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Being 'Triggered'

by Vimbai Mutinhiri

Its incredible how living in this era has made us more self aware – taking selfies and constantly posing for pictures for the gram has made us more conscious of our appearance, constantly tweeting has helped us to question some of our beliefs, and portals like YouTube have taught us how to literally do anything.
I used to read about “being triggered” a lot on social media, especially when conversations about topics like rape and abuse came up. I always assumed it was an emotional moment – most likely filled with anger or sadness, that would eventually disappear. I also always assumed that in the same way a gun makes a loud ‘bang’ sound after being triggered – that being emotionally triggered would also come with a huge, red warning sign. Trigger is another term for
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

I’ve been through a ton of traumatic experiences, from being involved in car accidents, to having loved ones involved in car accidents – and the worst being when loved ones did not survive those accidents. It’s such a sore point in my family that the “spirit of car accidents” is a very real prayer point.  However, my most painful trauma was undoubtedly caused by the death of my sister just over 2 years ago. I still remember every last detail of the funeral proceedings, and still sometimes dream about it; from the scent of the food that mourners were served to the flower arrangements and candle décor at her wake. Nothing has ever hurt me or traumatized me more deeply.
I began to see a therapist 3 months after her death when I started feeling like a burden to my friends. I got tired of being the friend who would call in tears daily and not be able to get out of bed because of sadness. But here is the irony, what pushed me to the limit was an ‘F-boy’ who appeared and did what they do best. See, I would be calling my friends to cry about the guy. I was ashamed to still be dysfunctional about my bereavement 3 months later. One day someone even told me to ‘snap out of it’. So I unknowingly found new things to be sad about, and channeled my emotions through them.
How do I know this? My gem of a therapist. I’ve only ever had one session with her. She listened to me for 2 hours through tears, snot and chamomile tea. She came up with her assessment with such ease. I will never forget her words; “My dear, it is ok to still be mourning your sister. But you’re expressing it through so many unrelated things”. AHA! Her prescription: get away for a little while if you can, and let yourself be as sad as you need to be, and finally consciously tell yourself to release yourself.
It worked like magic! Of course, like I said, I still have my moments and I still remember it all so vividly. But it no longer paralyses me for weeks on end. Hang on, this story is about triggers right?
A couple of weeks ago, an uncle who happens to be a very popular Zimbabwean musician died and his funeral was a complete social media frenzy. From videos of mourners singing funeral songs as they did at my sister’s funeral, to pictures of the casket – it was all trending. I sat alone in my apartment watching it all on my phone, and before I knew it a deep sadness was creeping in. I thought – this must be normal, I am mourning someone I admired highly.
What I didn’t expect was how quickly this slope sent me into a downwards spiral. Before I knew it, I identified the symptoms of depression that my therapist had pointed out to me 2 years ago – crippling sadness, and farewell to the desire to want to get out of bed or do anything productive with my days. This scared me – I blamed everything else; pressure from my upcoming launch, stress from the ongoing situation in my country Zimbabwe – whatever seemed taxing enough. It was a prayer and a voice of wisdom from within that finally whispered: you have been triggered.

Being a witness to my uncle’s funeral, albeit on social media, sent me straight back to a deep moment of loss in my life. I reached out to my mom, who seemed to be going through the exact same thing. Now I know for sure, triggers are not a joke. They are not fleeting moments of emotion – they are paralyzing experiences that can send the most stable of us into an uncontrollable spiral.
We all have different processes, so I can’t tell you how to get over the things that trigger you (I’m also not qualified to do so). But what I can testify to for a fact is that we need to work actively to know what our triggers are, because the moment you know that you have been triggered its easier to start working your way out of it. In your own time, speak to someone who is trained to listen. The fact that I felt like my friends were tired was a huge blessing, because I was forced to speak to someone who knew what to look out for, and from that the work to climb out of the dark hole began.  Forget about what people may say: THERAPY IS BAE!

Moral of the story: Know your triggers.

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