Recovery from a Mental Illness Trigger Event

August 29, 2016 Becky Oberg

Do you know how to start recovery from a mental illness trigger event? Ever since Katrina hit and I served as a relief worker, I have had a fear bordering on terror of drowning. My city, Indianapolis, just got hit by a minor flood. I do not have the words to describe how I felt as I sat on the table of a friend's business and watched the water rise to the lugnuts of a car across the street. Let's just say I'm agnostic and I was praying like my life depended on it (Pushing Aside Daily Mental Health Triggers is Tough). Events such as these trigger psychiatric symptoms and are called mental illness trigger events. The good news is there is recovery from a mental illness trigger event.

Acknowledge Your Mental Illness Trigger

I feel a little embarrassed about my fear of drowning because I was not on scene when Katrina hit, so I didn't spend five hours in the attic with nine senior citizens as the water rose four feet as one woman my team did. I didn't see any drowned bodies. In addition, the recent flood in Indy wasn't that bad by Midwest standards--only about half a foot of water in my area. I didn't have to evacuate in a boat. I escaped with all my belongings intact. Intellectually I know that. But I still have a fear of drowning, and it is only by admitting the flood triggered this fear that I can process the trigger.

Acknowledge your mental illness trigger and your mental illness trigger event. There is nothing to be ashamed of. You are who you are, and what triggers you is what triggers you. You've been through a situation that was stressful for you, and only you know what you've experienced. Other people's experiences are not your experiences, and anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is a fool. You know yourself best--you know what it is that is causing the symptoms. Those are valid feelings because you are you and your feelings are your feelings. Acknowledging your feelings is the first step to bringing them in check.

Use Your Coping Skills to Recover from a Mental Illness Trigger Event

Recovery from a mental illness trigger event takes time, patience and understanding. Here is what you should keep in mind about mental illness trigger events.I've been dealing with the stress of the flood by playing video games and playing with my three pet rats: Fiona, Boca Raton, and Cocoa. These are my go-to coping skills. Every person has his or her own unique coping skills, both healthy and unhealthy. The trick is to choose the healthy ones, such as reading, writing, singing, praying, doing martial arts, and so forth. For example, I was amused for a good long time after Boca Raton discovered that the exercise wheel is an excellent spot for a nap. I just sat there and watched her not give a care.

There is no such thing as a stupid, healthy coping skill. As we said in the Army, if it's stupid but it works, it isn't stupid. Watching rats sleep in places designed for the opposite purpose may not be your thing. But it works for me and that's what counts. If I can stay safe by watching a lazy rat not care about being unclear on the concept of exercise, then it's a good, healthy coping skill.

For example, I've seen firsthand how therapy animals can light up a room. I've also seen untrained animals serve a therapeutic purpose. If you don't have a pet of your own, consider volunteering at a shelter as a dog walker--both the shelter and the dog will appreciate you, and sometimes feeling appreciated is all it takes to snap out of a funk. Find what works for you, and do it.

Talk About the Mental Illness Trigger Event

Find a sympathetic person--it doesn't have to be a therapist although I strongly encourage you to talk with a therapist--to talk about the event with and process it. The reason I recommend a therapist is because they're going to understand your emotions are running wild and that it's best not to cause secondary wounding by minimizing the mental illness trigger event. The important thing is to find someone who validates your feelings and doesn't make you feel like less of a person because of your natural reaction.

Talk about how you feel. Tell them about any strange or unusual symptoms you have, for example, cold sweats or rapid heart rate. Read up on posttraumatic stress disorder, a very real mental illness arising from a natural reaction to a traumatic event. Understand that what you feel is temporary. You will get to a point where you can breathe a little easier, the nightmares don't come as frequently, and you don't feel anxious all the time.

So that's how to begin recovery from a mental illness trigger event. Acknowledge your trigger. Use your coping skills. Talk about how you feel. Remember, what triggered you does not have to destroy you.

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APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2016, August 29). Recovery from a Mental Illness Trigger Event, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Author: Becky Oberg

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