Trauma Triggers, Self Care and Las Vegas

It’s taken me a couple of days to come to terms with the horrific shooting at the Route 91 event in Las Vegas.  Like many of you, I woke up Monday morning, turned on the TV and immediately began feeling the symptoms of being triggered.  I felt the familiar veil of cold sweat on my forehead and the back of my neck.  I was hungry but I did not feel like eating.  But the most pervasive symptom has stayed with me for the last 48 hours.  I have been watching the media coverage non-stop and obsessively checking my social media accounts.
Yes, I know that I am not supposed to do this.  Within the first 24 hours, I saw multiple posts from well-meaning therapists and trauma specialists advising their audiences to turn off the TV and stay off social media.  Did I take their advice?  No.  I did the exact opposite.  I even took it one step further.  I became frustrated and angry at these people.

If there is one thing I despise in the world of therapy and treatment, it’s “blanket” advice.  It often gets confused with “best practices.”  Based on available data and studies, therapists and treatment counselors assume that all trauma survivors respond the same way.  Therefore, swamping the media and social media platforms with an “overall” treatment plan makes them appear as an expert on the subject of how people should practice “self-care” when they have been bombarded with negative images and non-stop coverage of an event like the one that occurred in Las Vegas.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I have a great deal of respect for data and confirmed studies.  In the field of psychology, these tools are some of the most effective ways to establish a baseline for treatment.  However, any therapist or treatment counselor must take a patient’s history into account when creating a personalized treatment plan.

So, back to my reasoning to ignore all of the advice I heard on TV and in social media.  When I begin to feel frustrated and angry with information that I was bombarded with, I immediately begin to turn to research.  I also call my closest advisors for to get their take on the situation.

You probably will not be surprised that all of them had very different ways that they were using to help them cope with their reactions to this event. They also described the reasons why they had chosen a specific path to manage their feelings of fear and uncertainty.

This is why I love this team!  They force me to remain open to numerous therapies, coping strategies, and beliefs. What works for them, may not work for me.  When I have those moments of banging my forehead and throwing up my arms in response to someone’s post, they remind me that my story is very different from the person who is posting.

I want to introduce you to my team and give you a little background on their stories. All the information I give to you has been detailed with their permission.

My Team

Megan Cannon – I met Megan when she was dating my oldest son.  To make a long story short, she single-handedly convinced my son that I was not a “cocaine-addicted prostitute living in Mexico.” This was a lie that his stepmother had concocted to alienate him from me and fulfill her desire to be the only woman in his life that deserved her love and attention.

To say that the stepmother put her through hell once she realized what Megan had done would be an understatement. Megan threatened this woman’s reason for being.  I still feel an incredible sense of gratitude for what she did.  I also feel an immense sense of guilt that she had to go through the gas lighting, spying, and public humiliation that this woman put me through.

Megan is a tiny powerhouse! Not only does she have model-perfect looks, she is smart as a whip and pursuing her doctorate degree despite all the setbacks that my son’s stepmother threw in her way.

Sir Aaron MasonSir Aaron was assigned to me as a client in residential treatment when he was 15 yrs. old.  When they handed me his file, my first remark was, “there is no way I am calling some 15-yr. old gang banger ‘Sir.’  When he showed up the next day (all 6’7” of him) I changed my mind.

This giant kiddo was a bomb waiting to happen.  He would be as sweet as a new puppy but as destructive as a hurricane when he was provoked.  The only times I referred to him as “Aaron” was when I was asked to “go get your boy, he’s throwing desk around again in the classroom.”

He remained my client until he graduated.  Not to my surprise he went on to get his Master’s and is now working on his Doctorate degree.

He is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the rights of foster children and trauma survivors.

Kendalle ArubaKendalle is the official “Baby Trauma Llama (BTL).” would not exist without her.

Kendalle and I met the summer we spent in an inpatient trauma treatment program.  My second day in the program, a fellow patient became angry and frustrated with Kendalle when she began to dissociate in response to a very detailed story that was being recounted by the woman whom eventually placed the blame on her.  In this woman’s defense, it was her second day as well and she had no idea that her story would trigger anyone in the room.

There I was, on my second day in treatment, comforting this amazingly smart and beautiful woman with unicorn colored hair.  That’s the “mom” in me.  I had no idea that this young woman would become one of my most trusted advisors.

Jane – I have been friends with this woman since high school.  I’ve always thought that she was the funniest, most spontaneous person I ever met.  I had no idea that she had been repeatedly sexually abused while she was growing up.

I reconnected with her several years ago when a mutual friend recommended that I reach out to her.  On the surface, it appeared that she had been a victim of the same abuse I suffered during my divorce.  The truth of the matter was that the abuse she suffered was much worse.

I am respectfully not sharing the horrific details of her story for her own protection.  The abuse almost cost her, her life.

I refer to her as my “spiritual” advisor.  When I get into that mode where I think that I can control everything around me, she reminds me that The Universe is much more powerful than me.

As you can see, each member of my team has endured many different types of traumas.  As a result, they have each, successfully, manifested ways that help them deal with the tragedy in Las Vegas.

In order to not make this post too long and too preachy, I will post my team’s recommendations for ways to cope with the constant barrage of coverage about the shooting event in Las Vegas.  I will also add the all the research that I feel is relevant, and important to help all of us heal.







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