TW for, well, a description of being triggered, and also sexual assault.
I was triggered last week.
I want to talk about this, because there is a misconception floating around that being “triggered” is about being offended. It isn’t.
There’s a misconception floating around that being “triggered” has something to do with being humourless and overly sensitive. It hasn’t.
Here’s what happened. Trump said some shit on a tape about groping women, and the internet exploded. Everywhere I turned, people were talking about this. Twitter, Facebook, even at my kid’s school I overheard conversations while I was waiting to pick him up. I couldn’t get away from it.
And I posted some stuff. Not as much as I wanted to, because I was also launching a book, and I was busy, but some stuff. And then it started.
The “not all men” and the “but maybe some of them wanted it” stuff.
And then one lunchtime, I shut down my laptop and I put my phone on silent and I climbed into my bed and I cried for an hour.
Because when I was 20, and a guy didn’t stop when I asked him to, I spent the next three or four years saying those things to myself. “You were drunk.” “You’d been kissing him.” “What did you expect?” “IT WAS YOUR FAULT.” “YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED”. It took me over a year to tell even my best and closest friends about what had happened. Because I was ashamed.
Being triggered by a constant barrage of all those things we always hear in these situations? “Maybe they’re lying.” “IT WAS HER FAULT.” What that feels like, to me?
Is like all that shame coming back. In a flood. Because while rationally I am well passed believing that what happened was my fault, while rationally I know it was not my shame, but his, emotionally, when faced with all that judgement and total lack of compassion, it all comes back. I watch people I really thought knew better say these things and I think, Good God, nowhere is safe.
Nowhere is safe.
And I climbed into my bed to cry, because I ran out of cope, because the shame and despair of that was so huge.
Look, I am no shrinking violet. If you know me at all, you know I am a warrior. I am tough. I am a survivor. I have proved that over and over. I am a pretty badass woman.
This is not about being over sensitive or even offended. It’s about being retraumatised. It’s about being awash in a sea of the very worst thing that ever happened to me.
After I cried for an hour, I got up, washed my face, picked my kid up from school and got on with my day. Because I am a BADASS and I don’t let anything stop me.
But understand this. Being triggered is fucking horrible. It’s unpredictable, and it sucks. It’s not like being offended. It’s not like getting your feelings hurt. It’s way more lizard brain than that. Sometimes you can see it coming and head it off, and other times it sideswipes you and all you can do is sit there gasping waiting for it to go away again.
I guess… I just don’t understand why anyone would want to do that to someone they like or care about because they think they’re too edgy for trigger warnings. Don’t be “edgy”. Be compassionate. You don’t have to share my politics to not want me to feel like that. Or anyone else for that matter.
I’m not looking for sympathy. I had help, and I got over it, and really these days I’m accomplished enough at dealing with my demons that they really don’t keep me down for very long any more.
I’m posting this mostly in the hope that the description of what happened, of what it feels like, will make someone somewhere understand that trigger warnings are not or should not be about comfort or lack of offense. They’re about safety and mental health. They’re not bubble wrap. They’re warning signs.
Objecting to them is a bit like objecting to rocks falling signs. And then when someone gets hit by falling rocks and goes, “Hey, maybe we should put a sign here warning about these falling rocks” they get told they’re being oversensitive, and shouldn’t be so easily bludgeoned by rocks.
It’s about compassion, really. And surely we can all agree that’s a good thing.
Be awesome, beautiful people.