Do you know what trigger warnings are? These 5 insightful illustrations explain.

You know the feeling when you're going about your day and you're suddenly struck with a deep pang of emotion?

Something you saw, heard, or witnessed subconsciously took you back to a traumatic event you experienced. That's a trigger.

For some people, these triggers can bring about unpleasant or even harmful emotions.


That's why it's important to be aware of how discussing certain issues might not just affect us, but also those around us.

Cartoonist and illustrator Madeleine Slade created this incredibly insightful comic detailing what trigger warnings are based on her personal experience. Not only is it brave, it's also important to understanding and being mindful of others sensitivities.

These comics explain how trigger warnings can help someone avoid a personal, emotional crisis:

Illustrations by M. Slade, featured with permission.

Illustrations by M. Slade, featured with permission.

Illustrations by M. Slade, featured with permission.

Illustrations by M. Slade, featured with permission.

Illustrations by M. Slade, featured with permission.

The 2016 presidential election will be triggering for people you know and love and maybe even for you personally.

If you're emotionally invested and can't control your feelings while talking politics, know you can leave the conversation before it turns into something damaging.

Stepping away can save you the anxiety of not knowing what to do because you're uncomfortable with the situation. Removing yourself from those triggering talks will help you remain focused, relaxed, and — most importantly — healthy.

An NPR survey recently found half of college professors have used trigger warnings before. The National Coalition Against Censorship explains that "in many cases, the request for trigger warnings comes from students themselves." They help students feel that they're in a safe space.

Whether you feel you need trigger warnings or not, it's important to understand what they are.

They're a way we can better understand each other. They help establish awareness of others and their emotions while discussing sensitive subjects. Trigger warnings are act of empathy.

Give your friends a heads up if you need trigger warnings, too. Kindly remind them how they help you stay healthy.

We can't control the things around us, but we can control our reactions to them. And that is always worth discussing.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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This story originally appeared on 03.18.15.


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