Fear and Mental Illness – Podcasts, Trigger Warnings, and Common Sense

I enjoy a good podcast. Time is limited so I can’t justify picking a slew of random episodes that are sure to disappoint or upset me. I don’t accept what podcasters say without question because generally speaking, they are armchair experts. I listen to them because I enjoy doing so. I do learn things. I hear ideas I’ve not thought of before. And frankly, I’m entertained.

“Robin, seriously? Podcasts with trigger warnings?”

Are you ready? Words are coming your way.

I’m afraid so. Some topics and situations break my heart. Others anger me. And there are those that I can’t listen to.

I’ve been learning about fear and horror movies and perhaps a sensible idea of why I refuse to watch horror them. I’ve always said that I have enough terror (thank you brain) in my life I don’t want to purposely add more. So, no thank you. But why won’t I go to a make-believe movie, but I can listen to a podcast about true crime? That’s a good question. I’m just wondering that myself.

Let’s stick with podcasts today. I enjoy listening to podcasts about history, and fake history. Why fake history? Because when it diverges from the actual history I was taught in school I think it’s weird.

PSA: Ignore my usage of “fake history” please. In this context, it is necessary to mention it because I do actually listen to those kinds of podcasts. My guidance here is: You, do you.

I listen to true crime probably more than I should. I’ve started choosing topics and searching for episodes about them. It’s remarkable how many cut and paste from each other. Some even mention how many YouTube videos they watched to learn about the topic. And this, strangely, leads me to trigger warnings.

A trigger warning is meant to give you a chance to turn away from the content before you feel harmed by it. That could be defined in many ways, but let’s stick with my simple definition of it.

[The following example is made up. It never happened.] This could be an example of something that’s triggering: I love potted plants. I’ve had this particular aloe vera plant in a beautiful pot for four years now. My dad gave it to me. He’s gone now. I lost my mind (read as I lost my temper in a big way) and was screaming at someone. They picked up Sara (that’s the plant) and smashed her on the wall.

What’s the trigger? People messing with my potted plants, especially ones named Sara.

If I choose to listen to a true crime podcast about extreme and violent child rape and murder and I literally cannot handle that, then when I learn about what the content is or there is a trigger warning and I still listen to it, well, I’m stupid and I’m asking for it.

There are always moments in every day when we must engage with our personal common sense director in our brain and listen to what it says. You know how some say that the proverbial door in the brain doesn’t close before the talking starts? It’s just like that. If you see an obviously devastating car crash and you see legs sticking out and you keep looking, and you don’t look away as common sense would suggest, and you see a severed head, gore and all, you have probably ignored your common sense and made a stupid choice. Don’t tell me you’re just looking to see what’s going on and there’s nothing wrong with that, or curious. This isn’t a war zone (I hope you’re not in a war) and there is no need for you to expose your Bipolar brain to that.

I struggled for most of my life with violent mood swings. Violent feelings would come over me and boil into my interactions with others whether I was with them or not. Hatred. I hated and I screamed and I broke things. I simmered. I’m actually agitated about something now, so I’ll leave that there. I just realized that trying to recall those feelings was going in the wrong direction.

I’m back. I took some time to play with my dog and chill, and now I can finish this. You wouldn’t think that writing that small amount would “trigger” me.

Common sense – Listen to your experience, your intuition, and your knowledge and you choose what to listen to. No one can make that choice for you. Take away the trigger warning and the title of the episode should give you much of what you need to know right up front. If you still choose the one you damn well know you shouldn’t and you have no logical reason for choosing it I just want to say that nothing is worth going back to dark places and you might be a dummy. Talk to yourself about it.

Your choice.

If you don’t avoid things that trigger you and you purposefully choose to listen to a podcast that will certainly trigger you, you are making an unwise decision. That’s a rough one. Don’t do it.

Mental Illness shouldn’t be easily dismissed just because you’re listening to podcasts. I avoid ones I can’t tolerate. I’m not going there. Period. You shouldn’t either.

Until next time,


“Do better. Try harder “
From “Redhanded,” a true crime podcast.
We have it on our refrigerator that hasn’t worked since June. It’s new. It’s insane.