It’s because the rest of the world is a dangerous place that it’s nice to have somewhere to just be able to relax without worrying about an ambush from something that will set off all the horribleness. Wanting that isn’t running away, it’s refueling. People aren’t meant to be firing on all cylinders 24/7, and an unending adrenaline rush plays havoc on your body. Yeah, the world is a harsh place, but you’ve got to have an escape from it. Once in awhile. Not all the time. It’s all about balance and picking your battles.
I don’t expect the world to cater to my needs. I’ve lived with severe mental illness long enough not to have the luxury of thinking it should or will. I’m not saying the grocery store or the bus or walking down the street should be a safe space. Aside from my home and various places in RL and the internet where everyone agrees to accommodate, there is one place and one place only where I believe a safe space is necessary: where conversations regarding my own marginalization are taking place.
If there is a conversation about the oppression faced by the mentally ill, and the people talking have made the venue toxic to people with mental illness, activism is being done and decisions are being made that have everything to do with me, but the people claiming to have my back have essentially said ‘tough nuggets, wacko, go be feeble somewhere else while we talk about what’s best for you.’ How is this any different from the oppression these conversations are supposed to be addressing? Maybe afterward they can have a discussion about ableism and make sure there aren’t any wheelchair ramps. Hey, if those guys can’t walk it off, that’s their problem.
Outside of that setting, I am well aware the world is tough. That’s why the topic of the marginalization of the mentally ill is a thing in the first place. I don’t think I am entitled to the entire world bending for me, but if someone says can we please change the subject, and you keep going? That’s a shitty move. You’ve got free speech. No one’s going to arrest you. But you’re not immune to the repercussions of your words, and if I say hey this guy did a shitty thing, that’s me using my right to free speech. Sure, do what you want, but when you step on someone’s toes, then lecture them about saying ow ow ow, be prepared to be treated like an asshole. General you, not you-you.
Asking for courtesy and standing up for oneself isn’t weakness. It is so, so hard for a lot of mentally ill people to speak up and advocate for themselves. Being out in a harsh world and responding to someone hurting you with ‘stop hurting me’ isn’t whining. It’s refusing to accommodate the person hurting you by cowering in silence or scurrying away.
See, that’s the thing: someone is asking to be accommodated here. When it’s the mentally ill doing it, we’re weak and entitled, but when it’s the person doing the hurting, it’s just the harsh world being harsh. Why can’t someone with PTSD — or anyone — ask not to be ambushed by a topic they’d rather not discuss? Why should I bend to protect the feelings of the person essentially telling me to fuck off? That is what the marginalized are expected to do, and if we want to fight oppression, not doing the oppressing is a fine start.
For what it’s worth, I’m not fond of the word ‘trigger’ either. Setting off a flashback isn’t like firing off a gun. It creeps in, gets under your skin, into your nervous system. It drowns you from the inside. It’s not like getting shot. It’s like getting poisoned. Not to mention the word has been hijacked by people who think not wanting to feel bad is like breaking down. I just don’t know what else to call it, more’s the pity.