Living in a World of Triggers
I’ve come a long way in my battle with depression. I’ve worked really hard to strengthen my mind to fight well. I have been able to wean off of my medication and now use my experiences to hopefully encourage others.
With all of that being said – depression is still a hard, hard battle that I’m not sure will ever cease. Today specifically was an incredibly tough day that resulted in me falling back into those old thought patterns that had held me down for so long. Unfortunately, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence in my life. BUT we get back up, learn, and keep growing.
The biggest things that seems to knock me down lately are my triggers. If you’ve battled with mental health, I’m sure you understand exactly what a trigger is. But for those of you who might not, here is a quick explanation:
“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 very personal; different things trigger different people. The survivor may begin to avoid situations and stimuli that she/he thinks triggered the flashback. She/he will react to this flashback, trigger with an emotional intensity similar to that at the time of the trauma. A person’s triggers are activated through one or more of the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.”
I asked on the new Anonymous page what some of your triggers were. Here is what y’all said:
Lack of sleep!
When things are going great for me I tend to start getting a little more anxiety because I am preparing myself for something to go wrong. I over think...A LOT!!!
Rejection with anything or any hint of loneliness. It can be someone not able/wanting to hang out or someone I’m interested in not feeling the same. Loneliness can also be simply feeling completely alone when everyone else is doing something. Even after the failed attempts to be "busy" too.
Just feeling alone.
Watching something involving suicide, self harm, rape, depression, etc.
To be screamed at and blamed for things that are not my fault.
Feelings of inadequacy.
I get so worked up over minor things. Then when I try to fix it I feel like the world just came crashing at my feet.
Feeling helpless in your own mind is by far the worst feeling anyone could ever have.
You could be completely fine one second to seeing something that brings up a bad feeling. Then your mind just stays in that bad place.
Death, moving, dementia, hospitals, funeral homes, exhaustion, criticism, manipulation, money, deadlines
Some of mine include boredom when I’m alone, inappropriate movies or TV shows, women being sexualized, thinking too much about my past and who I may have hurt along the way, crowds, and unmet expectations. Just to name a few.
They can be anything.
How do we handle these? How do we live life in a way that isn’t purely avoiding hard things? How can I be okay when my expectations aren’t met? Or when I’m needing to be in a crowded place? I don’t want to be controlled by my triggers. But yet, they’re still very real and active.
Billie Jean King said, “I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion.”
I don’t know the full answer to all of this. But I think self-awareness is a huge first step.
Know yourself. Know your triggers. Have a plan when they come up.
A few weeks ago, Jake was out of town on a business trip. I had driven in from a trip of my own and had the house to myself for the night. At first, the introvert inside of me was thrilled to have a bit of peace after trip I had taken. But as the night progressed, I was having a hard time fighting my boredom.
I was sitting by myself in a dark room, at least three hours away from a decent bedtime, with nothing to do but think. My thoughts began to wander and I felt myself growing a bit weak in my mind. I called my sister-in-law as soon as I recognized what was going on and asked if I could go and spend the night at her place. She lovingly invited me down and in five minutes I was on my way.
Being able to remove myself from that tempting situation allowed me to breathe a bit and get a little more clarity as I sifted through the truth and lies my mind had previously been confused about.
I don’t always fight that well. That was a shining moment surrounded by many failed attempts. But I wouldn't have had a chance without being able to recognize in the moment what was going on.
Learn yourself. Learn your triggers. Learn the signs that show you're heading to a dangerous place. Make a plan for those moments. And be ready to extend yourself a lot of grace.
The more victory we find, the more encouraged and confident we are when the next trigger comes along.
We've got this. We can do this.