söndag 14 augusti 2016

Triggered at a larp.

This post mostly focuses on larp participants but can be of interest to organizers as well.

What is a Trigger? Usually, what we mean with a trigger is something that for a PTSD sufferer sets off a flashback of their trauma. These days we also often mean it is something that sets of a phobic reaction for a phobia sufferer or a panic attack for a person who sufferers from anxiety.

When talking about triggers one can also mean allergies, although that is less common, migraines or epileptic seizures. I will however not focus on these in this blog post but more on the acute physiological reactions and how to handle them.

Having triggers does not mean you can't go to possibly triggering games. Most of the times that is up to you and what you know about your current mental health. Here are some tools to help you gauge under what conditions you can participate.

Innehållsförteckning (list of ingredients)
Usually you don't know all your triggers, but you might know what has triggered you in the past. It can be easier to handle your mental health if the larp has some kind of easily available summary of what themes are present at the larp. Going through the summary you can gauge how likely it is you will be triggered at the larp. This can be called the following:

  • Trigger warnings 
  • Content warnings 
  • My suggestion is the swedish "Innehållsförteckningar" which translates into: 
  • List of ingredients or 
  • Table of content.
In my experience the most common triggering themes are sexual harassment, rape, incest and domestic abuse. If many of the larpers have war time experience, unexpected sounds that imitate shots, visceral depictions of wound, war time torture and so on are also common triggers.

So you might have known and unknown triggers

Opt in and opt out of triggering play.
Some games who are aware that their themes are triggering for a lot of players have either stated opt in mechanics or opt out mechanics. Opt in means that if you want certain play, the player has to actively ask in some way to be included in that. For example, only marked players are up for being kidnapped by the special forces and having a bag put over their head. In an opt out mechanic, instead it is assumed everyone at the game want the stated game and if you do not you instead have to state that.

Also! If you suffer from PTSD or Anxiety attacks it is double important to really rehearse using the safety words and insisting on everyone knowing them. If you become triggered it can be really hard to remember you are safe and can break the scene at any time.

Self Care always comes first
Elin Dalstål has written an article focusing specifically on this subject and I will probably link it when I come around to it.
You can lessen the chance of being triggered by coming prepared. Eat enough, drink enough, and sleep enough. Most PTSD or Anxiety sufferers feel it helps if they utilize the buddy system and have a friend who will leave everything to take care of them.
Leave any scene that you feel is becoming too much for you. There is no shame in seeing to your own basic needs, no matter if others are not. Larping is not a race.

What to do if you are triggered in a really bad way, that flashback starts playing or your fight of flight reflexes go haywire?

What I do is:

  • I immediately leave the scene if possible. I'm most comfortable not calling attention to myself.
  • If I can't leave I try to alert the attention of the other players that I am distress. Sometimes this means using safety words that break the scene.
  • Find a secluded spot, not to far away from the others, where I feel safer.
  • Do a calming exercise, such as a breathing exercise.
  • If anyone come to check on me I ask for my "buddy" or if the game has a safety host I ask for them. I am not comfortable talking to anyone, or the busy main organizer. But I can't always talk when I'm triggered.
  • If anyone want to be nice to me I instead ask for a hot beverage or a blanket.

What you can try to do for a triggered larper if you want to.
  • If they run, let them run, but remember what way they went.
  • If you are their buddy, calmly walk after them.
  • Accept if they can't talk immediately.
  • If they are hyperventilating, help them steady their breath.
  • The best thing is if someone can stay in their vicinity while someone else gets a blanket and something to drink.
  • Some are very embarrassed from being triggered and might not want to talk about it afterwards.
  • Don't make a big deal about it.
  • Ask them when everything has calmed down if they need help getting back into the game or if they want to go to their bed and take a nap.
And, I can't believe I have to write this but never have sex with a larper who you helped get through being triggered immediately after you helped them. They are in a vulnerable position.

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