3 areas you should watch.
Last week, I published a story about a time I almost gave up my fight. Two years passed between when I first wrote the story and when I finally hit publish.
In the months in between, I kept telling myself I was skipping the story because I didn’t want to trigger anyone else.
The painful truth was reliving the story turned out to be a trigger for me. Talk about a lesson learned the hard way.
Those of us with bipolar disorder are always on the lookout for potential triggers. We know how the smallest act can send us into a tailspin, so we avoid places, people, and activities that can set us off.
What we may forget, or what I forget, is we can also trigger ourselves.
Here are three areas to watch with bipolar disorder triggers.
Using a journal to record your thoughts and feelings is one of the best things you can do for mental stability.
Journals are a safe space where you can explore thinking patterns, emotions, and sort out what actually happened. I will always promote the benefits of journaling as a path to stability.
There is one risk in journaling, though. Your own words can sometimes trigger you.
The first time I triggered myself in a harmful way was when I stopped writing the Surviving Bipolar Series. I wrote the first seven parts of the story between May and July 2019.
Things were going along great, and readers were loving the story. But rereading my words in my journals about the darkest time in my life sent me into a black cloud of depression.
For self-preservation, I stepped away from the tale and didn’t write another chapter for three years. Then one day, a new reader reached out to me. She told me how she needed more because the place I left off in my story was where she was at right then with her struggle.
My number one goal is always to help my readers, so I dusted off my journals and got back to work.
I enjoy writing the series, but now I do so with caution. Rather than a constant deep dive into my past, I only write a new part once a month. I try to pick a time when I’m in a good place, but there’s always a little dip in my mood as I look back at that dark time.
When looking back in your journals, be careful. Gauge where you are emotionally and what you need. If you’re already in a gloomy place, it’s better to skip the darker entries.
I love entertainment way too much. Music, movies, TV shows, video games, and books all fill time slots in my week. We all need time to rest and relax, and entertainment is often the tool we use to escape.
The problem comes in when what you choose triggers you.
Every form of entertainment has triggered me at least once in the past. Movies and TV series are usually the worst offenders, so I try to be selective, especially when I’m feeling fragile.
Sometimes, a sadistic part of our brain takes over. We know which songs or movies will make us feel worse, so we actively seek them out. Usually, things only get worse.
As you use entertainment, pay attention to how it affects you. Do you feel happier or more depressed? Does it give you a stronger desire to live or make you want to give up?
If you know a song or movie always makes you feel worse, avoid it, especially on the tough days.
Rumination is the curse of bipolar disorder.
According to the American Psychiatric Association:
“Rumination involves repetitive thinking or dwelling on negative feelings and distress and their causes and consequences.”American Psychiatric Association
In simple terms, rumination is those thoughts you can’t turn off. Like getting song lyrics stuck in your head, ruminating loops your thinking.
I ruminate most in the middle of the night. It’s when I replay conversations, explore the times I raged in public, or beat myself up for the terrible decisions I made.
Rumination in itself can be unhealthy, but even more so when those thoughts include impulses to self-harm.
Thanks to bipolar disorder, we can’t always control the thoughts playing on repeat. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the memory tapes keep playing.
On the better days, we have more control. This is when you have to be especially cautious. If you choose to remember painful memories or angry conversations, it can trigger a downward spiral.
The key to success is to choose carefully what you let play in your mind. If you find yourself sinking into the abyss, find something positive or uplifting to pull you back.
Music is my go to, but there are also a few shows, such as Friends or When Calls the Heart, that help me head back to the light.
Triggers are part of living with bipolar disorder. It sucks, but it’s our reality.
The good news is we can protect ourselves from some of the pain by making the right choices.
- Skip reading sad journal entries when you already feel down.
- Choose entertainment that will make you happier.
- Keep your mind focused on pleasant memories.
Some days, you will fail, and that’s okay. Bipolar is a tough foe, and sometimes it wins. If you put in the effort, most days you will succeed.
Until next time, keep fighting.