When News Stories Are Triggering | Using DBT to Recoup

Many of us with Borderline Personality Disorder also have symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  Even if we do not, there may be certain subjects and circumstances that can "trigger" us into a troubled state, whether we flashback to the past or feel extremely frightened, as if we were in present danger even if we are not.

Because I am very sensitive to violence, I abstain from television shows and movies that I know contain it (except this one time recently, when I used bad judgment and ended up triggered). I also completely avoid the evening news.  

As careful as I am, because I am a talk radio junkie, I inevitably hear snippets of the news during the day. We can't completely avoid it. People around us will talk about it. We'll hear about it out in public. 

It's not that I want to live under a rock and not know what's going on in the world, but I find that knowing about senseless acts of violence where I have no control to help anybody does not do anything to help my mental state.

On the way to work today, I heard a snippet.

*Possible Trigger Warning*

Evidently, a young man in his twenties open fired on a bunch of moviegoers last night at the midnight showing of the new Batman movie in Denver, Colorado.  Twelve perished, mostly young children and their mothers, and about three dozen others remain critically wounded.

I was shocked, but what took me aback was the graphic description of one girl's experience and her tear-felt reaction caught on tape and played through my radio speakers. I won't repeat it. It's too much....tears streamed down my face, and I shouted "Why God?" I was angry and sad. My mind, unfortunately, "went there" doing a reenactment of the terrible scene as my mind imagines it must have happened. I felt shaken up.

I was actually driving on a road where I didn't have the option to pull over, so I quickly started noticing my breathing. I noticed my in-breaths and out-breaths. I focused on the road. I then knew I needed to distract, so I put on some upbeat music.  This all helped. 

There was nothing I could do, and I was already dealing with distress -- I was on my way to the opthamologist for an emergency eye appointment which also called for putting my DBT skills into overdrive. (I may blog on this in the next few days.)

After my eye appointment, since I couldn't drive or really use the computer due to my eyes being dilated, I went to work for a few hours. All I could really do was help fill in for our office manager (who was out sick) by answering the phone. I only answered one call, and you would not believe what happened.

I noticed on the display that the call came from Denver, Colorado. It was one of our vendors. I mentioned that we heard what had happened and that everyone there was on our hearts. The woman told me, in a shaky voice, that her dear friend is the downstairs neighbor of the shooter. She heard a song playing loudly on his apartment, and it was looped, playing over and over. She called the cops. They made the connection and entered the booby trapped apartment.

*End Trigger Warning*

Imagine - I don't normally answer the phone at the work place, and the ONE call I get is this one?  Sometimes I really stand back in wonder at the amazing "coincidences" that the Universe sets or allows up in our lives for learning lessons. I was able to listen and be supportive to this stranger who was so closely related to the tragedy I'd heard about on the radio this morning.

Wouldn't have been possible a year ago.

If you are also triggered by news stories, here is what I do to help myself through this type of trigger. I hope you will find something helpful.

  • Gently Avoid: I deliberately avoid watching the evening news and stations like CNN unless there is a story of interest that does not include graphic images, references, or audios relating to violence. If I hear something in passing, I change the television or radio station and quickly distract with an engaging activity.
  • Emotion Regulation (Empathy): If, like this morning, my emotional mind shows up and reacts to hearing the event (as would likely happen for many people, whether they have BPD or not), I tap into empathy and practice modulating the emotion. I use self-talk to remind myself of how human and normal it is to feel sadness for other people who have suffered or have been hurt.  I sometimes feel compelled to use the DBT skill of prayer to pray for those who were harmed and their loved ones and neighbors. (As a side note, I am not any particular religion and am open and accepting of everyone. My boyfriend, for example, is an atheist.)
  • Mindfulness Grounding: I notice my breath and follow it for a few minutes, then I begin noticing and describing sensations and surroundings. I notice my feet on my floor, the feeling of being supported by the chair, the plants in the room, the colors of the walls, etc. Doing this helps bring me back into the present moment, where all is well, and I am safe.

Are you also sensitive to the news or certain types of television shows and movies? What do you do to engage in self-care?

Thanks for reading.
More soon.


  1. This was a great post. I'm a Denver native but live on the East Coast now and today has been a really difficult day for me. My sister went to see the movie last night and she lives in Denver so I panicked until I found out she was ok. It's difficult dealing with BPD and situations like this, but thank you for this post about using DBT skills!

    1. Thank goodness your sister is ok. Wow Alex. Thank you for your kind comment. ♥

  2. I hate the news too. It breaks my heart how much evil there is in this world.

    1. Absolutely horrific. Thanks for your comment. ♥

  3. Thanks very much for covering this issues. I was definitely triggered upon hearing this terrible news yesterday, and I'm still trying to cope today.

  4. Regarding your call into the radio show... I agree with everything that you were saying completely. On the other hand what Monty said that we as mentally ill people have a responsibility to society to take our medication was a little disturbing in itself. I take my medication daily and haven't missed a dose in years. I have enough issues without worrying about being med-compliant. HOWEVER, there are people I know... like my best friend who is bipolar and she does not take medication. She is a fully functioning human being working two jobs, supporting her family and controlling herself. There's a line to be drawn when a mentally ill (or non-mentally ill) person starts to demonstrate psychotic behaviors. Then they SHOULD take their medication. However, just like anything else we all have choices, good and bad, smart and not so smart. Being on medication is smart if you are mentally ill... that's common sense. However, to be told that we have a responsibility to society to medicate ourselves is offensive. He showed no signs beforehand of being mentally ill. Therefore, how do we now deduce that he was? Any person is capable of anything. It's a matter of control and logic not to do such a thing. Just my personal opinion.

    1. Thank you Melanie. I encourage you to share your views with Monty for sure. He is on KGO 810 am in San Francisco on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am - 1 pm Pacific time. They stream online from their website. The call in number is 415-808-0810. He is also on Facebook as "The Monty Show" and on Twitter as @themontyshow. Thanks!



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