One of the most valuable bits of my group DBT psychoeducation course last year was taking the time to identify my particular MH triggers, and the reasons behind them. A major trigger for my anxiety is being in a 1:1 situation with a stranger, where the objective of the exchange is fulfilling my own wants or needs. Requesting assistance in shops or on public transport is a nightmare, as are first dates, appraisals, personal emails, dentist appointments, taxi journeys, phone calls... I regularly leave shops without essential groceries because I can’t face asking for help, I went 6 years without seeing a dentist, I miss multiple opportunities because of not responding to emails and until yesterday I had only ever had one professional haircut outside of my mum’s kitchen. But working through these triggers is all about practice, so after years of doing my hair myself, yesterday I decided it was time for the real deal.
As insane as it may sound, I was genuinely more nervous about going to the hairdressers than I was about performing stand-up to 400 people at Edinburgh Fringe last year. I walked past the shop 4 times before I made it in, contemplating flaking despite having paid in advance. My hairdresser was lovely but, when I got out of the chair two hours later, I realised my fists had been so tightly clenched throughout that my fingernails had sliced four moon-shaped crevices into each palm.
An important part of recognising and working through these triggers is also recognising that our emotional responses, however disproportionate they might seem, are not irrational. Like all animals, our present behaviours are based on past experiences. My past has taught me that being alone with someone - particularly someone who is supposed to be helping you - is dangerous. Being trapped in a chair, wrapped in a cloak, while a stranger handled my own head for 2 hours, was nothing short of terrifying. But I did it, and here are my fresh locks to prove it. Let’s see if I can go another 5 years before the next one...
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