Continue To Be Triggered \ Upset

So, since I was around 14, my mom’s had coughing problems. She’s a smoker so it’s that kind of thing. When I was a kid, I’d see in movies and TV that people who cough a lot die, and I guess I internalized that because when she’d have her coughing fits, I would feel extremely uncomfortable and scared; from the loud noise and from the fact that she might die right in front of me.
I used to go and hide in the bathroom, shove my headphones deep into my ears, and blare songs I could barely even hear, but I would swear I could STILL hear her coughing.

Eventually, a few years later, I broke down in front of her and told her how I felt, crying and everything. I think she was upset, but the only thing she said at that time was that it was too late to fix anything now.

That really didn’t help and I proceeded to withdraw completely from her. I was depressed, she was depressed, and the coughing continued. She ended up going to the hospital for heart problems and they did some stuff, got her on some pills, she coughs a little less now. Our relationship has improved, and we’ve talked more about the coughing and how it bothers me but also about her health and her smoking addiction and how it feels to her. She says she has no intention to stop.

But I’m still triggered by the sound of her cough. It makes me want to run and hide, but in our new house, there’s nowhere to go. My room is right next to hers and I can hear her constantly, she coughs all the time still. I can accept that this may just be my reality, but i don’t know if that’s right. Even as I type this, she’s coughing - it must hurt her too, and I’m sure she hates thinking that her chronic condition is seen as ‘triggering’ by someone. I feel guilty but frustrated all at the same time.

If there’s anyone who knows what a good next step would be, or even if this is just another phase, please tell me. I don’t love my mother to the moon and back, but I hate the way it feels to be so upset by someone I know doesn’t mean me any harm.


Hey Mars,

Welcome to HeartSupport and thank you so much for posting <3

I can definitely see how that would be triggering, and you definitely care about her and want her to get the help that she needs. Smoking is an extremely hard addiction to break, especially if you’ve been doing it a long time. I used to be a pack a day smoker then quit about 8 years ago and switched to vaping, which isn’t exactly the best but I definitely don’t cough a lot anymore and its easier to transition out of it.

Is there a doctor she has that you both can talk to about it? They may be able to provide some suggestions, as much as she doesn’t want to quit there might be a solution that may actually work?

It takes a lot of effort and motivation, but it can be done. It won’t be easy, but hopefully things work out. Please keep us posted and we’re always here if you need any additional support.


She usually goes to her doctor alone and they tell her to stop smoking as it is, not that she feels like listening; I can’t imagine going behind her back to communicate with her doctor. It would make her feel very attacked.
If that’s the route to take, I understand, I just don’t imagine I’d have the guts to do it. I’ve advised online support groups and she could be looking into it on her own, which isn’t a journey she needs to take me on. But my worries is that I can’t support her and myself when I feel this way, bothered by her condition, or if maybe I’m persecuting myself when there’s no need to.

I appreciate your reply. Thank you for your support.

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My dad was a chain smoker and an alcoholic. He passed away from alcoholism when he was several years younger than I am now. From childhood on, it sounded as though he was coughing his lungs out on a regular basis.

I had no choice but to accept that no one or nothing could stop him from ruining his body. It was heartbreaking, and I took it personally as I felt as though he should want to take care of his body so he could be around me for as long as possible.

Years later, I came to realize that he was so consumed by both his addictions and his mental health issues, that it really wasn’t within his power to stop smoking and drinking.

I had my own smoking and drinking issues, but quit both many years ago. I didn’t want my children to go through that same sense of rejection that I felt when I thought my dad loved his habits more than he did me.

When I was doing hospice nursing, some of my lung cancer patients continued to smoke. That’s how strong the addiction can be.

My dad didn’t mean me any harm. Your mother doesn’t mean you any harm. Sometimes, people can’t change. Accepting that can be one of the most difficult and profound exercises in love and forgiveness.

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I accept her condition and her addiction - she’s been through a lot in her life and I’m not about to expect it to be dealt with all that easily. I know she doesn’t mean harm and I know how strong this addiction can be.
I just don’t enjoy the feelings I have about her coughing recently and I wish there was something I could do for myself to move through them. I’m trying to deconstruct it, but it’s ultimately difficult when the trigger for my negative feelings lives with me.

I appreciate your support. I’m sorry to hear about what you went through with your father.

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Yes, it makes sense that this situation brings conflicting emotions. You know she doesn’t mean any harm and somehow what she does in regards to smoking his her decision/needs to come from her. But at the same time the sound of the repeated cough just triggers raw emotions within, and a type of distress that can be difficult to put into words. I’m really sorry you’ve been dealing with this, and to be honest I feel this so much with you.

I am extremely sensitive to specific sounds, which essentially comes from having lived in neighbourhoods where people would make a lot of sound, play music extremely loud, and where the walls were like thin paper (the joy of being student…). Even years after and being in a different place, there are sounds I just can’t stand. It triggers an intense anxiety, which someone translates into internal anger/frustration or just feeling unsafe. A typical issue at home being when my partner plays video games and hearing the sound of the keyboard clicking repeatedly. I love him and I know he means well and is just living his life, and at the same time during those moments I feel like my peace is invaded somehow. It has become so bad over time that I could definitely feel y range of tolerance diminishing - I would pay attention and feel triggered by noises that wouldn’t bother me before. It’s a vicious cycle.

I don’t know if this is something you are familiar with, but in my case it is misophonia. And of course I’m not trying to diagnose you here, but I wonder if it could be interesting for you to read about it or even ask a doctor about it. Because the fact that the cough creates distress sand intense emotion in you is definitely something worth discussing with a professional, especially if you are right now living with your mom and have no perspective of a change of environment. You may not change her or her habits, you certainly can’t change her health, but you can eventually seek and develop coping mechanisms to (1) ease the reception of the noise and (2) ease the stress it creates/work on the reaction that it generates within you. Which may seem like a long and discouraging road at first… although ultimately it’s about your well-being and peace, which is primordial. :hrtgradientblue: