How Triggers Affect My Life

Triggers suck. I’m trying to accept them as an inconvenient but normal part of my life like people who tailgate me and roommates who are incapable of cleaning up after themselves. But you know what? It’s hard. They affect so many facets of my life and I can’t escape from them. It’s very rare for me to go through an entire day without getting triggered once. Here is a partial list of the ways that triggers affect my life.

Sometimes I heed by trigger warnings.
I tend to overestimate myself, so I ignore trigger warnings most of the time (however, they do help me to mentally prepare myself). Sometimes, though, it’s best for me to just bookmark the article and read it later when my mental health is better. Particularly triggering articles can throw me off for the rest of the day, so trigger warnings are serious business. Still think they’re unnecessary? Click here.

Sometimes side hugs can trigger me
Getting touched on the side of the ribs causes my most severe triggers. Since I’m short, people’s hands will sometimes end up there during side hugs. One friend of mine in particular ends up touching the side of my ribs more often than not when we hug. I’ve told him not to do that, but it didn’t stop. Plus, I’ve gotten triggered by him a few times and he never acknowledges it. He literally just walked away once and didn’t even ask if I was okay. Needless to say, I don’t hug this guy anymore.

They affect my performance in school.
I’ve gotten triggered in class many times (not by the class material, but more by thinking about triggers or sexual assault). Getting triggered makes me feel very anxious and detached from my environment, so it becomes hard to focus on what’s being said in class. In addition, it can lead to difficulty focusing even when I’m not feeling triggered. An example of that is last fall. I was not in a good place mental health-wise because I was getting triggered dozens of times every day. It left me mentally exhausted and constantly anxious, which affected my grades. I actually had to drop a class because of it.

I take my mental health into account before drinking.
Alcohol makes me react more strongly to triggers. Plus, having my thoughts slowed down makes it more difficult to regain control and calm down. Therefore, I never drink if my mental health is anything less than decent. I have a whole article about this topic here.

I need to mentally prepare myself before swing dancing.
Swing dancing is a big passion of mine, but every time I go dancing I run a high risk of getting triggered. It usually happens a few times each evening when people touch the side of my ribs. The good news is that these triggers usually only results in a moment of discomfort. Then, I’m back to dancing my heart out. I’ve even used this as a form of exposure therapy. More on that here.

Arguments/raised voices freak me out.
One of my triggers is related to the domestic abuse I grew up witnessing. So when some people raise their voice and sound like my dad at all, I feel really small and helpless — like a child again. The good news is that I rarely get triggered this way. And my boyfriend of almost three years has never once raised his voice at me 🙂 I think I’ll keep him.

Massages aren’t always as relaxing as they should be.
I’ve gotten massages a few times, and I have to ask the masseuse not to touch the side of my ribs. This literally happened a few days ago (my school was hosting an event where we could get free massages) and when I told the masseuse not to touch the side of my ribs she touched them and said “You mean here?” My body reacted to that trigger more than my mind, which is lucky. But seriously, lady. Have some respect.

I’m scared for my breast exam at annual checkups.
I’m in my 20’s and still haven’t had a PAP test, breast exam and all that stuff. I’m starting to realize that part of the reason I’m procrastinating is because I’m really scared for the breast exam. I’m sure the doctor will be super nice and know how to help people who have survived sexual assault, but I’m still really scared that it’s going to trigger me a lot.
Update: I have now had a PAP test. Here’s now it went.

I worry about them all the time… which affects my mental health
I regularly keep myself up at night by worrying about what would happen if I got triggered in a less than ideal situation. What if I got triggered in public? What if I get triggered in front of my dad who doesn’t know? What if I get triggered in school? P and I are going to be going to the same building next year for school and what if seeing him triggers me? What if I then have to tell him why his face makes me cry? (Although I’ve gotta admit, when I say “his face makes me cry” it makes the situation sound really comical).
But I digress. Thinking about these hypothetical situations as I fall asleep negatively affects me in a few ways: I lose sleep (duh), I sometimes get triggered by thinking about triggers, and the next day my mental health is always taken down a notch and I am more susceptible to triggers and intrusive thoughts. Triggers are a lot of fun.

Thank you for reading this article. You can find my full backstory here.

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