My anxiety is generally pretty well managed, because I know my triggers. It’s how I get through life appearing to be pretty much fine.
I avoid crowds where possible, bright light (bright sun is challenging, but sunglasses make it manageable for a few hours) but I avoid a lot of shops because of the lighting used. I struggle with loud noises, and in group situations I find conversation particularly challenging as it seems I can’t quite focus my ears onto one conversation, I hear all the conversations all around me and filtering them out is exhausting. Sudden changes in life/plans can send me into a complete state. One of the most significant triggers I have is I am terrified of being tired. Which, as I have chronic fatigue syndrome and two small children, is a permanent state of affairs. Tiredness makes all my other triggers more sensitive, which is hardly surprising, but is frustrating! Finally, a more recently discovered trigger is anything to do with my kids health.
Basically, I like life consistent and predictable, which it rarely is.
I say all this because recognising my triggers has been essential to managing my mental health and navigating life in a (mostly) stable way.
However, mental health problems, despite how helpful it would be if they were, are not predictable. Last night I got an email. It had one sentence in it and it wasn’t rude, controversial or anything really. However, it set me off. I don’t know what triggered me. It involved something to do with my dad and I know I’m often more sensitive around things like that but it wasn’t anything negative. It was unexpected, but not wildly so and certainly not about anything that I would have thought would upset me.
It doesn’t neatly fit into any of my triggers.
Part of how I manage my anxiety is that when I feel it flare I box it into the ‘why’ category. Usually this is a straightforward action, and it means I know what is going on and I can take the necessary action to correct it. If it is something I can’t do anything about, it doesn’t matter too much because I can then predict how long it will last and make plans for managing the symptoms during that time accordingly.
The problem with being triggered by something I can’t quite put my finger on, is that I am unable to take the necessary action to correct it. I am racking my brains trying to work out what it could be, but I think it’s probably a mix of things and so not easily boxed. However, this leaves me in a state of uncertainty and without a clear series of actions I can take to manage it.
I feel fidgety all over, like I have energy coursing through me, I am exhausted because I have been running with too much adrenaline in my system for the past 18 hours. My heart is racing, my breathing is short, I’m dizzy, distracted and super sensitive to any other trigger and very close to tears.
All of these things are a fact of daily life, but the unpredictability of new triggers means I don’t know when they will stop and that makes all the symptoms worse.
I look fine, sound fine and am carrying on, as much as possible, as normal. I don’t feel fine though. I am more short tempered and impatient and I am trying to figure out my next steps, before this uncertainty triggers my depression too much and I start to crash there too.
I don’t really have a point to all this, other to describe the reality of anxiety and the importance of knowing triggers. Its just nice sometimes to get it out of my head! Also though, the beauty of the internet is that you can be reminded you are not alone. So, thanks to those of you who read this and feel the same, sympathise or send virtual encouragement. It makes a big difference when you feel less like a pathetic loser and more like someone who just has a bit of a wonky brain!