There has been a “new” joke that has paraded around the internet with folks. They have been placing “trigger warning” before any and everything. At first, I was confused by this because trigger warnings are a serious matter to me. I have been abused, and I am diagnosed with PTSD. I have some serious triggers that can affect me and cause me to spiral into PTSD symptoms. Since, I am not normally in the “social know” I had no idea why people were doing this.
I am still unsure, I can infer based upon observations, but I may be inaccurate.
At first, every time I saw the words I took it as a serious warning. It caused me not to read several blogs because of this confusion. However, I get that it is some sort of joke now after several months. I am not offended or anything, but I would like to address some of the importance behind the words “trigger warning” for people such as myself.
I need the warnings at times.
If I read or see any sort of violence, abuse, trauma, type of posts or images I can be affected in a way that causes me to shutdown or relive my own experiences. Interesting side note: There are certain times when I can watch shows like Law & Order SUV and not have issues, but if I see the actual act of violence even if I know it is not real it can cause a physical reaction and PTSD symptoms.
There are other times when I cannot even look at a violent cartoon.
I have not figured out the why’s of that yet. I have to avoid news and graphic images that show horrible incidents. There are even times when I see a picture of a smiling person who has died that causes me to sink into depression, especially, if it was a horrific scenario. I understand people wanting to share the happy pictures of their loved ones and remember them, but it does cause an emotional response in me. Death I understand, how others respond to death is what I do not understand. I have past experiences of social confusion and hurt when it comes to situations regarding death. It can take me days to recover. My mind, body, and spirit become consumed with images of the person, how they were harmed or passed away, their family and friends who are suffering and many other thoughts form.
If I do not redirect myself, I will start connecting events that are similar from my lifetime.
It can manifest a path of hopeless thoughts and remind me of all the times that I “failed” socially or when people “failed” me with being empathetic toward my requests. My cynical side can wander in and try to convince me that there is nothing good in the world and I can do nothing about it. I used to be unaware of this; I assumed I had no control over these thoughts. I have learned that indeed, I do have intrusive thoughts that seem to come from nowhere, but the discovery of triggers has helped me understand that this is not the case. Many, many things stir my thoughts.
So what are triggers?
Triggers are very personal; different things trigger different people. The survivor may begin to avoid situations and stimuli that she/he thinks triggered the flashback. She/he will react to this flashback, trigger with an emotional intensity similar to that at the time of the trauma. A person’s triggers are activated through one or more of the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste.” ~ What is a Trigger?
I am sure that most people are aware of triggers.
However, I wonder how many people on a conscious level know their triggers and know how they affect their daily life. Not many people consider the triggers of children. I am hypersensitive to my children’s triggers. I try to stay aware as much as possible because their triggers can set off a chain of events. Our whole household can turn into a cluster of trigger set-offs! Of course, I am not always on top of it that is not possible. I will use Ariel as an example. A few years ago, she hurt her foot badly from jumping on the bed and falling off. She could not walk on it for about 6 weeks. (Short version) Now anytime she hurts that foot she begins to shake, she starts crying, and will repeat, “Oh, no! Not again, please, please not again.”
It is pretty much word for word every time.
She is accident prone on her feet for some reason. It does not matter if she accidentally stubs her toe or slightly twists her ankle while running, she will respond with wailing, shaking, and the fear that her foot is badly hurt again. I know that my children have triggers from sensory sensitivity as well it causes them to respond in ways that may seem like “overreacting” to people.
Joshua has covered his ears and screamed at the top of his lungs because something was too loud in a store.
Daniel has had a complete meltdown in a Wal-Mart because the lights were flickering and hurting his head. For me, I had no idea that my sensory system felt attacked on an hourly basis in certain environments. I had no idea that the reason why I would lock myself away in my apartment, reading, listening to music, and consuming my special interests that I was creating a healing environment for myself. I did not realize that my stims were bringing me balance and comfort. I did not even know what a stim was until learning about Autism.
Sometimes my triggers can be good.
For instance, moving back to my home town I have had several times when the smell of the grass or certain flowers have consumed me and transported me to childhood happiness. There have been moments when I looked at the moon and I could feel the color of purple and indigo making me remember times when I felt safe. My negative triggers have been more consuming for most of my life since it feels like I have many more than positive ones.
Although, that is slowly changing.
I have many social triggers, food triggers, abuse triggers, being manipulated triggers, being rejected, abandoned, isolated, as well as feel good triggers. All of them can have positive and negative effects on me. Linking to two reads here. Never Waste a Good Trigger: Part One and Never Waste a Good Trigger: Part Two. In the past, I allowed my loops to take over my brain – it became an addiction. Whenever I was triggered by something negative, I would let the emotions consume me. It caused me spiral into negative self-talk. I was so familiar with negative feelings that I would actually feel some sort of pleasure from feeding my anxieties and fears.
When I would be triggered, I would go and feed into my trigger creating even more.
There is something to consider here though, and that is I had NO IDEA that I was triggered by other people’s emotions. Whatever, their triggers and emotional responses to those triggers were would leap onto to me. It truly felt that way. I would be “happy-everything-is-going-well-today-Angel” and suddenly I would be hit with anger, fear, sadness, sorrow, love … etc. I would then, spend hours upon hours trying to figure out what I was feeling and why.
Not only did I have my own inability to discern my emotions, but also I had no clue about how to process other’s emotions.
This alone is traumatic add other components such as being abused from childhood into adulthood by loved ones, friends, and significant others. I was emotionally abandoned which I believe played a key role in my need to find someone, anyone to love me and tell me that I mattered AND existed. I felt invisible and confused much of my life. I would also, go into the polar opposite and feel as though I did not need a single person and I was VERY happy all alone.
I would feel as though I did not need anyone to love me.
Because of my synesthesia (Remember that synesthesia is a spectrum too not one person is a like there may be similarities, but it is different for each individual.) my emotions and sensory are quite intense. That mixed in with my excellent long- term memory (Most of the time, I have another post coming about losing a chuck of my memory that I only recently discovered was missing.) my triggers can take on a world of their own. Well, they did until I started applying mindfulness as my way of being.
Before that, my world felt much more out of control.
I felt afraid all the time. I never knew what was going to set me off. I did not understand why things set me off. I did not know that other people did not feel emotions as if they were daggers into the body, or sudden attacks upon their soul. I did not know that others did not see music in designs, that paintings dance, or words have powerful punches with sounds, figures, colors, and movement. I thought everyone felt as I did, but I also knew this could not be the case because people mocked me, got frustrated, or called me “strange” when I shared these things. Social confusion has been one of my biggest triggers. I do plan on writing about that too – it is in progress.
In the next post I share what has helped me and many resources!
Part two tomorrow …