Mental illness, emotional trauma, and even regular old feelings have been so stigmatised and so deeply silenced that many people don’t really know what they are or have a misinformed and watered down view of them. Content and trigger warnings get regularly mocked and used ironically.
This intentional ignorance is oppression at the most basic level.
The only way we have continued to preserve this nearly imperceptible kind of oppression is by celebrating it. When older white dudes compare their current call-outs to racism or sexism or abuse, they directly exemplify that they have no clue what the fuck they are talking about and have not taken the time to learn.
Trigger is real.
Physical reactions to words (not even actions, but words) occur often. More often than one might think. I’ve watched it happen in people that didn’t even know what was happening to them. Lack of education about mental health and emotional trigger has led to an unsafe environment for people that already feel chronically unsafe.
So, in light of that, here’s how I got triggered twice in one week after going about a year without an episode. One of them occurred online, so I felt it was important to include.
By the way TW: emotional abuse, rape.
Somebody made a really apt Facebook status about emotional abuse that I reacted to with an applause gif. My abuser commented “this is awkward” right underneath me. He had admitted during our relationship to abusing me but for him to publicly post something so incriminating was a shock. Especially since I thought that I had blocked him.
It started when I saw his name.
My body started to shake like I was really cold even though the temperature still felt warm. I could see, but my vision didn’t take in any information. It was like looking at rain drop glass and focusing on it instead of what was beyond it. Everything looked like nothing.
I felt like I was going to throw up. My stomach became sick and I kept trying to get up to go vomit in the restroom but my body would rock back when I tried to move away.
After a few moments of this, I’m unsure of the amount of time, I grabbed my phone and sent a text. Looking back later, I saw that it was my neighbor (trusted friend and hero) but I didn’t realize that I’d sent the text until after I’d hit send and had a little back and forth with them.
Tears were in my eyes and my body continued to shake, but they talked me down and out of it. Talking out loud was an excellent escape from the episode I was in and, eventually, I was able to get out of it.
A few days later, a similar trigger occurred.
The next (1) paragraph is really rough, if you want to skip it.
A comedian went on stage for a crowd of about 10 people and told a very graphic rape joke. In the joke, he acted out raping a woman and held an imaginary woman down to rape her. The “joke” was supposed to be that her pussy was so good that he’d probably get caught because he would keep going back to the scene of the crime to continually rape her. He described how good the non-consensual pussy was and moaned and humped the microphone stand. The joke was about 2 minutes.
Maybe the joke was longer. I got dizzy and my eyes did that looking-at-nothing thing. I was 2 drinks in and I feel like the alcohol saved me from having an episode right there in my seat. I stood shakily and walked loudly out. I was followed by a few friends.
There’s a term in comedy called “walking the crowd”. That means a joke or set causes audience members to leave. If that had been my show, I would have taken the microphone out of his hand or unplugged it, honestly. The only control I has was leaving the situation.
The physical reaction was only delayed for a while. I got the idea that I, comedian and rape victim, could talk to him about the joke and tell him why it was not only really bad comedy but also super wrong to exploit rape victims for laughs unless he himself was a rape victim. I determined that he was not by calmly asking him, “Are you a rape victim?” to which he was like, “No.”
He continued to defend himself. It ranged from him wanting to start a conversation about rape so society could talk about it to him being an oppressed black man and having every right to tell jokes about rape??? He told me I could tell racist jokes if I wanted to, which I declined. Why would I tell jokes about being victim or racism if never had experience it? He did not see the parallel there.
Things got messy and I started to get dizzy again.
I walked away and found my way to my car and cried, shaking and screaming, for about an hour without stopping. The shaking caused my teeth to chatter, a leftover symptom of fear that happens often during panic attacks.
Eventually, the physical symptoms started subside and I was able to get human help.
Meanwhile, he venue representative handled it to their best of their ability by talking to him in a professional way. The rapey comic was not banned, but he received a warning about the content of his material. That’s fine, too.
Both of the examples I’ve listed are reactions that occurred due to emotional abuse trauma that I suffered as a child and rape that I suffered as an adolescent. I know this because I attend several different kinds of therapy and research myself thoroughly.
One day, this will all be a memory of when I got out of a terrible, abusive relationship or that phase in my life where I did stand up and I was constantly having to call out (over and over and over again) people that thought "you can joke about ANYTHING" was a valid excuse for being a horrific kind of person with so little self-awareness that they thought what they were doing was joking.
These examples are specific to my experience but outline a far larger implication. The things that people say and do can hurt other people and now is a great time to start fucking acting like it.