trigger warning


By Isabel Abbott

This is a trigger warning, for being human.

Trigger warning: I have done the unthinkable to survive. Because I loved myself.

It was all love, even though it would be hard to understand if we saw only the carnage.

Trigger warning: sometimes, the fact that we can survive so much is, itself, the most horrible hurt. That we are here these years later, watering a garden plot and installing the air conditioner into the window and then we are there one morning looking in the mirror at our wet hair and our tender veins and we do not know how to reconcile where we came from and where we stand, and the love feels like it will undo us.

Trigger warning: when you meet her, you will question things that make you uncomfortable, make you feel like you could devour something or wrestle it to the ground, make you want something you cannot name, make you feel like crawling out of your skin except it also feels so terrifyingly good to be fully inside of it, and it will be hard after that to forget. No, it will be impossible.

Trigger warning: white police officers kill black humans an average of twice a week in the United states.

Between the years 2006- 2012, 18 percent of those killed were under the age of 21.

As these killings are self-reported by law enforcement, and not all police departments choose to participate in the recording of these deaths, it is fair to say that the numbers are likely much higher than the horror of what has been written down.

So, so many things are murky and many sided and not something that can be understood in the tidy categories we cling to. But trigger warning, this much is clear in all the discomfort it causes: white supremacy is at the rotten root of the poison that is killing human lives, destroying human dignity, and then blaming the victims of this violence for their own injuries.

When African Americans rise up and speak out, march and protest in the streets against the violence done at the hands of those with power and guns sworn to protect, they are more likely than white protesters to receive police force in attempts at dispersing them. They will be arrested at higher rates and more severe physical force will be used in these arrests.

Trigger warning: there is a war on the lives and bodies and souls of persons of color in my own country and city and neighborhood, resulting in acts of murderous terrorism.

Trigger warning: it is those we claim to keep us safe that are continuing the hate and causing harm.

Trigger warning: black lives matter. And if your response is “all lives matter,” then you are part of the problem.

Why are you so angry?
Why are you still here?
Why can’t you be quiet, play nice, know your place, wear more make-up, smile?
Why don’t you forgive?
Why are you still talking about it?
Why did you have sex with so many people?
Why did you leave?
Why did you not stop him?
Why did you not report it?
Why can’t you get over it?

Trigger warning: I do not owe you my life, and my existence is not here to offer comfort to the oppressor, to confirm your own stories of right and wrong, to smooth away wrinkles in my face or your ideals, and pretend like this should make me satisfied.

My life belongs to me. And my existence is as magnificent and wrecked as Pollock painting, but this much I know. I am here to be fully human, to be true to my own self, to love harder.

Trigger warning: humans do the most horrible things to other humans, while a great gathering of people stand by and watch.
Trigger warning: we are so afraid.
Trigger warning: your silence will not protect you.

Trigger warning: everything ends.
And still, the ending is not yet known.
What are we to do with so much uncertainty and so much smashed and smeared love and so much need to connect, only connect?

Trigger warning: I crave the kind of intimacy that makes the heart bang in its rib cage, drum and makes it safe enough to say everything. It insists on days together in bed and carves out some kind of space where I would not have to walk forever with the brute force of making it through alone.

Trigger warning: the trigger is already pulled.
Her mouth already tastes like the ocean.
Her love already liberates.
“Do you want to do this?” my therapist said to me. “Do you want to be feeling this? Do you want to be in this work that her presence ignites? You are not required to open the vault if it is too painful, if it is not what you want.”
“It’s too late,” I said. “No matter what happens, it’s already been opened.”
“Then let’s dive in,” she said.

Trigger warning: memory is not static and set in stone.
It changes.
We change.
The events, all those things that happened and did not happen, remain the same.

And yet, it is also entirely possible that you can tell yourself a story your whole life, and then some day when you are sitting there in the outside seating by the river sipping gin drinks in your leather skin-tight pants, you will open your mouth and realize the story has changed, the memory is morphing, and you hurt so much it’s like weight wearing heavy on the bones, but you are no longer afraid.

Trigger warning: life is messy. I am messy. My cooking is messy. My bed is messy as I sit here writing.

So is my psyche, with its round table and everyone here has a seat and sometimes they talk all night. So is my loving. So is the part of me that still misses smoking. So is the visceral longing I still have to be seven years old at my grandmother’s house, laying on the floor with my face close to the fan, mouth opened to release the sound that would echo through whirring blades, ricocheting into the empty room.

Trigger warning: cancer comes and it steals things and destroys cells and stories you thought you would be telling about your life as you walk towards turning thirty nine in the blaze of the summer sun sign.

Illness makes strange shapes of all the thing you thought you knew.
And then there is this—I don’t want to go back to the other way.

Trigger warning: the most dangerous place for a woman to be is at home with the man who says he loves her.

All the threats spoken of, the terrible things lurking in bushes and from intruders and those horrible people “over there.” but this is what is true. Domestic violence is the number one cause of injury to women. One out of every four women in the United States will be assaulted, physically harmed and injured by a lover or partner in her lifetime, and if you do the math that means a woman is being assaulted every nine seconds. Domestic violence is the number one cause of emergency room visits by women, and the health-related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking and murder by intimate partners exceeds 5.8 billion each year.

Trigger warning: There are over 1,000 homicides every year of women murdered by husbands and lovers, and former husbands and lovers. Meaning on average, three women are killed every day, by someone who says “I love you and that means I own you.” Pregnant and newly postpartum women are more likely to die of murder than any other cause.
In addition to this, women who kill their husbands or partners (so very often because they themselves were being assaulted by the man) will serve on average twice as long in prison than men who kill their wives.

Trigger warning: A rape is reported every 6.2 minutes, and a great many rapes go unreported. Three out of every four women who reported being raped or assaulted said a present or former spouse, lover or date committed the crime.
And none of this is treated as a raging epidemic, a form of true terror, a pattern of gendered abuse that permeates homes and makes being a woman an experience fraught with possible peril. No one is declaring this is a crisis, calling for a war against the terror of being a woman and being harmed by men.

So trigger warning: being a woman can be dangerous and I do not know what it will take for us to wake up and see.

Trigger warning: I have been sexually assaulted and abused, beaten and bruised, harmed more times than I have digits on my hands and feet, and all but one of the perpetrators was someone I knew.
Trigger warning: my body is the site of the crime and the place of the injury, the vulnerability of letting myself want and the terror of memory that masks itself as dreams that still wakes me in the night. My body is the placement of my love and the house of my own holy hunger.

Trigger warning: this body of mine is temple and skin of terrible stories and both are true and I get to inhabit it on my own terms.

Trigger warning: sometimes it is the ache, the beauty of the intimacy, the way she looks at you first thing in the morning, the feel of her body underneath you and your hands in her hair, that feel like they could destroy you because it’s so beautiful it splinters every idea you had about what you could and could not know.
Trigger warning: if you cut me, I bleed.
Trigger warning: even in the presence of so much violence, so much possible harm, so much wreckage, still what is alive is this: the color of pink in the peonies, and the way the light came and shattered the wall on that worst day, and the taste of cold plums, and that your skin is still here asking to be touched.
Trigger warning: I am human. I am human. I am human.

trigger warning: this is it. this is your life. may you love it with all of you.

trigger warning: sometimes my heart is the loneliest hunter, and the bull finding querencia when it matters most, and the home of true refuge.
trigger warning. i would drive out and find you, even if you never pushed the button.
trigger warning: i love you.
no, i’m serious, i said.
i love you.
with everything unknown. with all the uncertainty. in the mess of the broken and beautiful things.
i love you. i love you. i love you.


Violence on the Home Front: Mother Jones
Us Department of Justice: Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Rape Victimization:  Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey
“A Rape a Minute, A Thousand Corpses A Year” by Rebecca Solnit
Statistics on Partner Violence
Just How Racist America’s Police Brutality Problem Is” by Tom McKay
Local Police Involved in 400 Killings a Year – USA Today

Isabel AbbottIsabel Abbott is a writer, activist, embodiment artist and speaker.

With a professional background as birth and death doula, a space holder for the mulitvocality of our public and private grief, a sex educator and an embodiment and movement workshop facilitator, she works with those crossing thresholds, questioning their gods, wrestling with their love, grieving and dying into life.

She writes regularly on belonging to the body, the holiness of hunger and the sacred and profane, and her writing has most recently been published in Bellevue Literary Review, Ars Medica, elephant journal, Soul Growth Radio, and rebelle society.

She can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and her websites Isabel Abbot and List and Letters.

Photo: (source)

Editor: Alicia Wozniak