July 16, 2020

Like a Sliver in our Heel: How our Triggers Show Up—Again & Again.

Late last year, I accidentally broke a couple of glass candles over our kitchen floor.

Shattered glass was everywhere. What only took seconds to splinter throughout that kitchen and dining room space took an hour to clean up, in several stages.

I started sweeping the area, getting the larger pieces into the dustpan. Next, I thoroughly canvased the kitchen and dining room areas with wet paper towels, catching the more minuscule pieces as they glinted in weird spots, like half-opened drawers, and even my cat’s food and water dishes.

(Don’t worry, I completely switched out those dishes with clean ones.)

Yes, I spent an hour scouring the areas, scanning all surfaces and crevices for any lurking, sharp glints. I thought I’d successfully swept/mopped/cleaned up all remnants of the candles.

Our home was safe once again. Problem solved.

Sure enough, three weeks later, while walking in between rooms, I got a shard of glass stuck in the bottom of my foot. Maybe it wasn’t even a shard, maybe it was more like a sliver. Teeny tiny. Barely seen.

But felt? Oh, that was a different story! Being lodged firmly in the bottom of my heel, I was keenly aware of its existence, with each step I took. I tried homemade remedies involving a piece of Ivory soap applied to the area, held in place by a Band-Aid. No success. I finally bought a nifty gadget that removed the sucker after a week. (But not before I spent my birthday with this irritating affliction lodged in my heel. Happy birthday to me.)

The sliver taught me about the triggers that often lurk around the issues like abuse and addiction. Sometimes, we engage in a false sense of security about those very issues.

We tell ourselves we’ve dealt with our pain. We’ve been to therapy. We have participated in self-help seminars and healthier coping strategies. We’re all good. When the calamity of our issue or disaster happened, we swept and mopped it up. All clean now. We covered every nook and cranny. Nothing to see here.

And then, whammo!

We’re in pain again.

I had left a longstanding and abusive relationship. I had been in therapy and received counsel and support from other trusted individuals. I was employing better coping strategies and behaviors. I was all better. I was healed, even (I can hear you snickering, by the way).

Not. So. Fast.

Lulled into a false sense of security, buoyed by an enthusiastic confidence at the freedom and my deliberate decision to emancipate myself from the situation, I, not surprisingly, found myself within another dysfunctional dynamic.

I initially got caught up in the feeling that I had successfully broken all dysfunctional and abusive cycles, once and for all (again, I hear you snickering).

Yes, I had a case of the “ta-dahs!” Woo-hoo! I made it!

Never mind this latest person disrespected my time, was late for appointments, and did not follow through; their lip service did not match with the corresponding action. Never mind that I reverted to old patterns of codependency and poor self-care. The red flags were there—and yes, I saw them. I just chose not to acknowledge them.

And, like my afflicted foot, I tried to work with the irritation, doing my best to work around the discomfort. I operated from the principle that I had done my healing work. I was not vulnerable to abuse any longer. I had changed. All the glass was cleaned and cleared up.

But, again, not so fast.

That pesky little sliver persisted, as communication with this individual resulted in confusion, tears, and a diminished sense of self. What was that all about? Huh. I thought I had moved on.

Yeah, I moved on, alright. I had unconsciously replaced the abuse I believed I had “left” with another party who could still hurt me, because I was allowing it, through my own denial of reality.


There was and is regret about that. I work on processing just what it all meant. Contemplation about spent time and lessons learned abounded. I did learn that the behaviors I have around my abusive experiences are still my Achilles’ heel. I can make progress; I have made progress.

But I am still a finite, vulnerable human being, who will never arrive perfectly healed and bulletproof.

Quite the contrary.

The bullets can, all too easily, pierce me, especially if I neglect to take care of myself, in all the necessary ways I need to. Like the broken glass, things concerning our personal issues do not tend to surface until much later—seemingly from out of nowhere.

Triggers. Ah. Yikes.

Yep. There we are.

I didn’t know that was still there.

The poking irritation of my glass sliver reminded me otherwise. I was reminded of my Achilles’ heel. However, being reminded of this can now work to help me get where—and to whom—I need to be.

So, yes, there’s value in my Achilles’ Heel.




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