Oops Did I Just Pull the Trigger? I really must do better next time!

Triggers… if you have any kind of chronic illness this is something that at some point you will most likely have investigated. What is it that triggers my condition?  Can I do anything to prevent it happening? Why am I having this problem? Did I do something to cause this? These are all familiar questions for a person with chronic illness – some of these questions being healthier than others.

Thinking of my AS, Uveitis and IBS I have an obvious major trigger which is negative forms of stress. This year, I have gone through some stressful things; bereavement, a small house fire, hospitalisation, infections and a lack of stability in my life far beyond my comfort levels . A lot of these things are difficult to deal with on their own and so are the resultant flare ups – they are mentally exhausting and frustrating. One can be in a place where your inner voice constantly cries out on repeat and asks God ‘Is this my fault? Maybe it is? I’m sure I must be able to do better. Please just let there be no more triggering events. This is too much, can the world just stop for a while so I can catch my breath, pull myself together and then get on with my life without all of the illness?’ and that is the voice of depression.

Now, some would turn and say to me – ‘well, you have a faith, you must learn to let go and let God’ or ‘Don’t let it get you down’ or ‘there’s no use in worrying about it’. Sure, okay – but is that really practical and useful advice? In my experience, honestly, no. Telling someone something that they already know is not helpful and can add to the stress and feelings of failure that’s already there – inadvertently, you pull the trigger on them. So, when you come across someone struggling my advice would be don’t tell them to ‘pull themselves together’, offer a simple quick fix or try to do everything for them – just acknowledge the struggle, be present and ask if you can help.

When you know you have a chronic illness it’s easy to constantly micro-analyse what one is doing or not doing, planning for every possible eventuality to try to stay normal. But this becomes very quickly counter-productive and exhausting. Thankfully, I have a wonderful therapist who has really helped me to become more self aware when I am pulling my own stress triggers. I’m finding ways to manage my world; mindfulness, practising being kind to myself in my words and actions, exercise (when I am well enough) and drawing seem to be very helpful to me – I have a long way to go, but I am on the right path for me now.

In many ways, management of triggers is just about making healthy choices. Choosing to eat a healthy well balanced diet, but knowing that having a slice of that birthday cake is perfectly fine. Choosing to meditate/pray but not retreating into oneself so far that you become disconnected from the outside world entirely. Knowing that life comes with its responsibilities and duties, but not taking on things that are unnecessary for you and sharing your load when it makes sense to. So for me not piling on extra stress when things that are naturally stressful happen is important and it comes down to dealing with the initial stress in as healthy a way as possible.

So for those of us out there with chronic illness and depression; be aware of your triggers, have things in place that help once that trigger has been pulled.  But, importantly, don’t live your life constantly in battle ready mode with the fear that something or someone might just accidentally pull a trigger. Just focus on being the best you that you can be in the moment.

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5 thoughts on “Oops Did I Just Pull the Trigger? I really must do better next time!

    1. I can empathise with that and you know what – it’s true no – one else can know exactly how you feel – because that would require telepathy. And when your life seems to be a raging storm that you have no control over, it’s so easy to go into self protect mode and that can often be total shutdown. I’m not for a minute going to pretend to know how difficult things are for you – for you are the only person walking your path.

      First thing I would say – most spoonies, myself included get very, very good at acting like we are doing just fine to the world around us. We don’t want the world to think we can’t cope… The thing is, we have to stop acting at some point and say – this is me – my life is hard and I am not perfect. The difficult thing is accepting that and adjusting to being young and not as able as we’d want to be.

      If you can find a safe space to talk about your ups and downs, it may be helpful – I know it was for me (I honestly didn’t think it would be as helpful as it has been). Maybe a friend you trust, a family member, a therapist, whoever you feel most comfortable talking to. I know how scary it is to reach out when you don’t even quite feel connected to your own self – but talking about things really helped me.

      And hey, in fact by blogging about yourself and commenting here, you have taken a little step already!

      Feel free to reach out if you ever want to talk to a fellow spoonie too!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I actually just got out of the hospital and I have 2 therapists, a psychiatrist, and a chiropractor that apparently works miracles. Everyone and their brother knows I tried to kill myself. It’s just like still I feel this way.

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      2. I hear you – sounds like you have been through the ‘magic cure’ mill – the ‘take this pill and do this course , talk to this specialist and then you will be ok!’. To be completely honest – all of those things are tools to support you, but not a cure – the kind of healing that people need when it comes to mental health issues is really not straightforward and in a way, I have learned not to be over ambitious with my expectations. That’s not to say that things can’t get better, they really and truly can – but it takes a lot of time and it’s never ever a smooth path. Especially if you have a lot of things that you have lost and need to grieve over.

        Sometimes, I find that being ‘that girl who is sick’ to other people can make me put my defences right up – after all, who wants to be seen as their illness or identified by something that happened to them?

        It’s totally ok to still feel traumatised, be angry, have pain, numbness, detachment and whatever else you feel – all that means is that you are a human being – one that needs some extra support.

        Maybe the big challenge is finding the right thing that not only distracts you from the darkness, but actually can pull you towards your own inner light. Just keep taking those little steps, it might take a really long time and it might be a really long walk, but just keep seeking the support when you need it and you will get there eventually… I can tell the light is there deep within you just from talking to you on here…

        Liked by 1 person

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