Triggered by Tragedy in Connecticut

*** Trigger Warning: This post's topic includes details of a triggering news story that occurred in the USA today.***

I went against my better judgment today.  After hearing the tragic news of yet another shooting, this time at an elementary school in Connecticut, instead of processing through my feelings after hearing the coverage on the radio and then getting skillful, I turned on the TV. Big mistake.

At first, it was about feeling so horrified and sorry for the families who suffered losses and the children who witnessed the unspeakable event. I knew I should have turned off the TV, but I kept watching.  I wanted someone to make sense out of this whole thing. I wanted to understand how this could possibly happen. I wanted to send love, support, and encouragement to the parents who were not reunited with their children and to the traumatized students, staff, and friends and relatives of these children.

I cried as I watched peoples' stories and saw parents and teachers visibly distraught.

Mentions by the newscasters that the shooter was mentally ill made me nervous.  I have recently been so much more open about my own mental illness, particularly Borderline Personality Disorder and PTSD.  When the reporter suddenly said to one of the police officials, "We received word that he had a personality disorder," my nervous system went into overdrive.

Fearful thoughts filled my mind:

What personality disorder does he have?
Will my friends and loved ones be afraid of ME now, thinking I could be capable of something like this?
What makes a person "snap:"? (They kept using that word on CNN and FOX.)
Do we (all mentally ill) need to worry that we might someday "lose it"?

I can't even tell you how intense my anxiety got, and I haven't completely come down from it. The muscles in my neck, shoulders, and jaw became so tight that I began to develop a headache.  When my significant other got home, he asked me why I was watching the coverage and to turn the channel.  I told him I was so sad that the President was moved to tears and about this whole thing. Then I told him that they said the guy might have had a personality disorder and that I was scared they would say it was BPD.

He then looked at me, as the newscasters moved on to say that the children will likely suffer from PTSD. It's a word he's heard a lot lately. He said, "PTSD?  Personality disorder?  You're not going to hurt me someday, are you?"    WHAT?!?

I was devastated, shocked, and speechless. I felt so hurt, offended, and terrified that I couldn't answer. Then I got nervous and left the room. When I came back, he asked me to answer the question.   

I asked him how he could ask me this. We've been together for so many years. He said sometimes he's scared of my anger -- that I get so angry, even over little things and that I can be so mean.  I was completely heartbroken and terrified that he would even for a SECOND have any thoughts about me that would prompt him to ask this. If he was worried, shouldn't I be worried too?  It made me question my own sanity. Yes, I get really angry sometimes, but I've never hurt another person nor do I believe I would ever be capable of doing such a thing.  I told him that.

He then tried to reassure me that he wasn't serious but given my reaction, maybe he should be. Devastating.  I don't know how to respond to this.  I got in the shower to self-soothe. I had the water on really hot, and when thoughts about the shooting or the conversation came up, I redirected my mind to the feel of the water and the soap. I refocused my thoughts on what was happening in the shower. I slowed down my breathing.

I'm now in a different part of the house. I need some space. To think if I had listened to my gut and not turned that television on, this incident probably would not have happened.  But, I can't change the past.

I somehow have to accept that what happened in Connecticut happened, and the conversation that took place in my home tonight also happened.  I am breathing deeply and releasing, as BEST as I can, any judgment around the question I was asked.  After all, I've been talking about mental illness so much lately, especially around my own diagnoses. Maybe he just felt scared by the whole story -- the way they were saying the young man was mentally ill and he snapped. I don't know, and I have to accept that, too. Did I cause him to ask by expressing that I was worried the person who committed this heinous act had BPD?  I don't know. I feel like I brought this on in a way. Maybe I scared him by saying this.

Black and White, intensely dysregulated emotions have been coming through my mind, like:

I am going to admit myself to the hospital tonight because I feel so distraught.
I am a complete and total lunatic and hate myself for being mentally ill.
I am going to deny completely that I am mentally ill and act as if everything is hunky dory.
I should quit my blogs because they just reinforce that there's something "wrong" with me and make me focus on it.

Wise Mind has also come on board. Through it, I'm encouraging myself to acknowledge that the above thoughts are extreme/black or white, should not be taken seriously, and that I'll think more clearly once I calm down.

Other Wise Mind thoughts:

I am not going to admit myself and am going to take an Ativan (which I just did).
This, too shall pass. I was triggered. My nervous system has been alarmed. This is a normal reaction to the brain thinking there is some danger. There is no danger. All is well. I will feel better soon.
I've been triggered before. I can and will get through this. I need to do extra self-soothing and distress tolerance.
I'm not going to quit my blogs. They are a source of light and encouragement for many others and a safe place to be honest about my walk with BPD. I may need to take a break and focus on non-mental health issues for a bit, but I'll need to decide that from a clearer state of mind.

Self Care Plan:

I am probably going to make another cup of hot tea tonight as I did earlier to soothe.
I'm breathing deeply and slowing down my breath.
I'm also going to distract by watching something uplifting on television or Netflix.

Please take EXTRA good care of yourself tonight, as will I. Incidents like these can be just horrific for emotionally sensitive people. But in being skillful and kind to ourselves, we will get through it and feel better soon.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.


  1. I'm glad you held on and listened to your Wise Mind thoughts. We'll all get through this, and I'm so sorry to hear about your horrific evening, and especially about what your S.O. said. My husband slips up at times, too...but they're trying as best as they can. No one is perfect, not us, not them...just give it time. <3 Hang in there, Debbie.

  2. I completely understand as i too was unavoidably triggered by todays events. I myself had been feeling better than usual and felt i had seen progress in my healing but it's hard to prepare for something like this. I'm going to say something that a lot of times family and friends say to me that usually kind of aggravates me...i might be explaining an overreaction i couldn't control about something and many times i hear "oh everyone feels that way sometimes" or "anyone would feel that way having to deal with something like that." In this circumstance it makes me wonder if someone said these things to me about the anger and anxiety that were triggered in me today, that they might be right. With something as horrible a this happening i feel there are many people who may actually be feeling the exact same emotions bpd or non bpd. On that note i feel that you deserve a lot of credit and you have shown your strength by sharing your thoughts with us and making the decision not to go to the hospital after being exposed to some really awful things. Stay strong. I admire you and i can only hope to someday make the kind of progress you have made.

    1. I wrote a poem about my BPD (before my diagnosis). I recently showed it to my mother-in-law, who said "everyone feels like that." BULL! I put my heart and soul into that poem, all of my thoughts and emotions. Does everyone feel like this:

      I Am The Shadow

      I am the shadow,
      I exist in a world of light,
      Blending into the darkness of night.

      My face you cannot see,
      My expressions, sometimes misleading.

      If you hear a whisper in the wind,
      It may be me.

      I am the shadow,
      I exist in a world of sounds, good and bad.
      Of laughter,

      You think that I feel nothing,
      No love,
      No hate,
      No anger,
      No fear,
      No pain.
      But you are wrong.

      You think that I do not cry,
      But I weep silently.
      You cannot see the tears that slide down my cheeks,
      But they are there.

      I am the shadow, you cannot touch,
      Always within sight but never within reach.

      I am the shadow, afraid to trust the light for it distorts me.
      Please forgive me if I trick you,
      I cannot control it.

      I long to live in the light,
      To be held and loved,
      But I am only a silent shadow,
      Watching but unable to take part in it all,
      What others do, I can only dream of.

      So I lurk in corners,
      Always waiting for the night to come,
      Always dying but never dead.

      I am the shadow, I have no friends,
      Even in a crowd, I’m all alone.
      Existing in somber shades of gray,
      A lonely shadow,
      I’m doomed to stay.

      By Joyce Savage.

  3. I too had a similar instant reaction, mid-cooking Hanukkah dinner I found myself wanting to break down, scream and tell news, twitter ad everyone on FB to stop using the work "sick" or "mentally ill" anytime someone does something terrible.

    It's triggering as a counselor when people make comments, generalizations (and as I put it on FB "general douchebaggery.") It does raise the question from others if "mentally ill people can get better" and if "mentally ill= dangerous."

    This week I will prob make a blog on how the mentally ill commit the same amount of crimes as non-MI people.

    I too took a hot shower and focuses on the hot water, the smell of the soap and envisioned the negative energy being washed away and good "clean" energy coming in.

    Thanks for the post, I was wondering how this triggered people in the community.

  4. I am sorry that these tragic events created such an inappropriate question to form and be said to you from your loved one. I am sorry that his question made your BPD and anxiety become triggered. I also was triggered by tonight's events and by reading your blog I am able to receive the encouragement and support that I do not have in my life. I suffer through my illness alone an outcast from the only family I sister. This time of year is already hard for me and then to see innocent people murdered by someone who may or may not suffer from a disease that I know to well ....creates an overwhelming feeling of sadness and shame for being mentally ill. Please, don't give up on this blog and writing your just don't know who you are truly helping. (Like me.) It wasn't until I read your blog that I applied your techniques for a better mental outcome to play in my own life, for my own mental health. Mindfulness is the key for me and reading this has reiterated that for me. I too often fall into the whole black n white thinking and fall victim to my extreme feelings of horrible or awesome. I am drinking green tea and being aware of my emotions, I am applying breathing techniques also. Thank you for your honesty and your blog Please keep up your website! God Bless and I get it you are not alone. <3

  5. Thank you for sharing... all of the comments, too. I don't have BDP, but have lived with depression for 40 years. The shootings triggered me, too. My 31 yo son has BiPD and I am afraid of him. Yesterday I wanted to move somewhere and not tell him where I moved. Unrealistic, but such a mental battle. I can use the techniques you use to help myself. Thank you.

  6. I knew this story would put me in a bad spot so I did not turn on the tv or read even one article about it. What I know is very little from blurbs I quit reading as soon as I realize what they are about.

    I care about what happened, I am praying for all the people affected, but I can't be exposed to the details. I didn't even read this post past the photo's caption until I got to the "self-care" heading. I didn't read any of the other comments just to be on the safe side, too. I feel like I am being paranoid, but I am so sensitive to it just like you. I hope you are feeling better.


  7. Waited until tonight to read this (worried about being triggered) but reading how well you handled it - even if it didn't feel like it at the time - was really inspirational.

    It was just a couple of years ago that certain people in politics in my area were trying to re-establish laws that would put people suspected of mental illness into custody at the psychiatric hospitals (because of a similar situation). For once i was glad about budget cuts to the psychiatric hospitals (not really but...). As a bpd and pstd patient i have been "certified"/ in custody/ not self-admitted at said facility and sometimes i also freakout and wonder if i belong there...

    Thanks again for your post and when thoughts like "I should quit my blogs..." come up please don't listen, you're blog is too valuable.



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