Triggers, Warnings, and the Decline of Dealing with It

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Welcome to Life, Kids!

Before beginning, I would present to you (the reader) a few facts about myself few people I’ve met on-line know. Sharing these facts is my way of explaining what I’m about to say is not off the cuff nor talking out my ass as many of my generation would say.

My first memory is not a pleasant one. Neither is it clear as a professional photograph in a glossy magazine. I was four years old playing at my mother’s feet as she ironed laundry in the summer heat. My father entered the room and they began arguing (about what I have no idea) and then my father punched my mother in the face, giving her a bloody nose. There is the vague sensation of fear and confusion. Then my mother is gathering my younger brother, myself, a quilt and heading into the thick woods bordering our home. I recall her spreading out the quilt beneath a tree and settling us on it before reaching in her handbag to offer me a lollipop to calm me. That is where the memory ends, fading away.

It wasn’t until years later my mom confirmed the memory for me. Her only explanation was that my dad was ill and it wasn’t his fault. Now some of you might think these to be the words of an abused woman deluding herself, yet that is not the case. My father suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, a diagnosis that eluded his doctors until six months prior to his death in 1993 at the age of sixty-two from a heart attack.

For more years than I can count, I blamed my father, but then I was a child. I didn’t understand he was suffering an illness. It wasn’t until shortly before his death I came to the realization he had no control over what he’d done. My mother understood, yet had no idea how to explain it to her children. For the next ten years, my father was on numerous drug cocktails the doctors were constantly tweaking. Their efforts worked until they didn’t.

When I was fourteen, the drugs ceased doing their job and my father was again at the mercy of his illness—hallucinating, becoming paranoid, and violent. He vanished off the radar for two weeks (my mother had the sheriff’s department looking for him) until a cold, snowy January night when he returned. That night he came damn close to killing my mother right in front of me. Until the day he died, he believed it was the oldest of my (now) two younger brothers who’d stopped him, but he was wrong…I jumped him. After stopping the assault on my mother, I ran, barefoot in my pajamas through the snow to a neighbor to call the police because we didn’t have a phone.

By the time they arrived my father had vanished yet again, but not for long. Long story short, he ended up spending sixty days in the state mental hospital before he came home. Being a know-it-all teenager, I was furious at my mother for allowing him back in the house. My relationship with my dad was never the same after that.

Any single reader who can say this was not a psychologically damaging moment in a kid’s life is a damn liar…Period. It did damage me. Wounds though whether psychological or physical, can heal and in the process of facing the demons your eyes open in a way they never will if you hide from them.

Now, having read this here’s hoping you take a little something away from what I have to say about the avoidance mentality of today’s society. Avoidance is never a better course of action than dealing with our problems. To avoid our problems only creates more problems.

We live in a culture where popping pills and self-medicating has run rampant. Doing so has made us a country of people more adept at hiding from than dealing with life. We don’t want our friends and family to see we are broken. The funny thing is our friends and family, are just as broken as we are, but we’re too damn lost in our own drama to stand up and recognize.

This is nothing new. History can offer a million and one examples of how we as a society hid from personal trauma. But there is hiding and then there is hiding.

As some of you might know I started out and still do write in fandom. It’s not something I’m ashamed of as a matter of fact I’m proud of it. If not for my fourteen years writing fan-fiction I wouldn’t be the writer that I’ve become. It was there I learned a number of hard lessons. The origin of this particular rant is the sudden influx of people who are demanding ‘trigger warnings’ about every possible thing that might upset them. It’s one thing to apply warnings about language, child abuse, explicit sex, rape and even violence to stories you’ve written. It’s an entirely different animal when there are so many bloody warnings it shatters the integrity of the story itself.

Why do I need to read the story when you’ve laid down the entire plot by including a paragraph length warnings section in your header?

The answer is I don’t.

The worst part of this now is the need for those ‘trigger warnings’ has begun to leak into day to day life. A few months ago, I read an on-line article at the New York Times site HERE where students at universities across the country have been requesting that so-called ‘trigger warnings’ be applied to specific classes.

Seriously, what the hell people?

Let me just say this and people you can pull out your pitchforks and torches all you want. Life is not comfortable nor has it ever been comfortable. There are certain aspects of life we all as human beings need to deal with; death, sex, racism, and violence just to name a few. These things have existed since the beginning of time. These aspects of life (and of being human) are not going away simply because we refuse to acknowledge or face them. Believing that is delusional to the highest level and not healthy in the least.

These darker aspects of life can be beneficial. Facing them can open our minds and inspire us to become better people, stronger people. Don’t get me wrong. There are traumatized people who are in need of medical help, but the entire planet doesn’t need to pop a damn pill. I blame some of this on my generation for molly coddling their children to the point they have zero social skills and/or coping mechanisms. In our attempts (like previous generations) to give them a better life, we’ve left them hopeless and helpless, unable to deal with daily life both socially and emotionally.

Instead of being their parents, we’ve tried to be their friends. Whether that is out of fear or our own inability to cope—who knows. The last thing a child needs is another friend and not a parent. There are boundaries when it comes to parental relationships. Yeah, sure, your kid will claim to hate you for instigating boundaries, but in the end, we all grow up and recognize that our parents were doing the best they could to prepare us for the reality of life.

I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m broken in more ways than most of my friends and family could imagine. Yes, I keep certain aspects of my psyche to myself. The main reason being I doubt some of the people in my life could even begin to understand. Until you’ve lived it you cannot imagine the scars it leaves behind, but I’ve embraced my scars. With each passing year I’ve learned that without those scars I would have never become the person I am. Perhaps, my life isn’t perfect, but then life rarely is perfect. As a matter of fact I believe the idea, word, and concept of perfection should be stricken from the minds of humanity.

My greatest wish for this world is that we all discover how to embrace our scars, face up to those things that bring us discomfort, and open our eyes to the possibility of learning from our experiences or the experiences of others. Exploration of ourselves as well as the world around us have pushed humanity further than any other thing in history.

Bad things happen, but that doesn’t mean something wonderful cannot be discovered in the darkness. All we need to do is quit hiding beneath the covers and grab that flashlight to spotlight the monsters we believe are hiding in the closet. Once we face our monsters perhaps then and only then can we live without fearing what lies in wait around the next corner or on the next page…

Until Later

Blessed Be

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