Triggers

Ah Confessional Fridays. This post may be the crowning entry in your considerable archives.

We all have triggers, those things that “sucker punch our soul” as Belle so eloquently put it in a post yesterday.

But I wonder, am I the only person whose worst triggers are other people’s blogs?

There are some blogs that just, well, trigger me. There is something about them that sucker punches my soul. It’s not that I don’t like the blogger or what she writes about or how she expresses herself. In fact, it’s usually the opposite. And yet these blogs devastate me. They put me through the emotional ringer. And for the most part, I have NO IDEA WHY.

{Sure I can identify some aspects that are hard for me to read about, but there are always other people whose blogs deal with similar issues and their blogs are not triggers for me, so I know there is something else at play, besides just specific situations that are hard for me to handle.}

I want to make clear right now that I’m not a masochist, at least not completely. I don’t subscribe to these blogs in my reader, subjecting myself to emotional torture every time the blogger sees fit to post. No, I’m much more reasonable about it; I save reading these blogs for moments of weakness: late nights when I find myself alone in the living room with my husband snoring next to me on the couch, trying to convince myself that really I should just go to sleep. Nights like last night, for example.

Nights when what I actually do–instead of brushing my teeth and mustering up enough courage to scramble into my freezing bedsheets–is type in the URL of one of these blogs and read through the most recent posts, while my heart rate and blood pressure steadily climb.

Okay, so I am a masochist, but at least I try to control these self-harming urges.

Why do I do this to myself?

The number one reason is… well I don’t know. The truth is I have no idea what the underlying explanation for this self-torture is. It obviously is not a positive exercise for me and yet I do it anyway. There is no reason to do it, none that I could ever explain anyway, and yet I continue the ritual, every few months, without fail.

The number two reason is… I do it because I want to understand. At least this is what I tell myself when I start to question my sanity and parade this who weird thing (both the fact that I have trigger blogs and that I subject myself to them) around as solid, incontrovertible proof, that I am in fact going slowly, but surely, insane. Yes, I tell myself that really I want to understand what this whole things is about, why it happens to me, why I participate in it, if it makes me a bad (sad, pathetic, horrible, mentally-ill) person. You know how people say we hate most in others that which we hate most about ourselves? I have taken that suggestion and twisted it to convince myself that by figuring out why these blogs trigger me, I can unearth the underlying issues that are causing me to react in the way I do, and then, somehow–just by identifying them–magically resolve those issues.

The number three reason is… I don’t want to be like this and I (desperately) hope that by subjecting myself to these blogs I will desensitize myself to them. This is actually something that therapists do with people who experience intense anxiety in certain situations, they actually force the person to subject themselves to the situation so they can become desensitized to it. I know this because I was forced to do this in an anxiety class I took at Kaiser once. Except my anxiety was about failing to become pregnant/ carry a pregnancy to term so I couldn’t really expose myself to that, say like the agoraphobic lady I sat next to in class who forced herself to sit in a corner of Starbucks for five minutes every day, an exercise that seemed to her to be about as bearable as tearing off one’s own fingernails with needle nosed pliers. So my reading these blogs is an attempt to put myself in a controlled situation that produces anxiety, so I can (hopefully) become less affected by my triggers (and they anxiety the produce) in the future.

The problem is, I’ve been doing this to myself for about two years now and don’t seem to have come any close to (1) identifying my issues, (2) resolving them or (3) desensitize myself to the anxiety created by them. And yet I keep doing it.

I suppose I am a masochist.

And a bat shit crazy one at that.

Do you have blogs that trigger you? Have you identified what it is about them that makes you upset? Does reading them help you resolve your issues or just magnify them? Do you have no idea what I’m talking about and wish you’d jumped ship when I first started exhibiting signs of mental illness so many months ago?

11 responses

  1. I do have a few blogs that trigger me and for reasons I still don’t understand I continue to visit them. I also have things, sounds and smells that trigger me. Do I stop doing these things? No. Do I stop smelling or listening? No. Am I getting better? No. Why? Because I, too, want to desensitize myself. I live in horse country where the word “Stirrup” is tossed around casually like some casually mention hamburgers. I don’t want this to make my heart pound and my mind to race to bad places. Despite repeat exposure to these triggers – blogs, things, smells, sounds – I am not getting any better. I’m starting to think that maybe we, the sufferers, are not equipped to desensitize ourselves? I wonder if all our noble efforts are just exasperating the issue? I’m glad you wrote about this. It is something I have been mulling over for a while now and I really appreciate your starting the conversation. You always write about such important topics that so many people are too scared to share. I might piggy back off your post and put some of my own thoughts down while we are in San Fran this week. (Where better to mull over your own insanity then somewhere lush and full of life & vegan food?!)

  2. I definitely have had blogs in the past that were triggers for me, and I would read them only when emotionally equipped to do so. I have no idea why I did it. I never put much thought into why I kept reading them. I don’t do this anymore though. If there is a blog that triggers or upsets me, I click away and remove it from my reader. When I sense in comments on my blog that I’m a trigger for someone else, I encourage them to do the same thing. IRL we can’t always avoid the things that upset us, but in the URL space, we can and I like that control for myself. I’m not saying that everyone should do as I do, just that this works for me.

  3. What kind of blogs are triggering you? Are they people who are in many ways similar to you, and yet seem to have what you don’t have (i.e. a second child)? Or are they completely different from you, and there’s just some reason they are particularly upsetting? Is it their tone? The point of your post seems to be “why do I keep reading them?” but you probably want to start with “why are they such triggers?” (or maybe you have, and you just didn’t write that here).
    I couldn’t explain exactly why you’re doing it, but it does seem like normal behavior to me.

  4. I totally have blogs that trigger me. I tend to read them in short spurts, then promise myself I will never, ever, ever read them again, because they make me too sad/anxious/upset. But then I read them again anyway. It’s a vicious cycle.

  5. I get it, completely. I had a message board like that once. There was a bit of withdrawal, but it was so much better for me to get off that board for good and never go back. Yes, there were many things of value I learned there, there were several very nice sane people. Some of the people that upset me were often sane and nice too, if I’m being objective. That was part of the problem – I would be enjoying myself there and then WHAM, something would trigger me. After a while, it got so that I felt pretty bad most of the times I went to the site. Yet I still kept going for a while. It had been a part of my life, you know? And also I DID enjoy it in ways – both the reasonable part of me that was getting some good advice and engaging in excellent conversation about topics I cared about. AND the part of me that enjoys hurting me 😦 Many of us have that part. Those that don’t, don’t get it. That part of you, the one that enjoys hurting you? It LIES – you should always try to remember that if you can.

    I’ve told you before I think that my hobby is dog training. In reactive dogs, they often react strongly and inappropriately to trigger stimuli (extreme nervousness or even aggressive barking, lunging, growling). A lot of people think the best thing to do in this situation is exactly what you said – desensitize and counter-condition. The problem is, most people don’t know how to do desensitization this way. You cannot desensitize WHILE reacting in a negative way to your trigger. If the dog freaks around skateboards, you have to get so far away from a skateboard that the dog is still acting normally. For some dogs, you might have to go so far away from the skateboard that you start off playing a cassette tape, reeaally low volume, of skateboards in your house, for 30 seconds. Some stimuli, like blogs, can’t really be broken down to this degree.

    When a dog has been reacting to a trigger a lot, OR has had a lot of other stress and emotional turmoil, it has higher cortisol and other hormones that make it even more sensitive to triggers. I think people are the same way. So say the dog would normally be ok if a skateboard was 1 block away *if* otherwise it was mentally doing pretty well, AND it hadn’t seen and freaked out over a skateboard in a really long time. But take that same dog and stress it out in lots of other ways (move houses, new owner, bad/stressful training, too many other triggers going off all the time), and/or keep making it freak out repeatedly to skateboards, and that same dog will now not be ok as long as he can see the skateboard AT ALL. The threshold has been lowered for freak-out. I’m pretty sure that’s where you are now, in a lot of ways. (I mean this totally empathetically, I hope you won’t be offended that I just compared you to a reactive dog. I’m a biologist and tend to always be thinking about biological brain function with regards to this type of stuff. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about me from dealing with a reactive dog, so I really don’t mean it insultingly at all).

    Anyway, my advice, based on my own experience: do whatever you can to NEVER go back. Like maybe you will some day in reality, but don’t even allow for that possibility now. Don’t try and figure out what you are getting from it that keeps you going back. Who cares. You have enough stress right now, and the part of you that wants to hurt you, doesn’t ever sound in your own head as crazy as it really is. JME

  6. I don’t have any blog triggers, because I remove them from my reader and they are then out of sight, out of mind.

    But Facebook is a huge trigger right now on so many levels. And I am not sure what to do about it.

    xoxo

  7. Pingback: Ironic « Stumbling Gracefully

  8. I have one person in my life (well, not really, she is a distant acquaintance) that I see at church with her PERFECT family in their PERFECT matching outfits and then read her blog that might as well be pinterest. And the thing is, she is SUCH a snob and I have no desire to be friends with her, but I keep reading her blog and being jealous. Ridiculous! So yeah, I get it.

  9. In response to your questions: Yes, occasionally but usually not, mostly magnifies or identifies them for me (rarely) and when I do figure out what’s up I generally try to fix me and stop reading while I do it, and not at all. It sounds normal to me even if it isn’t healthy.

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