Because of money issues and plain laziness (or lack of motivation from my conditions), I didn’t have my anti-depressants yesterday or today. Some would think that this would lead to a day full of sadness. Not so much. It’s made the morning full of irritation, hateful intrusive thoughts, and a huge lack of motivation to get out of bed (although I did and am somewhat functioning).
Irritation in the morning is not good because I have to not only get myself ready for the day, but I have to get my daughter up and ready. The fact that I’m already irritated means that I have lower tolerance for her mouthy tween attitude. Logically, I know that this “attitude” is normal for her current development. However, in a haze of irritation, quite frankly, I just want her to shut up because every word is like metal being shoved deep into my ears. I try to control myself as much as possible because as a parent, I know that I cannot expect her to have a good day at school if she has a rough morning. It’s definitely a struggle, and I don’t always succeed.
Now on to the hateful intrusive thoughts. These were mainly about my ex and his family – specifically how when I was at my lowest over the past couple of months, NONE of them reached out to me to see how I was doing. As my mind focused on this, the question came to mind, “Why WOULD I want to have anything to do with them?” This led to the thoughts of how my ex routinely gave me the silent treatment…and wondering if that was his choice or by the direction of his nasty lawyer…which led to the thought, “Yeah, why WOULD I want to have anything to do with him either?”
This train of thought led me down memory lane, to the distant past. Many times in my life, but particularly while I was in college, I wondered if I would be better off living by myself. Dealing with mental illness is hard enough for me, so I can’t even imagine what it’s like for others, especially when they don’t truly understand what the diagnoses mean. When I was in my 20s, living alone in my own apartment, I had a sense of peace…and in some ways, I was the healthiest I’ve been in my life (I ate better, didn’t binge eat – likely because of no triggers – and I maintained the weight I was when I graduated high school). I had a girlfriend at the time, so she would come over and spend the night sometimes, but that was it. My life was pretty drama-free. Because of this experience, many times over the years, I have often wondered if I would be better off living by myself, having a circle of close friends, and have the occasional sleepover where we could have sex, and they could be out the door before the condom/dental dam came off. In many ways, this feels like the ideal life to me.
However, I’m not that person anymore. I’m no longer in my 20s, and I have a lot more responsibilities than I used to. One thing I have learned from therapy is that there are many ways to handle reactions to triggers. One way is avoidance – remove situations/people that trigger you, and you don’t have to worry about it. Effective, but not very useful in life because many times you can’t control when you encounter these situations/people. Surprise! Another way, which is much harder, is practicing mindful awareness in knowing when you’re being triggered and coping with it in a healthy way. Easier said than done. Actually, this reminds me of the time I was in a Pagan coven in my hometown. We were having a very frank discussion over some issues we were facing, and one of my coven mates looked at me and said, “I don’t want the responsibility of knowing what might trigger you just so I can avoid it.” Ouch. My mental response was, “Well, you’re not family then, because that’s what family does.” But is it really fair to expect this of people, even if they are family?
One thing I know is that someone purposely triggering you or throwing things up in your face that they know are triggering – well, that’s emotional abuse. However, we cannot expect others to avoid everything that triggers us, especially if we’re not willing to put in the work to practice different ways of reacting when it does happen. According to Psychology Today, here are some steps to managing your responses to triggers:
- Accept responsibility for your reactions. This is a big one. It’s easy to point the finger and say, “Don’t trigger me!” However, that’s playing the blame game. And in reality, you’re identifying yourself as a victim rather than a survivor.
- Recognize that you’re having an emotional reaction as soon as it begins to appear in your body. Wow. This is something that I actually train people to do when talking about customer service soft skills. People who are in an emotional frame of mind cannot think rationally, therefore you cannot have a reasonable conversation with them. The person has to move out of the emotional frame of mind before any productive discussion about the issues can take place.
- If the emotion is related to fear, anger, or sadness, determine what triggered the emotion. A big part of this is determining if the threat is real or not. Is there a current threat or are you reacting emotionally because of something that happened in your past? This is all about determining the root cause of the emotion. When I’m mindful enough, I like to use the 5 Why’s methodology from process improvement to determine this. I find it really helpful in self-awareness, not just in work-related projects.
- Choose what you want to feel and what you want to do. For me, when I’m being mindful, this means walking away until I calm down. I need quiet time to reflect before I can begin to do anything. This is hard for some people to deal with, and they will sometimes even try to follow me to force me to talk. Bad idea. This only escalates the situation, and I turn into Courtney Love. I’m not far along enough in my self-development to be able to stop in the moment and de-escalate my internal feelings quickly enough to talk.
- Shift your emotional state. See my statements above. I tend to need to do this in private and in silence. Maybe one day I’ll be able to do it in the vein of the Pagan credo of “changing consciousness at will.” Yes, this is why I need to live in a magical household, as a constant reminder of that changing consciousness at will and the magical impact it can have on your life.
Okay, I feel better now than I did when I woke up this morning. I will get through the day, pick up my medication later, then tomorrow will be Day One…again.