Blog, mental health

Trigger Unhappy

(Originally published 16 Feb 2014)

Almost all walks of life have their own specialised language, TLAs or vernacular.  It sounds like nonsense to the uninitiated, but it's amazing how quickly it becomes a second language.  You feel empowered once you're in the know.  You start to converse confidently with others and frown at those who don't understand the 'code'.  I never thought being mentally ill would be one of those clubs, but it is.  Before my indoctrination into this world of mentalists, I'd never heard of terms such as 'distraction techniques' or 'hypnogogic'.  It could also be that I'm just not very bright (don't write it off....I don't).  One other term I've come to hold close to my heart is 'triggers'.  In this context I've come to know it, as I'm sure you have, as something that can bring back bad memories, emotions or flashbacks.  They can seem quite innocuous at the time.  You might not even recognise them as such until they come it's too late.   Most of mine fall into the latter category.

Going back to 2008-09 I was very ill.  I needed emergency surgery which the Doctors weren't sure that I'd come through.  I did of course.  The consequences of that illness and its aftermath left me with my PTSD, anxiety and depression.  As time moved on it has affected me in many ways; some obvious, others not so much.  One of the latter triggers that hid dormant in my psyche until recently was a fear of hospitals.  I didn't realise it was even a problem until I had to attend one; and not even the one I was admitted too.  Most people, myself included, don't have to visit them too often.  Thinking about them didn't affect me too much, so it wasn't too obvious a problem until it was too late.  I had to go for a X-ray for an unrelated problem but once I approached the site I could feel the anxieties and nervousness growing in the pit of my stomach.  They didn't get any better the more the experience went on.  I start to shake, sweat and my eyes close.  IF I can't see it, it's not happening right?  The feelings I have are always magnified in my head by knowing how I must look to other people.  Of course the advice is always to not worry about what they think, and I don't generally, but I am overtly conscious of it.  When my mind is running away with itself I lose all thought of the things I need to do to help myself, the distraction techniques.  My mind just doesn't let me focus on what is needed and I seemingly have no influence over it.  I've described it in the past akin to a snowball rolling down a mountain.  It just gets bigger and bigger, going faster and faster as it rolls down the slope out of control. It's not until it's reached the bottom and come to a rest that the clarity returns in my mind.  The hospital procedures really hit me hard.  All the memories and their subsequent fears came flooding back.  Sufficed to say I couldn't get out of there quick enough.  It's a problem I know I'll have to conquer.  I'm getting 'old' and visits to the hospital are bound to become more regular, especially if all my other fears come to light.  I certainly can't be a victim to it forever but I'm not sure what I can do about it.  Answers on a postcard!

Thanks for listening.