Do you have days where you seem to feel bad for no reason until you remember that it’s an anniversary of a sad event in your life? Whether it’s specific to you or as significant as 9/11 is for Americans, many mental health symptoms can be traced to specific times of the year. Christmas is legendary for engendering depression around the world, but maybe your triggering days surround the death date of a loved one, the memory of a prior hospitalization or some other significant event in your life.
My personally worst trigger date is August 29, the anniversary date of the landfall of Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi in 2005. Even so many years later, I feel the same emotions around this time of year—fear, trepidation, anxiety—as I did once the storm came ashore, My family was safe and so was our home, but we had to leave it anyway since we had no power. We spent several nights at a relative’s house waiting for it to be restored to our neighborhood. And when new storms come ashore somewhere else in the world, I also have the same symptoms even if it is far away from my home.
Usually, I am able to anticipate the day and take measures against the symptoms returning. I may take an increased dose of my anti-anxiety medication (with the approval of my doctor) for several days if I feel the symptoms coming on with some severity. Milder cases may be forestalled by planning something fun or otherwise positive for that day so I am not just moping around the house alone with my thoughts. I may schedule lunch out with someone, such as my husband or other friends.
Sometimes talking about the emotions surrounding the time helps—sometimes I do better to just forget about it altogether and occupy my mind with some constructive activity. Writing about my feelings often yields relief if the anxiety is particularly overwhelming. Prayer is always an effective tool against anxiety, particularly of the phantom kind produced when the day is simply a reminder of some traumatic event. Other good coping behaviors may include scheduling an extra visit with your therapist for the day ahead of time, planning to be out of town if your surroundings echo with bad memories certain days of the year, or going to help someone else in need such as a food pantry or soup kitchen. Such plans can alter our perspective on our triggers and replace the traumatic memories with good ones.
Planning well to take care of yourself can lessen the impact of triggering dates. Keep a list of solutions that work handy for when the dark days may come and be proactive in managing your symptoms.
Julie Whitehead currently writes and blogs from Mississippi at her personal blog. She has been a university lecturer, a disability examiner, and a freelance writer. She carries a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and blogs to create awareness and help others understand the disease and its effects.