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Triggers - Recovering from Mental Illness

Surviving Halloween is not something I take lightly. I experienced visual and auditory hallucinations many years before receiving my schizoaffective disorder diagnosis. I thought I was receiving some sort of communication from a spirit world. Halloween is a difficult holiday for me even though I've been on medication for over a decade now. Here are some of my experiences and how I've coped.
Unhealthy behavior patterns sneak up on all of us, especially if you have a mental illness. By using awareness and reflection to uncover your unhealthy behavior patterns, and then using your patterns to recover from mental illness, you'll amplify your recovery process. If you are not aware of your unhealthy behavior patterns and tendencies, if you are not aware of what triggers you to feel depressed, anxious or mentally ill in any way, then there is no way to recover from it.
There are three ways dehydration can impact your mental health. It's summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and for a lot of us that means heat and humidity. We already know that psychiatric patients are effected by the heat, but there are also three ways dehydration can impact your mental health?
How does one go about staying sober in a bar if you're an addict? Recently, my travel writing job assigned me an article I probably should have declined--review the five best sports bars in Indianapolis. This is a problem for me because I am an alcoholic, and I'm putting myself in temptation's path (What Is Your Reason To Stay Sober?). So recently I've been thinking about staying sober in a bar when you're an alcoholic.
Does the news trigger your mental illness symptoms? I guess you could say early on there were signs I was going to be a reporter when I grew up--I read the newspaper as soon as I learned to read. Then, as today, there were some very disturbing things going on. I remember having a nightmare about the Neighborhood of Make-Believe being bombed when Reagan ordered the bombing of Libya. I never outgrew this, either--I am currently coping with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) flashbacks caused by the coverage of a high-profile rape case and a disgusting child abuse case. It made me wonder--what can I do when the news triggers my mental illness symptoms? Here are three ideas.
Last week brought me a lesson in the need to be prepared when mental health triggers come, as they inevitably do in our recovery. These triggers can be dangerous because they can instantly transport us to a place of emotional turmoil and intensify our symptoms. In order to manage our illness, we must be prepared at all times. We never know when we can be triggered and we need to take steps to ensure we and others around us are safe. This past week, there was a national firestorm with the release of American POW Bowe Bergdahl from captivity in Afghanistan. I had not known the story prior to this, but when I heard the circumstances of his experience, I was triggered in a way that hasn’t happened in a long time.
Noise sensitivity can be likened to nails on a blackboard. The constant buzz and whir of music, technology, the buzzing of Facebook notifications, ringing phones and loud conversations can be overwhelming. This sensitivity to noise is known as hyperacusis, a condition that arises from a problem in the way the brain processes noise.
Let's face it: physical illness and mental illness don't mix. Dealing with mental illness symptoms of exhaustion, tension in the body, headaches (and the list goes on and on) is difficult. Mix in the flu or virus and between the two, it can feel as though you are boxing shadows. I recently experienced this and while I feel a bit better, there are observations that I made that I hope will help others.
Halloween and Dia De Muertos (The Day of the Dead) can be child's play. Ghosts, goblins, superheroes, Disney princesses and more bring both smiles and horror. For those with a mental illness, PTSD or panic, Halloween can conjure up very intense negative responses. Sometimes horror flickers on the TV screen or in the movie theater, sometimes horror is found behind a mask, sometimes it comes to visit wrapped in "Trick or Treat!" Potential triggers lurk everywhere: black cats, oversized spiders, masks, horror movies and even costumes that perpetuate mental health stigma, domestic violence and much more. Ahhh, the midnight hour.
PTSD triggers. For those of us with a mental health diagnosis (diagnoses), the definition of a trigger is far more than a level with a catch or means of releasing it. Triggers are a response to stimuli and a result of past trauma. PTSD triggers can include certain odors, a particular tone of voice, certain objects, places and so much more. The brain creates a physiological response: increased heart rate and respiration, sweating, a need to escape, a need for silence, sleeplessness, hyper vigilance and so much more. Responses to triggers are unique to each individual. No cookie cutter responses here!
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