Anonymous asked: Unless they deal with a life-threatening trauma, triggers are dumb. People should deal with their fears, not hide from them.
A little over 4 years ago my best friend Tru died at the age of 26. He had a bad heart and it was very sudden. I was very depressed for many months. I closed in on myself and shut out the world. My medication couldn’t handle my emotional state and for a while I was hopelessly lost.
Eventually I started to accept his death. Time passed and each day got a little easier to bear. I opened back up and started communicating with the outside again. And just when I thought I had a handle on things, I would see or hear something that reminded me of my friend. In an instant I would be brought to tears and feel as if I hadn’t made any progress at all.
More time passed and my coping skills became more robust. Previously I could find a way for just about anything to trigger my sadness but eventually that improved too. My mind stopped making the more illogical and random connections to him. The things that reminded me of him made more sense and were a little more expected.
However, to this day, whenever I see the word true or tru, it is a little punch of sadness right in my gut. Nothing I can’t handle, but still not pleasant. Whenever I see a space invader it can be more intense, because that was the avatar he used for everything.
And then the other day Tumblr sent me this email…
This was a blog that he and I ran together.
I broke down sobbing. It took me a good 20 minutes to compose myself. It reminded me of how many years it’s been since he was no longer in my life. It’s been a few days and it is still bothering me.
I did not experience life threatening trauma. I think I did a pretty damn good job of dealing with my pain and facing it head on. But the sturdiest of minds can crumble with the right trigger. Fears, phobias, anxieties, sadness… they change your brain forever. They leave cracks behind in your mental defenses. Little areas that are vulnerable no matter what you do. Triggers are not dumb. Sometimes they cannot be fixed. And if people want to take a few precautions so they don’t have a breakdown when searching a website, I think that is quite prudent.
So, I dealt with my fear… but damn… I really wish I hadn’t gotten that email.
You want to know when I first heard about triggers? It wasn’t online in any kind of survivor’s forum, it wasn’t at a rally for rights, it wasn’t in any of the places we so sarcastically expect to hear about “triggering” someone.
I was eight years old, in a doctor’s office, learning about my newly-diagnosed Asthma. We were talking about grass and pollen and exercise, all the sorts of things that can trigger an asthma attack.
The next time I discussed triggers it was with my psychologist when I was 17 and finally getting treated for my depression. He brought it up, he talked to me about the things that I might want to avoid and for the first time I also learned about positive triggers - little mantras to recite to try and ward off a panic attack, behaviors to avoid cyclic/obsessive behavior, keeping pictures of my friends around to remind me that I had them to ask for help if I needed it.
But most of the triggers we hear about these days are negative triggers. Things that leave people incapable of acting like a human being because they turn you into a shivering ball of instincts and emotions. Frogman has a trigger that makes him legitimately sad and there’s nothing he can do to change that or “get over it.” A mother who has miscarried may be triggered by something as overt as an abortion joke or as innocuous as a commercial for toilet paper. There’s nothing she can do to escape or get over these reminders that she is the survivor of trauma.
And that is why you hear so much about triggers these days. It’s a big, busy, frequently horrifying world that we live in, and it seems like an awful lot of people are carrying around a bit of PTSD in their heads. When someone who has been through trauma is triggered they don’t just feel repelled by the trigger or angry at the author of it, they start reliving the trauma that they’ve tried so hard to just “get over” and it feels like you’re back at square one.
You want to see a triggering in action? Try touching me when I don’t expect it or don’t like/know you. I’ll either freeze up like a startled bunny or bite you. Could go either way. What you WON’T get to see after trying that experiment is the weeks of nightmares and obsessive scribbling that I’ll do trying to reassure myself that I’m safe, that nothing happened, that it’s not happening again.
So be cautious and be sympathetic. Give warnings.