Triggers and trigger warnings are a huge topic, about which I have mixed feelings. But I’m not here to address the overall topic today; instead, I wanted to talk about one side of the matter that I don’t often see mentioned.
What if you, the writer, are the one who’s triggered by what you’re writing? How do you deal with that in a healthy manner?
I’ve said many times that all my MCs contain aspects of myself, whether it’s appearance, personality, talents, interests, you name it. I’ve also tried to spread around some of the more serious issues I’ve dealt with irl, although in most cases, I’ve ramped up the severity.
I had a terrible time during my first few years of college. I fell into a whole host of issues that had only poked their head out before: depression, anxiety, rage, self-injury and disordered eating. As I said, NOT a great time.
I went to therapy on campus, got meds, and wavered back and forth between better and not. That was the pattern from between, say, 2001 and 2008. Things would get better, things would get worse. Periods of total recovery from everything followed by one or two instances of “hey universe, if nothing gets better by x date, I’m ending it.”
Around 2002, so early in this cycle, my fourth MC, Benjamin, was “born.” He wasn’t meant to be an MC, but he and Whisky hit it off, so I could tell he was going to be around for awhile. But I didn’t know what to DO with Ben, what his story should be.
During this time I relapsed worse than before with the ED, and perhaps because my brain was so preoccupied with that stuff, it started to filter into my story through him. In that situation, I didn’t find my own story triggering because I was already living it. If anything, it was a way for me to vent about what was going on. I’m not sure it helped, but it didn’t hurt.
Fast forward to modern times. I have been 100% better since 2012, around the time I got married, finished graduate school, and started my library career. When I started rewriting and working on the current Book One earlier this year, I thought it would be totally fine. The 2012 recovery date is from all things ED; I’d been recovered from SI for way longer than that.
When I started working on the scene where TJ discovers cutting, it bothered me a lot more than I expected. I wasn’t even fully writing out the scene, just editing something I’d written in the past, but describing the sensations and the feelings made me want to re-experience them.
So I did. 😐
It wasn’t an isolated incident, nor was it the only “thing” TJ’s story triggered me into doing. At this point in my life, I am well versed in coping strategies, but it had been so long since I had to deal with such feelings that it was like years before, when it felt like nothing BUT the unsavory activity would do.
Fortunately I’m (mostly) done writing Book One and Two, and it’s going to be a loooong time, years probably, until I’m back to where Benjamin appears. I don’t think it will be a problem– it used to be I couldn’t watch or read most things dealing with EDs (purging especially) without losing my mind, and that’s no longer the case. But then again, I didn’t expect any problems when I started working on Book One, so. . .?
I don’t have any suggestions for dealing with this situation. “Just give in, it’ll be fine!” is probably NOT the best advice, lol. I’m more interested in finding out if anyone else has ever dealt with this situation. Writers always consider triggers from their readers point of view, but how about our own?