Dealing With Triggers

If you’re recovering from mental illness, I think many of you will agree that triggers are one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome, especially if the trigger has two arms, two legs and a nose. You may be fortunate enough to have the ability to separate yourself from triggering people but there may occur a time when that person comes in the form of a family member or friend.

If you are unsure as to what I mean by ‘triggers,’ then I will briefly explain. Triggers are things, be it an action, image or thought, that can result in an individual being more prone to carry out a certain behaviour – usually a negative one. For example, someone who may be in recovery from self-harm may see an image of self inflicted injuries and feel a sudden urge to hurt themselves.

Obviously I can only talk from my own experience, but hopefully some of you may be able to relate and take something from this post.

Triggers in eating disorder recovery can include a friend being a smaller dress size than you, discussion of calories and ‘unhealthy’ foods or someone who is eating a ‘smaller amount’ than you (I put quotation marks because this is usually misjudged – they ate a salad for lunch but maybe had a Dominoes feast for dinner). These behaviours and observations can lead to someone in recovery feeling uncomfortable or disgusted with themselves and in turn could potentially lead to them skipping a meal, restricting or purging.

Time for the real question. How does one deal with being in a triggering situation? My first tip is to try and get yourself out of that situation if you can. Don’t worry about appearing rude. Unless you can persevere – and some people can – get yourself out. Excuse yourself for a few minutes. Go and take a breather and if you feel comfortable, go back with your rational thinking on.

This leads me onto my second tip – BE RATIONAL! Having an eating disorder is like having two voices in your head. One of these voices will be the rational and logical voice. You have to listen to it. For example, if someone brands that burger ‘unhealthy’ just think, ‘Yes, it wasn’t the healthiest option but I am enjoying it. I do not eat burgers every day.’ Eating a balanced diet also includes eating burgers, pizzas and the like!

My final tip, and probably the most important, is to talk to someone. Yes, I know that’s what everyone says: “Talk to someone. You’ll feel better.” And it can be a pain and easier said than done but trust me when I say that it does help. If you don’t want to talk to a friend or family member, you can call on a professional. Professionals are especially good – in my experience, and I know some people have had bad ones – at giving reassurance, not dismissing your feelings and suggesting ways in dealing with these situations.

Don’t let other people’s behaviour hinder your recovery. 9 times out of 10 these people won’t have any idea that what they are saying or doing is making you feel uncomfortable. Focus on yourself, your own health and your own recovery journey. Human beings are terrible for comparing themselves to others. We’re all guilty of it! You are you and you will never be anyone else but you. Do what you have to do to better yourself and lead a happy and healthy life, but most importantly stay safe.

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