One of the things that NaNoBlogThing does for its members is provide the occasional prompt for a post. Like most collections of blogging prompts, these are usually benign creativity boosters and story prompts to help out someone that gets stuck in writer’s block. But there was one that came up recently that didn’t sit well with me; it seems to be lacking in forethought:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Has anything traumatic ever happened to you? Describe the scenes surrounding a particular event.

I understand that trauma happens on a spectrum, and that the person involved can dramatically change the perspective on an event (as can the care that person receives in the immediate aftermath of trauma). Some people who experience life-threatening car accidents go on to recover both physically and mentally and can, after a time, drive again safely and without panic or anxiety. Others aren’t able to heal to that point and can sometimes not even ride in a car without experiencing panic attacks.

Trauma is just so PERSONAL.

PTSD is weird, and “Describe the scenes surrounding an event” is something I can’t even do (yet) in scheduled, structured therapy. Looking at the prompt, my immediate reaction is “Well THAT’S not going to happen.” And I can’t imagine that I’m the only NaBloPostThinger writer that lives with PTSD and it’s related mental health issues.

I understand that this post isn’t really talking about “that” kind of trauma, but really, there isn’t another kind. All traumas require healing – and there’s no way to look up what counts as traumatic (beyond a the actual definition of trauma itself). Different things bother different people on various levels, so a post that one person thinks is pretty benign (about a car accident) can be completely triggering for another.

Even suggesting a post about a traumatic event that you have healed from or that helped you to grow in some way would be better than the open ended “anything traumatic”. Otherwise, from a psychological standpoint, it has the potential to open up a lot of really ugly emotional stuff, without having a way to process or effectively deal with those emotions. For real, just writing out the sequence of events (factually and as chronologically as possible), let alone describing entire scenes, can be almost impossible to do for someone with PTSD. It’s a real mindfuck sometimes.

While I don’t for a minute think that the prompt was intended to be discomforting, a blog prompt that suggests the emotionally invested discussion of traumatic events just seems really out of place in a list that also includes “What kind of music do you listen to when you write?” and “Do you prefer to write with a pen or a computer?”

One of these things is not like the other ones, you know?

Traumas and Blog Prompts
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2 thoughts on “Traumas and Blog Prompts

  • November 16, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    I think the point that events will affect people in entirely different ways is very well taken, and often overlooked. I don’t have PTSD, but there was an incident after I was in a bad car wreck, when I started shaking and having flashbacks while my father and I were driving past an unrelated accident some time later. He never understood why I didn’t want to talk about this very interesting wreck or speculate on the causes or conditions of the passengers, because, hey, HE’D been in accidents and they’d never bothered him this way. (He did stop talking about it, but he didn’t understand why he had to.) At the time I didn’t know what triggering was, so I thought I was just overreacting to the whole thing and sort of berated myself over it. :-/ Looking back though, there were weeks when I literally couldn’t close my eyes without seeing the other car plowing into mine, which I doubt is a normal reaction.

    But getting back on topic, I’ve rather come to the conclusion the last few years that nobody can ever really, deeply, understand the way another person perceives the world. All we can do is listen and try, and try not to judge when it forms a mismatch with our perceptions.

  • November 19, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    “But getting back on topic, I’ve rather come to the conclusion the last few years that nobody can ever really, deeply, understand the way another person perceives the world.”

    So true. So, so true. I had to explain why I needed a movie turned off to the rest of my family, and couldn’t manage it in a way that they could understand. I was on a capital murder jury last winter, and watching a scene from the movie caused flashbacks. Had to leave the room. And I don’t think they got exactly why, but they shut it off anyway and we watched some fluff TV. Have I mentioned how awesome my family is? They’ve put up with work related fallout too.

    Maybe things like that are easier for some people to write about. I know I have an easier time writing it down than telling someone face to face- it’s a lot less personal and I can say what I need to without having to face another person directly.

    I agree it doesn’t seem to fit in with the other topics listed, but I think for some people who have an easier time reading and writing about tough topics, it could help work them up to being able to talk about it face to face. Or at least give them an outlet that doesn’t involve having to face questions or explain what their reactions are to other people.

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