anxiety · bipolar · bpd · depression · help · mental health · OCD · paranoia · reading · stigma · support

TRIGGER ALERT

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When I first started looking on the internet to discover others who battled similar mental health problems to me I would often come across a few blogs or articles with the words ‘trigger alert’ written in the title which always confused me as I wasn’t entirely sure of what exactly reading the context would ‘trigger’ in me.
In fact the word trigger itself is one I have come to detest as it reminds me of many a counselling/hospital/therapy session when I would explain my feelings and someone would ask the inevitable question, ‘What do you think triggered this event or these feelings?’ The answer to this question 95% of the time is unknown to me but there was always this image in my head of someone’s finger on the trigger of a gun, slowly applying pressure moment after moment until at some often random moment the trigger had been pulled too far back and would fire leaving nothing but destruction in its path.

Related imageI have come to realise this term ‘trigger’ has a different meaning for many in particular circumstances, for example reading an article on OCD while you yourself suffer from the same condition could trigger old feelings or habits and could ultimately cause you to take a turn for the worse.
Another example is someone who has been abused in the past and therefore suffers possibly from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) a particular situation or even words can cause flashbacks and doubts leading even the best intended advice to actually cause more damage than good.

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Triggers could be anything and what they may trigger in that person can be unknown to the person accidentally or intentionally pulling it. I know for me at least triggers are incredibly varied, and though I am still learning about them I am now aware of these triggers and try to avoid them or try to voice them better.


To better understand what I mean by triggering emotions in someone who suffers with mental health difficulties I have had someone describe their experience below…

Disclaimer -In no way am I trying to say that this is what people mean when they say these things. I guess I’m just trying to show that:

  1. a) in this situation this is how I translate them
  2. b) more generally to show how we all subconsciously translate, and more often than not misunderstand, what people to say to us.

In this case when it is related to a traumatic event, or maybe a strong emotion/experience, I think this is exaggerated as we interpret almost everything around us according to how we’re feeling, for example letting it reinforce feelings of low self-esteem or self-doubt. Even if the ‘translation’ may seem irrational, and may be completely fictitious, the response and effect still feels very real.

In sharing this it’s not to say that we should necessarily do or say anything differently, although I think we can all constantly be trying to do this, but just to try and show how a lot of the time what is said, and how someone interprets it, can be very different – and I guess maybe if we are all a bit more honest day to day about how what someone says might makes us feel/how we have interpreted it we can try and prevent the often painful effects of these misinterpretations on both sides – I think this is the basis of the need for ‘time to talk’ about mental health.

I guess this is almost like a CBT exercise or ‘mentalizing’, and for me I found it therapeutic to write this down as I often feel guilty when I unfairly respond to what are meant to be supportive words with upset or anger, but this anger comes from fear, frustration and pain.

 

What People Say What I hear
‘It could have been worse’ People have been through way worse than you have, you’re exaggerating your own experience and belittling others ‘real’ experiences in the process.
‘You’re safe now’ How can I know that, or you know that, or anyone ever know if they are safe? In my head when I am out, whether it’s dark and I’m alone (or it’s the middle of the day and I’m with other people) I am certain someone will attack me – I know it’s irrational and sounds completely ridiculous but I am convinced this will happen and I’m in permanent ‘alert mode’.
‘If you feel/act like a victim then they’ve won, they have the power’ Not only did they have the power over me when it happened, but they continue to have power over me now – at the time I was weak for not being able to stop it, and now I’m weaker for letting it affect me – I let myself be the victim.
A response to worrying people might not believe you – ‘It’s how it feels to you that’s important’ There is already a lot of self-doubt and stigma, I’m looking for someone to validate me and say objectively it wasn’t my fault and it shouldn’t have happened. For me when you say this it sounds like you’re saying ‘I don’t really believe you’ or ‘I think you’re exaggerating’ but I recognise that it’s affecting you. The onlookers who saw what was happening and didn’t do anything already made me question myself, and now I’m doing this even more.
‘You should find someone to talk to about it’ I’m trying, I want to talk to you about it, but I don’t know if you want to listen. I understand why and I’m also scared that I’ll misread your response anyway and feel worse/misunderstood afterwards. But I want to talk about the facts not how I feel, because talking about the facts reminds me that it happened and that it makes sense for me to feel this way, just feeling is too hard.
‘What’s wrong?’ Maybe it’s 2 weeks after it happened or 6 months, but for me it can feel like yesterday and you asking this question can make me feel really hurt like you’ve forgotten, while I literally can’t forget/stop thinking about it as hard as I try. It makes me feel invalidated like it’s silly that it’s ‘still bothering me’


A poem I have written on this subject…

Each word you say cuts me like a knife!

Can you not see how sharp your words are?

Honesty and good intentions are lost in this pain,

Hit me if you must just please stop with these words!

You may feel lighter letting these words escape,

But your gain only comes at my loss.

Two steps forwards and these words have sent me so far back!

They bring no comfort only confirm my nightmares,

They bring no release only throw me back to the start line.

Please stop speaking and take a look,

Look at what your words have done to me.

But even your sharpest words cannot cut as deep,

For my own words have cut me to the core.

I know you mean well but please no more words.

Just no more words.

anxiety · bipolar · depression · grief · mental health · news · PTSD · self image · stigma

Lily’s speak out!

Lily Allen

Lily Allen has been brave and come forward admitting she has bipolar disorder and has suffered from PTSD.

Lily Allen said on Twitter that she suffered from PTSD

It seems this came to light on Twitter when told by another user that he felt she had mental health illness, she replied: ‘I DO have mental health issues. Bi-polar, postnatal depression, and PTSD, does that make my opinion void?’

In regards to suffering from PTSD after losing her son six months into her pregnancy in 2010 she said…

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Lily, 31, has been well known for her erratic behavior, such as appearing to be drunk in public and making outspoken political interventions.

Admitting she suffers from bipolar disorder (once known as manic-depression) is a brave move as many do suffer from this illness and can experience extreme mood swings which can last for months.

The disorder, thought to affect one in 100 Britons, has received more attention in recent years after stars like actress Catherine Zeta-Jones admitted suffering with it.

The singer has also spoken about her postnatal depression following the births of her two young daughters, Ethel, five, and Marnie, four. 

Lily Collins

Lily Collins has spoken out about her battle with an eating disorder, she detailed the harrowing tale of her secret eating disorder in a frank and emotional interview.

Lily explained she gorged on ‘every type of junk food possible’, later forcing herself to throw up, causing her hair to fall out and her nails to become brittle.

‘My hair and nails became brittle. My throat burnt and my oesophagus ached.’ 

‘My period stopped for a couple of years. I was terrified I had ruined by chances of having kids.’

She has admitted to suffering from this disorder after being cast to star in the film ‘To The Bone’ about an anorexia patient.

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“It really felt like the the was universe saying, ‘This is either something you need to address yourself, or something you need to bring to new people. It’s a conversation that you need to help start among young people—males and females—because it is becoming more and more prevalent for both now.”

“It is just such a taboo topic that I think people avoid because people feel uncomfortable talking about it,” Collins said. “But the second that they do, anyone who knows someone or is going through it themselves feels less alone. And it’s really a beautiful result to have the film give.”

Celebrity or not coming forward and opening up about battling a mental health disorder is a tough decision and one which can make us feel very vulnerable.
That is why I applaud those especially in the public eye which have the pressure of thousands of eyes upon them speaking out to help stop the stigma and shed light on mental health through their personal experiences.

anxiety · depression · mental health · poetry · PTSD

PTSD

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This disorder like any is a daily struggle, haunted by a past not that you cannot let go of but which feels like it wont let go of you. The anxiety ‘fight or flight’ feeling coming into play so often daily tasks become hard as well as sleeping. Scared of the world, of people, or maybe even of yourself.
Those who suffer from PTSD like many possibly have a front to cope with the world, but deep down they’re battling what can feel like an impossible war against their minds and at times their bodies.
Talking about these things or past events that haunt others can be extremely difficult, feelings of embarrassment, rejection or denial may stop people from feeling comfortable to speak out, to reach out for help, that deep down may know they desperately need.

This is another reason I will keep reiterating that we NEED to create an environment, a society, a health care system that takes mental health seriously and makes it an approachable subject. As though its an illness that you can’t see as physically life threatening, mentally individuals are mentally fighting for their lives on a daily basis.

Let’s stop the stigma!

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.
Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt.
They may also have problems sleeping, such as insomnia, and find concentrating difficult.
These symptoms are often severe and persistent enough to have a significant impact on the person’s day-to-day life.

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Causes of PTSD

The type of events that can cause PTSD include:

  • serious road accidents
  • violent personal assaults, such as sexual assault, mugging or robbery
  • prolonged sexual abuse, violence or severe neglect
  • witnessing violent deaths
  • military combat
  • being held hostage
  • terrorist attacks
  • natural disasters, such as severe floods, earthquakes or tsunamis

PTSD can develop immediately after someone experiences a disturbing event or it can occur weeks, months or even years later.
PTSD is estimated to affect about 1 in every 3 people who have a traumatic experience, but it’s not clear exactly why some people develop the condition and others don’t.

To read more on PTSD click here

Another poem I have written…

Untold

Rip me from the ground
Drag me from my roots.
I could not dig right down,
I could not find the goods.
Starve me if you must,
But quench each drop of thirst.
For the question still remains unasked
and the answer lays deep within the dirt.

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