I know my triggers and I’m really good at avoiding them whenever possible, but lately I’ve noticed three things that have become quite overwhelming:
- I have started to recognize situations that at first glance seem to be nothing more than small annoyances but are rapidly turning into new triggers.
- Because I have had such a great run with handling my triggers without the aid of medication, these new unexpected triggers have thrown me for a loop and have upped my anxiety to a level that has required me to refill my anxiety meds.
- I have been beating myself up for feeling overwhelmed. Not only have I felt horrible being thrown into situations that I can not control – and let’s face it, anxiety comes from a lack of perceived control – but I have somehow made myself feel even worse because somewhere along the line I told myself that my known triggers were my only triggers and that I had them handled and that made it clear to me that there was no way for them to beat me. I have no idea how I rationalized this and it makes perfect sense that this train of thought was more harmful than helpful.
I’ve written about my known triggers before. For example, the grocery store is a big one for me. I know which days of the week are busy, which stores are too crowded, and the layout of the building that may set me off. It may seem silly to some people, but anxiety and panic attacks have left me almost helpless in the middle of a grocery store on a few occasions. I can’t tell you how many full shopping carts I have abandoned in the middle of a store while crying and shaking with fear because a certain noise set me off. It has been a brutal lesson to learn my triggers, many tears have been shed, many curse words have been yelled, and many pills have been swallowed. But it took years to get a handle on my biggest known triggers, so you can imagine how upsetting it is to find new triggers popping up all over the place lately.
I’m noticing that the little things that are small annoyances are starting to turn into bigger things for me, are they becoming triggers or am I just starting to snowball my thinking? “Do my meds need to be re-evaluated?” “Is this just normal autumn bipolar mood swings that happen every year for me?” These are the thoughts that race through my head when I’m confronted with the things that never used to bother me but are now starting to set me off. These are the things that I’m concerned about becoming new triggers for me.
Why is it so important to know your triggers and to distinguish between a bad swing and an actual concrete trigger? Triggers are those things that can send us into a spiral that can at best leave us with a bad day and at not so good can leave us in a crisis mode, often sending us into a bad place if we don’t get a handle on them. Identifying known triggers can be a brutal process. There are obvious known triggers for each of us, something traumatic that has happened and causes us pain and suffering. But it’s the little sneaky ones that are harder to figure out, the ones that seem almost harmless on the surface that can cause a lot of discomfort to the people who live with them. Smells and sounds I find are the sneakiest for me, they can bring back a flood of memories that throw me right off balance and while I work my hardest to overcome them, sometimes I do need to avoid them.
Certain people trigger me, and it’s horrible when those people are my loved ones. I do my best to establish healthy strong boundaries in relationships with others but sometimes they weaken and the people I love trigger me. When this happens I feel guilty and that also triggers me. Guilt is a huge trigger that also stems from loved ones. Go figure. So I guess I’m finally learning that just when I think I have it all figured out, I really don’t.
Triggers will come and go. Throughout our journey we will conquer and defeat certain known triggers and will feel amazing, and then at some point another trigger will pop up to try to overwhelm us. I think the key is to do the complete opposite of what I did, don’t beat yourself up when you do get triggered. There are going to be times when we can’t avoid our known triggers and it’s during those times when we’ll call on all of our supports, whether they be anxiety medications, family, friends, therapists, DBT, mindfulness, what have you, to pull through those rough times. And there will be times when new triggers are everywhere threatening to overwhelm us and we’ll ask ourselves all sorts of questions, but we’ll put into practice everything that has worked in the past and we’ll get back on track again because once we know our triggers we have that much more power over them.