A Tweet, A Trigger and A Minefield

*This post contains images of self-harm, which may trigger people.*

A Trigger

Triggers are something that I hear a lot about, both on and off the internet.  Therapists will ask if we know what triggers our depression or anxiety, we will then be told to look at identifying our triggers so we can look at coping with them.  Is this sounding familiar?  Theoretically, if you can identify a trigger, you can start employing your coping mechanisms to ensure that you get through whatever situation it is that might set you off.

Recently on Twitter, I advertised our Understanding Self-Harm page to promote awareness for self-harm.  It contained the image below:

Understanding Self-Harm scars.

What do you think?  Do you think the image is particularly triggering?  Or is it more that the image is a bit shocking and uncomfortable to look at?  Here are some of the responses I’ve had to it:


Do you agree with these?  What do you think?

Talking Triggers

First off, I feel I need to say that I do believe in mental health triggers.  Honestly, I do.  There are things I know that can set me off on a depressive spiral or a panic attack, no matter what I try to do.  Admittedly, I’m not very good at identifying those triggers, nor am I particularly good at avoiding them or dealing with them, but I know they are there.

My question, however, is this: at what point do triggers hamper mental health progress?

One thing that society teaches us on a regular basis is to keep our mental health struggles hidden.  Have depression?  Smile.  Have anxiety?  Breathe.  We are taught, very much like Elsa in Frozen (yes, I have a 3-year-old who loves Frozen) to keep it in: don’t let them in, don’t let them see, be the good girl you always have to be.  If we avoid talking about subjects containing potential triggers or avoid using images like the one above because they “may trigger someone”, how are we doing ourselves any good?  I’ve been told the image above has shocked people into reading the content because they find it disturbing enough that they want to know more.  Would you not say that’s a good thing?

It’s raised awareness for self-harm.  It’s raised mental health awareness.  Someone else has walked away with an understanding of a struggle that plagues a lot of us.

I’d say that’s a good thing.

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My Experiences

Two comments – one of which has since been removed because the user decided to block me – went along these lines:

I feel, at this point, I need to direct people to reading my journey, particularly posts like Pills and Blades, that discuss my own personal struggle with self-harm.  I have loads of scars covering my legs, even now after I’ve been “clean” for a few months.  It’s something that I’ve battled with relentlessly.  Below are just a couple of instances of when that happened.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sharing these lightly.  I’ve made sure that my scars are hidden so that people won’t see them and start judging me or commenting, etc.  Sharing them with you all is something I’m doing to continue raising that awareness and take the first step in my stand.

I believe that this subject needs to be talked about.  I believe people need to see these images so that they might understand just how serious mental health is.  Outside, in public, we put on smiles, we fake feeling as though we’re part of the community and we try and appear normal.  Behind closed doors, however, we end up turning to coping mechanisms like the one in the pictures above.  It’s something that’s not talked about, something that we avoid showing others, but we do it.

And people need to realise this.

People need to see the damage we do.

Shying away from it is not going to work anymore.

We need to be more vocal about this!

A Minefield

Realistically, what can I do regarding the images that will potentially trigger others?  It’s like being caught between a rock and a hard place.  On one hand you have the people who need to see the image, who need to be shocked into reading and become aware.  On the other hand, you have all those who would claim to be triggered by the image (whether that’s genuinely triggered or, as so many people will do, jumping on the bandwagon to have a moan).  In the middle, you have me and the people like me who are all trying to raise the awareness.

As far as triggers go, though, it’s a minefield.  Everyone is different, everyone has different triggers.  Asking anyone to find something that won’t trigger anybody is virtually impossible.  So why should we hide what we feel, why should we avoid any potentially triggering images when there is no image that exists that might not trigger someone?

We need to stand up.  We need to take ownership.  This is real, this is happening.  People struggle with this on a daily basis.  To make a change, we need to shock people and we need to make them uncomfortable, because people will never change if they are comfortable.

Ultimately, I’m not going to apologise for these images.  People need to see this.  Realistically, the minefield is such that I won’t be able to find images that won’t offend someone, somewhere, so I will use the images I feel best fit what I’m trying to accomplish.  What I will say is that understanding of self-harm needs to be raised.  We need to do this.  We need to take that stand.  So stand with me.  Help me fight this stigma.

I hope you understand.

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A Very Mental Christmas – Day 5

Day 5 – Family Fandangos

Click to Access the Podcast!Access the Pushing Back the Shadows Podcast here for the latest episode!

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Episode 9 – A Look Back

Join Alex as he takes a look back at how Pushing Back the Shadows came about.  From his original blog to public speaking to podcasts, he looks a little at his journey.  Dive in!

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

What Helps Me on the Bad Days

Having a Bad Day?

Are you having a bad day with your depression or anxiety? To quote one of my daughters favourite cartoons, “It happens. It happens a lot”. Depression and anxiety can make it seem like there is nothing but bad days sometimes. It can strike out of the blue, be there from the second you open your eyes or build up and progressively deteriorate over the course of time. But no matter what, bad days are going to happen. It’s part and parcel of living with mental health issues. And it can really suck.

For this week’s pick of the week, I wanted to share with you the things that help me, both from the blog and practical tips that I employ. Like anything else, these are things that help me, some might suit you, some might not. They’re suggestions from my own experience.

Coping with Anxiety

It’s only recently come to light that hand in hand with my depression, I have a nice side order of anxiety. It’s probably always been there, but because I didn’t see it as full blown panic attacks, I kind of ignored the signs which often led to me spiraling.  Now I know it’s there, I’m having to learn how to cope with it in a more productive way. Here are just a few of the things I know have helped myself and others.

  • The podcast episode 6 meditation. Just taking a little time to focus your breathing and learning to relax can be hugely helpful.
  • Fidget Spinners-Not something I’ve used myself, but I’ve seen how beneficial they are for friends and family who suffer when in environments that are difficult.
  • Yoga breathing-helps lower the heart rate, lower blood pressure and help you find a sense of calm.
  • Grounding technique– I’ve both used this to help someone in the middle of an anxiety attack, and had a friend walk me through it when I was taken badly. Building yourself a grounding kit is a really good idea.

These are just a few of the things helping me with the anxiety side of things. For more ideas and help check out our Patreon supported post, Anxiety-Managing the attacks. It’s something I’ve been using almost as my cheat sheet lately and I can’t stress enough how helpful it’s been.

Black Dog Days

As I’ve said, I’m also battling depression and there have been some incredibly difficult days. Now I’m not going to give you a list of therapies and treatments, I’m not touting magical cures. Think of this as more about self care when it’s a black dog day.

  • A little affirmation– basically take the time to remind yourself of your worth, your things to hold on to. I’d definitely check out what you’re worth, you have a purpose and something to hold on to if you’re struggling.
  • Treat yourself-give yourself a little indulgence. Be it some chocolate, a bubble bath, retail therapy (budget constraints pertaining of course).
  • Exercise-I’m no gym bunny, but the benefits of exercise in the alleviation of depression are well documented. Yes I know motivation is an issue, but even a little movement is better than none.
  • Let in support– basically this boils down to letting those who love and care for you be there for you. From personal experience I can say that when you are struggling all the medication in the world won’t be as effective as the love and support of your nearest and dearest. A hug won’t cure depression, but it can really be a wonderful balm.
A Few Little Thoughts

So, OK not a comprehensive list, but as someone who is going through this journey I know how easy it is to put aside or dismiss the tools and people that can support you. I also want to make one point, for those of you who have doubted Alex and the work he does here, apart from the wonderful responses we’ve received from Twitter from people he’s helped, I want to say that without his support and help, I may not be here. So thank you.

The blog is full of great information, support and guidance so I encourage you all to look through. You may stumble across something that will really help either yourself or someone you care about. It could save a life.

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.