On appropriation of triggers.
Hey, so I’ve had some questions on Reddit concerning why I have issues with the appropriation of triggers by social justice blogs. Here’s why.
As somebody that deals daily with post-traumatic stress disorder, I almost never trigger. Triggers are clinically described as:
That means that seeing a man, in my case, isn’t going to trigger me. It may, in fact, contribute to raising my stress level, but men are not triggers. In fact, even graphic discussions of rape are not triggers. They’re stressors.
So what is a trigger for me?
I’ll give you an example.
I was once having wonderful, consensual sex with my boyfriend at the time and he grabbed my breast in a very certain way- putting too much pressure on it and twisting a little. Gentle breast play is usually something I enjoy, but because he was inebriated at the time he was rougher than I was used to. This triggered a flashback to when my rapist did the exact same thing, which led to a long panic attack.
I was completely non-responsive to anything my boyfriend said to me. I couldn’t deal with literally anything. I felt like I was going to die. I couldn’t breathe. I was completely non-functional.
Now, panic attacks and flashbacks come in a variety of ways, within a spectrum of severity. They can last a long time or just a few minutes. But what remains the same with my panic disorder and PTSD is that when I am triggered, I cannot deal. I am not capable of explaining what’s happening.
Of course, I can’t say this is what everybody’s experience with PTSD is going to look like. But I can safely say that putting “TW: RAPE” isn’t going to help me when and if I do trigger.
So why does it bug me that so many SJ blogs use this terminology? The same way the words “gray rape” lessen and soften the meaning of rape, trigger warnings are creating the impression that being triggered means you’re upset. NEWS FLASH: YOU’RE GOING TO GET UPSET SOMETIMES. DEAL. When I am triggered I want people to take it seriously. I want people to realize that when I say “I had a pretty bad episode last night” or “you triggered me just then and I couldn’t tell you because I was panicking,” I mean it. I mean that it makes my life harder. I don’t want people thinking they have to tiptoe around me in conversation.
Because getting triggered is a big deal. After my boyfriend triggered a panic response, I couldn’t have sex with him for a week. I couldn’t bring myself to get back in bed with him. It damaged our relationship and probably made me resent him, leading to our breakup. I certainly wasn’t just a little bit upset with him- in fact, I knew it wasn’t his fault at all. He had no idea that what he did was going to be a trigger, and neither did I.
I know what my triggers tend to be, but they do sometimes take me by surprise. A certain kind of cologne is a trigger. I don’t even know what it’s called ,but it was the kind my rapist was wearing when he raped me. Unfortunately, I can’t control when I’m going to experience that particular trigger, and I can’t tell people to loudly proclaim their brand of cologne every time I arrive in public. It’s not helpful and I’ll probably trigger anyway.
So here’s my solution for you. Instead of appropriating a clinical term that carries a lot of weight, use “stressor warning” if you must. Talking about rape can be stressful. Talking about eating disorders, sexism, racism and many other topics can be stressful. They can make you upset. You have every right to feel that way when discussing difficult topics. But with a tumblr movement so hell-bent on limiting appropriation of different cultures, social justice blogs sure seem to support appropriation of triggers.
Oh, and if you self-diagnose PTSD, please go see a psychiatrist and have them diagnose you. They are professionals and can give you methods to help reduce your sensitivity to triggers as well as deal with high stress levels.