An itch in your soul, a trigger, can set off a bipolar episode.
|"Saving my money
Dreaming of Glory
Twitching like a finger on the trigger of a gun."
"My Little Town" ` Paul Simon
If you can visualize a personal pistol, shiny silver finish,
Your finger against the trigger, intention set on action, and then, finally, pulling the trigger, and consequences begin.
The trigger I'm referring to is a virtual one. It's the trigger on the pistol of my personal passions. As psychologists refer to it, a trigger is a person, place, thing, or idea in the environment of the bipolar person, apt to set off a series of undesirable behaviors. The trigger is not the first event in a series of behaviors, it's something before the fact. It can be a large physical structure or the lyrics of a song on the radio.
Bipolars and recovering drug addicts are warned to stay away from trigger situations that might set them off. I had a friend whose drug behavior was intervened on by the police. She did jail time and rehab time. When she got out, and back to her home and usual routine, her television viewing habits changed.
"I don't watch 'That 70s Show' anymore. I used to smoke a blunt and watch the show every night before I went to sleep. 'That 70s Show" makes me want to smoke a blunt, even though I know I don't really want to. I feel better not smoking pot."
She had heard enough in her rehab classes that she knew what a trigger was, and she knew one of her particular triggers. Every time she avoided the show, her trigger, she avoided her inner voice telling her she needed to smoke pot.
Sometimes, people who are susceptible to trigger response behavior are not able to avoid their triggers. A trigger might be driving down a street, perhaps on your usual path, where you used to drive to score drugs. A trigger can be anything, and one would need to examine their own behavior to discover personal triggers.
There are times we all need to HALT.
Are you HUNGRY? When was the last time you had a nutritious and filling meal?
Are you ANGRY? Do you have an irritant of a person or thing that is causing you to have negative, or hateful feelings, and a defensive attitude?
Are you LONELY? How long have you been with just yourself? Even a trip out to a store full of shoppers, or a sit-down restaurant, can change your attitude and perspective on your situation.
Are you TIRED? Did you have a full 8 hours of restful sleep last night? Your personal sleep time need may be more or less. Tossing and turning or waking many times during the night is not restful. If you are getting an insufficient amount of sleep, your body and brain are not working at maximum efficiency. Tiredness fosters irritability and poor decision making.
When you feel pressured to do something, or behave in the manner of a task, you should check yourself against the HALT questions. Some food, rest, and/or conversation will put you in a better state of mind, whether you have a mental diagnosis or not.
Some triggers are not avoidable. Certainly triggers that are bound up with the functioning of your body cannot always be controlled.
DRAFT - insert 2-3 other examples of triggers
I spend a great deal of effort maintaining a sleep schedule. If I have some important. exciting appointment any particular morning, the night before I will spend tossing and turning, with my mind racing through every particular permutation of situations or conversations I might encounter, and my rehearsed responses. If I have a job interview tomorrow, I can be certain that I will not get a good full night of sleep, if I get any sleep at all.
This personal predicament may have begun with college night-before-the-test study sessions. If I had an essay assignment due, I would always end up, staying awake, and working on it until dawn pf the due date. I always set myself up for the last minute adrenaline rush and payoff when I was in college. It carried over to my adult life. Given any task,I will procrastinate until the last minute. And I do get an adrenaline burst of energy when I break through such a situation.
Going without sleep for one night is almost a right of passage for the current generation. Growing up girls have slumber parties, and most college students end up spending at least one one-nighter before their studies are complete. Parents' time for work and family gets over scheduled, and one, the other, or both, end up accumulating a large sleep deficit. If you don't get enough sleep, at some point, your body will demand it. Those who fall asleep while driving fall into this category.
Having good sleep hygiene, a routine for easing yourself to bed and to sleep, can save stress, worry, and hardship.
1. Go to sleep at about the same time every night.
2. Complete your exercise, or evening walk, a full three hours before bedtime. A body who has just maxed a cardio-rate needs time to slow down to a more relaxed pace.
3. A warm hot bath for soaking, or a relaxing shower will help relax muscle cramps and ease some swelling. Wash the cares of the day away, along with your body's accumulation of smog and pollution. Also, showering at night enables you to go to your bed without carrying along the pollens of the day in your area. Candles and SOFT music can help set the mood you are seeking. This is not the time to listen to the latest download of Heavy Metal Rock an Roll. Your goal is to get clean and become more relaxed, letting go of the day's stressers.
4. Do not consider working at your computer or watching television to be helpful in getting you to relax. The lights that are hitting your eyeballs eyes from the computer screen or television are sending your brain signals to turn on, be alert, process information. This light is not conducive to sleep.
This is where I left off writing. I think I just triggered myself, without that being my intention at all. I turned off the lights to go to sleep around 3:00 am. It was one of those nights I hate most. I can't go to sleep. I can lay in bed with my eyes closed for hours, upon hours--through the entire night--aand not fall asleep. I was too tired in the brain to turn the lights back on and occupy myself in some way. SO I lay there. I don't have a clock in my view, on purpose. In previous times I would play a game with myself for how long I could keep my eyes closed. My theory was that the time of looking at the clock would get further apart, and I would fall asleep in the process. It didn't really work. I am fortunate, at this point in my life to not be tied to a clock.
I sat up to see the light of day, and I rolled over,pulled up the sheets, and closed my eyes again. Maybe if the sun were coming up, I could relax. But my brain was still alert and aware. I would be almost asleep, and my phone would make some notification noise. Maybe it was the regularity of the noises that finally put me to sleep. The phone rang my alarm sound at 11:15, and I was not ready to wake up. I ignored the noon alarm too. I couldn't think of any reason I had to get up. I had no appointments. So I drifted easily back to sleep, feeling more than a little guilty for blowing off a business Monday. Around 4:00 pm, my body decided it got all the sleep it needed, and I woke up and started my day.