(psst it’s an AirSoft gun, not a real one)
In yesterday’s post, I briefly mentioned triggers. I realized I had a lot more to say than I covered, so I decided today’s post would be dedicated to the topic.
Triggers are people, places, things, and situations that trigger an unhealthy response. Unfortunately for our brains, triggers are often things we can’t avoid or that we don’t want to avoid.
Here is a picture of my number one trigger:
Tyra Fricken’ Banks.
I probably owe you an explanation. After all, I can’t just paste a picture of one of a world-famous supermodel and label her as a trigger.
When I was struggling with my eating disorder, I often turned to pictures of models as thinspiration. I don’t blame the models for my eating disorder; their photoshopped bodies just happen to be triggering for me. Once I started recovery, I swore off fashion magazines. Then I found America’s Next Top Model.
It was like crack. I couldn’t get enough of the models, the photo-shoots, and the drama. I practiced “smizing” and “tooching” in front of the mirror – it’s worse than it sounds, I promise. I downloaded all of the photo shoots so I could pore over them, critiquing their poses and angles. But the most tantalizing aspect of the show was that these young hopefuls were just like me. I could, in theory, be America’s Next Top Model. The only things standing between me and television stardom were my thighs. And my tummy. And my boobs. And my hips. But I had the height, right?
I noticed that the more I watched the show, the worse my eating patterns got. I started obsessing about food again. Fearing full relapse, I made myself quit watching the show cold turkey. I deleted my ANTM tumblr account, and I said goodbye to Tyra.
I was fine until last year, when I saw the season premiere was featured on Hulu. I’m okay now, I thought. I can handle it. I’m only watching it for the photography. My obsession resumed. I watched it religiously; I ran home from the bus stop to watch the newest episode each week. I made Chris, my mom, my brother, anyone watch the show with me. At first, I really was simply enjoying the program. But then I started to wonder, was I Top Model material?
I was Cady-Heron-obsessed-with-Regina-George-obsessed. I was going to be a model. It was THE ultimate goal. I thought about postponing going to college just in case I was chosen for taping the show. But most importantly, I started feeling funny about my weight again. Old habits resurfaced. After the season finale, I knew that I had to stop. Plus, I was mad that Laura didn’t win.
I’m fairly certain that I’ll never be able to watch America’s Next Top Model again. I finally understand what it means for something to be triggering. It can look enticing, but it’s ultimately not good for me. I’ve learned to make compromises with myself. I may not watch ANTM, but I’ve found that Project Runway works for me. There’s less of a focus on the models and more emphasis on the passion and hard work of the designers. Plus, there’s no way in hell that I’d ever be able to compete on that show.
It’s frustrating when we have other triggers that we can’t avoid. For example, another one of my triggers is having people over to my house. I can’t erect a forty-foot wall around the home I share with my family. It’s against code. Also, you just can’t live like that. I’m slowly learning that I can have pleasant interactions with pleasant people where I live. No, I won’t be hosting a massive rave in the near future, but having some friends over for brunch is doable. I’m accepting that when a large gathering is absolutely necessary, there is no shame in taking a Xanax beforehand and a really long nap afterwards.
With triggers, it’s all about personal management. It’s finding out what you can handle and accepting your limitations – maybe even embracing them. For me, the key to doing this was using coping skills and/or finding substitute activities, depending on the trigger. It’s a learning process; what worked yesterday might not work today. It’s important that we forgive ourselves when things don’t go according to plan, and move forward with renewed grace and determination.
You can still have poise without a supermodel in your life.