Cooking Can Be a Trigger For Domestic Violence Survivors

Domestic Violence Cooking Triggers

Triggers

Sometimes it’s a sound, or maybe a smell or song and in that very instant I am transported right back in the thick of the worst times in my life.  What is a trigger?  A trigger is something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma.

Triggers are personal. Very real and often debilitating.  Control Alt Delete helped with an escape earlier this year and as we were packing up the Survivors important items a white work truck drove on to her street.  Immediately she lost all color in her face and her hands and whole body started to tremble.  Her eyes went wide and were frantic as she instinctively searched out a place to hide.  The truck drove down the street and she drew an audible, cleansing breath.  It was relief.  She then ran to the restroom and vomited.

I am not a behavioral health professional but having experienced my own triggers I knew that a white work truck had been a trigger for her.  When she began to apologize for her reaction, I stopped her and said something along the lines of “once you know what triggers you it is easier to deal with it.”

I told her about some of my own triggers and how once I recognized what was happening, I was better equipped to work through the experience.

“In 1992 I gave birth to my second child.  I left the hospital the same day my daughter was born glad to be going home to my 18-month-old son.  That evening; literally having given birth 6 hours earlier I cooked dinner.  My son was hungry.  I made spaghetti in between caring for an hours old new born and 18-month-old.  As I was putting dinner on my sons plate their father came into the kitchen to make himself a plate.  With his heaping dinner plate, he sat in front of the television and took a bite.  While I tried to nurse the new baby and help the toddler eat, he came into the kitchen and grabbed the strainer of pasta and slammed it into the garbage then turned and knocked the pot of sauce off the stove – barley missing me and the kids.

With sauce dripping down the walls and table he yelled “The noodles aren’t done!  Can’t you do anything right?  Who can’t cook noodles?  You better get your fat ass up and clean this mess then cook something we can eat!”

To this day, 28 years later every single time I make pasta I am compulsive about testing its doneness.  I can’t stop it.  It’s been 22 years since I lived with this man and can’t stop checking the darn pasta.  Cooking pasta is a trigger for me.  It takes me back to feeling completely helpless in an abusive marriage.

I’ve made spaghetti a million times since that evening.  Challenging myself to set the timer and not check the doneness.  One time a few years ago it wasn’t done all the way.  My forever husband took a bite and said “al dente is a great change.  This is delicious.”  It was a very healing moment for me.”

I have other triggers too.  Growing up in a violent home, then marrying an abuser will do that.

In talking with many Survivors, I have found that cooking can be a common trigger.  Some have no idea what to cook since every meal was dictated.  Some the smells alone are triggers.  Even shopping for ingredients for a familiar recipe can be a trigger.

I had an idea after talking to one Survivor – let’s create a Control Alt Delete Survivor Cookbook.

Everyone is welcome to share favorite and comforting recipes.  Include music you listen to while cooking or a picture of your favorite apron, something to create a new and positive memory.  Share what makes the recipe special.  Together we can create healing memories that aren’t going to trigger fear and uncertainty.

Email cookbook recipes to laurap@dvcontrolaltdelete.org

The first recipe I am going to share…..spaghetti! Control Alt Delete will email out this digital cookbook to any Survivor or anyone that can benefit from healing recipes.

Here is a great article on triggers:  domesticshelters.org/articles/taking-care-of-you/when-the-feelings-rush-back

Here is some general information I found on Google about Triggers:

There are healthy ways to cope with difficult triggers, and those suffering can feel reassured they don’t have to give triggers power.

Simple recommended methods to effectively manage triggers include:

  1. Exercising.
  2. Resting.
  3. Therapy or counseling.
  4. Meditation or mindfulness.
  5. Spending time with positive people.

Triggers vary widely from person to person and can be either internal or external.

Other common internal triggers include:

  • Pain.
  • Muscle tension.
  • Memories tied to a traumatic event.
  • Anger.
  • Sadness.
  • Loneliness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Feeling overwhelmed, vulnerable, abandoned, or out of control.