Getting Triggered by the News

I make a conscious effort to be careful about what I read and listen to on the news.  It’s a tricky line to walk sometimes because I’m inherently curious and interested in what is happening in current events around the world. I don’t want to live in a bubble. I want to know what’s happening, I want to be able to critically think about things so I can form my own opinions and have thoughtful conversations.

When my symptoms were at their worst, and I was going through the throes of processing my memories, my therapist had me follow the “puppy and kitten rule,” meaning I could watch anything as long as it included cute puppies and kittens.  That “rule” helped me minimize being triggered at a time when most of my days were spent experiencing flashbacks, anxiety, panic, and fear.

I stayed away from intense news and was mindful of what I watched on tv and what movies I saw. Most of the time, I watched lots of comedy. Admittedly, there were times when I broke the rule. I sometimes sought out programs with violence that in some way mirrored my own abuse. Or I would pay attention to sensationalized cases in the media that were hard to avoid. Inevitably I would get triggered.

As I began to manage my symptoms and felt some sense of safety the puppy/kitten rule was lifted. Because I had been so careful about what I ingested from media outlets for so long, I developed an avoidance for watching or seeking out certain information because I knew it may be triggering.

Recently, there was a news story that I had done my best to avoid. When it first came out, people were outraged, and then the news cycle changed. I understand why that happens. There is so much out there every day, and each event is shocking and sad, and sometimes incomprehensible.  But because my trauma is sort-of similar to the aforementioned news story, I was on high alert when I scrolled past it. I had a definite curiosity about the details but hadn’t read anything besides the headlines.

Until the other day!

The other day the headline changed and I knew that the very thing I feared when I first heard the story did, in fact, come true. I knew this person would never be convicted.  I felt sick that even with awareness, this kind of trafficking still goes on, and in my mind, will probably continue to exist.

Then I got triggered.

I’m not used to those kinds of triggers any longer. There is plenty for me to navigate in my daily life, and anniversary times of the year, and I thought I was far enough along in my healing journey that I would be okay. But PTSD doesn’t operate that way. It doesn’t care that I was just reading an article, and it doesn’t care that this person had absolutely nothing to do with me. I had never heard of him. PTSD simply understands that my sense of safety and trust is altered because of the trauma I experienced, and my brain and body will go into the memory and protection mode automatically.

After reading the article, I could tell that something was awry in my body/mind/spirit. I could tell things were stirred up in a way that I could spiral down the cycle of panic, fear, and shame. I closed the computer, went to yoga, had lunch with a friend, and remembered that today is a day when I’m fighting the tiger.  Any shame over being triggered dissipated as I repeated my metaphorical mantra of support to myself.

Seeing things written, or in movies, tv, or media can bring a sort of validation. A sense of see? I’m not making this up!  When you are a trauma survivor you look for validation. My trauma seems so “out of the ordinary” that it’s extremely rare that I felt validation. But, my job on my healing journey is knowing that my truth is validation enough.

I suspect there will be other times when I get triggered by the news. The intensity of my response will probably vary depending on what the triggers are, time of year, and the present stressors in my life. I know what to do when the skeleton hands of the past pull at me, and I’m confident that I’ll remember that I will fight the tiger and win.

Thank you for reading my books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph    

image source:  ashley-batz

42 thoughts on “Getting Triggered by the News

  1. Pingback: Dealing with unexpected PTSD triggers – A Blog About Healing From PTSD

  2. Thank you so much for your feedback and insight. It’s hard not to be cynical in the face of whats being reported and what history shows is the injustice for victims, BUT its really important to keep faith and hope that things will change and something someday will change. ❤️

    I’l glad that you could relate to that feeling of needing validation sometimes too. We work hard to learn our truth is enough but at certain times… Thank You so much for sharing with me, it really does mean a lot!! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  3. If I’m suspecting correctly the news you saw, I felt the same way. But I realized, all is not lost. He didn’t work alone, they never do, and others involved will go down and justice will come. I tell myself not to lose hope…we have to have faith and hope.

    Also this…
    “Seeing things written, or in movies, tv, or media can bring a sort of validation. A sense of see? I’m not making this up! When you are a trauma survivor you look for validation. My trauma seems so “out of the ordinary” that it’s extremely rare that I felt validation. But, my job on my healing journey is knowing that my truth is validation enough.”

    I can’t even begin to express how true this is for me as well…you said it perfectly. I still tell myself I am crazy and things that I see in my head do not happen to people, but, the images never go away, they never change or evolve. They are still there. Exactly the same as the first time they surfaced. Always. Acceptance is hard for me, but the validation is welcome sometimes…and also overwhelming.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Circumstantially and intentionally have been missing the news lately, and am quite sure better off without it. Gives me less to write and rant about, but that layer of angst has dissipated.

    Keep healing.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you my dear friend ❤️
    Its hard to find a balance between reading what is happening in the world and staying completely offline.

    Plus, we never know what is being covered so it can be hard to miss the stories that trigger.

    Its seems to be a tricky line to walk, which gets frustrating sometimes.

    And you are sooooo right. The feelings are the same even though the traumas are different.

    Sending you huge, huge hugs. I feel so blessed we are connected. Rest well this weekend. 💕

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Dear Alexis … I am trying to reblog this but the WP reblog button isn’t working. I have run into that on occasion with other blogs in the past few weeks, so it’s not just you.

    Anyway, I will give it a rest and try again later. But I just want you to know that I relate 100% to what you wrote here. Although my traumas are different, the feelings are so much the same. Today, I saw a news headline that… Oh man. Oh man. Tears. I couldn’t read the story. Just seeing the headline is enough.

    I have spent many years of my life avoiding every form of news. But, since the neurofeedback treatments that I had 2 years ago, I have been reading news sites pretty much every day, several times a day, trying to catch up on the world we live in. But certain news stories rip my heart up. While they validate my crazy story, at the same time.

    I’m sending you hugs in my heart, my friend. Tears…

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Thank you for sharing this. It’s hard to keep fighting sometimes. It’s comforting to know that others feel the same and fight these battles as well. That we are not alone. Keep fighting, stay strong, you got this girl!!!!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Thats very ironic! I was just reading your post in my reader as I was catching up on blogs. 😊 I was going to take a day off from exercising, but you know, I think after reading one the stories you talked about, I’ll go for a walk.
    ❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  9. How ironic that I’ve just done my first ‘in the news’ post (new series idea, not sure if I’ll stick with it). News can be a powerful thing in a lot of ways, and even negative news that’s not personally triggering can erode you over time, like becoming generally more negative or cynical. I imagine being triggered the way you were could have such a marked effect on you, but at the same time I get the sense of just how far you’ve come (‘…knowing that my truth is validation enough’), of how strong you are and how you learn from all of these experiences. xx

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Your healing and ability to find peace after a trigger in trauma is a beautiful share. I know tge headlines you speak of I believe and I too was triggered and found a place I vould go and remove the trauma of tge story from my personal journey ans not soak that in by not dwelling and allowing the story to penetrate my cells with the poison it would have seeped into every crack and scar.

    Liked by 2 people

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