/noun/trig-ger/: something that causes something else to happen.
Trigger is a popular word when it comes to mental health and illness. You especially hear it a lot when talking about PTSD and anxiety, and I suppose major depressive disorder and the like as well. Merriam Webster tells us a trigger is something that causes something else to happen. Sometimes triggers are internal, often times they are external. While navigating the world and life with anxiety I have found that a lot of my triggers are very simple, everyday things that I never realized were impacting me as much as they were. Over the past several months I am finding out I have triggers I didn't even know could be triggers. Like people who I know nothing about. Food. Sounds. Places. Stuff that may not completely set off my anxiety radar but things that definitely bring up unwelcome and uncomfortable feelings of nostalgia or anxiety. At the same time there are things that throw me into a complete panic and leave me gasping for air and reaching for something real and concrete. For me personally, triggers range from words to people and everything in between. For the longest time I thought I only had obvious triggers, like crowds. Crowds aren't a problem for me all of the time. If I know I am going somewhere that will be crowded (like a concert) I am generally fine. If I show up somewhere that is un-expectantly crowded (somewhere I like to go because it is quiet), loud, or way more crowded than I anticipated I most definitely will have some problems. This is also new for me, I never used to have issues with crowds and noise. The louder and more crowded it was the better! Can't hear the people you're with? No problem, just yell louder! Can't find your friend in the mass of people? Make new friends! Yep, that used to be me. Present day me needs to be able to hear the people I am with and never lose sight of them in the crowd. If I get separated you better believe there will be a meltdown. Such dramatic things typically only occur when I am in unfamiliar territory or at a new place for the first time, though. Exits are a huge deal for me. I always need to know where the exits are located in case a quick escape needs to happen. I mentally create escape routes in my head if I am somewhere for the first time. It's crazy. I am becoming more and more aware of these situations and I have worked on forcing myself into them in order to overcome whatever is triggering about them. This is not always successful, but I haven't given up trying. I started with facing these fears because they are more concrete and obvious. It's not easy to overcome words, sounds, smells, etc that may be a trigger to anxiety. It's complicated and sometimes impossible to control the environment around you. When a sound sets me off I will deal with it in the moment. If there is a person who is triggering to me I fight that experience as long as possible before either working through it and being okay, or leaving.
At times waves of nostalgia will come over me and I feel like I am back in time, reliving memories or moments with different people or details present. A good example of this is music. There are certain songs that I have memories attached to (as I'm sure most people do) and they are not usually happy memories, per say. A lot of them are from darker times in my life, previous relationships or friends, or situations that may not have been as happy and cheerful. It is tough because when it happens all I can do is breathe deep, close my eyes, and either change the song or try to spin that negative nostalgia into a positive. I find that working more times than not with songs. I love music and I don't like for some of my favorite songs to be ruined by such negative feelings or memories. Besides, a lot of those same songs have some amazing memories and feelings of nostalgia attached to them. I have favorite songs that make me both laugh and cry, depending on when I hear them, that's what makes them my favorite.
I am constantly observing what may be a trigger to me. I don't automatically assume that if something causes me anxiety once or twice that it will always be a trigger for me. I am pretty good at determining situational vs long term. It's not easy to do, but it's really the only way I will ever be able to function on a semi-normal (calm) level. I don't want to live my life avoiding what I love just because it upset me one or two times. I don't want the rest of my life to be harder than it needs to be. I could expel some of my energy that is spent on anxiety elsewhere, that's for sure. If I don't keep trying I will never know. If I give up now, I'll never know.
There are triggers that go much deeper than outward experiences. A simple memory can set off an intense emotion, and that's a topic for a different day.
That being said I am working at a coffee shop I have not spent a lot of time at until now. I have been here for a few hours and it is becoming uncomfortably loud and busy, so it is time for me to pack up!