(Trigger warning: In this post I am going to be discussing things which trigger bitter and despondent feelings in me, and which may also in you, namely, media images and videos of successful and unsuccessful monogamous relationships.)
(Trigger warning: As I am, as I vaguely recall, heterosexual, I am going to, for the most part of this post, default to speaking of husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, though I warmheartedly include all those who have had the pain and suffering of a relationship with another adult human being, a “significant other” if you will, or, to the point, those who I like to refer to as “bringers of pain and disappointment.” This may trigger feelings of resentment if I include your “group” for only part of the post and seem to exclude it at other times.)(Speaking of “bringers of pain and disappointment”, I’m not just talking about dentists, but then, I’ve never dated a dentist.)(Come to think of it, most women I’ve dated have cost me great deals of money and left me feeling like something has been taken out of me, something that I rather fancied having and didn’t realize should be extracted from me; therefore many women are, truly, dentists at heart.)
(Trigger warning: This post may speak of dentists. If you have had bad experiences at the dentist, such as finding out that you had 800 dollars too much in your checking account, which now will belong to the dentist, this post may trigger feelings of despair at ever being able to keep teeth in your mouth, or trigger worries about not being able to eat anything without a straw, just a few years down the road.)
(Trigger warning: I believe in the Golden Rule as well as the ability to speak one’s mind in a bold fashion. I may ridicule mercilessly an opinion some of you may have, but I think you are fine, intelligent people who, some of you, sometimes have silly opinions. So I don’t troll you and you don’t troll me. If strong opinions or fairness offend you, this post may trigger unpleasant feelings in you.)
I had a birthday a while back. Please don’t say “Happy Birthday,” as that is a trigger for me, since I feel that a birthday for an adult should be celebrated with someone who rhymes with “life” (or “strife” or “knife” for that matter) or rhymes with “berlfriend” or “significant mother” or, for that matter, rhymes with “grateful itch.” My daughter was here, so that was great, and we went out to eat, so that was great, but after I took her home, yeah, dammit, it would’ve been great to celebrate the evening and night with some sweet chiquita.
After my daughter woke me up that morning and demanded that I start the bacon, I went out and started the weekend morning routine. I turned on cartoons on Netflix for her. The TV defaults to a local channel before I choose net TV, and of the six words I heard on some show there before I hit the right button, two were “my husband.” I’m not exaggerating when I say that was enough to make me feel bad and feel left out, first thing in the goddamn morning. Tell me if I’m wrong here, any of you who are single right now and would rather not be single right now, does it seem at times like there is a constant litany from media and from overheard conversations and from conversations directly to you, a litany of “my wife,” “my husband,” “my boyfriend,” “my girlfriend,” “my wife,” “my husband,” “my boyfriend,” “my girlfriend?” It’s probably been done, but I envision a rom/com with Sandra Bullock just breaking up with Mr. Right, and a holiday or other big event coming up, and her hearing a constant rendition of that everywhere she looks. Everyone walking by would either be obviously, hopelessly in love with the one they’re with, or saying one of the above. All would be talking about their holiday plans with that special someone. Every flatscreen TV in every store window would have a beaming woman thanking her fiance with a huge kiss as he places a gigantic engagement ring on her finger. Even a couple of dogs, one sniffing the other, with the “sniffee” looking at Sandra as if to say “Everybody but you, everybody but you has a date.”
Any of those things are triggers for me to start down a spiral of pointless self-pity. I’ve made up my mind never to speak of this except in trying to make a joke of it, but I mention it here to point out the obvious: nobody, whether in real life, in passing conversation, in movies, books, TV, or blogposts, needs to apologize to me or give me a warning as to the triggering nature of their actions or their creative endeavors. I’m an adult and it’s my problem, repeat, my problem, not theirs.
The key word from that last paragraph is “adult.” Whether in college or in a blogpost or in a book or show or movie intended for mature audiences,we have to take what is thrown at us, we have to be expected to ride out the jarring, disturbing aspects of what we are viewing or hearing or reading, not expect the presenters to sugar-coat it or warn us that we may be offended. To do anything else is pure madness, complete silliness, and a huge missing of the point.
Why do I say a missing of the point? Because, so much of the time, in blogposts especially, there is a presentation, by the blog author, of some perhaps disturbing things that they went through or that they know someone else went through. This may or may not be preceded by a trigger warning. Whether it be about abuse, PTSD, depression, health issues, marital issues, violence or threatened violence, racism, sexism, ageism, or any of a host of other things, I have never, ever seen the endpoint of the blogpost or of most of the commenting following it to be anything other than uplifting, sharing, empowering, empathizing, warmhearted good feelings. It is a cathartic experience for all involved, and wouldn’t have been possible without the shocking revelations in the post, usually in the comments also. So much would be missed, so much incredible goodness would be missed, by warning someone off from it, due to the possibilities of a reader have some sort of psychotic break due to reading that post.
I don’t say “psychotic break” lightly; I haven’t had one, though I’ve had my moments of panic, despair, crushing anxiety, desperate, immediate fear that there was no way out of the present situation, a desire to be somewhere else but nowhere really. Is that a more “normal” kind of crappy reaction than a breakdown would be, one that I can mostly handle? I believe so, and I believe that most folks who are troubled about things can deal with the ups and downs of their feelings and their fears, some with help from medication or self-medication. Lie to me; tell me one or two glasses of wine don’t soothe and calm lots of people. Some have alcohol or drugs as a trigger, I know, but a lot of people are helped by some prescribed drugs, by calming agents of various kinds.
While I’m asking questions of myself, does it seem like I’m somewhat selling short anyone who is more disturbed than I’ve ever been (yet)? Perhaps, perhaps; I know I have my little -isms that I try to hide, or more fairly, that I know are irrational, mostly. So maybe I’m prejudiced somehow against those who would be caused a “break” of some sort by reading or seeing or hearing something disturbing to them. The point is, we can’t predict or completely prevent any possible “audience” of our creative output, whether it be book, tv, print, movies, college curriculum, “classic” or modern or experimental fiction, or whatever, from having an unpredictable reaction. We have to live and create as if our audience is made up of adults who can deal with the psychic blows brought on by the things, by the art, writing, entertainment or opinions they are experiencing. We have to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Of course, there is creativity that is intended just to shock us. Basically that’s what horror is. Done well, it’s got some morals to it, some lessons, some feeling of victory at the end, but some is intended only to disturb us without the good guys ever winning or without any positive lessons; I kinda don’t see the point, for the most part, and think that maybe some of that needs to either “not be taught” or could use a (heaven help me) warning of some sort. If people want to read them, then let them. But this political-correctness-gone-mad of warning everyone to steel themselves to, or steer away from, almost any difficult subject, it needs to stop.
The holidays are coming up, and except for the time spent with my daughter, winter holidays are absolutely brutal for me. I’m going to lay in a supply of boxed wine to deal with my triggers, but that also is not your problem.
Deal with the triggers, bloggers and blog-readers. Deal with ’em, and heal with the reactions to them, and with the support others will give you about them. Colleges, great jumpin’ Jesus, I can’t begin to state how stupid it is that colleges EVER talk about trigger warnings. They are places where students, newly adults mostly, are to be exposed to various ways of thinking, to see all sides of many issues, NOT places to be mollycoddled.
Trigger warnings must stop, now.