where have I been?!

Hey blog fans,

So I’ve been AWOL for a while now but it really warms my heart to see that there’s still readers and commenters stopping by. Thank you so much to anyone who has interacted with me and/or the blog despite the lack of content recently. It’s really for you guys that I felt I owe you an apology and an update as to where I’ve been hiding in March.

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So where have you been?!

Some of you might know that I’m in my final year of an undergraduate degree and that means hella work! My course doesn’t have exams, we just have to complete coursework. So with reading, research and writing for several essays and the dissertation, alongside commitments in my personal life, I have had virtually no time to blog, take photos or film. It has been playing on my mind and getting me down because I love this blog and I’ve ‘met’ and spoken to some great people as a result of my ramblings. I don’t want to feel like I’ve let anyone down.

In addition to this, I’ve not been able to read or keep up to date with a lot of my favourite blogs and bloggers. So many fab beans online and they put out some great, thoughtful and inspiring content and I’ve not been to any of their sites in a month or more! If this is you (I hope you know who you are!) please don’t think I’ve forgotten about you or that I’m not interested in your site anymore…

I’ve just got virtually no time and when I have down time, I use it as just that!

 

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It also goes back to the self care thing that I’m always harping on about. When you’re working on anything for several hours a day every day, and you’re trying to juggle ‘extra-curricular’ activities too, you’ve got to take some me-time now and again. At the moment, my self care involves going for food or drinks with my friends, snuggling up to play games or watch things with Josh. Even just a nice bath can give me that much needed half hour of respite!

I guess this is just a post to say, please stand by as I finish my dissertation and complete my course and apply for jobs and try not to implode! It’s only a couple of weeks now but they’re so crucial and I know myself well enough to know that if I overload myself with a million and one responsibilities, I’ll have a meltdown. Not the time nor place to do that!

I promise that there’s some great content coming your way in the next few weeks anyway as I’m editing and filming a couple of rather interesting vlogs, going to a couple of fab events and I’ve got a secret diarist contributor who will remain anon writing about something rather… intimate.

Stay tuned my lovelies and wish me luck!

Jenna
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If you liked this post, you should check out:
Mental Health and University – Don’t panic! If your deadlines are getting to you, I’ve got some advice about your looking after mental health at university.
Why I’ve Been Invisible On Social Media This Christmas – I went silent on social media over the holidays, and here’s why…
Self Care (and why no one should make you feel bad about it)A piece for Zusterschap about making time for self care.

collab: Ending Toxic Relationships

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First of all, let me put a little disclaimer as to what I mean by ‘toxic’.

A toxic relationship for me is any time where one person does something to the other person’s detriment over a long period of time. This isn’t necessarily any kind of abuse; it could also be neglect or even lying.

I have had a few toxic relationships in my life, friends and partners, and I am now a firm advocate for removing that toxicity from your life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an honest and forgiving person and so if I’m affected by something you’ve done then I’ll make it pretty clear and give you a chance to redeem yourself (within reason). However sometimes – and this is the killer – the relationship aint worth saving.

Last year a friendship that we had cultivated for several years came to an end. I will hold my hands up and say I had bottled up some of my frustrations with this person but they had become toxic to the point where the relationship was beyond repair. Having been lied to repeatedly, neglected and generally made to feel like I didn’t matter, I knew that all of my efforts were in vain as I tried to have it out with them about my feelings. It might sound like I wasn’t being forgiving but after several months of putting so much effort in for someone and them not meeting you remotely halfway, there comes a point where you have to pick yourself up and say ‘enough is enough’.

As Louis C.K. says in Season 5 of Louie:

“I’m telling you that it hurt and you don’t get to deny that. When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.

It feels oddly therapeutic to write this because I have always been the person who let things go, who let people get away with upsetting me. I now realise that I didn’t do that this time and that’s a good thing. I tried to make this person see what their actions had done to me but I think they either didn’t care enough or weren’t ready to admit their guilt about it.

I still miss this person but I miss the friend that I had. By the end of the relationship, they weren’t the same anymore and we had grown apart completely. It’s weird because you sort of grieve for them as you come to terms with the fact that they’re out of your life for good. Despite this sense of sadness and loss, I am still proud of myself for standing up and saying I deserve better. I was sick and tired of constantly being concerned about someone who didn’t seem to care that their actions were detrimental to me. I made them a priority and felt like I was only an option.

If you’ve had to end a toxic relationship or you’re thinking about doing so, my advice would be this: be strong, prioritise yourself for a change and think about if there’s a way in which you guys could patch things up. If there’s not, then cutting that person out may well be the best option for your wellbeing, even if it hurts at the time.

I asked one of my dear online friends and fantastic blogger types Lucie Wang if she would contribute to this post, having had a similar experience.

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I used to be the kind of girl who had mostly male friends. Cal was my best mate for years; we bonded pretty much instantly over a love of banana martinis and questionable music. He was goofy and hilarious, and by some crazy coincidence we started seeing a pair of siblings at around the same time. So it made sense for the four of us to sneak off during a party back to mine to hang out. Even when the cracks started to show, I always stuck by him.

There were alarm bells of course. The fact he introduced me to girls he wanted to sleep with as his “only female friend”, the one token woman who could vouch for him. The way he spoke about my girlfriends made me feel uncomfortable. He always joked that I wasn’t like “other girls”, and naive as I was back then, I believed this was a compliment.

One night he told me he wanted his “best friend” to meet his girlfriend, but when she got up to go to the toilet he asked me to pay for dinner because he didn’t want her to know he couldn’t afford it. The next day I sent him a long text to let him know that though I’d decided not to embarrass him in front of his new girlfriend, what he’d done wasn’t ok. I’d helped him out when he’d been in trouble before, but this was the end of the line for me. And just like that, I walked away. I changed gyms so I wouldn’t run into him, I untagged myself from promo videos he’d put up on Facebook to promote his personal training business (because even after we stopped talking, he still tried to use my personal page to advertise his services). That was the last time I spoke to him.

For weeks afterwards, I felt awful. Not for how things ended, but because I felt the fact they ended at all put a horrible cast over the friendship we’d had. I stayed close to his older brother for awhile, but the fact that we could never speak about Cal (and believe me, we talked about everything else) made things uncomfortable between us in the end.

Know what I learned? Walking away from a toxic friendship isn’t the end of the world. We hold on to some people for longer than their expiration date because we want to remember the good times. We have these great memories of what the honeymoon phase was like but the thing about memories is, sometimes we choose to remember only the fun stuff.  Not the times we had to make excuses for their behaviour both to ourselves & to other people. Not the emotional blackmail. Not the nasty little comments disguised as “friendly banter”. We remember the few times they were there for us, but also forget the far more frequent times they weren’t. Our brains are somehow wired to retain the positive, maybe as a survival instinct to maintain social constructs of friendship. We don’t remember all the times we had to act a certain way to avoid being mocked by them, but I will certainly remember the feeling of relief when I walked the hell away from that toxic situation. So many nights I couldn’t sleep because I wasn’t sure how to bring up the fact this friendship was affecting my mental health. I drafted a million conversations and replayed them in my head. It took so much energy to maintain, and you know what the kicker was? I didn’t even like the guy in the end.

I learned a lot. I learned that people change, and sometimes not for the better. Sometimes you keep friends from an old life, and that’s fine. Those people you met through an ex. Old friends from school you have nothing in common with. That dude from uni who posts borderline racist memes on Facebook. Why would you put yourself through that? Life goes on. No one really cared that we were no longer close, and thought it was mentioned a few times when people asked if I’d seen him lately, now almost a year later it’s almost as if we were never friends at all. And let me tell you, I am a much happier person for it.

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Lucie is a Canadian woman with fabulously bright hair living in Edinburgh. She works in design by day and blogs about feminism, food and lifestyle by night over at tetrisandcheesecakes.com.

Have you ever had to end a toxic relationship?

Do you currently think you’re suffering in one?

 

Either leave a comment or you can privately email me anytime at jennalouiselloyd27@gmail.com.

Jenna
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Keep up to date with my latest posts on:
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If you liked this post, you should check out:
Being ‘bossy’ vs being ‘The Boss’ – Is being bossy bad or does it actually make you The Boss?
Mental Health and University – I talk about the importance of looking after your mental health at uni…
“You Can’t Be A Feminist If…” – genuine things I’ve been told make me ‘not a feminist’
Self Care (and why no one should make you feel bad about it) – A piece for Zusterschap about self care

Mental Health and University

I’m in my final year of my Modern Liberal Arts Undergraduate degree at the University of Winchester and there’s something really bittersweet about this point in my life.

In the one sense, there’s an overwhelming feeling of fear and dread, not only about the final assignments and my dissertation but there’s the added pressure to find and hold down a job once I leave. Another part of me is incredibly excited about moving on in my life, taking that first step into a career that I’ve been working so hard towards and having something great to show for the past few years of dedication. There is however also a small part of me that doesn’t want to leave uni, not just because I’m so used to being there or doing the work but because it has been a really great experience that I don’t want to end.

 

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Me after completing my third first year… Beating it for good.

 

Despite having a tough start, I’ve met some great friends, heard from inspirational people and expanded my learning beyond where I ever thought I could. I’ve been encouraged and criticised… I’ve felt enthusiastic and completely uninterested… I’ve felt empowered and lost.
It’s been quite a journey.

But this post isn’t about my mental health in particular, this is where I’m going to share some of the things I’ve picked up on throughout my time at uni and useful advice about wellbeing I’ve picked up along the way.

 

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Noone knows what they want to do

Back in 2011, I did a first year of a course that just wasn’t me. It was a course that I was steered towards in sixth form when I didn’t get the grades to study medicine and I realised once I was on a placement that I wasn’t able to do that kind of work. I’m okay with admitting that now but I don’t regret that year because I wouldn’t have known had I not given it a go.

If you find yourself in a course or even a line of work where you feel its best to leave, listen to your heart and don’t let anyone else coerce you into staying. Don’t beat yourself up or think that you ‘wasted your time’ because it was an experience even if its over now. See it as an opportunity to start something new!

I read a fantastic piece by Holly Palmer over on Zusterschap the other day about this very thing, which I encourage you to go and read next.

 

It’s okay to ‘fail’

Before I got to uni, I was a complete nerd and spent a lot of time doing extra work and revising and things. I wasn’t a straight-A student but I got pretty good grades and even in college, I never really felt like I’d failed. That might seem like a good thing but it wasn’t. I wasn’t at all prepared when I got my first ‘fail’ or when a result was a lot lower than I had been previously accustomed to. Failing once prepares you for when it inevitably happens again and usually then you won’t be quite so hard on yourself the second time around.

It’s important to remember that uni is a much higher level of study than where you were before. It’s supposed to be challenging! If you get a result that you’re not happy with, stop and think why you aren’t and book a meeting with the lecturer or your personal tutor to discuss where you went wrong if possible.
You can turn ‘failing’ into a positive thing.

 

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Some people are arseholes

It sounds like a stupid thing to put in a mental health post but I’ve received a lot of stick at uni in the form of sex-shaming, ableism and even threatening behaviour. Not everyone will experience these things and I sincerely hope that you don’t but if you do, I want to tell you that it’s not your fault.

Because there are so many people from different backgrounds with different personalities and beliefs in a university environment, some people will inevitably clash. This can result in some pretty hefty debates and eyerolling a plenty – you can’t get on with everyone! This however isn’t an excuse for anyone to treat you unfairly or put you in any kind of danger and there are people responsible for helping if that does happen. You will have pastoral care (including counselling) available through your Student Services and you should have a representative for student welfare too.

 

Take care of yourself above all

Self care is always a worthwhile practice and you shouldn’t let anyone make you feel bad for it. Self care is anything that makes you feel good and I wrote more about that in detail here. Whilst your workload is piling up and you’ve probably got more responsibilities than before, you need to take some time for yourself and pay attention to your thoughts and your body.

Physically, plenty of sleep and good food are good and putting crap into your body (including booze or drugs of any kind) is of course bad. Mentally, you need to make your task lists manageable and you need time away from your work. If you need help or support, you should be able to find it even if its just a chat over a cuppa with a kind housemate!

 

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How cute was my uni room? (It never stayed this tidy)

Living with other people is tough

I was really lucky in that I got on with my housemates in halls however I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about others who didn’t. Sharing your living environment is always going to be difficult if the other person doesn’t quite do things the way that you do. Some common sources of conflict in shared accommodation are: the washing up, ‘borrowing’ bits of food, bathroom hygiene and unwanted noise.

My main advice when these situations do arise is to keep your cool. If you’ve got an early lecture and your housemates are being going out that night, have a word beforehand and kindly ask that they try and keep the noise down when they stumble in. If someone’s left their dirty pans in the way and you want to prepare food, send them a quick text and see when they’re back and if they wouldn’t mind clearing up. Obviously this is all easier said than done and if its the umpteenth time you’ve had to mention it, you’re probably close to screaming and stamping your feet just to get your message across but you don’t want that kind of tension when you’ve got to live with this person.

I will reiterate that if someone is making your living space dangerous or is acting in an improper manner towards you, you have every right to get the housing services and/or student representatives involved.
Those things require more than a quick chat.

 

Asking for help is vital

University might be challenging but that doesn’t mean that you have to go it alone. While your family and friends might have spouted on about you being ‘grown up’ and ‘independent’ now, they should still very much be there if you need to say that you’re having a tough time. Skype/Facetime/Facebook Calls are great ways to schedule much needed chats with loved ones or to ping a quick message and get some advice.

As I’ve said there are also people on campus and in halls who can be a listening ear or offer some guidance for problems you might be having. You might think that you’ve got to be stoic and suffer alone but there’s people out there so that you don’t have to!

 

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University above all should be a fun and enriching experience that sets you on the road to something new in your life.

You will meet and hear from so many different people and thinkers that you’re never quite the same once you leave, regardless of if you stay in a course or go on to do something else.

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I guess what I’m trying to say is that when things are difficult, you’re not alone.

Did you go to university/college?
Do you have any mental health advice for those thinking about going?

Let me know and leave me links in the comments below.
Jenna
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If you liked this post, you should check out:
you just keep doing other people – guest post by Camilla Hennessy Jackson – sex and feminist silliness
why selfies are inherently feminist – Self love in the form of selfies?
guest post by Ashleigh of Not A Typical Teenager – Ashleigh shared her tips for being good to yourself at school
self care (and why no one should make you feel bad about it) – I talk about the importance of self care

guest post by Ashleigh of Not A Typical Teenager

Image: www.freeimages.co.uk

We are taught many things in school, including how to lead a healthy
lifestyle. But we are never really taught how a healthy lifestyle and school
can intertwine. How we can maintain good grades and a healthy waistline at
the same time. Well, I have a few tips of those who want to try and balance
the two.

Take Healthy Snacks

It is so easy to have a packet of crisps or a bar of chocolate during break
time, but why don’t you try taking something a little healthier. I took carrot
sticks for a while and then tried grapes, apples and tomatoes. Take a healthy
food that you like to eat.

Walk

The distance you live from your school may be an issue here. I never walk
to school because I like to sleep in a little later in the morning. But I always
make sure I walk from school to burn off the food I eat. This year, I have to
walk to the bus which is a half hour walk from my house. I will walk it
every morning stay healthy.

Have Breakfast

This is important for me. Not because of all of the science that is being
debated, but because I know that if I have breakfast, I will have one snack at
break. If I do not have breakfast, I will eat 3 snacks and possibly buy some
toast. I just generally end up eating food that is bad for me. So eat breakfast.

Eat In Moderation

This isn’t a post about losing weight, just a way that you can stay healthy,
which means that anything in moderation is okay.

Exam Stress

The reason I have told you to eat healthy snacks and walk is because exam
stress gets to you, and that way, you can just curl up and eat lots of ice
cream when you feel really awful and stressed. Just chill out, and eat some
Ben and Jerry’s. You won’t have to feel guilty after all the walking and
carrot sticks.

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this post, you can check out more at Not A Typical Teenager, and you can email me at

bracesandglasses128@gmail.com.

Stay Un-Typical

Ashleigh xxx

Self Care (And Why No-one Should Make You Feel Bad About It)

Content warnings: anxiety (health), panic disorder, medication, depression, ableism, recovery.

NB: I will be mainly discussing these topics from experiences with GAD and clinical depression. Where the term ‘disability’ is used by me, I am not speaking for and trying to encompass the experiences of those with any other disabilities.

Firstly, I want to pose the question: how often do you choose to do activities that make you feel good? Whether it’s a marathon of your favourite show, ordering a takeaway or perhaps a boozy night at the pub, many of us have least one feel-good activity that we opt for now and again.

My second question is: how many times have you been told- either by your friends, your family or maybe even a professional – that your feel-good activity is unhealthy? Did it discourage you from doing it again?

Other people can often be very quick to pass judgement on our behaviours, particularly without understanding the reasons behind we might have made these choices. I’m not going to waffle some pseudo-scientific rubbish about endorphins or ‘the surprisingly healthy ingredient you didn’t know about’ – we are all aware that feel-good choices aren’t always biologically beneficial. However whilst it is important to recognise this, it is equally important not to get fixated on… Continue reading at Zusterschap.

Jenna

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Fear Of Missing Out: Why Your Feed Is Making You Miserable

When I first read the words ‘positive mental attitude’, an image is instantly conjured up of a caricature. That person is the typically overly-enthusiastic and sickeningly proactive ‘go-getter’.

The #fitfam who posts ‘no-pain-no-gain’ as they complete their third workout of the day, washing the sweat and muscle aches down with an acai-coconut blend.

The recently-promoted business executive who just had their highly-anticipated board meeting and landed their pitch after many sleepless nights and hours in front of a computer screen.

The student who made a hundred revision cards, laminated them, cross-referenced them with the wider reading list and aced the module.

Okay so I’m embellishing slightly, and whether we know these people or not, chances are we’ve wanted to be one of them at least once in our lifetime. That isn’t a bad thing, nor is it a bad thing to have achieved this status: you put in the work, you deserve something back, right?

Having read Jamie Varon’s thought-provoking piece, ‘This Is How We Date Now’, I began to consider how much of the imagery and anecdotal evidence projected to us on social media is comfortably curled up in what I like to call ‘the blanket of betterness’. When describing relationships, Varon makes the controversial statement:

We do it. We find it. Then, quickly, we live it for others. We tell people we’re in a relationship on Facebook. We throw our pictures up on Instagram. We become a “we.” We make it seem shiny and perfect because what we choose to share is the highlight reel. We don’t share the 3am fights, the reddened eyes, the tear-stained bedsheets… We don’t tweet 140 characters of sadness when we’re having the kinds of conversations that can make or break the future of our love. This is not.. Read more of this post over on Zusterschap.

(Archived post, originally posted on loquaciouslolita, 11-9-14.)

After having a serious debate (argument) with someone in my seminar this week about causing offence and being mindful of speech in a group, I felt the need to lay out my opinion on something really close to my heart. It also has a complete anti-movement and backlash to it that I just can’t understand.

The research-y bit

When I searched ‘trigger warnings’ in order to find a fitting, agreeable definition I was faced with the top two responses that sum up the main opposing positions on their use.

#1. Geek Feminism Wiki, describes trigger warnings as: customary in some feminist and other spaces. They are designed to prevent people who have an extremely strong and damaging emotional response (for example, post-traumatic flashbacks or urges to harm themselves) to certain subjects from encountering them unaware. Having these responses is called “being triggered”.”

#2. Urban Dictionary, calls them: “A phrase posted at the beginning of various posts, articles, or blogs. Its purpose is to warn weak minded people who are easily offended that they might find what is being posted offensive in some way due to its content, causing them to overreact or otherwise start acting like a dipshit. Popular on reddit SRS or other places that social justice warriors like to hang out.

Image courtesy of Glee Wikia at http://glee.wikia.com

Image courtesy of Glee Wikia

Firstly, it’s important to take into account the credibility of these websites.

What are they about?

Geek Feminism Wiki was founded in 2008 by LGBT-activist, body-positive, sex-positive social justice educator and anti-censorship feminist, Skud (Alex Bayley). It contains resources and responses, as well as advice to women in ‘geek’ communities and issues they face. It is administrated and moderated by staff, whose decision is final but they do not have a neutral point-of-view (NPOV) policy like Wikipedia does. Articles and edits must have a feminist perspective and those pieces not doing so will be removed.

Urban Dictionary is of course, a ‘dictionary’ containing over eight million definitions as of July 2014 (Wikipedia). It was launched in 1999 by Aaron Peckham when he was a freshman computer science major at California Polytechnic State University. In order to submit a definition, one must sign in via Facebook or Gmail. This submission will be regulated by ‘volunteer editors’ and then if it stays (which most do), it will be rated by visitors to the site.

So both of the top two definitions on Google for the phrase, ‘trigger warning‘ appear to have been contributed by a random individual and then moderated in some way by ‘editors’. The content has then been approved, and no member has challenged it or asked for it to be removed.

Ofcourse, Geek Feminism Wiki is focussing on trigger warnings as a positive, courteous and important procedure in order not just to avoid offence, but serious harm to a victim’s psychological wellbeing. Urban Dictionary, probably as a ‘joke’ sees this as something ‘social justice warriors’ do; something unnecessary that is being overly-cautious to a world of ‘political-correctness-gone-mad’.

Personally, I have to agree with the folks at Geek Feminism. Not simply because I am a ‘social justice warrior’ or “easily offended”, but because as someone who has been in recovery from mental health problems including (but not limited to) depression, anxiety and self-harm for a year and a half, I value trigger warnings with high regard. I have experienced several times where social media websites have thrown content at me and it has caused a serious, horrifying and emotional response.

You wouldn’t walk down the street holding these disturbing images, so that each person you walk past is exposed to it without warning, so why do it online?

busystreet

Image courtesy of Wales Online.

“But I don’t know who’s out there?”

I understand that for many people, the internet age creates a safe distance between them and the other person. This desensitises a lot of us to that person’s thoughts, feelings, emotions and opinions and can create a sense of arrogance in us, whereby we feel entitled to share our content because other people must see it.

Image courtesy of sandy-world

Image courtesy of sandy-world

This has to stop.

When you write a comment, share a photograph, an article or even a video clip which contains material that someone else may find ‘offensive’, there is usually a good reason as to why that person is taking offence. Just because you are not personally affected by these images, it does not mean that it will not have a deep impact on someone on your friends list or who follows you.

How do I start using trigger warnings effectively?

I understand that it can be difficult to know where to stop with trigger warnings. By this I mean, if you have many acquaintances online that you do not know on a personal level, you cannot simply display warnings for every thing and every one all of the time as it would be impossible. There are two semi-solutions to this that I have seen so far.

#1. Use ‘common’ trigger warnings.

It goes without saying that a victim of any abuse, assault, crime, mental health problem or trauma will not want to click on unsuspecting content that contains images/descriptions/footage/opinions about these events. This can trigger post-traumatic stress, panic attacks, anxiety, flashbacks and other distressing symptoms for that person.

Who the hell would want to inflict that on another human being, whether they know them well or not?

All you need to do is write ‘Trigger Warnings:’ or ‘#tw:’ for each individual item. The hashtag method is particulary useful on tumblr, as users can create a tumblr blacklist which automatically hides these posts from their dashboard and prevents them just popping up randomly when scrolling.

#2. Ask your followers if they have specific trigger warnings.

A fantastic example I have seen of a user doing this exact thing was on tumblr. taurusnymph (now deactivated) requested that their followers send them a private message (this can be anon) with their trigger warning and they would use it for all future posts. They have quite an extensive list already, but stress the importance of each one in saying: “Anyone who mocks any of the TWs I use will be blocked immediately.” (taurusnymph)

taurustrigger

Screenshot taken from taurusnymph (deactivated) at tumblr.com

This is a really respectful and necessary thing to do if you post a lot of content and have many followers that you do not know intimately.

You can prevent causing serious harm to another human being with just typing a few letters before or after your post.

“It’s not my responsibility.”

There are many who agree with the Urban Dictionary ‘definition’ of trigger warnings; that they are pandering to the ‘easily-offended’. To those people, I would simply ask them:

Think of anyone they you have ever met who has been a victim of anything.

Think about that person’s emotions and state of mind after that thing happened.

Now imagine that in that mindless quick click of a few buttons you have, without their consent, resurrected those emotions and that torturous state of mind for that human being.

Content is NOT obviously damaging (especially if you do not find it uncomfortable yourself) but if you share and promote it, please do so in a way that minimises the huge amount of damage it can have to other people.

It’s not difficult.

Author’s noteYou can always anonymously comment with a trigger warning you would like me to use in the future.

Jenna
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