In Defense of Trigger Warnings

Happy December! I think it is so cool that I can make it snow on my blog 🙂 Cute and festive, although I absolutely hate the cold.

I spend a fair amount of time on YouTube watching all types of channels such as comedy channels, vlog channels, and more. Because I watch so many videos, I read a lot of comments and sometimes even write comments of my own. It was reading these comments where I first learned about the “triggered” jokes and memes. Being a survivor of sexual assault, someone who lives with PTSD, and someone in recovery from anorexia means that I am very familiar with trigger warnings. The more I saw these jokes, the more I became angry and frustrated. In my world, being triggered is not a joke.

Trigger warnings keep me safe in a world where I can often struggle to feel any sense of safety. When you live with PTSD, feelings of safety and security are stolen from you. One of the things I have worked endlessly on for many years in treatment/therapy is gaining back the ability to trust the world and not see it solely as a place where dangerous things occur. You can think of recovery from PTSD as more of a scatter plot vs. a straight line (thanks, math teachers…math still sucks). In fact, that concept comes from a picture I saw on Instagram a while ago. The image says, “Think of recovery as a scatter plot. You will have good days and bad days, but gradually, over time, the trend line will become positive.” I have days where I am able to feel completely comfortable in a crowd of people and other days where I feel unsafe and afraid despite the fact that I am in my own home.

When my PTSD gets badly triggered, it can take me days or sometimes even longer to work my way back into a more stabilized place. Depending on how severe it is, it can keep me from sleeping, lead to nightmares, and lead to really horrible panic attacks and flashbacks. It becomes extremely challenging to function when I am running on little to no sleep and especially anxious. I am aware of what my triggers are, and I do my best to avoid them or plan beforehand if they are unavoidable.

With my eating disorder, trigger warnings are imperative to my recovery. For someone without an eating disorder when they read about someone having anorexia and how they only ate ___ calories or weighed ___ pounds it is shocking and saddening. The healthy part of my mind is also saddened and bothered by it. However, the ED voice that lives in my head thrives on comparison and a focus on numbers. It loves to compare my experience with a restrictive eating disorder to others in a way that is damaging. If I were to watch a movie without warning that it showed scenes of an individual using a particular behavior, then it has the chance of catching me completely off guard. Immediately, my mind gets easily swept up into the narrative that using that behavior will make me feel better or that I should do it again.

That is why a lack of trigger warnings and jokes about trigger warnings are incredibly frustrating. See, without them, it is easy to be exposed to something I could have easily avoided had there been some sort of sign indicating that it may be upsetting to someone with a trauma history who is recovering from anorexia. When I ask for trigger warnings, I am not asking to be coddled or to have an excuse. It is not indicative of any sort of weakness or flaw to my system. Rather, giving a trigger warning and taking them seriously is an act of respect towards someone. It is giving me a chance to prepare myself so I can decrease my vulnerabilities in a situation where I am unable to avoid the triggering material or conversation. Or, it gives me a second to close an article, leave a conversation, or choose to watch a different movie.

Trigger warnings are not a joke. They are a gesture of showing that you acknowledge and care about the safety of your fellow human beings.

 

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