I am in the midst of a depressive cycle. This is not news to me nor really should it be news to anyone who knows me. Having the diseases that I battle each and everyday guarantees there will be episodes. I have even had the privilege of living long enough to recognize when those depressive sessions will begin and often what precipitated it. Yay for me!
Most of those in the mental health community know that there are triggers and then there are Triggers. There are things that cause momentary pain; large enough to rob us of our voice and our own abilities but not so large that we can’t find our way back to the normalcy that is defined by the lack of those same triggers. Then there are the Triggers that are so large you can literally see them before they even break the conscience barrier. These Triggers are so large that finding oneself anywhere near them leads to the statistics that those pamphlets in the doctor’s office so helpfully exclaim as possibilities. These Triggers bring about the very darkness that I hide in, the very darkness that I am at once afraid of and so comforted by.
I have many triggers; comes with the territory. And while each reader’s triggers will be different the catalytic collapse of our own beings because of these triggers are rather universal. And don’t fool yourself, or anyone else for that matter, these triggers don’t make you better, stronger, more prepared. The only thing triggers can do time and time again is to undermine all that you have built and created in an almost vain path to freedom. Triggers ensure there is no freedom.
And if you are a newbie to these mental illnesses, let me be the one to give you the good news – there is no pill, drug, alcoholic beverage, or nicotine product out there that can either give you surcease from these triggers nor stop the reality from happening. While I would argue that every being on earth has triggers that ultimately lead to emotions that we may not understand, when a mentally ill person (like myself) has a trigger the response requires a journey through the depression that we are once familiar with but so completely exhausted from having to fight time and time again.
I had a therapist once who wanted me to come up with a logical way to, if not avoid, at least minimize the damage these triggers create in my life. I simply laughed in her face. There is no avoiding triggers; they will find you in a house of mirrors. There is no dealing with triggers; the wounds are cut so deep and so quickly that all one can really do is try and stop the bleeding long enough that no one else notices. And no matter what anyone tells you, confronting these triggers does nothing but leave you in an empty room with no doors and no windows. It isn’t possible to stop triggers; nor is it possible to avoid the repercussions of these tiny and almost abstract brain scars. And this is true even when you know what your greatest Triggers look like, smell like, feel like.
It is hard to do credit to my more powerful Trigger. It is hard to explain to those who don’t know me why this Trigger exists. And it is even harder to explain why it is that I feel like I have to react and be the exact thing that ultimately destroys me. I can hardly find the words to give insight into why it is vital that the actions that I take must be taken despite the fact that I know each and every time they will result in the depressive cycle that I currently am surrounded with. I keep bleeding the same song, the same wound, and no matter what this world says I will eventually find myself unable to perform in the circus that I have created simply because the blood will finally flow faster than my better half can stop it. Despite the fact that my husband knows exactly what the problem is, even he isn’t great enough to stop me from facing the music in exactly the same way. So he has learned to mop.
My most powerful Trigger coincides with the almost desperate need I have to be perfect. The greatest horror for me lies in the idea that in some way I am a burden, someone’s conviction that who and what I am is not enough, someone’s honest belief that my disease is greater than I am. I can and will tell you why this need to be perfect exists but the most important part is the recognition that this need is what triggers the darkness to come.
I grew up in a family where being perfect was considered an achievable goal. I grew up in a family as the fat one. I grew up in a world where the rather exotic and often true forms of my heart was suppressed behind the notion that I was more than the dreams in my head. And this is where the problem lies; living and surviving a family that demands perfection can cause one or two things to happen – either you become perfect or you become so much less – and both of those things create a trigger that is hard to come to terms with. And in the depression, triggered by the lack of perfection, is the repetitive refrain of just that: I’m not what my parents define as perfect.
I was the boring kid, overweight yes, but rather boring. I got the grades, I never missed a curfew, I didn’t do drugs or alcohol, I joined the band (my grandmother’s dream, not mine). I didn’t date anyone with any regularity – I certainly never went to prom with someone I had romantic feelings for. I lived a life where manners were expected and I never disappointed. I even got a degree in a discipline that my family approves of. I lived a life of so few, true moments of the heart, that I often wonder if my heart works properly anymore.
All the emotions that I had, I was expected to hide. All the incredible ups and downs, the joys and the pains were emotions that if not easily explainable should not exist. The times of pain and depression that I know that I have is never to be acknowledged in the presence of my family. That would be against the rules. That would be simply not allowed.
The trigger isn’t my family. It is the awesome responsibility of having to be perfect in a world where I am destined to feel each edge of the mental illness sword. The trigger isn’t the persons that my family are; it is the action of being perfect in a world that I battle and lose more often than I win. Being perfect, even for a moment, so that the family I adore, is not put out requires from me a suppression of all I am.
I will continue to be perfect so that they see me because the alternative is so much worse, they could forget I am even here.