Triggers are events or reminders of past trauma which can send a person over the edge into mania or depression.
Triggers can be big ordeals, or small details that open up a part of the brain and reintroduce the trauma a person has experienced. My triggers began with apple juice.
My dad is an Episcopal priest. When I was in the eighth grade, I was told that we were moving away from the town I grew up in. I was feeling uprooted. When you are the daughter of a priest, you are not supposed to tell anyone if, when, or where you are relocating until the whole church is informed. I wasn’t even allowed to tell my best friend. Unfortunately, it took her a while to forgive me for keeping such a secret from her, but it was my duty.
Once reality set in and the move was impending, I got very sick and stayed at home from school for a week. I laid in my parents’ bed and didn’t eat or drink much other than apple juice. It was the beginning of my worst depression. To this day, I cannot drink apple juice without being reminded of that depression and once reminded, I start to sink.
Another of my triggers is oatmeal with butter and brown sugar. It reminds me of the days when I was literally starving, in a hospital that couldn’t take care of my needs. Trying to fatten me up, the women serving breakfast always gave me an extra bowl of oatmeal. I remember a man in line behind me ask, “Hey! Why does she get two bowls?” To which the woman replied, “Look at her!”
Now, when I eat oatmeal with butter and brown sugar I cannot help but think of that time. It reminds me of sick days spent in bed as an adult skipping work. I stayed away, depression enveloping me. I burrowed into my blankets and felt the guilty aches of anxiety deep within my core.
Anxiety is the trigger that has the biggest effect on my life. I cannot work, because I cannot handle the stress. I have been unable to keep a steady job because of my disability. I cannot even handle a part-time job.
As my illness progressed, I began to recognize running as one of my most heartbreaking triggers. It was always my favorite activity and my greatest escape. I have ruined my knees due to years on my feet. I no longer run, but it is not solely due to my injury. When I run, the occurrence of an ocular gyro crisis is highly likely. An ocular gyro crisis is involuntary rapid eye movement. I lose control of my eyes. It is an extremely rare side effect I inherited from one of the many medications I was prescribed in the past. Running also invites the voices into my head; one voice is encouraging and the other is reckless. Although I realize these consequences, my desire to run is high and my loss of running is emotionally painful.
Even if you don’t have a mental illness, everyone has triggers. Sit down and write a list of the things in your life that make you “tick.” Once you have named them, they will be easier to circumvent.