Like other (non-psych) medical problems, mental illnesses can be exacerbated by situational triggers. And the theory is, if you figure out what those are, you can avoid them. Personally, I’m pretty sure I could avoid the majority of things that make me extremely stressed, but my stepping out to preserve my mental health would often offend and anger other people.
For example, tonight I had made plans with a relative to go over to their house for dinner after work. I’m leaving out a lot of stressors, but they decided we were going to a friends’ house instead, and we got to the house about an hour after I normally eat dinner. The friend had not started planning dinner – she only started going through the refrigerator after we got there, trying to figure out what she had that she could feed us. There was chaos in the kitchen and I wasn’t anywhere familiar and I really wanted to just leave.
But you can’t walk out on a family friend you haven’t seen in ten years who invited you over for dinner, just because she didn’t have dinner ready when you got there. Especially when she’s clearly stressed out – if you walked out on someone who was displaying social penitence for something, you’re going to make them feel pretty awful.
Whenever people talk about feeling trapped by social requirements, someone always wants to say “Of course you can, look at me, I do it all the time!” which is funny because that person is usually the one person in the room everyone thinks is an asshole, but who doesn’t know they’re an asshole, because they’re not socially sensitive enough to know that they’re shooting themselves in the foot over and over.
The point, of course, is not that people who feel trapped by social requirements are unaware that they are free agents; the point is that social requirements (if you prefer, intense expectations) have consequences whether you follow them or break them, and sometimes avoiding a trigger means lots of different triggers instead. So you take the least worst course of action that you can make for yourself.
So I did that. I feel bad, this entry is late, and there’s no science. But, I didn’t feel bad, offend someone, make them angry at me, and feel worse and have no entry at all because I was too strung out to concentrate.
Stuff like this contributes to mental health being so difficult to achieve and maintain.