What is a trigger in regards to mental health?

In mental health terms, a trigger refers to something that affects your emotional state, often significantly, by causing extreme overwhelm or distress. A trigger affects your ability to remain present in the moment. It may bring up specific thought patterns or influence your behavior.

(definition copied from Google search)

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything, in any form. I’ve been so busy moving, unpacking, and driving back and forth across the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania that my laptop has begun to feel neglected. So has my mental health. I can’t begin to stress enough how much my mindset affects every facet of my life.

Every. Single. One.

Every. Single. Day. 

Not a day goes by where the hamster wheels of grief, sadness, loneliness, misgiving and misunderstanding don’t seem to turn. And squeak. It seems they never stop. They do, however, slow down from time to time.

The date range of October 2nd thru November 18th is loaded with triggers for me and my family. Especially this year, the year of “firsts” without our beloved “Grumpy Poppy.” My husband was half of the heartbeat of our home, and now that heart is irrevocably broken. On Oct. 2nd, 2019, I hugged my husband for the last time as he hugged me back. A full on body to body hug on our front porch. The kind of hug that had I known it was the last one, I never would have let go…He was leaving for an extended trip to New England to visit family. I watched his truck fade from sight as he drove away from our little ranch house in the Lowcountry of SC. Little did I know Oct. 2nd would become a triggering date. October 20th, October 30th, November 2nd, November 8th, Veteran’s Day and November 18th are now all triggering dates for me. They always will be. My hope is that as the wheels turn and squeak through this time period, they will surely spin with less force as my endurance grows. Am I ever going to forget? No. Absolutely not. Perhaps the best I can, and do hope for, is that the triggers, when pulled, lose their force as time marches on.

When someone we love dies, a part of us dies, too. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I’ve spent the days since my beloved died trying to find that one piece of me that died when he did. I know I’ll never find it, though my spirit keeps watch for the tiniest glimpse of even a reflection of light bouncing off the missing piece. I think that piece was the one piece that gave me strength to deal with triggers. I don’t know what to call that piece, other than missing, and that’s okay. Missing seems an appropriate thing to call that one piece. It sums up what I’ve been doing since my husband died. Missing him. Missing our life together. Missing his hugs. Missing his presence. Missing the me I was as part of an us. 

When our minds and hearts pull the triggers of our emotions on us, most of us are not able to recognize the “why” of our reaction to the discharges. At least not right away.  I know I’ve floundered through these past couple of weeks trying to figure out just why I have been soooooo sad. The obvious reason speaks for itself, but there is more to it than the loss. And the triggers. I’ve been so hyper-focused on moving from MA to PA, I didn’t consider that when it actually happened there would be a massive let-down. I had to say good-bye, again, to my brother-in-love, who flew from FL to MA to drive the rental truck to PA. My daughter’s family suffered the loss of their beloved dog to cancer. Triggers; being pulled over and over and over again. We spend our time planning and researching and setting-up our lives, not realizing when the goal is met that we are left standing on the other edge of accomplishment. Yes, I moved. I found an apartment I can manage on my own. I’ve saved for this life-changing event, remained focused and determined, and yet the sadness was, and is, my constant companion. I’m not sad I moved, but I am sad that I left my family and friends in MA. I achieved my goal of being closer to my grandchildren, but I wasn’t fully aware of the fact that the move would be far more expensive emotionally than financially. 

I reached out to (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) when I finally crashed into the wall of myself. I’ve cried and sobbed and begged for relief from the ever present pain of the triggering dates and memories. My Peer Mentor is amazing, she helps me see that the hamster wheel can, and will slow down. She also helps me realize that I can continue to move forward in peace, as long as I give myself some grace. We HAVE to feel, it just happens. I wish it didn’t, but it does. I remind myself frequently that the pain I feel is in direct relation to the loss of my husband. The pain helps me remember that what we shared was, and is, REAL. He was, but more importantly, still is, my person. He always will be. The white hot pain of his loss will become more of a glowing ember, it’s just going to take time. There will be more triggers before there are less, and I need to be ready to face them head-on. will be right there beside me; they’re right beside all of us. is a family of broken people, and I firmly believe that being broken together is far better than being whole apart. None of us are meant to be alone. While each and every one of us needs alone time, and that’s healthy, navigating the twists and turns on the pathways of grieving sometimes means we need to be carried by others. Others that “get it.” I get it…

Be well, dear hearts, and remember always that help is readily available to all of us. The family, of which I am honored to be a part, is a phone call, text, and/or an email away. There are many worthy non-profit agencies available to us, we just have to seek them out. The triggers will come, and when they are firing faster than you can understand, trust your gut and reach out. You are NOT alone…

Photo by Barb Enos Revere Beach, MA.

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