Courtesy of the build-up and aftermath of my first ever public speaking engagement, I’m a wee bit behind with the 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge. For the seventh day, we are asked do you think there are any triggers or patterns to how your illness(es) affects you?
Now, I have written quite extensively about triggers over the years, so rather than retread old ground I’ve decided to write the blogging equivalent of a ‘clip-show’! :)
One of my favourite posts about triggers was from February 2013, in which I challenged myself to come up with an A-Z of my emotional triggers. When I began it I wasn’t sure if I would be able to come up with something for each letter of the alphabet but…well, I won’t tell you whether I did or not because you can find out for yourselves.
ADELAIDE, ALICE SPRINGS, APPLE PIE and AMERICAN PIE
Adelaide is where I was raped; Alice Springs was a nightmare from (almost) beginning to end; Apple Pie was being baked whilst I was assaulted in a boarding house; American Pie was part of one of the worst abusive tantrums my ex threw.
BRUNSWICK STREET, BOARDING HOUSES and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
Brunswick Street was where I lived during the abusive relationship; Boarding Houses are some of the worst establishments in the history of the world and I would rather sleep on the street for the rest of eternity than have to deal with living in one again; Buffy the Vampire Slayer (one of my favourite shows of all time and one I’ve seen every episode of at least 12 times each) is a major reminder of my abusive relationship and can no longer be watched under any circumstances! I miss it :(
CIGARS, COLLINGWOOD FOOTBALL CLUB and CARLTON (the entire suburb)
Cigars were the favored smoking choice of my rapist, he STANK of them; supporters of the Collingwood Football Club beat the crap out of me whilst I was homeless; Carlton is the suburb where my abuser lived;
DANDENONG RAINFOREST, THE DARK KNIGHT
The Dandenong Rainforest is where I once attempted suicide; The Dark Knight is a reminder not only of Alice Springs but of one of my biggest failures/fuck-ups.
This basically means anything dealing with emotional abuse. If there’s a trigger warning I might be able to deal with it. If there isn’t a trigger warning it can send me spiralling into chaos.
FROZEN (Tegan and Sara)
Frozen was one of Stephanie’s favourite songs.
But the posts I’ve written about triggers do not simply recant my own triggering experiences, they have also attempted to share some of the coping strategies I have learnt over the years.
In May 2013, I wrote about how the Biopsychosocial Model can be used to identify possible coping mechanisms that could be implemented to deal with a trigger:
Whenever I am confronted with a trigger my gut reaction is to avoid at all cost! But triggers can be preventable. Approaching triggers from the biopsychosocial approach is one such way to identify potential new strategies and wrestle back the control that triggers have on our lives.
The first step in applying the biopsychosocial model to our triggers is to work out which categories they each fit into; are they biological, psychological or social in origin?
For example, if your trigger is a place, food or medicine – then they are biological triggers. Whereas (in my opinion) loneliness, anniversaries and television series are psychological triggers and people, boarding houses and clothing are social triggers. However, how you categorise your own triggers is entirely up to you. There are no right or wrong answers, only those that are pertinent to your lived experiences.
Whilst in April 2013, I shared a re-empowerment exercise to alter how a trigger affects you:
The first stage in this approach is to state how you feel upon being triggered. The best option would be to talk face-to-face with a close, trusted and supportive person (e.g. a friend, support worker or partner). With eye-contact, use direct “I” statements to voice exactly how you feel, such as “I feel anxious” or “I am petrified” so that both you and your support can understand exactly how you’re feeling.
If you do not have a support person and are undertaking this process by yourself you can use a mirror to make eye contact, just remember to speak how you are feeling aloud instead of just in your head as it’s important to make sure the emotions are heard.
As I have said many times in the past, I personally believe that identifying your triggers is one of the most important steps in the journey toward recovery, for only by knowing what brings on various episodes can we hope to find strategies that lessens the impact they have on our life.