Learning my triggers

Woman standing in front of a painting

While I consider myself to be in a much better place than what I used to be, I still find myself discovering new triggers in my normal day-to-day that can still take me by surprise.

Coming out on the other side of hardship can be incredibly freeing, but it often leaves its marks. There are some obvious things that I avoid to maintain a healthy mental equilibrium-- these for me are certain topics, images and even songs and movies that I can't listen to or watch without them affecting me for the rest of the day. Every now and again, though, I'll discover a trigger a didn't know I had. It was a series of community paintings in a glass display along Rundle Mall a few weeks ago.

I was walking along in an otherwise content mood. My eyes inadvertently glanced across the artwork, and I felt an immediate reaction. My stomach dropped, my heart thumped aggressively. There was nothing in the paintings that was particularly significant, but it was something about them (that I'm still clueless about in retrospect) that made me think back to particularly events of my past. I couldn't pull myself away from them at first-- I had to force my feet to move and walk away.

I wasn't the same for the rest of the day. I still felt its affects even a couple of days after. At first, I was annoyed at myself for reacting that way. I kept on telling myself I was overreacting, but I couldn't manage to shake it. It took a while before I was okay to sit with my thoughts and grant myself the time do a bit of mental unpacking.

Though we may know ourselves better than anyone else, it makes sense that we don't know everything about ourselves. We can bottle and bury painful feelings of the past that we'd rather not feel, until one day they burst like diet coke and mentos. Even though it makes a pretty big mess of things, trying to put the lid back on would make a greater mess. It always settles down eventually when you patiently wait it out. When something like this happens to me, I try to allow it some of the thinking time it demands. In moderation, of course-- dwelling on it too long could do more damage than good. I might be off for a few days, but I know that once I become better acquainted with this new trigger of mine, I can understand myself better and discover what makes me tick (and what ticks me off).

Tagged in What messes with your head, anxiety