Trigger Warning: a statement, usually accompanied by a category, that warns the listener that the following language might evoke a strong emotional and post-traumatic reaction. Metaphorically, it references the fear that once the trigger of a gun is pulled, knowing if there’ll be bullets or not, pain may be soon to follow.
I once categorized trigger warnings under the same banner as spoilers, tattle tellers, surprise ruin-ers, and poorly made movie reels that gave away the ending. That category was for the weak; people who needed to be pacified because they couldn’t handle the unknown. Trigger warnings were like hashtags summarizing all the best parts.
Until I started to need one, a trigger warning. I was fragile after my son’s death and realized that certain words, phrases, or references could send me into a world wind of grief and depression that was hard to escape from. It was as if someone was clinking the tea cup with a metal spoon and said “sink.”
Trigger warnings do not just predicate the nuances of performance art but anything that might be a bullet. Similar to a subject before an email or the title of a term paper, these warnings become a tool of great importance for person’s trying to heal. My friends would warn me of things like baby announcements and shower, like advertisement’s or videos on Facebook, like every Shonda Rhimes episode. Trigger Warnings give people the choose to stay or disengage. It allows them, us… to manage their own emotional well or to test their threshold when ready.
But life has no trigger warnings. Life is a gun. Life is a gun and existing is a game of Russian roulette. The human experience does not come without it’s heartaches, failures, or disappointments. To be alive is to connect your bravest sense to people and the world around you, tethered to all its outputs unknowing but hopefully that they won’t be anything less than what you need. It cannot be avoided. Someone will have the ability to touch you soul-ly and you’ll be forced to give them bullets.
My only hope that if or when the bullets hit, they bring a sort of trepidation rather than the painful death we, the suffering fear.
If there were trigger warnings for life, there’d also be no pleasant surprises. I believe they go hand in hand. The unknown bringing you all the want you needed. As simple as a cute kid staring at you from across the room to remind you that you’re visible or as complex as getting your big break in the form of an audition you fell upon while sitting next to a producer on the city bus. Life has a way of handing you flowers. Flowers or bullets. Metal Lilacs…
If I could rescue every broken-hearted person from the bullets of ill-fitted language and un-repented hearts, I’d build an umbrella as big as an ark. I’d want to shield them from feeling the cracked glass breaking over and over again. But God never allows life to give us more than we can stand. If you’re going thru it, I believe you’re strong enough to survive it.
My prayer for you is that bullets no longer sting though they fly. That your heightened sensitives be protected from unforgiving triggers but that you also live comfortably in each moment. That you feel confident in your healing journey. That you also have a circle who builds you up rather than expect you to get over it. That you vocalize your own truth with passion and vigor.
This week, though I started this article over a month ago, my brother received the miracle of a kidney transplant. It had been 5 years in the trenches, waiting and praying and feeling defeated even. His name had become a trigger warning for me. It, said out of place or unexpectedly, would bring a wave of sorrow that reminded me his time was precious. Then out of the blue, on one of my sadder days, the news of this pleasant surprise brought me the trepidation I always begged for. Sweet relief. God is good.