Complex PTSD and Social Media
All content in this blog is the sharing of personal experiences and opinions. I am not an expert on mental illness or a medical professional, and any questions or concerns you may have about your own health should be discussed with your healthcare provider. I am not certified to diagnose, treat, or advise anyone on their health conditions
Trigger warnings: Mention of suicide, politics, bullying, sexual abuse
I'm sitting here trembling uncontrollably. It's difficult to type, and I make many mistakes. I've put my phone down, as it's nearly impossible to text when my hands shake this much. It's even difficult to stand, walk, eat.. Everything quivers. Even my lips. This is only a small part of what happens when someone living with complex/chronic PTSD encounters a trigger.
The word "Triggered" has itself been used in recent years to ridicule, mock, and poke fun at people who struggle with complex emotional problems. Society has decided, with the media's help, that people who have strong emotional reactions are unstable, immature, ridiculous, or in other words: Undeserving of being taken seriously. The word has been used to name comedy specials and tours, memes, but most of the people getting hit by it are those using social media.. But what if you're the one who has the mental illness?
My biggest trigger is social media, because that's where the stigma seems to have worsened. It was already there before, it just got stoked, as memes and pictures go viral and spread around like wildfire. It brings a chuckle to some people, but mostly, what has happened is that we as a society just became more toxic and unsafe to trauma survivors. Facebook and Twitter have been the worst, and just 4 years ago, I used to be active on both of those sites. I didn't just share my art and photography. I shared portions of my life. I shared information about debilitating diseases, I provided support for people living in similar situations. I even became an online activist for disability rights. My biggest victory was when I constantly educated people on what the BC Liberal Party had been doing to disabled people for at least a decade -- and they listened.
It all came to a screeching halt soon after I moved to the USA. My similar drive to help those less fortunate than myself wasn't met with the same attitude AT ALL. I got death threats. I was insulted. I had people tell me to commit suicide. I was told I was entitled for "believing disabled people should get all this free stuff" when all I'm asking for is accessibility and fair opportunity. Nobody wanted to listen. They told me to shut up.. and I did. I did it for my own health, because sometimes caring too much can hurt. At least, when you're met with the responses I've gotten.
The trouble with being a disabled person, especially one that's trying to start up any sort of business, or have a social life, is that you honestly rely on social media a lot. You depend on it for most of your human interaction, especially if you are house or bedbound, live in an isolated community, or don't have a vehicle or mobility aid. A huge portion of my social interaction is done online for both personal and business reasons.
What does someone do when their main social environment becomes dangerous for them?
They are ultimately forced to leave it, or start censoring themselves. I've done a combination of both.
I started re-experiencing my PTSD symptoms after that tape was released where Donald Trump was recorded saying he sexaully assaulted a married woman. The language was extremely crude, and vulgar, and it was shared widely throughout mainstream social media. A lot of people were outraged, and some people even tried to defend it. Meanwhile, survivors of sexual abuse all over the country were re-living their own personal horrors every time this story was shared.
Being triggered, for me, feels like extreme fear and powerlessness. You want to run away, but your threat is invisible. You may even get angry, and want to fight, but since your threat is invisible, your anger is misdirected. Some misdirect their anger at others, some direct it towards themselves. I did the latter.
Actually, I shouldn't be writing this in the past tense. This is still happening. I'm still fighting this invisible threat every day. The invisible threat that is terror, flashbacks, nightmares, pain, depression, feelings of worthlessness and helplessness.. It's all still there. Every single day.. Yet Facebook is the only social media where I am connected to my family in western Canada, and some of my long-distance friends. Completely cutting off Facebook is something I attempted to do several times, and I only dug deeper into isolation and loneliness. I started therapy. I got on a waiting list to see a psychiatrist (Been a year wait, but my appointment is in a couple days!) and I've been told to consider inpatient care, but that's another trauma story reserved for another time.
What is the purpose of this blog entry?
It's the same purpose as anything else I do. I want to let people know they are not alone. It's not just you that's finding social media a dark place to be right now. It's not just you trembling and panicking silently as you wonder if your Trump supporting friends and family really want you to be without healthcare and leave the country since "people like you are ruining it." Yes, this was actually said to me.
It's NOT JUST YOU wanting to be heard, and wanting the abuse to stop. Algorithms on mainstream social media have not only proven to be detrimental to the mental health of vulnerable people, but they've also been terrible for business too. I officially no longer have a reason to keep using it. Stories with the most interactions get the most attention, and attention grabbing headlines are usually things that are going to damage recovery.
In short: This is more or less an announcement that although I have not deactivated my twitter and facebook accounts at this time (I need my facebook just to log into this website developing software... Ugh..) I have again uninstalled Twitter, and I will continue to limit facebook interactions. One day, I hope to be rid of Facebook entirely.
Your trauma, your pain, everything is valid. Don't let the world try and gaslight you into thinking you don't deserve to heal from it, and sometimes, healing means the hurt bleeds through a little bit more on some days. Today is one of those days for me.