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What Is a Trigger?

Am I just oversensitive?

"TRIGGERED!!!" A statement frequently seen - misused - on the internet. This usually can be found in the comment section in relation to some celebrity gossip or TV drama, or to poke fun at people who are easily triggered. The origin of this word, however, seems to have lost meaning. The people misappropriating appear to also misunderstand the true reality of the concept and how it works.

A trigger is something you have seen/heard/felt/tasted/smelt takes you back to a certain - usually - traumatic moment in your life. For people who suffer from mental illness, it can be something that happens daily. I once had a panic attack when visiting an old sports gymnasium our school used to frequent for Physical Education, why? The squeaky shoes on the floor and the echoing in the hall flashed me back to when I was nine being screamed at because I just couldn't do (any) sports right.

My friends gathered around me as I sat outside crying and hyperventilating on the step outside the hall. I told them why I was like this, they were supportive but it was clear they couldn't quite tell why I was in such a state over something that seemed barely traumatic at all. The issue is, in that moment it wasn't the screaming that came back to me, it was the feeling of total uselessness, the fear that I was disappointing everyone around me, the fear of failure and not to mention the sheer embarrassment of not being good enough. These are feelings I face daily, I can cope with them because I now know how, but they bombarded me in full force as soon as I heard that sound. It couldn't be helped. This is a trigger. To an outsider an overreaction but to the person a devastating reminder of past feelings.

I can poke fun at myself, trust me I love doing it, but I've been called weak enough. I've been called oversensitive, enough. This year I have been called, by one of my friends, a snowflake - apparently, this is a common term and ironically I was offended when she said it - this did not help my case. I got the same feeling that occurs when someone says: "Chill out." "Calm down." or "Why are you getting stressed?" It feels not only condescending but it makes me feel like I am overreacting; which I probably am. But as I have said in previous posts, I have anxiety - this is a huge symptom, only we don't call it overreacting, we call it the irrational brain acting up, rising up over the rational brain and making everything seem chaotic, you are on edge, therefore your brain becomes defensive.

We have to remember that our feelings are valid and we all have our reasons for reacting the way we do in certain situations, nobody has had the same life. No-one can literally wear your shoes and be transported into your mind set. It is hard to convey this at the time when someone seems to be trivializing such a huge part of you but we have to try. If through informing someone of their ignorance you can help them relate to you, they may actually understand you a bit more. And who doesn't want to be understood? In the current political climate I think it's wise we make an effort to understand each other. 

-M

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