When the physical body goes through something extremely dramatic the after effects can last a lifetime. Many situations can “trigger” a setback or a fall back into old habits.
First of all the definition of this type of trigger is: 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.
Having to be admitted to the psych unit a handful of times over the last 20 years has left a significant amount of trigger trauma in my life. And while I am learning how to deal with it, it still finds ways to come up and sort of pull me back into those past feelings of reliving the situation. So I thought I’d give you a few ideas of how I have come to deal with some of these triggers.
Trigger #1. A loved one that was there, makes a comment about something that happened during my past experience. These are probably the hardest types of triggers to avoid. Know that it is usually not intentional and the person is not trying to trigger you. They have memories of the experience too and may be affected in a negative way as well.
I have found for me, that the best way to deal with this type of trigger is to talk openly about the memories. Not in a negative way, but it a way of “look how far I’ve come”. Talking about it, can be therapeutic for some and definitely is for me. But I have also found that I need to set a mental timer of how long to talk about it. Dragging a conversation on for more than, say ten minutes is usually unproductive and can cause you to dwell unnecessarily on the previous experience/s. That is unless it is in the presence of your therapist or Dr. in my honest opinion.
Trigger #2. Walking into a place where smells or noises take you back to the experience. This trigger is usually unexpected and comes out of nowhere. And unless you know that this particular activity is going to be a trigger (for example it’s happened before), it can also be hard to avoid.
One of these triggers for me is a place where there is a lot of noise, distractions, busyness or chaos happening. For me, when a manic episode starts to manifest, my senses are heightened so big gatherings, or parties, restaurants where there is a lot of loud music and bustling around, or sporting events where people are yelling and cheering and commentating and especially Black Friday shopping haha, all of that sort of thing.
During the holiday season, there can be a lot of those types of events happening, so if your loved one decides not to attend, don’t judge them too harshly. They are just in survival mode and trying avoid situations that could be threatening to their well being.
Trigger #3. Working or participating in high level stressful environments. This is sort of similar to #2. knowing that a situation is going to involve a large amount of stress can increase the likelihood of the situation becoming a problem. Most situations like this can be avoided by simply saying no. Which can also not be easy. It is simple but still hard to do. Other people have expectations (or at least we think they do) and we feel like we have to live up to the expectations. But the truth is, our health and well-being is more important than anyone’s expectations of us. If saying “no” will eliminate the trigger then that’s what you have to do.
I hope these little reminders have helped today, as we move through the busy holiday season. Happy holidays and stay healthy!