Trigger Happy

*Trigger Warning*

People are triggered by EVERYTHING these days!”, “If you don’t like it, don’t watch it!”

These were a few of the comments on The Mighty’s FB thread in regards to the ‘trigger’ potential of the new Netflix movie “To The Bone” which is about a girl suffering from an eating disorder.

The Mighty offered trigger warnings at the beginning of the thread and many people with eating disorders recommended not to watch the movie trailer, however on the same thread they also supplied a YouTube link to the trailer. So of course I watched it.

That was my choice to make but in the throws of an addiction (which is exactly what an ED is like), we find ourselves drawn to our triggers the way someone fearful of sharks will watch a documentary about them. If I relapse I tend to seek out doco’s, movies and TV shows about EDs, I don’t know why I do this, perhaps it makes me feel less alone? Obsessions are all consuming.

There are different ways that people can be triggered by things, bad memories can be suddenly brought back to the surface from a simple image or even a sound or smell. These memories can cause us psychological stress, anxiety attacks and promote behavioral relapses.

People can be given ‘ideas’ on how to ‘go about’ certain ED behaviors from shows that discuss and sometimes appear to glorify the topic and there is always the fear that someone contemplating ending their life will be tipped over the edge or learn new methods from a story about suicide.

So yes, I watched the “To The Bone” trailer and yes, it triggered me. There was an image of the main character’s back bone that made me instantly want to be back there, miserable but skinny. That being said the movie looked quite good, stereotypical perhaps (the main character is a teenage white girl) but also potentially educational for people who don’t understand the complexity of Eating Disorders.

A big issue that people had was with the way Netflix apparently automatically streamed the trailer without a trigger warning so unsuspecting ED sufferers didn’t know the subject matter that was coming up.

Honestly though, walking past a café, opening the fridge or seeing a very thin person will also trigger me. The trouble with eating disorders are that other humans are unavoidable, food is unavoidable, so many of my main triggers make up a huge part of the society we live in.

“Facebook friend just checked in to Jenny Craig” No big deal, right? Good on her for taking charge of her health and wellness!

Except every fucking morning when I see this status update from a FB friend I just want to slit my wrists; it triggers the hell out of me.

Because what I see when I read that status is someone holding up a mirror, emphasizing my physical flaws, accentuating my cellulite and tummy rolls, telling me I will never ever be ‘good enough’ while reminding me that I didn’t run yesterday, I claim it is because I have injured myself and need to rest – but is it really that or is it because I am a fat, lazy cow? Why can’t I be more like her? Disciplined, IN CONTROL.

Watching the TV series Orange is the New Black I found myself laughing and crying hysterically, it had unexpectedly triggered me in another way, while I have never been to prison, the institutionalization & banter between inmates reminded me strongly of my time spent on the psych ward, and it brought back strong memories; both horrendous and hilarious.

So are we being too fragile?

This is the dawning of a new era in mental health, an era of awareness and acceptance. Triggers were always there, people have always been triggered but now more people than ever before are speaking up about how common triggers affect their mental illness and in an effort to assist these people to make an informed decision about what they read or watch ‘Trigger Warnings’ are often placed at the beginning of articles or videos.

I know this is MY problem and I have a responsibility as an adult to be aware of what my potential triggers are and avoid what I can and work through my reactions to things I can’t avoid with a therapist so that I can participate in life more freely.

But I also think trigger warnings for topics known to commonly cause distress are very important, unexpected triggers can send a person spiraling back into a mental health crisis and if we are able to reduce that risk for people then it is our duty as civilized human beings to do so.

I am choosing not to watch “13 Reasons Why” due to my history of  being bullied and a suicide survivor and I am grateful that I was made aware of the trigger potential of the series so that I could make that decision. There wasn’t a whole lot of effort involved in typing the words *Trigger Warning* at the beginning of this post, so surely others can do the same.

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