Any of you reading this possessing a basic grasp of the English language understand the meaning of the word “trigger.” Like the mechanism with the same name on a gun, when you a hit a trigger with someone you will cause a reaction in them. It may be major or it may be minor, it may make sense and it may not, you may bear the full force of it, or you may never even be the wiser.
Of course, unlike a gun, a human being has endless triggers instead of one, they never need to be reloaded, and they come without any kind of a safety.
When discussing an issue as complex as this one, I find that for me it’s generally best to be very direct and logical, to start with things that are basic and usual and make sense and build from there, until you hit subtle, individual, confusing, leave-all-thoughts-of-rationalizing-or-explaining territory.
(But I will confess to all of you that I’m struggling to find words and hitting some writer’s block, because I want this to be something everyone reading it can relate to, at least until a certain point. I’m trying very hard to strike the right balance between the universal and the personal – wish me luck!)
Let’s begin by leaving all thoughts and associations about “clinically significant” mental health issues aside. I know that’s much more easily said than done, especially in this context and forum, but I’ll try if you will! 😉
We all have triggers and reactions that are basic and part of our make up genetically and which don’t really need much context, because they’re the kind that are hard-wired biologically in us since before birth. As we grow, individual experiences shape the way they present themselves, but even if you might not react identically to someone else when exposed to the same stimuli, you can easily relate to and understand their unique response.
Some examples: When people are under a tremendous amount of stress, any little thing, the straw in their life, can cause their emotions to blow. They may shout or cry or break things or react in myriad ways, because their mind is telling them that they just need a release. It’s healthy – to a point.
Someone is put in a life threatening situation, and that triggers a fight-or-flight response. One partner chooses to leave a relationship, and the other feels shock and heartbreak and despair.
Now we’ll throw a mental health diagnosis into the mix. With bipolar disorder, a trigger can be the same kind of thing discussed above, but it also carries a different sort of meaning. Not establishing regular sleep schedules can make you manic. Not taking your medications, or lack of a support system in place can cause you to spiral into depression. And so many things that happen in life to everyone, that have the potential to be triggers become hair-triggers. You don’t need a big stressor, just a small one to send you reeling. And it’s a longer, more arduous process to make your way back to stability than it is when you don’t carry a diagnosis.
But it isn’t such a different life than the “average” person leads. Mental health can be made analogous to any type of physical ailment. If you have a bad back, you have to be careful not to strain it. If you have asthma, you have to take medication and be sure that you always have a rescue inhaler on you. If you have heart disease, you have to make changes to your lifestyle – your diet, your exercise regimen – and frequently take medication to help control it.
It may seem like a gross oversimplification, but every person on this earth has triggers of one kind or another that are unique to them. They may be emotional, psychological, physical, or any blend of the three. Triggers are a challenge with mental health issues, but so they are with all lives. They don’t set us apart and make us different, we just need to be a bit more knowledgeable about our personal hot spots, and make sure to seek for help the minute one is hit.
© Always and A Canvas Of The Minds 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Always and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
I’m glad you brought this up, because there are so many triggers that are unique to each person. It’s important to know your triggers and vital to heading off episodes, if possible.
And I love the way you spoke about medications. My Pdoc related it to other illnesses in the same way. It makes perfect sense. Though, I admit, the idea of never being able to fully recover is so overwhelming and depressing.
You are absolutely right, Lulu, knowing your personal triggers is key. We are all individuals, with individual wiring.
Coming to terms with the fact that you are dealing with something that’s for forever is big. But in my experience, I disagree about never being able to recover fully. I know that you cannot be cured, but I feel fully recovered and functioning. Will I relapse episodically throughout my life? Quite probably. But that isn’t what’s on my mind most of the time. I’m cognizant of it, but only insofar as someone with a severe allergy to yellow jackets is attentive to them. They keep a sharper eye out than most, they are more watchful in the warmer months, and they make certain to keep that Epi-Pen on hand.
You can recover, just as an alcoholic does. The condition may be for life, but it doesn’t have to be your life.
That is absolutely right. It doesn’t have to be your life. And that is the driving point.
It’s so easy to be overwhelmed by this. I mean, there’s the epsiodes, the medications, and trying to manage and navigate life. But it’s not about navigating life within it it, or around it. It’s about having it aboard the ship. Yes, having it so fully integrated so that it is not the main focus. Stepping back far enough to have it be a speck of color on the canvas, so to speak.
Speaking from recent experience, that’s a tough accomplishment when it’s so “in your face” at times. I guess it takes a lot of practice.
Please don’t take this the wrong way, like I’m being patronizing or think I know so much, but as far as it taking “a lot of practice” – you have no idea. Well, you likely have some, but it took me a long time to get to where I am.
I believe that you can too, though. You’re tough, Lulu. You’ll figure out how to get here as well. 😉