Those of us who have lived, or are currently living, with a mental health disorder understand all too well that there are triggers that can make symptoms worse. Just as with any disease process there are certain daily aspects that can make it better or make it much worse. Through my years of traveling with post traumatic stress disorder and major depression I wrote a lot of journal entries. Each word represented an aspect of my life at that time. I kept one of those journals and on occasion I like to open it up and remind myself how far I have come. The journals were beneficial in my life during my travels with PTSD and depression because they helped me to see the various aspects that triggered worse outcomes or made them better. Perhaps some of you have been wondering where my posts have disappeared to. I can assure you I am still here, but I have had to step back a bit a little while in school.
Although I have not taken a medication for depression or PTSD in over 9 years, I can tell you that those disorders do not just disappear. They are always going to be a part of my life. In truth I am grateful for the many lessons and roads they took me down. The ability to be grateful for them took me a lot of time. Mental health disorders are like any other disease. They are always attached to a small piece of your genetics. Some people have to take medicine for the rest of their lives and others, like myself, are able to live without medications. My ability to do this comes from pinpointing my triggers and knowing how to utilize other coping skills. This is not something I learned overnight, but are abilities that took me many years to build.
My recent journey back to school to become a nurse practitioner has not been easy by any means. I am a mom of two, I work weekend day shifts as a registered nurse, am a wife, and I go to school full-time. Can you say full plate? I have had to truly learn how to become my own best friend. One of my main triggers in the past has been stress. The moment I felt overwhelmed was the moment I would hear those little internal voices telling me how worthless I was or my PTSD night terrors / anxiety would start up. Going back to school for my Masters has shown me how far I have come along the paths of my past journey. So how do I deal with my triggers?
1. I have had to learn to be grateful for every mile I get while in Grad School. I was used to running 40 miles or more a week, but while in school I am happy to get 20. Running has become my time to really push those stressful feelings away.
2. Being honest. This means being honest not only with those who support me, but with myself too. On a daily basis I ask myself what I can handle and how it will affect me. If I am feeling overwhelmed I talk to my family or a close friend. That moment to completely let go and get other’s thoughts is a blessing in disguise. I have learned that when you are stressed or overwhelmed your thoughts are not always rational, so sometimes you need a second opinion or a reality check.
3. Quiet time. I am very much an introvert at heart. Each day I can be around people for certain periods of time and then I have to hide in my cocoon and regroup. That time to myself and my own thoughts is valuable. I used to be afraid of that time because my thoughts were so disordered and I feared where they would take me, but over the years I have learned that those quiet moments are my time to regenerate. I call it my Dr. Who time.
4. Accepting my limits. To help deal with the stress triggers I have had to accept that I have limits. I cannot go for a run, do my 8 hours of homework, take care of my family, work, do bills, cook dinner, go to clinical, and sleep all at the same time. My life has become prioritizing and asking for help when I feel I have too much on my plate. We all have limits. The goal is not to exceed them, but to appreciate and work with them.
5. I have learned that if I do not get adequate sleep it will lead to an increase in anxiety and stress.
Today I ask each of you to give yourself a big hug. You are strong. My question for you today is what are your triggers? How do you deal with them? Until next time, peace and love to you all.