“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.
** This post originally appeared on http://thecolourofmadness.blogspot.com.au/ **
I have been a Blogspot girl from the beginning, change scares me and I am generally computer illiterate so when I finally figure out how something works I tend to stick to it. But it seems most other people use WordPress these days and I often have trouble commenting on their posts because I can’t ‘log in’ which is frustrating to say the least. So I am going to jump ship and test this WordPress lark out for a bit and see if it really is better.
For now I will just post some of my blog posts from the old site here and see where the road leads me – head to http://www.thecolourofmadness.blogspot.com for the old stuff and I guess I will link up from there to here.
25 years ago those final written statements would have been personal or private letters to family and friends, but now we live in a world where social media rules and the final public statement to ultimately define our character could well be that we “ate brussel sprouts for dinner, yuk! ” or that we “like” a video of a cat chasing a squirrel.
What about the more meaningful stuff? The stuff that gets lost in the mundane day to day goings on. Sure the little things are important too, after all it is those that collectively form our opinions about the big things. But often we are so busy documenting every meal and every movement that we neglect to take the time to piece the tid bits together and form holistic opinions.
Carrie Fisher’s second last tweet -once you read it enough times to comprehend the meanings behind her erratic emoji use – seemed so eerie given the manner in which she was taken from us, it was as though she knew what was coming. Quoted below, scuze the format issue…
IsYRbody DKayingdeth marchiever closer?®the sands F timecruelYshudarresteda d©beach?Get©g,perspective dw/”
Time and time again through my depressions I find myself preparing ‘final’ status updates for in the event that I am suicidal that I can quickly type out if I decide to take the plunge. Stuff just cryptic enough not to give my headspace away if I survive, but elude to everything if I dont.
I suppose I just want to leave behind meaningful words, I give thanks and messages of love and hope, things that say ‘despite what I have done, I am still thankful for the good things and there have been so many of those’.
As much as I can be desperate to die at times, when it has gotten to that point I have never been bitter, I don’t truly hate anyone and I have had so many incredible people in the weird and wonderful chapters of my life, so many amazing memories. All of the challanges I have faced led me to special people, places and worlds I could never have otherwise imagined.
I have experienced joy in its most pure form, enlightenment, love and complete oneness with the universe. But as with all things the light must have it’s dark or else we could not truly appreciate the beauty of the day.
There have been no clear cut “reasons” for me to ever be suicidal, no motives that the casual observer could understand as ‘good enough’ and yet the chemistry in my brain holds reason to ransom and I am time and time again sent emotionally to the depths of darkness and depression. The plunge is cold and exhausting and I know deep down that it will ultimately kill me.
I suppose I just want my words to have meant something to someone, when I pop into the mind of an old friend after I have passed, I want them to look at the final update on my Facebook page and smile, knowing that despite my suicide I was happy and I always knew I was loved. Not just that I hated the slow service in Mc Donalds yesterday afternoon.
Time. They say it heals all wounds and they say it flies, yet wounds will continue to heal so very slowly as life flashes past with lightning speed. Another year has passed, yet another year that I thought I would never experience but I blinked and there it went. And I am still here.
I am still here to stare meaninglessly out my study window wondering what I would have missed if I had of successfully ended my life back in 2015. What would be different now, would my family still be living in our rusty old farm house overlooking a flooded dam surrounded by gum trees and squawking sulphur crested cockatoos? Or would my death have seen them move back into the city, closer to schools and support networks surrounded by busyness and distractions to keep them from wondering what could have been.
The reality of the last 18 months is nothing has really occurred, no major events at all. Nothing much has happened that I would have missed out on if I was not here. I still haven’t been able to honestly utter the words “I am glad I am alive to see that”. There have been many things that were enjoyable, fun even but nothing I feel I couldn’t have lived without.
My biggest accomplishment over that time has been writing my memoir, which will probably remain unpublished and yet gave me an inner strength I never knew I had. My story has been told, and if it is read one day that will be a bonus.
Rain is trickling down my window and I glance at the photos I have pegged to string running the length of my tiny study wall. Photos of happy times, of weddings and Christmas’s and babies and pets. Pictures depicting fun and laughter, hope and promise – moments captured in time that remind me there are good days too.
Photos are so often dishonest portraits of a life lived, posed for and propped. After all we seldom photograph the bad times, who wants to re live the sorrow or the fear? These darker times are left to fade in our memories, some experiences fading faster than others.
I become very photo happy when I am manic, evidenced by my hard drives full of images of trees, rocks and tiny mushrooms. I try to endlessly capture the intense beauty seeping from the sheer complexity of everything around me in hope I will revisit these images with the same enthusiasm when the world around me once more fades to shades of grey.
My children had their last day of school for the year today, they will return in February as grade 3, 6,8 and 9 students. They have grown so fast. I look up at my photo wall and I am drawn to an image of me aged 17 holding my newborn son, I look so young – I suppose I was. I had already experienced so much ‘growing up’ at that age that becoming a ‘teenage mother’ was just another inevitable step in my path of manic consequence.
I remember looking at him feeling this overwhelming sense of responsibility. I was responsible for the well-being of a real live all be it tiny human, it wasn’t a goldfish – there were serious consequences if I forgot to feed it or clean it or heaven forbid accidently kill it. This was real. Judgements flew around me, many from total strangers “babies having babies!” disgusted looks and shaking heads.
Depression followed naturally, but it was no stranger to me so I got through it again, time passed, highs flew, lows lingered, marriage, babies, illness, experiences filtered through the in betweens, all these compartments bonding together and creating a wholeness, a story, my story.
Like it or not our stories are made up of time, how much ‘life’ we fit into the time we have, the manic desire for more and the depressives desire for less.
But the hands of the clock will continue to move with every minute long after our time has passed, we can just hope that as those hands tick forward our stories will be told by others as memories and lessons, passed on through the generations of that fleeting moment we spent here, once upon a time
*Trigger warning: Suicide- description of feelings, attempt & method*
Have you ever gone to sleep knowing it was for the last time?
Secure in the knowledge that soon you would take your final breath and there would be no more pain? I have.
I died my perfect death that day, after an intensity and panic akin to nothing I had ever experienced before, in a state of pure peace I lay my head back on the pillow, took time to remember each of the people and pets I had held dear, the places I had been and the good things I had done, grateful for the lessons I had learned along the way. Then I smiled to myself as I felt the drugs take hold of my body and I took a deep breath and let the blackness carry me away.
People don’t talk about suicide, it scares them because they don’t understand how we as living beings can choose to simply cease to exist, they don’t understand a pain so powerful that taking that final step seems the only way to end it, the only way to find peace.
That’s how I felt.
Only I didn’t die, I woke up four days later choking on a tube in the intensive care unit of the hospital, confused, embarrassed and unsure of where I was.
A lot had happened while I was sleeping, I had been found unconscious by the nurse at the mental health unit where I had been a patient and transferred from a country hospital to the big city by helicopter. My brother and sister had flown in from interstate and my husband had to break the news to my four children after receiving the worst phone call of his life.
The pills I had smuggled in to the unit should have killed me in my sleep and it was pure chance I was found when I was.
My depressions have almost always involved varying degrees of suicidal ideation. On this occasion I went into the hospital for dysphoric mania, I went in with the intention of trying to get better but with the hidden pills as a backup plan, in case it became too much – that way my family wouldn’t have to be the ones to find my body, some things you can’t un-see.
The saddest part of my failed suicide attempt was that I was forced to bare witness to the affect my actions had on the people around me. It turns out they had genuinely loved me the whole time and now I had hurt them unimaginably. My friends, my husband, my children and then there was the look of sadness and self-blame through the tears in my mother’s eyes.
Yes it’s hard to deal with the guilt of the fallout, let alone the fact that you are still the same person you were a moment before you chose to take your life. You are still held prisoner by your own mind and now there is more pressure as the people around either don’t trust you enough to leave the room or they expect you to just feel grateful for a second chance and excited to be alive when in reality that takes time, sometimes a lot of time.
Over a year on and the depression comes and goes as it always did, the new meds only muffled the mania and made me numb. I still have days and weeks when I wish I had died that night, times when I cry myself to sleep and curse my illness for grasping me so tightly in its clutches that I forget there is a different way to feel.
Death lures you with false promise, if you are looking for peace or relief it is not the answer you are simply existing in a state of sadness and fear and then you are gone. Nothing. Finished. Sadness was all you knew.
They say where there is life there is hope and I guess that is true, each day may seem harder than the last, problems may feel unsolvable but you really do still have a chance of finding some happiness, if you choose death there is 0 chance of happiness. So I try and remember on those long nights when the depression hits and I lie awake crying, no matter how hopeless I feel, I tell myself I do have a chance – even if it’s a little one.
Suicidal ideation might be a taboo topic but it is also a very, very real one and it’s not going away. Discussion leads to understanding and the realisation that we are not alone, it gives us the ability to share our stories, and as they say a problem shared is a problem halved. If you are going through a tough time reach out to someone, it doesn’t have to be a person in ‘real life’ if you are uncomfortable with that, some of my most validating friendships have come from people on the internet who are going through similar things to me.
Take care of yourselves, you are the one person you have to live with for the rest of your life so treat yourself with kindness and respect as you would to other people, your mind and body will thank you for it!
Have you or someone you loved struggled with suicidal ideation?
If you have been triggered by this topic or are experiencing suicidal feelings, in Australia please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or international readers please see our “Help In A Crisis” page
ED Trigger Warning: Contains numbers
(From original blogspot site dated 31st August 2016)
A big portion (pardon the pun) of my day is spent thinking about, cursing, regretting, planning or eating food. I have had a poor relationship with food my whole life and an eating disorder since I was 14 years old.
I was an overweight child. Not grossly overweight by today’s standards but a heavy set, flubby tummied, wobbly thighed kind of overweight. I had started piling on the kilos when I was around 8 years old and worst of all, other kids quickly noticed.
I ate a LOT of junk food and drank a lot of soft drink. The chocolates and chips in my lunch box, ice creams and lollies from the school canteen, the Mc Donald’s treats after school on top of my mother’s delicious home cooked meals created a calorie overload.
I wasn’t an active child either, after school I would come home to my friend the television and eat one of my mums scrumptious freshly baked treats. I HATED sports at school and I was teased because I frankly wasn’t any good at them. I particularly detested running as it would quickly give me an asthma attack and my slowness was embarrassing.
One activity I did eventually get into was swimming and I was surprisingly good at it, I joined a squad team and won ribbons and medals at competitions but after Saturday morning training we would often go to Macca’s for breakfast and sadly Bacon & Egg Mc Muffins and Hot Cakes tended to negate any of the calories burned during the swim. All the other girls on the squad were slim and trim where as my thunder thighs felt exposed and my tummy rolls were visible through my swim suit.
As my body expanded my self-worth shrank, I was teased mercilessly about my size at school my best friend even stopped talking to me because she was being teased for hanging out with someone as fat as I was. I felt awful, I had no friends and I felt like I had ruined my old best friend’s life, ‘how could a worthless piece of shit like me get so fat that it was hurting my friends?” I would wonder, blaming myself for causing her such distress.
Eventually I found some friends that were new to my school but it didn’t stop the teasing and every time I looked in the mirror I would see what they saw, a fat, ugly, worthless piece of lard. Mum would take me out for coffee and cake or to Mc Donald’s to try and cheer me up and I would cry myself to sleep at night feeling fatter than ever. After a boy called me a “beached whale” at a swim meet, I stopped swimming too.
Fast forward to year 9 in high school, I had been through the ringer but had some solid friends at this point and was starting to experience mild ups and downs of what I now know was the beginnings of bipolar mood swings, when I wasn’t in a funky mood state I was pretty happy in general but I still had no self-esteem and I was still fat. I was also still getting teased on a daily basis about my size but being older and having more knowledge about why I was overweight I also knew how I could potentially lose weight.
When a hypomanic episode hit me and I found myself with incredible energy I went crazy goal setting, exercising and cutting down my meal portions, planning my life. I lost weight all right, it was falling off me but suddenly like a light switch my mood dropped into depression, I was still losing weight but I felt awful, I was still being teased, I felt like everybody hated me.
Months passed and the weight was still dropping off, terrified of gaining back any of my loss I forced myself out of the house to go for walks, I started throwing away my school lunches, putting some milk and a few cornflakes in the bottom of the bowl and putting it in the sink to make it look like I had eaten breakfast. I went to the local gym and did aerobics classes and cardio and started keeping a diary of everything that went into my mouth, I had become completely obsessed.
Over time I lost so much weight other people were worried about me, at 165cm I weighed 44kg. I would get a strange high from the feel of my hip bones jutting out and from the sense of power and control I felt over myself all the while ignoring the fact that my hair was falling out and my periods had stopped. I made my own dinners using the lowest calorie items I could find and made a rule that for every calorie I consumed I had to burn two, the thought of gaining weight was terrifying and I started to imagine that there were calories free floating in the air, scared to breathe in too deep in case I inhaled them.
I would eat anything prepared by anyone else in case they had contaminated it with calories, I trusted no one, everybody was trying to make me fat. My Mum took me to the doctor but knowing I would be weighed I drank nearly four litres of water before my appointment to make myself heavier, I felt like my bladder would burst as I feigned surprise that people were concerned about my weight and told the doctor what she wanted to hear “I guess I had better eat more if you think I should”.
Somehow I managed to avoid hospitalization as I was about two kilos over the “admission weight” for anorexia (thank you water loading). At 15 years old and in year 10 at high school, I carried on with my disordered eating and got a dog, a border collie named Bowie. I walked that poor dog to within an inch of his life. I also made a friend who was as fucked up as I was from an eating perspective and we (pardon the pun) fed off each other which was all fun and games until she ended up hospitalized.
That shook me up big time and I started to settle down a bit, don’t get me wrong I still hated myself and I was still scared of food but I was able to hide it better and function at home and at my part time job as long as my list of “rules” was adhered to.
Months passed and on a bit of a hypo manic surge I punched a girl at school who had been bullying me since primary school. God it felt good. That was to be my last day of school, I was done with all the bullshit and when they told me I would have to have mediation with this girl at 15yrs old I walked out of the building and never went back.
The pet shop where I held my part time job was looking for a full timer and after discussions between my boss and parents they decided earning money would be better for me than roaming the streets. Six months later my weight was stable on my strict regime and I left home to a place I will talk about another time, most importantly for me at the time it was where I could control all aspects of my food intake. I was free, or so I thought, but in fact I was far from it, I was trapped in a web that has entangled me to varying degrees ever since. Pregnancy, meds, holidays have all impacted my weight and relationship with my body.
My mood tends to directly tie into my food issues, the food issues are always there but the degree in which they impact me relates to my moods. For example if my mood is stable I hate my figure and am unhappy about my weight but don’t care enough to actually try and actively fix it or kill myself, when I am depressed I binge eat badly and my weight becomes “just another reason” why I should commit suicide.
When I am hypomanic I tend to take care of myself, I have more energy so I eat better and exercise more although I have to watch it doesn’t get out of control, I don’t allow myself to be weighed and I don’t allow myself to properly calorie count, my husband has also capped my exercise to 1hour daily.
As my hypomania increases my care about these rules flys out the window and I start weighing, counting and exercising in secret, not to mention the calories I burn off from not being able to sit still and jiggling constantly. If I progress to mania my eating disorder comes back in full force, probably because it is the only thing I can control. I stop eating more than a couple of hundred calories a day, I exercise compulsively and I am scared of Calories in the air making me fat again. It sounds ridiculous now, but it is terrifying at the time.
Right now I am fairly stable erring on a bit depressed mood wise, I have been binge eating daily for months and have gained around 5kg judging by the way my clothes fit. My binges tend to be on healthier foods so that saves me somewhat but they are completely compulsive, it’s as though I am watching myself go to the fridge and I just can’t stop. I don’t throw up after – not for lack of trying unfortunately. I don’t seem to be able to make myself vomit no matter how hard I try and believe me I have given it my best. Really I should be thankful, bulimia is not something I need right now.
So that’s the rather long history of my eating disorder, at 31years old I cant believe that I still struggle with it and it saddens me to think I probably always will. I could probably write about it for days if I got into all the emotions that go along with it. Feel free to ask questions though, I am happy to answer.
Do you struggle with food or weight issues?
My poor relationship with the mirror has been going on since I can remember. You could say we have had ups and downs over the years we have seen bullying, eating disorders and every end of the clothing size spectrum, we have shed many, many tears together and had very few laughs, I suppose when you really get to the crux of it – we have hated each other the whole time – and still do.
It loves to point out my flaws and I love to let it, the more unstable I am emotionally the more faults it reveals until I find myself confronted with an ugly dysmorphic reflection of my outsides and the unfortunate far more true reflection of my insides.
I could probably count on one hand the number of times I have looked in the mirror and thought “Okay, I look pretty good right now” no, it’s normally a sailor-mouthed, hate filled, barrage of negative self-talk regarding my fatness, stretch marks, ugliness, skin tone, wrinkles, weird shaped toes, depressing sagginess in that place where my breasts used to be before extreme weight-gain/loss and four children sucked the life out of them…. ughh… so many imperfections, so little time…
My eating disorder is manifesting itself through severe binge eating at the moment which is terrifying for me and the vindictive mirror is having a field day with my insecurities, so while I would like to say that I am currently working on my relationship with my reflection, the truth is I am giving it the silent treatment by simply avoiding eye contact with anything shiny in fear that it will suddenly reveal that terrible secret I was keeping from myself about eating a Litre of chocolate ice cream and a family sized hot chips while nobody was home today.
I don’t believe we can ever truly like each other but I hope one day I will be able to come to an arrangement with the mirror, where we can be in the same room without anxiety and fear and I know that for this to happen I must first work on my eating disorder, I have to learn to let go of the control aspects which scares the living daylights out of me because I don’t want to get fat. again. I don’t want to be ok with being fat either, which sounds ridiculous because if I was ok with it then I would be okay with it and by definition it wouldn’t matter.
I guess that I’m just frightened of myself as we are all frightened of things we don’t yet understand. Too many variables, too much change, no it feels much easier to stay in the abusive relationship I already have with myself than try stepping into the unknown world of potential care free happiness.
How do you get along with your reflection?
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