Let's start by saying triggers are evil bastards. Anyone who has a mental illness, or cares for someone who suffers needs this word in their vocabulary. The sufferer needs to learn to actually communicate these triggers with those that care about them and avoid the trigger or lessen the effects. Yes, this means the sufferer has to take responsibility (unlike say, Lohan or Spears). Those that care need to take into account the seriousness of the trigger, learn what that person's likely response is going to be, learn to try to avoid the trigger (or at the very least, lessen the effect), and how to handle the person when they're triggered.
Face it, when we are in full trigger mode we are not thinking correctly. Our animal instincts have taken over and we're basically working on hormones, electrons and chemicals. As much as it sucks for the sufferer to give up that bit of independence in our battle with ourselves, occasionally you as a carer are going to have to step in.
Trigger: something that acts like a mechanical trigger in initiating a process or reaction. (Merriam-Webster).
Again, triggers are evil bastards. Generally some outside source sets off a complete psychological disturbance within the person. Triggers can be anything, really. I've known people who would freak out at the smell of Tic-Tacs or seeing a certain type of flower. - These triggers are even more exacerbated (and sometimes weird) if the bipolar is a survivor of some form of abuse.
Many things can trigger a bipolar episode. Some examples:
- sleep issues
- problems at work/home
- isolation (a big issue with me personally)
Reactions to triggers are awesome!
One frequent response to a trigger is a full on panic attack.
Breathing becomes difficult. Your heart races. Your adrenaline dumps into your system. Your brain shuts down to everything around you except the memories, thoughts and feelings associated with that trigger and trying to get away from said bastard.
Other responses aren't as "mild."
1. One can easily turn into this: A pissed off wolverine. A raving beast that even grizzly bears will run away from. A badger the size of a German Shepherd who, when pissed, is a whirling dervish of teeth and claws. Believe me, you will always lose the battle against a wolverine. Always.
OK, you may win if you stab it with Haldol or some other chemical restraint.
In my case, I feel absolutely no pain when I hit this stage of rage (which luckily is rare and takes a strong trigger often associated with my natural protectiveness of others).
Any police officer, corrections officer or psych ward employee will tell you that the ones that cannot feel pain are the worst to deal with. All you can do is overpower and restrain them (tactic of choice) or hope to talk them down (rare).
This demon within me is perhaps the one I am most afraid of because I know I can do serious damage to someone else, not realize I'm doing it, and sadly, not even care at the moment. When this demon comes out, it is seriously like I'm another person, a very scary, if not evil, person, that will not back down when challenged.
Fortunately the majority of the time this bitch comes out seems to be when I'm defending someone (including myself), who is the brunt of douchebaggery, abuse, etc... especially if the person is another mentally ill person, such as someone with Autism, Aspergers Syndrome, Downs Syndrome or simply just slower than the dicks who think they're the Alpha dogs. I guess I'm just a guardian for the weaker.
The biggest problem is getting my family to understand that this ravaging demon comes out at the simple mention of my "brother" (I use the term loosely) or he just shows up, leaving me feeling rather bombarded and assaulted in my peaceful castle. (See the first paragraph).
I literally black out. The only thing I can see is him. Nobody else is in the room to me, even if there's 30 other people there.
Whatever the exact trigger is with him, one could liken the response to being high on PCP and having a blood feud.
2. Triggers can leave us completely incapacitated, crying, enduring the pain, thoughts and/or memories that are waging an assault on us - leaving us looking something like this:
Depending on the state of mind we were already in, a full on depression caused by whatever trigger can last days or weeks. Personally, when I hit a serious depression I can be laid up for 2 weeks easy, sleeping at least 16 hours, often 20 hours a day. I honestly think that this is not only a recuperation device, but a way of "avoiding the pain," or letting the mind and heart heal itself a little bit so I can survive. That being said, recuperation after a week or two of this is slow, agonizing and frankly, quite annoying. I'll go deeper into the depression aspect in a later blog.
3. Even worse than just a laid up depression, many find themselves self-harming. Some assholes with no clue what it's like to be in our shoes call it "self-mutilation," which fits, but makes us feel more like shit for doing it. Again I'll go further into detail about Self Injury in a later blog.
The important thing about self injury is (pay attention) it is the step BEFORE suicide attempts.
As a cutter, I can tell you that cutting prevented several suicide attempts (though I do have 3 attempts on me). As difficult as it is to wrap your head around if you are not a self injurer, the shit works. Yes it's highly dysfunctional, yes it's bad... but damn it, it works. It calms you down enough to maybe be able to sleep the suicidal phase off, or even makes you forget about committing suicide for awhile. The bad thing is, since it does work, it's addicting, like alcohol, heroin, or crack, and just as difficult to stop. Self medicating is called self medicating for a reason, it works; it takes the pain away, even if only for a few minutes, and that's a few minutes we can have relative peace inside our chaotic minds.
4. Well, you're not going to like this one, but triggers can be so harsh the sufferer simply cannot handle the pain and torment within their soul and chooses to remove themselves from this mortal world. This is rather rare, and suicidal episodes tend to develop over a long period of time, with explicit warning signs. These warning signs should NOT be lightly taken as a life really is at risk, whether you as a carer can handle the thought of it or not.