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Trigger Warning

Books and reading are without a doubt both a passion and a most glorious hobby. Are you the type of person who throughout childhood always brought a book, who spends more time than is probably warranted picking books (because you definitely need more than 1) for every trip and vacation of your life, who bring a book or tablet to every appointment or kid pickup because God forbid you have time on your hands without something to read?! If you are nodding yes, then you understand our obsession with all things literary.

Books are our escape, our joy, our naughty pleasure, but we have been realizing lately that fiction stories, for kids, teens and adults, center around very real and often triggering scenarios, such as death, illness, mental health issues, anxiety, coming out, sexual assault, rape…. Topics that are sometimes a challenge to process when you aren’t prepared for them, when the visuals your brain suddenly projects, leap off the page.

I suffer panic attacks, anxiety attacks, seemingly random triggers that immobilise me, render me useless but simultaneously unable to explain myself. -Jack Monroe

Life, like books, doesn’t often come with warnings. Wouldn’t it be amazing if they did? Imagine if when you meet a handsome, charismatic man and before proceeding you could read the side of their box and say, “um, no thanks, it says here, ‘Will slowly show that they are an entitled bigot, misogynist and most likely, a dyed in the wool narcissist, proceed with extreme caution.’” When you meet a bubbly new friend, you could read the side of their box and go, “uh-oh,” the box says, “Will talk about you shamelessly behind your back and is more of a taker, rather than a giver.” However, in the real world people don’t come with warnings, nor do most situations, so we are left to utilize our best common sense and intuition. But what about those times when you are simply reading a book, or watching a TV show or a movie, or talking to a group of people and something visually or verbally triggers you? What are some things we can do to help yourself recalibrate and move forward?

We need to start identifying the triggers that aggravate mental health issues in our society - bullying, social media negativity and anxiety, gender based violence, substance abuse, stigma around issues such as maternal issues, etc., and we need to speak up about these more and get to the source of the problems.
-Sanam Saeed

It is vitally important to identify and acknowledge your triggers. Feeling triggered is a term for when you come across something or are reminded of something from your past that was traumatizing and/or painful. For instance, for those with a toxic family or those who have lost family, holidays can be an especially painful experience. For those who have survived war, a balloon popping or fireworks can be a trigger. For others, certain music can bring them back to a moment in time they would rather not revisit. The important thing is to acknowledge your triggers. In the event of holidays and the heartache caused by being alone, getting away is one solution. Another option is to invite those in your life who you do love and care for, friends, co-workers, neighbors and work on creating new and joyful memories. For triggers to loud noise, if possible the trigger can be avoided or the use of noise canceling headphones can be utilized.

I'm learning what triggers me. What to stay away from. What I do like and what I don't like. To me, I've learned so much about myself that now I'm a stronger person. But I still deal with anxiety. Anxiety doesn't go away.
-Ryan Garcia

Even though books will occasionally surprise us in not so glorious ways and remind us of events or even scary scenarios that leave us shaken, we will not be turning in our library card any time soon. Nor will we remove ourselves from the world that can often be dark and scary. We will put into practice:

1. Talking about our feelings
2. Asking for support
3. Being honest with ourselves and others
4. Resting when needed
5. Living to fight another day

We hope you will do the same. As always, thank you for allowing us to be a part of your life and your journey. You are brave beyond measure!

-Team SG

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