I Made a Thing

Content/trigger warning: suicidal ideation mention

This is what my life is like.
All the Mental Illnesses

Image description: a Venn diagram of five mental illnesses: BPD, CPTSD, OSDD, depression, and anxiety. The mental illnesses’ circles contain the following:

BPD: Unstable sense of self
CPTSD: Flashbacks
OSDD: One step away from having alters
Depression: Suicidality
Anxiety: Everything is scary

The overlaps are as follows:

BPD and CPTSD: “My identity is trauma”
CPTSD and OSDD: “Trauma-related dissociation”
OSDD and depression: “What even is reality”
Depression and anxiety: “Trash executive function”
Anxiety and BPD: “Trust no one”
Anxiety, BPD, and CPTSD: “Hypervigilance on crack”
BPD, CPTSD, and OSDD: “What even is an identity”
CPTSD, OSDD, and depression: “What’s the point of living if I’m just a reaction to trauma?”
OSDD, depression, and anxiety: “I can’t do anything and am no one”
Depression, anxiety, and BPD: “Codependence despite unstable relationships”
Any overlap between four mental illnesses: “AAAAH”
Overlap of all five mental illnesses: “Fuck”

No quote today because this isn’t a real entry. I will take this opportunity, though, to say that I still really need help. If you value the labor I put into this blog, please consider donating. My PayPal button is in this entry: https://thisisforyoucarrie.wordpress.com/2017/08/21/too-out-of-spoons-for-titles/.  Also, you can support me by ordering from my Redbubble store: https://www.redbubble.com/people/autisticbanshee?ref=artist_title_name.

Too out of spoons for titles

Content/trigger warning: abuse mention, disordered eating, money, death mention, reclaimed slur, cursing

I’m tired. I’m so fucking tired.

For personal reasons I can’t go into right now, my CPTSD has been having a motherfucking field day. So much hypervigilance, so many nightmares, and even flashbacks, which my antipsychotic has failed to keep at bay. (Fortunately I’m going to see my prescriber in a few weeks and I’m going to ask him for a higher dose.) I have been feeling unsafe for about a week and my dissociative disorder was protecting me by presenting only particular facets of my identity. Now I’m coming back to myself and I really should be job-hunting and doing other productive things, but I need to take some time to re-integrate my personality. I’m still feeling kind of fractured. I have also slid down the slippery slope from purging after eating normal amounts to eating…I’m guessing something like 700 calories a day.

I also feel pathetic enough to ask for help.

I’m unemployed and living in an abusive situation. I’m trying to get a job that will pay for me to move out, but my mental health is really suffering, and it’s interfering with my job search. (Thank fuck for anxiolytics, which will probably get through me with an interview I have this week.) These entries often take a lot of emotional labor. If my work has helped you, or you are able and willing to help a Disabled writer a little, I’m adding a PayPal donate button to this blog. Well, actually, to this entry.

Also, here are some topics I’m planning on covering soon:

-changing language regarding disability (person-first language vs. identity-first language, why we–including me–should use the suffix “-misia” instead of “-phobia”)
-how to be a good ally to mentally ill people
-ableism in academia
-models of disability
-the ableism inherent in the idea of “the opioid epidemic” and how it’s really a war on chronic pain sufferers
-ableism and eugenics
-ableism in comedy

That’s it for now. No quote today because I don’t want to end up bawling because I had to look up something related to Carrie Fisher and be reminded that she’s gone. Yeah, I know, it’s fucked up to be so upset about the death of someone I never even met, but if you’re reading this, you should know I’m fucking crazy.

“Scary” Mental Illnesses

Trigger warning: sexual abuse mention, emotional abuse mention, reclaimed slur

On several occasions, especially when trying to hammer home the point that no mental illness makes a person evil, I have referred to “scary” mental illnesses. I feel like I should spell out what I mean by that. On one level, a “scary” mental illness is any mental illness besides anxiety, depression, or an eating disorder. On another level, a “scary” mental illness is a mental illness that includes at least one of the following:

  • Unreality or psychosis
  • Mania, hypomania, or mixed affective states
  • Low or no empathy (cognitive or affective*)
  • Dissociation
  • Unstable sense of self
  • Impulse control problems
  • Rigid and “extreme” thought patterns
  • A pattern of deviation from cultural/social norms
  • Self-talk
  • “Abnormal” (too close or too distant) attachment to others
  • Unusual body movements
  • (Supposed) tendency toward violence
  • Hypersexuality

I’m not entirely okay with further discussing mental illness and tendency toward violence, because I truly believe that saneism is so pervasive that it may affect even scientific studies on violent behavior in mentally ill people. (This is coming from someone with a master’s in biomedical sciences who just got her name on her first abstract.) So I won’t be talking about number twelve, partly because I already addressed it as much as I’m comfortable with in my entry on mass shootings and neurotypicalism. But as far as the others, I think you can see where I’m coming from, although I may have forgotten a few “scary” traits/symptoms. I would also like to point out that this list doesn’t only apply to mental illnesses; autism is often considered a “scary” disability due to our rigid thought patterns, deviation from social norms, low empathy (although many of us, myself included, have hyperempathy for affective empathy—which is what neurotypicals usually mean when they say “empathy”—some of us do have low affective empathy and that’s okay), stims, tendency to self-talk, and (completely bullshit) supposed tendency toward violence. If that list wasn’t helpful, here’s another list, this one of “scary” mental illnesses:

  • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
  • Any personality disorder, especially cluster B (narcissistic, histrionic, borderline, antisocial)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Dissociative disorders, especially DID (this is where I flip off M. Night Shyamalan)
  • PTSD

Yeah, I put PTSD on there. As a CPTSD sufferer, I have noticed that many neurotypicals don’t seem to understand PTSD triggers and think we may just flip out at any second. And CPTSD shares many “scary” characteristics with borderline, especially the unstable sense of self and odd attachment patterns. I would know; I’m also borderline. Sometimes I have trouble identifying whether the shit my brain is pulling at any particular time is a borderline thing or a CPTSD thing.

You might be asking, “Mara, what’s the point of this?” The point–aside from the idea that mentally ill people are not inherently cruel or abusive, which I’ve mentioned before–is that “scary” ND conditions are treated differently from non-“scary” ND conditions. (I say “ND conditions” here because I am also referring to neurodevelopmental disabilities that aren’t mental illnesses. Remember what I said about autism?) This does not mean that people with “scary” disorders have it worse than ND people without “scary” disorders. But what it does mean is that many so-called allies are willing to support only mentally ill people who don’t have “scary” disorders. I have seen NTs reassuring their friends with depression, anxiety, or an eating disorder that they aren’t like those other mentally ill people. I especially see this when the NTs have just said something crappy about mental illness and the person with depression or anxiety says “you realize I’m mentally ill, right?”. I’ve also seen neurotypicals on Twitter or Tumblr rhapsodize about how mental health is just as important as physical health and then turn around and post in #diagnoseTrump. I see this shit often, okay? And it’s frustrating. Neurotypical allies have to know that they should support all of us neurodivergent people, not just those of us who wouldn’t be villains in terrible horror movies. (I’m still mad about Split. I will probably always be mad about Split.) Either you’re with all of us or you’re with none of us.

It isn’t just terrible horror movies. I watch a lot of Law and Order: SVU. I can identify the season by Olivia Benson’s hairstyle. And it seems like every damn female perpetrator of abuse or violence is borderline. Dr. Huang, SVU’s resident psychiatrist for much of the show’s runtime, even said in one episode (I think it was season nine, episode three, “Impulsive”) that many female teachers who get caught sexually abusing their students are borderline. In the season eighteen episode “Motherly Love”, a woman who was raping two fifteen-year-old boys was described in horrified tones as “having no true sense of self” and “no empathy”. These traits were said to be a result of her borderline and narcissistic personality disorders. (I have no sense of self and garbage cognitive empathy. It doesn’t make me a sexual abuser. Also, the SVU writers seem to hate NPD as much as they hate BPD, and even as a person who doesn’t have NPD, that’s a towering pile of Not Okay.) The woman’s abuse of minors was then said to be a result of her mental illnesses, which led her to have a need to control, manipulate, and hurt vulnerable people. The season five episode “Home” used to be one of my all-time favorites before I accepted my borderline diagnosis; Dr. Huang blames a woman’s emotional abuse of her sons on her BPD.

Unfortunately, much to my chagrin, it isn’t just neurotypical screenwriters who pull this crap. People with non-“scary” ND conditions often exhibit lateral neurotypicalism toward “scary” ND conditions. I once watched in horror as a Facebook acquaintance who is Autistic and has anxiety ranted against “p*****pathic liars” and exhorted her friends to “run from anyone with that personality”. I had to unfollow a friend on Twitter who has suffered from major depression but won’t stop retweeting articles about Trump having NPD or being [saneist word of choice]. And don’t get me started on who I’ve seen posting “autistic screeching” memes. It’s not like I don’t understand the impulse to distance oneself from what society deems dangerous. I’m sure many ND people with non-“scary” illnesses or disabilities take comfort in the fact that they’re not like those other ND people. But this is still a form of bigotry. It is important to confront such biases. Being neurodivergent in one way does not preclude one from being neurotypicalist toward certain other neurodivergent people. I mean, look at me; I used to believe I suffered from “n*rc*ss*st*c abuse syndrome” before I realized that that “syndrome” was really a way to conflate NPD with being an abuser. Fortunately, I was open enough to the idea of supporting all of my ND siblings that I was able to realize I was being laterally neurotypicalist.

So, long story short: If you’re neurotypical, ally yourself with all ND people, not just the seemingly non-threatening of us. And if you’re neurodivergent, you should know better than to not support all your fellow ND folks. No matter who you are, check your assumptions and preconceived notions about people with “scary” neurodivergent conditions, because they’re probably wrong and discriminatory. And for the love of chocolate, stop saying “p*****path” and “s****path”. Cluster B gets enough shit.

Carrie Fisher quote of the day: “I’ve always been quite sane about being insane.” (See, that’s how you use a neurotypicalist slur. Way to reclaim, Carrie.)

 

 

*Affective empathy is the ability to feel what someone else is feeling. Cognitive empathy is the ability to think what someone else is thinking.

30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge

I should really do an entry on how mental illness “awareness” is usually useless inspiration porn. But I’m in the middle of a career change, which is keeping me pretty busy, so have the 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge created by Marci of “Marci, Mental Health, and More”.

Day 1: What is/are your mental illness(es)? Explain it a little.

-MDD (major depressive disorder), characterized by low self-esteem (and self-hatred in my case), suicidal ideation, self-harm, sleep disturbances, false beliefs (e.g., my existence is a cosmic mistake), and low energy

-GAD (generalized anxiety disorder): constant excessive and irrational worrying about everything

-CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder): unstable sense of self/lack of sense of self/the personality is subsumed by reactions to trauma and the need to avoid further trauma, nightmares, flashbacks (may or may not involve full-blown reliving trauma; may just be flashbacks to feeling unsafe), dissociation, hypervigilance, tendency to view people and situations in black and white, tendency to idolize and cling to people I feel are “safe”/intense fear of abandonment by said people, rage in response to feeling unsafe/controlled, and chronic feelings of emptiness

-OsDD (otherwise specified dissociative disorder): trauma-related dissociation (best described as “my soul fucked off”) in response to stress

-BPD (borderline personality disorder): unstable sense of self, unstable interpersonal relationships, self-harm, self-hatred, splitting (black and white thinking)

…it’s a miracle I can do anything ever.

 

Day 2: How do you feel about your diagnosis?

What a weird question. Mostly I’m glad I’m properly diagnosed, so I’m aware of the shit my brain likes to pull and can as such address it properly.

 

Day 3: What treatment or coping skills are most effective for you?

EMDR. EMDR is my shit. It has done more for my flashbacks than any other form of treatment. This includes techniques I learned in EMDR such as grounding and going to my safe place. Also, cognitive behavioral therapy has been very helpful for my depression.

 

Day 4: What are the pros and cons of having a mental illness(es) or your specific illness(es)?

Being mentally ill turns you into a badass. You have to fight with your brain, sometimes daily, in order to get through the day. If you can do that and survive, you pretty much have to be a badass.

On the other hand, I have to fight with my brain over things that neurotypicals find easy, which leaves me exhausted at best, and at worst, there are things I’m unable to do or only able to do while suffering. Which does suck.

Oh, and saneism. That’s a real bitch and a half. Especially in the field where I work.

 

Day 5: Do you believe nature (biology/physiology), nurture (environment), a mix, or something else has an impact on mental health?

Wait, really? This is a question? Mental illness can come from nature, nurture, or a combination of both. That’s just a fact.

 

Day 6: Do you have a family history of mental illness or mental health issues?

Yes. I’m fairly sure I inherited a serotonin imbalance.

 

Day 7: Do you think there are any triggers or patterns to how your illness(es) effects you?

Yes. My depression and anxiety rear their ugly heads when I’m already under a lot of stress, especially when I’m having interpersonal struggles or I’m feeling a lot of impostor syndrome. My CPTSD symptoms show up when I am reminded of the person who caused it. That means I have some pretty weird triggers, unfortunately.

 

Day 8: What age you were diagnosed at? At what age do you think your symptoms began? (You can make a timeline)

TW: suicide, self-injury

I learned what suicide was when I was ten, and I found the idea of it comforting. I’ve never been afraid of death. I think that was when I first told my parents that I felt like I wasn’t in control of my life and that I wasn’t happy. I started self-harming about a year later. So I think my serotonin imbalance started kicking my ass right around puberty.

I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder at 19 when I ended up in the psych ward due to suicidal ideation. My next diagnosis was borderline, at 22. After that, I was diagnosed as Autistic and with GAD and CPTSD at 23, then I was diagnosed with OsDD at 26.

 

Day 9: What are some of the important events in your life, that may have effected your mental illness(es) for the worse or better? (You can make a timeline)

There are too many events that affected my brain for the worse. Complex PTSD comes from repeated trauma.

I spent four days in the psychiatric unit of a hospital once. That got me on medication and helped affirm that my problems were real and I wasn’t just “throwing pity parties” or being overdramatic.

 

Day 10: What is the best thing in regards to your mental illness(es)?

I’ve learned a lot about myself and how my brain works. And I have really made some great breakthroughs with my mental health that made me…realize how strong I can actually be. See my earlier note about how being mentally ill makes you a badass.

 

Day 11: What is the worst thing in regard to your mental illness(es)?

TW: suicidal ideation

The near-constant need to tell myself I deserve to live kinda sucks. And ugh so do the flashbacks. It’s a tough call.

 

Day 12: What do you think about your diagnosis in general? (Some ideas are: stereotypes, commonalities, misdiagnosis, over diagnosis)

Content/TW: self-injury discussion

Ohhhhhh boy. Let’s go over the diagnoses one by one, in chronological order of diagnosis:

-MDD (major depressive disorder): Oh man I’m such a stereotype here. I’m a white woman with a socioeconomically privileged upbringing who self-harmed in high school. While we’re talking about stereotypes, I’d like to debunk some. I like debunking stereotypes. Self-injury does not just take the form of white women cutting their wrists. It can be depriving yourself of something you enjoy, triggering yourself, restricting food intake or purging, exercising past what you know you can handle, or any other number of things. People of genders other than “female” can self-harm.

-CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder): More stereotype debunking! You don’t have to be a veteran to have PTSD! Also, there’s a difference between CPTSD and PTSD. Many differences, actually, but the main one is that CPTSD is caused by repeated, similar traumas and PTSD is (usually) caused by one event. CPTSD flashbacks can also be different; they can involve reliving only the feeling of being in danger or out of control, instead of the full-blast reliving-the-memory-in-its-entirety flashbacks you see in movies. I’ve had flashbacks I didn’t know were flashbacks until later.

-BPD (borderline personality disorder): Borderline people are not any more manipulative, selfish, or abusive than neurotypicals. Personality disorders do not inherently make people abusive. I REPEAT, PERSONALITY DISORDERS DO NOT INHERENTLY MAKE PEOPLE ABUSIVE. If you disagree with this, stay a good distance away from my fists, or they may collide with your face.

-GAD (generalized anxiety disorder): Yes, anxiety is an actual mental illness that can be very debilitating. No, it isn’t just being nervous about stuff. No, it can’t be overcome with kale and yoga. If someone with anxiety says they can’t do something because of they’re anxiety, they’re not overreacting or being too sensitive, and if you push them to do it anyway, you’re being a cockwaffle.

-OsDD (otherwise specified dissociative disorder): This is more of a side effect of CPTSD than its own thing, hence the label “otherwise specified”. Um…hmm…oh, here’s a misconception I can debunk. Not all dissociative disorders are dissociative identity disorder. I dissociate when I feel threatened, but I don’t have alters.

“Mara, you forgot autism!” you might say. No, I didn’t. That’s not a mental illness, it’s a neurodevelopmental disability. And good thing too, because if you got me going about autism and stereotypes, I’d type out a post longer than my grad thesis.

 

Day 13: If you know the criteria of your illness(es) which ones do you think you meet? Or what are your most common symptoms?

Well, this is gonna take a while.

Major depressive disorder:
-depressed mood: yes
-loss of interest in usually fun things: not really
-suicidal ideation: yes, often; probably my most common symptom
-self-harm: yes, from age 13-19
-sleep disturbances: kind of

Generalized anxiety disorder:
-fatigue: eh, kind of
-nausea: yes
-stomach upset: yes
-body aches: sometimes
-insomnia: no
-inability to control anxiety: I’m gonna say yes

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder:
-“classic” flashbacks: yes
-emotional flashbacks: yes
-nightmares: yes
-hypervigilance: yes
-lack of sense of self: yes

Otherwise specified dissociative disorder:
-alters: no
-dissociative trance: I’m in one now
-identity disturbance: yes
-depersonalization/derealization: sometimes, usually depersonalization more than derealization

Borderline personality disorder:
-impulsive behaviors: thoughts, yes; behaviors, no
-substance abuse: no
-unstable sense of self: yes
-unstable interpersonal relationships: kind of?
-splitting: ohhhhhh yeah; probably my most common symptom after suicidal ideation
-“favorite person” attachments: yep
-self-sabotage: sometimes
-self-harm: we’ve been over this
-being constantly convinced that everyone I love hates me: and here we have another super common symptom

 

Day 14: Have you ever experienced stigma?

“Stigma” is a manifestation of saneism and, more broadly, ableism. I feel like that’s important to mention when talking about stigma against mental illness.

And yeah. Yeah, I’ve experienced it. Every time I hear some fucker calling immoral behavior “cr*zy”, it feels like I’ve been fucking stabbed. Need I say more? Actually, I could, but I won’t. It’s been bad and I don’t feel like talking about it right now. Maybe in a later entry.

 

Day 15: How has your life been effected by your illness(es)? (Some ideas are: relationships, career, school)

TW: mention of suicide

My illnesses damn near ended my life. Or at least, they made me come pretty close to ending it. They also seriously affected my attendance in college and grad school, and they’re kicking my ass so hard now that I’m seriously considering (read: desperately aching to do so) leaving my chosen career for something less flagrantly inaccessible.

 

Day 16: How many people are you “out” to with your mental illness(es)? Why?

I’m out to basically everyone because I’m naturally open about mental illness. And it’s kind of hard to combat saneism while hiding that one isn’t sane.

 

Day 17: If you could get rid of your mental illness(es) would you? Why or why not?

I wouldn’t get rid of the BPD because it’s an inherent part of who I am. I wouldn’t want to change who I am. The others can fuck right off, especially the ridiculously inconvenient CPTSD.

Although that brings up an interesting quandary, come to think of it. I wouldn’t be who I am without the trauma I experienced, and CPTSD means a huge part of who I am is a reaction to trauma. But I’ve accepted that. I amend my statement: in terms of the CPTSD, my personality can stay the way it is, but the flashbacks, hypervigilance, and nightmares can fuck right off. So can the anxiety, depression, and dissociative disorder.

 

Day 18: What do you wish people would understand in regards to mental illness and/or mental health?

I could write an essay longer than my grad thesis on this topic. I’ll just make a list of my top 10:

  • When a mentally ill person says their illness is keeping them from doing something, they are being truthful. They are not being “lazy” because their disability is not immediately visible. (Not that physically Disabled people don’t get called lazy too, but you get my meaning)
  • Yoga/kale/acupuncture/exercise/acai berries/nature walks will not cure a mental illness. Full stop.
  • Medication isn’t right for every MI person.
  • Therapy isn’t right for every MI person.
  • It should be more acceptable for MI people to not seek treatment. The medical-industrial complex is ableist and violent. That I choose to make use of it doesn’t mean all MI people should. Also, there are a lot of shitty therapists out there. Trust me. I’ve had plenty, and heard horror stories. Try finding a good therapist while being queer outside a liberal metropolitan area. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
  • Mental illnesses often have measurable and statistically significant effects on the brain. On one hand, this demonstrates that mental illnesses are valid…and on the other hand, rights and respect should be granted to MI people regardless of what an fMRI shows.
  • Personality disorders don’t make a person abusive. Don’t “what about ASPD” me. No diagnosis means a person will become abusive.
  • No mental illness makes a person violent.
  • Functioning labels are used to deny agency to “low-functioning” people and legitimacy to “high-functioning” people. I see this all the time with autism and now I’m seeing it with mental illnesses, especially anxiety. Can we not?
  • Instead of flat discouraging unhealthy coping mechanisms, healthier alternatives should be offered. That’s more helpful.

 

Day 19: Have you ever read a self-help book or a book related to psychology? What is your opinion on them? If you have read them do you have a favorite?

Self-help books. Ohhhhhh boy, that’s a lot to unpack.

If it’s written about a particular disorder and it’s not by someone with that disorder, I don’t trust it. If it’s about a personality disorder or other “scary” disorder and it’s not by someone with that disorder, I REALLY don’t trust it. The only exception to this is The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, which was recommended to me by one of my few therapists who wasn’t shit.

Why am I like this? Because mentally ill people are the real experts on our conditions. I’m not saying neurotypical psych professionals can’t have helpful insights and ideas, but damn have they given me no reason to trust them as a group.

 

Day 20: Where do you get your support?

My friends! And the awesome woman I’m dating. I have an excellent support system. Unfortunately, no family members are in it, but I deal.

 

Day 21: Many people say stress triggers symptoms, do you agree or disagree?

…seriously? Of course stress triggers symptoms. What the hell kind of question is this?

 

Day 22: What is your opinion on medication used to treat mental illness(es)?

I think it’s an excellent tool that helps many people and saves lives, but that it isn’t necessarily right for every mentally ill person.

 

Day 23: What is your opinion on therapy?

I recognize that the medical-industrial complex is ableist and violent, and sadly, that can bleed into therapy, especially when it comes to involuntary commitment *shudder*. Also, there are a lot of shitty therapists out there; neurotypicals who went into psychology because they find mental illness ~fascinating tend to make terrifyingly bad therapists. It can also be terrifically hard to find an intersectional therapist; I could tell horror stories about therapists who were shitty about my sexual orientation. And heaven knows that more MI therapists need to exist, because the real experts on mental illness are MI people. Still, I think that therapy is a good idea in general and that many MI people can benefit from the right form of therapy. Often one can go through multiple therapists or types of therapy before finding the right one, and I feel like many people don’t understand that. Some people think the therapist/patient dynamic is always toxic and abusive, and I wonder what life is like on their planet.

 

Day 24: What is your opinion on alternative treatments or treatments that aren’t commonly used? (Some examples are: EMDR, hypnotherapy, herbal or vitamin supplements, acupuncture, massage therapy, art, music, or recreational therapy, ECT, VNS, TMS, DBS)

Okay, this list puzzles me. There’s total pseudoscience in there with techniques that have a legitimate scientific basis. Being a scientist, I think that people are welcome to seek “alternative” treatments if they really like the placebo effect that much, and as for less common but scientifically backed techniques (like EMDR, which has done wonders for my CPTSD), well…they’re right for some people and wrong for many.

 

Day 25: What is your opinion on forced/coercion in mental health treatment? Can be legal (law enforcement or psychiatric holds) or a “helping” friend/family member.

It should be considered a civil rights violation.

 

Day 26: How is your day-to-day life effected by your mental illness(es)?

Well, right now I hate my job so much I’m fighting off suicidal thoughts every day, so that’s annoying. Usually the only mental illness of mine that has a profound effect on me is the CPTSD, and only when it’s triggered (usually by someone yelling at me or getting me in trouble).

 

Day 27: Explain a “good” day.

Um…I don’t have any symptoms, I guess? I don’t think I understand this prompt.

 

Day 28: Explain a “bad” day.

There are plenty of ways I could have a bad brain day. The most common one would be that my CPTSD is having such a field day that I can’t go to work because I will definitely be triggered or because I’m dissociated and having trouble grounding myself.

 

Day 29: What are a few of your goals regarding your mental health?

TW: suicide mention

The main one is to die by something other than suicide. I don’t have any other particularly concrete goals with mental health.

 

Day 30: What does recovery mean to you?

I don’t think being fully cured is ever possible, so not that. Recovery for me would mean no more flashbacks or dissociation, or at least being able to deal with them promptly if they happen. I also don’t think I’ll ever be free of suicidal thoughts, but I am in a good place regarding how I deal with them.

 

Carrie Fisher quote of the day: “I really love the Internet. They say chat rooms are the trailer park of the Internet, but I find it amazing.” I know, not mental illness related, but this is a blog on the Internet.

 

Why “Triggered” Jokes Suck

Content/trigger warning: description of dissociation, discussion of emotional abuse

Today, I want to talk about triggers and the mocking thereof.

I want to talk about triggers because I can’t do any work. I’m sitting in front of my work computer, quaking with a mixture of rage and terror, pressing myself hard into the seat for grounding purposes (“grounding” is a technique used to prevent dissociation). My spine is starting to do that annoying thing where it feels like it turns to ice and then my soul shoots out the top of it, leaving behind an empty shell. The music blasting through my earbuds—somewhat ironically, I’m listening to a song called “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” as I type an entry about being prepared for being metaphorically hit—helps remind me that the material world is real.

Why am I like this? I was triggered. While a trigger can be literally anything—for example, a domestic abuse survivor might be triggered by the scent of the perfume her abuser used to wear—my trigger was being reminded of something my abuser used to do. In this case, I was told my feelings were wrong, and I was shamed for having those feelings; my abuser was quite fond of doing this to me. Fortunately, the antipsychotic I take (mostly) kept me from having a stereotypical flashback in which my brain forces me to relive the trauma. But I’m having one hell of a physical post-traumatic reaction. My CPTSD symptoms can be more severe, such as dissociating for days or having such a bad flashback it kicks off an Autistic meltdown. (Comorbidity is fun.) My symptoms aren’t always this severe; sometimes I’m just left shaking or hypervigilant. But my symptoms always, always, always suck. Even if they’re mild, they suck, and it isn’t fair that I should have to put up with them because of someone else’s douchebaggery or insensitivity.

Is it apparent yet how important it is to help keep neurodivergent people from being triggered? (Note: I say “neurodivergent” instead of “mentally ill” because mental illnesses are not the only ND conditions that can have triggers. I don’t want to imply that mentally ill people, especially trauma survivors, have some kind of embargo on the word “trigger”, because other people with PTSD have claimed that and it is just. Such crap.)

Just a note, I am not suggesting that people with psych/neuro conditions that can be triggered should not work to recover so those triggers no longer affect them or affect them less. EMDR, one of the leading treatments for PTSD, has that exact goal, and EMDR is my jam. I’m just saying that during that recovery progress, triggers should be avoided as much as possible. Desensitization doesn’t work when it’s sudden and inconsiderate. Also, some triggers are never going to go away. Many people with epilepsy have their seizures triggered by, say, strobe lights, and that’s never going to change.

Speaking of inconsiderate, let’s talk about the backlash against trigger warnings and why it makes no sense. Trigger warnings are similar to movie ratings: a method of cautioning someone about the material they are about to view. (Sometimes I want to ask people who make triggered jokes or are against trigger warnings if they hate the MPAA as much as they hate neurodivergent people.) In some cases, people who are warned about a trigger can then be exposed to it safely. In other cases, people will have to stay away from it. But the idea that trigger warnings are “coddling” is crap. Not only can trigger warnings help people experience things that would otherwise be triggering; for example, if a rape survivor has to do a reading for class that involves a rape scene, they might be able to get through that scene if they’re mentally prepared, or they might be able to do the other parts of reading instead of being triggered and then spending the rest of their day having symptoms too terrible to accomplish anything. Trigger warnings are not pandering to people who are “too sensitive”. (Also, what the hell is wrong with being sensitive? Some people are sensitive. Deal with it. The world would be a much nicer place if sensitivity were accommodated instead of mocked and taken advantage of.) Trigger warnings exist to help make the world accessible to people who have measurable emotional, psychological, and/or physiological debilitating responses to triggers. Those debilitating responses are not funny. They are serious and deserve to be taken seriously.

Every time someone makes a “triggered” joke, at least one ND person near them thinks “this person is not safe. This person thinks my suffering is funny. This person is dangerous to me”. When an academic institution insists that it does not condone trigger warnings, at least one ND student thinks that they do not have the right to be educated while ND. Sometimes, “triggered” jokes, by virtue of their being neurotypicalist, are in and of themselves a trigger. They sure as hell are triggering for me.

Why do people make “triggered” jokes? I think it boils down to neurotypicals not believing the experiences of those who can be triggered are valid. Neurodivergent people are not people to them. We are only tools for their (unoriginal, crappy, bigoted) comedy. Our suffering is funny to them. Well, either that or they don’t believe we’re suffering, because you have to believe someone is a person before you believe their experiences are real, right? They think we should “just get over” our triggers and their garbage trigger jokes to make their lives easier when our lives are already made harder by our conditions, and it is no more possible to “just get over” a disability-related trait or symptom of an illness than it is for a person with the flu magically stop having a fever.

It is wrong—morally wrong—to mock the experiences of a neurodivergent person because they seem “weird” or “too sensitive”. It is also wrong to deny a neurodivergent person accessibility by refusing to use trigger warnings on potentially triggering content. (Like I mentioned, anything can be a trigger, but it’s best to start out warning for what I call the Trigger Trifecta: murder, rape, and abuse. I might expand on common triggers and how to do trigger warnings in another entry.) The mass invalidation of triggers and trigger warnings is harmful to those of us with conditions that can be triggered. Many of us are now afraid to discuss our triggers with our friends, family, and psych professionals because we expect to not be believed or, worse, shamed for our experiences. This, to me, is deeply saddening. It needs to change.

Trigger warnings need to be commonplace. People’s needs should be respected even if they are not neurotypical needs. And gods help me, those needs should not be mocked or seen as some mere political concept that is up for debate. We are not controversial abstract topics. We are people.

Carrie Fisher quote of the day, which I like because it relates to how I feel regarding writing about mental illness: “I have a mess in my head sometimes, and there’s something very satisfying about putting it into words. Certainly it’s not something that you’re in charge of, necessarily, but writing about it, putting it into your words, can be a very powerful experience.”