“The Biopsychosocial Personal Treatment Plan (aka Self-Love!)”
“A trigger is a recognisable risk that can produce or stir-up symptoms. Triggers can be preventable,”
In week one of the Mi Recovery series we built a biopsychosocial model of the causes, symptoms and treatments of our mental illness(es). Now, in week three, we look at how we can use this model to identify techniques and strategies in which we can combat our triggers.
Since my breakdown in 2007 I’ve done a lot of work in understanding, analysing and identifying my triggers. The manner in which I’ve been living (homeless, socially isolated, no support structure) has forced me to educate myself on what needs to be avoided in order to prevent catastrophic collapses of my mental health. Personally, I think it’s vital that anyone dealing with mental health issues spends some time identifying their triggers; for doing so gives you knowledge – and knowledge is power!
There is no easy way to identify a trigger; sometimes they are obvious, sometimes they sneak up on you, but with time, committment and support (I can’t express how important this latter factor is when it comes to dealing with triggers!) it is possible to produce a list of things that trigger you.
For example, the smell, taste and presence of Gin and Tonic sends me right back to the night I was assaulted in Adelaide ’07, whereas articles on emotional abuse, rape or victim blame mentality have the potential to dredge up a cavalcade of unwanted memories and emotions. There are also a plethora of songs I cannot go anywhere near, as well as people, places and movies that can send my spiralling out of control.
Whenever I am confronted with a trigger my gut reaction is to avoid at all cost! But, as I recently wrote about, 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.
My Biopsychosocial Personal Treatment Plan (aka Self-Love!)
“Enjoyable and healthy activities that I do for myself, that decrease stress and symptoms, help my moods and help me manage the things that trigger my symptoms.
Personal Treatment can affect all aspects of the person – the physical/biological, the psychological and the social. Personal treatment is a holistic approach. Research says that people who have included Personal Treatment activities in their lifestyle are more likely to recover than those who rely on medication,”
~ Pat Deegan ~
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.
Once you have identified biopsychosocial nature of your triggers, you can then use the same approach to brainstorm potential new strategies and lifestyle changes that could be implemented to help you manage them.
Again, there are no right or wrong answers as to how you approach this. In creating my list I decided to take a two-pronged approach, firstly by looking at things I could implement to help fight my triggers in general:
And secondly, by creating ideas specific to the more difficult triggers in my life.
Given my current situation, the most obvious trigger to tackle first was the person who has been – through no fault of their own – triggering me of late:
After this, I decided to take a look at the issues of songs, sleep (lack of) and the isolation/loneliness that plagues me so:
And, as a final experiment, I decided to brainstorm strategies I could implement next Tuesday (being the 7th May and one of my “bad days“):
A few notes on the above tables:
- All text in black is specific to me.
- All text in purple is specific to Meadhbh.
- All text in orange is specific to Audrey.
- Some of the ideas in the ‘Strategies & Lifestyle Changes’ table may seem extreme to others (e.g. is self-harm really a viable treatment option? is leaving Wodonga really something that would help deal with my triggers? is it really possible for me to give myself comfort?) but, like I said, they are pertinent to me.
- Some of the ideas overlap as I believe they fit into multiple categories (e.g. ‘tell her about the person she reminds me of’ or ‘face head-on’)
How the Biopsychosocial Personal Treatment Plan could help…
In all honesty, given my current mood, I’m still processing this approach to dealing with triggers – hence why I haven’t explained it all that clearly (sorry!) – so if you have any questions about this activity or how I’ve applied my triggers and strategies, don’t be afraid to ask.
However, I do believe it is a worthwhile activity to undertake. In creating the above lists I have identified hitherto unseen strategies that could help in my ongoing battle with triggers. The exercise has also helped me realise my current coping mechanisms (flee, run away, avoid) have done little to help but a lot to hinder my recovery.
In creating this list I have acquired knowledge over my triggers. Thus – once I’ve implemented some (or all) of these strategies – I will have power over them to.
Like I said, knowledge is power.
And power…is strength.