Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Trigger - Not Just a Famous Horse

It's the end of a hard day, and I am proud of myself.

I didn't do everything on my self-care list (see my previous post), and I certainly didn't get any of the things done that I normally would when I'm feeling well. My wife is away for the week, but in spite of that I still sent the kids to school in clean clothes and with healthy lunches; I fed them a nice dinner; and I've just finished telling a story and tucking them into bed. I think that's a pretty productive day for a depressed person.

I'm still depressed, but it's not as bad as when I woke up this morning. That's what happens when my mood is still good enough that I can make my brain focus on the positives, and avoid the dreaded downward spiral.

One technique I use is finding triggers for positive emotions. A good friend coached me on making a list of things that make me happy. She started me off at twenty-five items. Then another twenty-five. Now it is up to one-hundred things - some small, like smelling a flower; and some large, like going on a trip. Today I have a bowl of fragrant flowers on our kitchen table, and I keep looking at them and smelling them. It helps. So does playing Halo. (I know this is wrong - as a librarian I should be advocating reading over violent video games. But Halo makes me happy).

I have some very negative triggers, too. These are generally from traumatic events, and they fade over time. My worst ones involve self-harm, and have required therapy.

Today I looked up the music video for a song that is on my list of things that make me happy. In the middle of the video, which I was enjoying for the first time, was a terrifying trigger for me. I cried for ten minutes on my laptop (the tears didn't wreck it - thumbs up, Acer!). Then I smelled the flowers.

When dealing with a bad emotional trigger, I was taught to stand back and observe it with my rational mind, and say "Hmmmm...that's an interesting reaction, but I am safe, and that is just a trigger." But sometimes things like a pop song music video will catch you off guard.

Challenge yourself to make a list of just twenty-five things that make you happy. Use all of your senses. Even if you are not mentally ill, knowing what triggers your happiness will make you a happier person. Guaranteed. ;)


Unknown said...

I don't see there being anything wrong with video gaming for therapeutic reasons. My xbox helped me a great deal recovering from having my wisdom teeth all pulled at the same time, and recovering from my bike accident.

D'Arcy said...

I agree entirely. I worded that wrong - actually, as a teen librarian, I buy video games for the library - so it was meant tongue-in-cheek for my colleagues who still don't agree with our new policy.

I love Halo. Also Medal of Honor. I'm glad video games helped you through your tough times. They are certainly helping me!