Trigger Warnings Ain't Working For Me!

020 has been a complete nightmare that I can't seem to wake up from. And just to think there’s still six months left. There has been so much to take in and I’ve been completely overwhelmed. Between Covid-19 and the senseless murders of black Americans, I haven’t had a chance to process any of it. I figured the only way to process at this point is to write.

I'm exhausted. I’m sick and tired of hearing about people dying. Whether it be Covid or some other tragic death. I'm exhausted from watching murders that have been recorded. I'm exhausted of watching videos of racists spewing hate. I'm exhausted with writing hashtags with names behind them, so that we don't forget who they are. These past few weeks have been unreal. Yet, very familiar, unfortunately. I’m exhausted from hearing about the tragic and lonely deaths of people who have been sick from the virus. Oh yeah, there's still a virus out there. I’m tired of fighting battles that don't feel like there’s going to be a win. I’m exhausted from trying to get my point across to people who just don’t want to hear it. I’m exhausted from repeating this tragic cycle over and over again. It feels too late for trigger warnings.

I am scared. Every time I watch a video of a murder of a black person or the false accusations of a black person, I'm reminded about my own blackness. I'm reminded that I have a black family. I'm reminded that in reality there is no safe place for me or my family. I’m scared that I won’t grow old with my husband because he’s a black man in America. I’m scared that if I’m not with my son and daughter, I will get a call that they were murdered just for being black children. Every time I hear about how many people contracted the coronavirus, I'm scared that it will be someone that I know who may not recover. These trigger warnings aren't working.

I'm on edge. Every time I hear or see someone coughing without a mask on, it makes me nervous. Every time I see a police officer nearby, I don't feel safe, even though I've done nothing wrong. Every time I see white people in a store or on the street I am wondering if they are going to falsely call the police on me just because I'm black. I can't even see the trigger warnings any more.

I feel hopeless. I don’t see change. I don’t have hope in our leadership to make changes. People are literally screaming and hollering to be heard and yet, I don’t see any justice. I don’t see an end to any of this. The trigger warnings are feeling useless.

I feel guilty. I've been searching for a baby video or cute puppy video for the last few days to find some laughter or just a happy thought. Unfortunately, even those don’t seem to help either. I feel guilty for avoiding the news and social media. I feel guilty because I should be doing or saying something. I feel guilty for checking out. I feel guilty for not knowing what to say so I’ve not said much of anything. I probably should have paid attention to the trigger warning.

I'm angry. I'm angry because I can't find a logical explanation of why this is happening. I'm angry because no matter how many rules I follow, I'm still a target in America. I'm angry because our black lives don't matter. I'm angry because in all aspects of life, whether it's healthcare, the justice system, the economy, we will never be equal. I'm angry because people are not listening. I'm angry because that's the only way that people can see me. I'm triggered and that's the warning.

The depths of my soul have become activated because of someone else's behavior and actions. I've been taking it hard and I've become withdrawn. I feel traumatized by the inundated images, news articles, videos of our country in turmoil. And I need some healthy ways to cope and try to heal from this tragedy of a world.

I know that I'm not the only one triggered right now. The way that I respond to my triggers will be different from the way that you respond to yours. I imagine that we share common emotions and countless more. Despite how I'm feeling, I vowed that I'd use this platform to educate.

If you’re feeling like this or more, you may be experiencing secondary trauma. Secondary trauma can be experienced when an individual is exposed to people who have been traumatized themselves, disturbing descriptions of traumatic events by a survivor or others inflicting cruelty on one another. Symptoms are similar to that of PTSD. Over the past few weeks, we have no doubt witnessed some horrendous acts of violence. With the quick use of social media, we have had access to viewing these videos over and over and over again. Not only are we watching actual murders, but we are watching the fallout of what happens when the murderers are not swiftly brought to justice. We are constantly being told about how many people have died from the virus and counting. If the warning was issued, it's mere background noise now.

Here's what you need to know, no matter what is happening in the world right now, you need to absolutely take care of yourself. Here are a few tips on how to take care of yourself during these uncertain times.

  1. First, if you think by any chance that you are experiencing secondary trauma or any type of trauma for that matter, please go and seek help. There are therapists who are trained to help provide you with ways to manage your feelings and stress. Perhaps you don’t recognize that you’re experiencing symptoms from trauma, a trained professional will help you make that determination. Just know that you don’t have to go through this alone and that there is always help.

  2. Experience your emotions rather than holding them inside. Find ways to express how you feel in a safe manner. Don’t let anyone else tell you how you’re supposed to feel. Don’t let anyone else invalidate your feelings. Your feelings are valid, your feelings are normal. Telling people how they are supposed to feel is the most hurtful thing that you can do.

  3. Take a break. We are in unprecedented times and it may feel like you have to constantly be involved in what’s going on just to keep up. Sometimes though, taking a break is necessary. Log off of your social media accounts, take the news app off your phone. Remove those alerts that pop up often on your phone. You are in charge of you and you know when enough is enough. Though you may feel guilty about doing these things, please don't. Remember, you have to put your mask on before you can help others.

  4. It’s absolutely fine to laugh and smile during this time. Do something that makes you feel happy. Surround yourself with some positive energy. Recharge yourself with positivity. Our natural instinct is to find light when we are in darkness.

  5. Take one day at a time. Between being quarantined due to the virus and now the unrest in our country, it’s hard to not focus the future. But it’s ok to slow down and think about what you need in the current moment. As things rapidly change, we have to give ourselves permission to process. Taking the time to do so can help manage what we are experiencing.

  6. Take a day (or several days) for yourself. One thing that I’m learning through all of this is that it’s ok to just have a moment to myself. I’ve had a difficult time the past few weeks trying to listen to other people’s pain. I’ve smiled and have been encouraging but to be honest, I haven't really been feeling it. It's in those moments that I realized, I needed a break to get myself together. I can’t be an agent of change and healing, if I've got unattended open wounds. It’s not healthy for them or me.

  7. While taking care of your mental and emotional needs. Don't forget about your physical needs. Sleep, eat, exercise. Whatever you need to do to feel healthy; do it.

  8. The normal that we once knew is gone. Honestly, that's probably good news. The crisis in America has exposed terrible truths about the normal that we once lived. Change is necessary. Change is good and change is important. The changes that you are having to make now in order to survive, may be permanent. Make it work for you and/or your family.

Trigger warnings were created to be helpful. They were created to help those avoid fight-or-flight modes when people are exposed to words or images that might remind someone of their trauma. I can only speak for myself and say, they have not helped me at all during this time. However, if you don't take anything else from this post, please be aware of what your triggers are. If you don't know what causes the fire, you can't be clear on how to put it out. My heart goes out to everyone right now feeling triggered. My heart goes out to the families who have lost loved ones in a tragic way and are being constantly reminded of it. Take care of yourself.

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