I was feeling pretty down when I got to my IOP this morning. I don’t know why. I didn’t sleep well last night, but that’s pretty normal for me. One of the real joys of depression is feeling down for no reason. Today’s one of those days, I guess.
I talked about my low mood during check-ins. And I talked about how frustrating it is to have an inexplicable low mood. That was about it. I felt more talkative than yesterday, but it was a much shorter check-in.
We had three topics of discussion today. The first was anger. Anger is a weird emotion for me. My therapist has actually tried to get me to be more angry. I often refuse to get angry even when anger is appropriate. We started by talking about how there’s often another emotion at play behind the anger. Anger is like an iceberg. The anger is the bit that sticks up out of the water. Below the water you have things like sadness, pain, powerlessness, guilt, and shame. It’s important to recognize that because it allows us to combat the anger by addressing whatever emotion is behind it.
Sometimes, though, anger is just anger. It goes in a cycle. There’s the triggering event, then negative thoughts, then emotional response, then physical symptoms, then behavioral response, and then back to the triggering event. We talked about ways to break the cycle. The first way is to avoid the triggers. That’s not always possible, though. So, we talked about distress tolerance, exercise, and opposite action. It was a good talk.
After anger we talked about triggers. A trigger is just a stimulus that leads to an unwanted emotion or behavior. The first thing is recognizing your triggers. I’m not going to give you a list of my triggers. If I did my enemies would know how to manipulate me. We don’t want that. Then, we talked about how to deal with the triggers. Like anger, the best thing to do is avoid the triggers. Also, like anger, distress tolerance and opposite action can be effective. Ultimately, though, unavoidable triggers are just really hard to deal with.
Finally, we talked about glimmers. These are simply positive triggers. They are things that help you feel joyful or safe. There was a whole bunch of science-y stuff in this one. Glimmers are part of what’s called a Polyvagal theory. It’s basically that your autonomic nervous system is constantly scanning for threats. This means that you are always in some kind of vagal state. The goal is to get to a safe vagal state. At least that’s how I understood it. Some common glimmers are going out in the sun, petting a dog or cat, someone smiling, and things like that. I added music to the list. It was kind of nice to talk about something positive for a change.
I also signed off on my treatment plan today. And I was approved for FMLA. Yippee.