by Nishoni Harvey
Hitting, kicking, screaming at others, fighting, arguing, getting frustrated and angry at the drop of a hat, chasing people around to hurt them… at least it’s not as bad as it used to be, BUT it is worse than it has been since shortly after starting medication in May.
I was complaining about it to one of my besties. “She’s just been having such a hard time, lately,” I emphasized.
She brought out an important point. “What’s going on?! Why the sudden change?”
What was her trigger? If didn’t take long to figure it out. I had some thinking to do…
WHAT IS A TRIGGER?
Everyone has triggers–experiences that bring back thoughts and memories of the past or the worries of the future. It can be sights, smells, sounds or more. Even just plain life, anything out of the extraordinary, can be a trigger.
Every- and any-thing in the life of someone with poor mental health, whether it be Bipolar, DMDD, Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, Autism, or a host of other things, has that possibility. Anything can trigger the symptoms of the mental illness. Triggers can bring on overwhelming feelings of anxiety, sadness, panic, or more. It’s especially hard for children or those with mental deficiencies, as they don’t know how to deal with these stimuli.
So what in Hannah’s life triggered her response? We’ll get to that. 🙂
WHAT ARE THE RESULTS OF A “TRIGGERING”?
Hannah has several mental health issues, the biggest one we are dealing with right
now being Autism (a newish diagnosis for her), and, therefore, several symptoms that are triggered by everyday events. The “sh sound” (due to her Sensory Processing Disorder), joking around or fun sarcasm (Her autism doesn’t enable her to differentiate between joking and being serious.), and just having a lot going on around her (This can be easily overwhelming for her.) are some of her triggers. She gets frustrated. She cries. She has outbursts in frustration. She lashes out. She doesn’t know how to deal with her emotions, and, therefore, her mental illnesses take over. Hey! Sometimes I can’t cope either!
I have Bipolar, OCD, and a whole slew of other mental illnesses. My Bipolar brings about severe depression and times of mania. My OCD, which happens to be the strongest on the obsessive side of the disease, brings about visual thoughts of things happening to my family. The biggest results of my “triggering” is heightened anxiety, depression, thoughts of “what if I end up being the reason for pain brought to my family?!” and that they’d be better off if I wasn’t around. My triggers happen to be big changes in life and high stress levels.
Although there’s a stigma concerning certain mental illnesses, people are individuals and can’t be lumped into one group. Every person has their own response, their own triggers, their own symptoms, their own resulting issues, and their own way of dealing with it.
Hannah wants to be left alone (but her sister can’t leave well-enough alone), take a nap (which isn’t always possible), and hug her dog. I also want to be left alone, but I don’t want to be alone. I like to have people in the same room–QUIET people who stay far away. You or your loved ones may have different needs. Don’t be ashamed to pursue the fulfilling of those needs!
HOW DO I HELP SOMEONE WHO HAS BEEN “TRIGGERED”?
A trigger can be subtle or super obvious. They’re not always easy to identify. Even when we know the triggers, it’s impossible to avoid each and every one… especially things that “just happen”–life. They’re not always so easily seen or identifiable. Sometimes it takes a little digging, a little detective work, if you will.
- * Document times of high symptoms, the symptoms themselves, and the life experiences surrounding it. Maybe your loved one has been having a lot of issues off and on, lately? Maybe there’s been a sudden change in behavior… like in Hannah? Maybe psychological symptoms have suddenly returned after a short reprieve? … hearing voices, paranoia, being easily overwhelmed, being suddenly enraged or tense, being overly-anxious… By documenting these things, a trigger can be more easily identified.
- Ask them what you can do to help. Maybe they’ll want cuddles or their back rubbed. Maybe they don’t want touched at all or don’t even want people close. Maybe they want soft music playing. Maybe they want pure quiet. Give them what they need at that moment.
- Help them practice their coping skills when they’re not having a hard time so they will remember to use them when they need. It’s so easy to forget to use those skills when you’re in the height of being overwhelmed by triggers.
- Give them their space.
- Don’t push your loved one to do things they are not emotionally ready for due to a trigger or stressor. Just leave them alone until they feel better!
Hannah’s most recent trigger? Grandma and Pops moved to another state. Hannah has had them close since she was 4 1/2. In fact, we lived with them from the time she was 4 1/2 until she was in her late 8s.
What are some of your triggers or those of your loved ones? What are the result of those triggers? How can you help them? How do you cope? How will you help them cope better? Think about it now so you’ll be ready when the need arises!