Triggers can come from many different places. We all have them; different issues that are elicited by something, maybe it's a date on the calendar, or an activity, or even a comment. I think that it helps to be aware of one's triggers so that we can anticipate how they are going to make us feel or act. Then, instead of reacting to the situation, we can be proactive about it and either knowingly face it head-on or even choose to avoid the triggering event. I have several triggers when it comes to food and my food issues. I know that certain images affect me negatively. So as much as I truly like to read articles in certain health-focused magazines, I know that I can no longer look at those magazines. I also know that I cannot control obsessively weighing myself because the number on the scale holds such great power over me. So I made the choice last year to throw away our scales and to never have them in my house again.
My biggest defense against my triggers has been avoidance. And it has worked well for me, at least until recently. At the beginning of this semester, we had some new students join our class. After randomly sitting near a few of the new students, I could overhear their conversations which were peppered with plenty of comments about how this or that made them look fat, or discussing how eating this or that was good or bad, or if it would make them fat. Basically they were having a conversation that many other groups of women all around the world were probably having at the very same time: the obsession with talking about dieting and talking negatively about ourselves. We all probably do it or have done it. I used to do it and still sometimes do. Old habits die hard. So after hearing some of their comments, I decided to distance myself some from them because I knew what comments like that would do to me when they got into my head. It wasn't the girls that I was distancing myself from; it was from their seemingly favorite topic of conversation that I was distancing myself. I thought I had solved my little problem, until I realized that they were going to be in the same clinical group as me. That meant that we were going to be spending many hours together during this semester, including suppertime. Great. Now what was I supposed to do?
I got myself worked up over this to the point that I was no longer looking forward to the start of our clinical rotation. I couldn't take the idea of hearing that kind of talk every week. Then it occurred to me. Maybe I was ready to look my triggers in the face. I had tried to avoid my triggers the best I could until this point and I thought that was the best way to deal with them. But here I was with a trigger that I could not completely avoid; this trigger I had to face. That thought scared me because I didn't think that I was ready to face the triggers yet. What if they set me back again? What if it got to be too much and I relapsed again into my disordered eating? Then I realized, all I can do is try. I won't know if I am ready unless I try. And whether I succeed or fail, I realized that I will learn something from this experience that will make me better equipped to handle a trigger the next time. It isn't about failing or succeeding; it is about learning from each experience that we encounter.
I decided to give myself the best chance at handling whatever comes my way on clinical days by making good choices for myself that will set me on a healthy path for the day. I have increased the number of days a week that I do yoga because of the calming effect that it has on me. I have also planned out and stuck to healthy meal choices and meal times on class and clinical days. It's too easy to get caught up in the rush of those days and skip a meal because I ran out of time. But I know that once I skip a meal, it is a very fast and slippery slope down to skipping many more meals.
Will this be enough? I don't know. It's a long time until the end of the semester. But I won't know if I am ready to face these triggers until I try.