Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.



Yet another post generated by my earlier Black Swan post.  One person commented about triggers.  I had written that “some people look for triggers, and when they choose to do so, they will find them in any situation.”  I do believe this is true.  There is a stage of this illness where many of us purposefully surround ourselves with images or quotes that “help” us with the eating disorder (meaning, they help us stay sick).

This commenter pointed out that sometimes we don’t have control over what triggers us.  And, I agree.  I believe that purposefully seeking out triggers is a choice.  But that’s different than just walking about in the world and encountering something and having this thought or feeling pop into our heads.  It’s not like when we started out on the journey of having an eating disorder we were given a list of possible triggers and checked off which ones we would allow to trigger us and which ones we would ignore.  (Can you imagine some scantron sheet that we submit to this otherworldly person in a ticket booth upon entry into the Realm of the Eating Disordered?)  What triggers one person will not trigger someone else.  And our triggers change during the course of illness and recovery.

I re-read my post, and I don’t think I implied that being triggered is a “bad” thing.  It just is.  How we react to those triggers can be healthy or harmful, however.  We can do our best to fight them (and I believe that if you are fighting, no matter the outcome, you are winning).  Or, we can choose to act on symptoms in response to the triggers.  And there’s whole shades of greys in between these two extremes.  The unconscious versus conscious acting on symptoms.  The fact that sometimes we’re not even aware of our triggers at first.  The fact that sometimes all our fighting wears us down and then we’re hit by another trigger and another trigger and things get overwhelming and become too much.

I would love to rid the world of triggers.  That would mean ridding the world of the the world itself.  This is why I said that the focus really should be on helping those who are having difficulty with triggers.  Identifying them, naming them, expressing the feelings behind them, putting words to those feelings, and learning how to cope with the triggers without self-harming behaviors.  There are some triggers you can avoid.  But you can’t avoid all of them.  And that’s why I think there needs to be an open discussion on what do you do when . . . Suggestions that can help other people in similar situations.  So that maybe you can have a list of things to do in certain situations, especially since this time of year is difficult for a lot of people with eating disorders and self-harm issues.

Be a Girl Scout: Be Prepared.  Have your survival kit with you.  Protect your recovery at all costs.


December 19, 2010 - Posted by | Body Image, coping, Eating Disorders, feelings, recovery, self harm | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. “Identifying them, naming them, expressing the feelings behind them, putting words to those feelings, and learning how to cope with the triggers without self-harming behaviors.”

    EXACTLY.  I think all too often, especially while inpatient, we are taught to avoid triggers at all costs. But when we are dischargeed we have to leave that safe little bubble, without being prepared to face reality (I’m not saying all IP programs are like that – this is just based on my own experiences).

    What helps me the most after being triggered is to immediately remind myself of the most motivating memories I have.  For me, it was when I was in college, in the department lounge, listening to my peers enthusiastically talking about their research, while I was off to the side, obsessing over how many calories I had eaten.  I let the ED take away my passion.  And now, I carry that memory with me all the time, so that when I’m triggered over and over again and feel myself slipping, I have something to grab on to and remind me of what’s important. 

    Comment by Anon#2 | December 19, 2010 | Reply

  2. Even after being in recovery for some time, I will find myself looking for triggers. I don’t mean to, I don’t want to relapse but I will click on a picture of a friend from treatment, or read a blog from someone who’s not doing well, even though I know better. It’s almost like I’m not doing it, and then a moment later I navigate away from the page and feel guilty for doing so. It’s like a part of me wants to feed my disorder, even though I love my life, my freedom and my recovery; I still put myself in harm’s way once in a while.

    Is there something wrong with me? Am I totally crazy?

    Comment by BrokenElevator | December 20, 2010 | Reply

    • you are absolutely NOT crazy. I’m obviously not a professional, but I’d say this is “normal” for someone with a history of an eating disorder. I know I have done it. I know most of my friends from treatment have done it. Sometimes, for me, I think I was prone to flipping through pictures of other people when I was feeling crappy about things in general. I’m not sure what I was looking for in those photos. The most important thing is that you don’t then act on any urges, that you are still loving recovery. But loving recovery doesn’t mean we don’t go down memory lane once in awhile.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | December 21, 2010 | Reply

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