I wish people would take responsibility for their feelings and not blame me for them. Somehow, it’s my problem, as a writer, if my piece makes other people feel something that they don’t want to feel. Trigger warnings are supposed to mitigate this but you wouldn’t believe what I get crap for writing. In short, I wish people would learn to take responsibility for their feelings and not place the responsibility on me — a stranger.
Not Taking Responsibility for Feelings in Mental Illness
Recently a woman contacted me on Facebook and said she was triggered because of an article I had written on bipolar disorder and comorbid borderline personality disorder. (This is when a person with bipolar disorder also has borderline personality disorder.) She had bipolar disorder herself and was “alarmed” and “upset” about the article. She wanted to know the source of this information. I never mind people looking for this information. (For the record, though, sources are always linked to either in the article or at the bottom. Sources are medical in nature — I never pull anything out of my ass, in case you were wondering.)
I asked for a link to the article. This is because I have written more than 1000 articles, and I need a link to know exactly where the information that was upsetting her was.
She decided not to give it and instead said:
“This confusion between bp and borderline is bad for people. I have bp not borderline. . . The last thing I need is more speculation. I do not have a personality disorder and don’t want to be influenced by any article that I have. . . . such an article is damaging to my mental health.”
In a later message, she explicitly said my “frightening” article had “triggered” her.
Well, I found the article in question. It was from 2013. I had written that borderline personality disorder is comorbid to bipolar disorder in 40% of people with bipolar disorder. This statistic surprised me (which I said in the article) but it came directly from a study. It was thoughts to be accurate at the time.
In this case, the source link no longer went to anywhere useful (six years will do that) so I resourced the information. In a newer study, it said that 20% of people with bipolar disorder type II have comorbid borderline personality disorder while about 10% of people with bipolar type I do. (This seems more reasonable but still quite high. I have now updated the original article with that information and its source.)
Feelings in Mental Illness Stemming from My Bipolar Writings
All of this is barely relevant. What’s relevant is that some woman decided to take out her feelings on me. And this is not a rare thing. People do this a lot. People complain about what I write. People say I contribute to stigma just by writing about the truth. People say I trigger others by writing the way I do. People say I don’t use trigger warnings enough. People say I’m negative and don’t bring hope to others. Some people have said that I out and out lie about my own experiences.
That’s the life of a writer, I suppose. Some people are always going to be jackasses.
But here’s the thing:
- Complaining about what I write — This is your prerogative.
- On contributing to stigma — The truth may be uncomfortable but if we need to hide it to “fight stigma” then we’re not doing our job and we’re being dishonest.
- Triggering others — I can’t anticipate what will trigger every reader, it’s impossible. I don’t go out attempting to trigger anyone, but evoking an emotional reaction, in general, is the work of a writer.
- Trigger warnings — This blog is for adults. I trust that adults can take care of themselves. If my title has the word “suicide” in it and that’s a trigger for you, you might want to avoid it. It’s that simple. I promise not to have a title like “My Slippers Are Cozy” and then talk about suicide. (If I did, then yes, I would use a trigger warning.)
- Negativity — I’m not a negative person, I’m a realist. My reality often sucks. That’s just the truth.
- Hope — I’m sorry if you don’t find my work hopeful but what I know is that many people find my online writings hopeful and many people find my book very hopeful. Not everyone is the same, however.
- Lies? — Yeah, I won’t dignify that with an answer.
There are even more complaints that people have about my work, and that’s okay. People are allowed to discuss and people are allowed to complain. My issue is that people blame me for the feelings my writing evokes in them.
Please Take Responsibility for Your Feelings
On the other hand, yes, my work evokes feelings — I guess you can blame that on me if you want. But here’s the thing: you’re an adult; no one made you read it; you read it of your own volition — take responsibility for that. When I see a movie and it makes me cry, I don’t get mad at the actors and directors — even if something sad happened that I wasn’t anticipating.
And what we should surely understand is that those of us with mental illness are more prone to more feelings than the average person. We all need to take responsibility for our feelings, particularly in mental illness.
It is completely unreasonable to blame content producers for what goes on in your head. It’s your head. It didn’t reach in there and cause the pain. It is not up to me to save you from yourself (not that I could) and it is not up to me to fix the pain you may feel either.
So please, act like an adult. If you have a strong reaction to my work, use your coping skills and deal with it. Talk to a therapist. Talk to your doctor. Talk to a friend. But realize that your feelings are your problem, not mine.
Remember, thousands and thousands of people read these articles and I can’t possibly anticipate what each person is going to feel and I certainly can’t write with regards to that. You’re the only one who knows what is going on for you. Take responsibility and do what you need to do — for you.
[This, by the way, goes for reactions in general. You can blame others for “making” you react in a certain way but that is unfair and wrong. No one “makes” you react — you have control over that. Don’t give your control to words on a page or to the world around you. Claim your power, as any adult should, and take responsibility for yourself]
Image from Wikipedia.