost scary. I’ll just preemptively cut myself off from writing a post within your comments to say MEEEEE TOOOOOO and so glad we’ve found each other. xxoo

  14. Chantal says:

    That is awesome Christine! You saw the darkness and it didn’t overtake you. This is HUGE!

  15. Ellie says:

    LOVE LOVE this. I love reading about this journey we’re on – and we are both on it, for sure. I sit here and nod my head with empathy and understanding of everything you say. Boundaries – for myself, for other people, is one I still struggle with a LOT. Although, like you, I’m starting to SEE the pattern, and MAN what a gift that is. Even when I’m stepping off the rails, I *know* I’m doing it, and so I can make gentle corrections, instead of sailing into the abyss and wondering where on earth it all went wrong.

    One of my favorite saying of Brene Brown’s (because all roads eventually lead back to her, lol!) is learning to “take the discomfort over the resentment”). I’m figuring out – sloooooowly – how to say no to people so I don’t end up in that over-taxed headspace.

    You write so beautifully about this, Christine. I’m standing on the sidelines cheering my head off for you!



  16. jamie slay says:

    Very insightful. I too know that I NEED to say no, but HOW do you do that when it is your boss asking?

  17. Cecilia says:

    I hear you. I am exactly the same way – all those things you listed. I’ve learned the hard way (and it took me years) that my energy gets depleted easily and that I need boundaries. But I couldn’t say no, and I allowed too many people and obligations to blur the space I needed in order to feel calm and centered. You are wise to recognize that there is nothing wrong with you, that the important thing is to choose a way of life that fits you.

  18. Eva Evolving says:

    Are we the same person?! It was only a few years ago that I recognized – and accepted – my basic needs to maintain some balance in life. I hate going out on weeknights, I need a LOT of sleep, I get twitchy when my weekends are over-committed. If I have more than one weeknight activity in a given week, I get grumpy. And weekends are sacred.

    For awhile, this bothered me. I felt dull and boring, like my social life just didn’t measure up. But now I’m over that. This is how I like to live my life, this is what keeps me sane and gives me happiness. Everything in moderation.

  19. Alexandra says:

    Found you through KitchenWitch, and I am in heaven over here.

    You speak my language.
    I ignore my triggers,too…and I think it’s my shortcomings.

    But, it’s as you beautifully say, it’s me telling me I’m not living life the way I was meant to.

    I will carry that forever.

    Thank you.

  20. I know of my triggers, but have never defined them by writing them down. I believe if I can delineate them I can be conscious of my limitations. Thanks for the reminder.

  21. Amber says:

    I am working hard on my own boundaries now. It is NOT easy. But I think it is very, very important.

  22. harrietglynn says:

    My problem is every time I’m offered work, I go into an anxiety tailspin. What am I supposed to do? Not work? (well that would be nice actually?!)

  23. […] it seemed like this part of my life no longer fit. I had spent many months learning about my triggers, sifting through the trouble spots and separating the parts so that I could finally be whole. For a […]

  24. […] is, for the last year I would argue that is exactly what I’ve been doing by acknowledging my triggers and learning to set and keep personal barriers. But now I’m not so sure. Because after all of […]

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