I’ve always been told that I’m sensitive and that I need to learn how to take things with a grain of salt. No matter how hard I’ve tried not to, I don’t. I know that I get upset or offended easier than most and that’s something I’ve learned to accept about myself. When it comes to being triggered I still haven’t quite figured out how to properly deal with them.
So what is a trigger, you ask?
To me, a trigger is defined as something, internal or external, that activates anxiety, flashbacks, or feelings of fear. For example, if someone has a history of trauma, seeing or hearing something that occurred during the experience can send them into a flashback.
Being in treatment for the past few months, most of my conversations have been somewhat censored. It is a known rule in the treatment centers that I was at that there is never to be any “number” talk; meaning no discussion of weight, calories, servings, etc. We were also not to share war stories or glamorize past behaviors. When talking about a behavior you used, you would simply use the word behavior as opposed to explicitly saying “purging” or “self-harming”.
It was essentially up to me to decide and communicate what was appropriate to say or talk about around me. My family members were taught these rules, along with a few others of my own.
I get triggered very easily with numbers. I tend to compare so hearing about what size dress Sue friend fits into or how many calories Marcy ate today really heightens my anxiety and causes increased urges to engage in behaviors. It was also known that there should be no comments about my appearance, neither positive or negative. Everyone around me wanted to make this as easy on me as they could and, thankfully, followed the “word rules”.
So when I started socializing with friends and extended family it was a bit of a culture shock. They did not follow the rigid word rules that we did at home. Being thrown into such an environment without any preparation ultimately contributed to my relapse. At family holiday parties there was constant talk about how everyone “saved up” for the meal tonight, their new exercise regime, and how they ate too much at the event.
I was in total shock. I had forgotten the harsh reality of diet talk in the real world. It was everywhere. It was unavoidable and I was caught off guard.
I didn’t know how to manage all of the triggers constantly surrounding me when I tried to be social. I could isolate, but I knew that would only pull me back into my disorder. So I stuck it out. But, unfortunately, I let it get to my head. The constant thoughts of being “too big” and the f-word (fat) were swirling around my head more than ever now that I hear the words out loud, even if they weren’t directed towards myself.
I’m not the best at handling myself when I encounter triggers but I realize that they’re something I have to live with. I let them get to my head and consume my every thought, and it is detrimental to my recovery. This is something my therapist and I are working on together. We have many exposures planned surrounding triggers and are going to practice eating a snack or meal regardless of what negative comments I am hearing from an external source.
I’m curious; how do you deal with triggers? Do you speak up or handle emotions internally? I would love to hear your feedback. Post in the comments below or shoot me a message on my questions page!