Trigger Relapse


Hello Everyone,

It's been a while since I last posted, but I have been reading and re-reading new posts and some of my older ones. It has taken some courage to come back on here, even though this place has been one of my biggest refuges.

At some point this summer (I cannot recall when), I was really heavily triggered about my abuse. Often it comes from news stories of people abuse kids or being caught with child pornography. One major blowback to my recovery was two years ago when a former classmate and someone who lived in the same building as me was arrested for that stuff. But what usually triggers me is how in so many mediums such as on gay dating apps, but especially in the porn world online, there is so much glorification and normalisation of stuff that resembles child abuse but with adults. It has been bothering me so much and I want to scream and shout but instead I internalise my feelings inwardly, have extreme anxiety and bursts of sexual compulsion (such as hours on a dating app like a zombie) where I oscillate between wanting to be abused and recreate the feelings of what I went through and desperately seeking positive, healthy sexual encounters to balance all that out.

I keep putting myself into situations which only trigger me further and exacerbate my anxiety and self-hate, as well as feelings of overwhelming despair that there is nothing I can do to change what happened or that people out there glorify abuse. I feel like I have re-opened wounds and taken some steps back in my recovery journey. I keep thinking I was doing so well and now it feels like there is a giant void inside me again. It is a weird cycle: if I don't want to have sex, I can look at porn but that will trigger me and there is so much out there that isn't safe for me: so if I go out into the real world for relationships, I often find myself being forced to do stuff I don't want to by older men and I am also re-traumatised. I don't want any of this. My heart and mind are aching.

I think of my complex PTSD as like a skin condition that no one can see, but I can feel it burning and distracting me from other thoughts: since August it's been flaring up again.
My sleeping has been erratic and sometimes after eating I get so anxious I need to throw up.

Where I am right now I don't have a therapist or support group like before. Just some resource books, some close friends, and these forums.
Hi JayBro

Welcome back sorry for what has brought you. This is a good place to come and share with others it is helpful. It always amazes me how fast I can go from doing good to a complete mess in a heart beat.

Again welcome back.



Esterio said:
It always amazes me how fast I can go from doing good to a complete mess in a heart beat.
Thank you for your understanding. It sounds cliche, but right now it is good to know that I am not the only one experiencing that. I sometimes feel so hypocritical when I have months and months of feeling fine. I need to really work on making myself safe and not re-exposing myself to potentially triggering situations. What have your experiences been like?

I am alone here where I live (most family and closest friends are 1000's of KM away in Canada) so awaiting a call from a friend to help me calm down. Thank you so much for posting, it makes me feel less alone.
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hi JayBro

Thanks I am glad to hear that you do not feel so a lone. I live alone as well and the family that is close to me do not communicate with me their loss. I have 2 good friends but don't we talk about my abuse with one we do talk about our symptoms. I have cPTSD and he has environmental brain damage.

I don't talk to them as I know they don't understand, they are good friends and would help me with what ever if the can. I live in Canada on the south west coast just north of Vancouver.

I have had several traumatic experiences CSA, accidents an bad times in the OR.

Hope you a find lot of helpful guys here as I have.




Thank you for sharing your journey. I think most of us, at least me, were slow to understand the triggers that were debilitating my life. My T, doctors and support groups told me over and over what some of my worse triggers were--but did I listen, did I heed their warnings--no and I remained in a very triggering and now understand dangerous environment (which could have been fatal to me). I also would hear words or see stories or a TV program that I knew inside me would trigger me, but I became engrossed as I began to read or watch. I knew I should stop and focus elsewhere. It took time for me to understand my triggers and to learn coping mechanisms to assist in recovery from the trigger. Within myself I wanted to be like others--believing the events would not trigger me--I was wrong. It is a process and as I learned to leave or avoid the triggers I was able to focus on me and the present.

Today these events, words or actions do not trigger me--I have been healing and accepting life, myself and the abuse. It is when we are struggling to accept the abuse, to accept ourselves that we become vulnerable to the triggers because they bring us back to the past, the abuse and abuser(s). In time we learn to accept and LOVE ourselves. Not an easy journey nor one that is ever fully complete.

I am sorry for your pain, your lack of sleep and the PTSD symptoms that have returned. Yes our wounds cannot be seen and without being visible some do not believe in the reality, the truth of the wounds.

You took a brave step, one that shows you want to heal. You saw your struggles and returned to a place, MS, that is here to support and encourage you. You are taking action to regain and reset your journey to heal. Be proud of yourself. Lean on us and your friends--my friends were there for me and have brought to a place of peace I thought I would never see after years of faltering, destruction. MS has been invaluable.

Vent and share as you need.

JayBro -

let me second the welcome back and the regrets for your need to check back in here and the open invitation to vent and express your thoughts and feelings as much as you need to.

Sorry about the many triggers that you are dealing with. I agree with Kevin's suggestion about becoming mindful of what triggers you and trying to avoid those things, people, places, or media. i have found that i have to change the channel on the TV a lot these days for my own good. I dont see it as running away but as eliminating allergens or toxins from my environment. it does help.

do what it takes to keep yourself safe. and don't be shy about reaching out for support. that is why we are here - at least one of the big reasons.



Hello Esterio, KMCINVA, and traveler,

thank you so much for your kind words. I have re-read your messages several times and thought of how I could best respond. This past weekend wasn't very productive for work or uni, but instead was a real emotional rollercoaster with many abuse triggers. For much of the time I felt like I was in a trance-state and the hours fly by incredibly fast. It is clear to me that I am (sub)consciously re-processing what happened to me for many years and re-exposing myself to triggers and reliving certain memories has only traumatised me further. I need to learn better self-care and not giving into triggers... that has always been one of my weak points.

I'd like to continue writing here and keeping you informed about how I am dealing with this issue or other issues, as well as respond to posts by fellow MS members.

It means a lot to me that you all responded and so promptly. It certainly makes me feel less alone and "weird" when I come here.

Much love



I have thoughts I was doing ok with the media bliss on the coverage of CSA. I have had many sleepless nights over the past weeks, I have nightmares not about the abuse but rather self harm--I wake in a panic. I sleep little and during the day I begin to self think of the nightmares and what I could do to myself. I have been tracking backwards and realize these thoughts escalated in late August when someone from my home parish shared with me an article of an extended investigation into sexual abuse in my Diocese back to 1953. This person is a survivor but has not come forward and struggles daily with many issues. I fear for him as the investigation uncovers the depth of the abuses how it will affect him. I also fear learning how many others suffered and fear learning of others I have known in life who were abused. I also fear the investigation will not be as comprehensive as stated by the Bishop. I fear restrictions will be placed on the investigation. I wonder how the history of destroyed documents of sexual abuse by earlier Bishops will be recreated or dismissed to give fairness to the survivors and those that did not survive. It has been eating at me. I also fear having to relive it over and over.

Judge To Review 65 Years Of Sex-Abuse Claims Against Bridgeport Diocese Priests

Dave Altimari Dave AltimariContact Reporter
[email protected]
The Diocese of Bridgeport announced Wednesday that it has hired former Superior Court Judge Robert L. Holzberg to do a comprehensive review of all the priest sexual-abuse claims made against or settled by the diocese over the last 65 years.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said in a press release that Holzberg “will have complete and unrestricted access to all Diocesan files, records and archives dating from 1953.” All clergy still under the diocese’s control and all church administrators will be made available for Holzberg to interview.

Documents Reveal Former Connecticut Bishop Allowed Priests Facing Sex Abuse Allegations To Continue Working »

The Bridgeport announcement comes weeks after a Pennsylvania grand jury report was released that detailed horrific claims of priest sexual abuse cases in that diocese.

In Pennsylvania the attorney general’s office did an 18-month investigation that covered six of the state’s dioceses — Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. The grand jury reviewed more than 2 million documents, including from the “secret archives” — files that church leaders held from the public for decades.

The 1,400 page report revealed that there were more than 300 priests who abused children and identified more than 1,000 children who had been abused.

Holzberg is expected to complete a report by the spring of 2019. Holzberg is now an attorney at the Bridgeport based law firm of Pullman & Comley. He will be allowed to hire other attorneys and investigators from that firm to help conduct the investigation.

Holzberg’s final report will be presented publicly along with any recommendations.

“Judge Holzberg epitomizes long-term, dedicated and conscientious service to the community,” Caggiano said in the press release.

“He possesses the highest integrity, and he has made substantial contributions to the administration of justice in Connecticut. We are grateful that he has agreed to lead this significant review.”

Holzberg retired in 2012 after earning a reputation as a master mediator. That reputation was earned on the basis of his settling two high-profile cases.


One involved the serial sexual abuse of hundreds of children at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center by endocrinologist George Reardon. In that case Holzberg settled about 150 potential claims for about $50 million.

The second case was the Kleen Energy explosion in Middletown that killed six people and wounded dozens. Holzberg mediated all but one of the wrongful death claims and many of the claims by those injured in the blast.

Holzberg also is familiar with priest sex abuse cases. On his final day as a judge in 2012 he mediated a settlement between the Norwich Diocese and Mary Maynard, a woman who alleged she had been abused by the Rev. Thomas Shea and the diocese had covered it up. On the day the trial was supposed to begin he mediated a $1.1 million settlement for Maynard.

The Bridgeport diocese fought bitterly to keep priest records sealed and to not reveal the depth of the scandal in the diocese and the lengths that Bishops took to keep the issue secret.

They fought for seven years to keep about 12,675 documents from priest sexual abuse lawsuits sealed but eventually the state Supreme Court ordered them to be released in 2009.

But even when those documents were released nearly 1,500 pages were kept sealed because the diocese asserted that those records were privileged under state and federal law and still subject to a court-ordered seal. The withheld documents include 685 pages taken from personnel files of as many as 17 priests who were the subjects of sexual abuse allegations dating back to the 1960s.

David Clohessy, the former National Director of SNAP, a priest-abuse survivor group, said many dioceses are doing what Bridgeport is doing but his group remains skeptical of the ’ church’s motives.

“We simply don't trust Bishop Frank J. Caggiano to give anyone ‘complete and unrestricted access’ to his abuse and cover up files. For decades, bishops have decided who gets to know what about predator priests,” Clohessy said in a written statement. “Those days are over. If kids are to be safer, it's crucial that police, prosecutors and the public get this information, not one guy hand-picked by the church officials who have been hiding these crimes for ages.”

The Bridgeport diocese settled complaints against seven priests for $12 million to $15 million in March 2001, shortly after Edward Egan was promoted to cardinal in New York. Egan, who was bishop in Bridgeport from 1988 to 2000, was a defendant in some of the lawsuits and fought them aggressively from 1993 until the settlement.

That settlement included allegations against some of the more notorious priests in the diocese including Laurence F. X. Brett, Raymond Pcolka and Charles Carr and involved 23 plaintiffs.

Brett was accused of abusing more than two-dozen children in Connecticut, New Mexico, California and Maryland dating to the early 1970s. He disappeared in 1993 until The Courant found him living on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten.

In 2003 then-Bishop William Lori announced another settlement for $21 million to 40 plaintiffs who alleged they had been sexually molested by a priest.

Those cases were separate from the earlier ones and involved different priests. On its own website the Diocese of Bridgeport lists 26 priests who have been accused of sexual abuse since the 1960s.

Just last week three new lawsuits were filed against the diocese in Superior Court in Bridgeport by five alleged victims claiming they were abused by three priests – the Rev. Walter Coleman, the Rev. Robert Morrissey and the Rev. Larry Jensen from the 1980s to the early 2000s.

Former Bishops Walter Curtis and Egan, who died in 2015, were heavily involved in keeping the lawsuits secret, and left Bridgeport before any of the settlements were announced and before The Courant published then-secret parts of Egan’s depositions.

In that deposition Egan told attorneys for 23 accusers that he wasn't interested in allegations — only "realities." He added that "very few have even come close to having anyone prove anything" against a priest.

In 448 pages of depositions Egan was forced to give he argued with attorneys that only a "remarkably small number" of priests have ever been accused of wrongdoing.

"These things [sexual abuse complaints] happen in such small numbers. It's marvelous when you think of the hundreds and hundreds of priests and how very few have ever been accused, and how very few have even come close to having anyone prove anything," Egan said.

"Claims are one thing," he said. "One does not take every claim against a human being as a proved misdeed. I'm interested in proved misdeeds."

I have been silent of this article and the thoughts it has raised. I have fears after all I have been through with the Diocese--and my go to people are away on overseas assignment and I do not want to burden others I believe would be there for me but are less verse in PTSD and trauma. I was able to speak with a doctor who said my nightmares and self harm may represent a repressed memory I have failed to accept or acknowledge--it is possible, or it may be the hurt I carry for the boy who committed suicide who was with me during some of the abuse or it may be a manifestation of my desire to end it all and totally escape. I do not feel I want to die, but I am immobilized daily with fear of these thoughts.

Maybe I am worrying about the other person who is struggling and I am feeling his pain. I do not know but I need sleep.



Hey Kevin,

I skimmed through the article but will read it more in-depth when I am feeling better. I did read your messages above and below the article. You may very well be dealing with repressed memories. Depending on how long the abuse lasted and how you did or didn't process it, it sometimes seems to be able to have changed our psyches or consciousness/whatever you may want to call it, in was that are difficult for us to notice on a surface level. So yes, different layers of memory and emotional processing may be coming out in you through nightmares. The fact that a fellow-victim of the same abuser died in such a way must be heart-breaking and I am so sorry to read about that. I find it easier for me to feel others' pain and have sympathy for them and then only self-hate and fear towards myself.

This afternoon I was in another "zombie-trance reliving my abuse" moment and just got out of it now. I was feeling really nauseous and threw up. It was a bit of a "reset button" and allowed me to calm down a bit, come on here. By exposing myself to triggers or finding ways for me to relive feelings of my abuse I am only re-traumatising myself further. My good friend who is actually studying to become a psycho-therapist said it is like I am trying to go back in time with more power and somehow stop the abuse, change the past through current outcomes. I think he may be right. These last two-three months have been pretty bad and I want the pain, confusion, and distractions to end. I don't want these triggers. I don't want there to be abuse on this world. It is like I am on a rocking ship and am holding onto the railings for dear life until this storm passes.


Still struggling with inability to sleep--been up most of the night. Thoughts are not of the abuse but I keep waking to standing in front of a bus, a train, dangling from a build, drowning. I have spoken with support and know there is something I have not yet told anyone of the abuse. There was the rape I have told but never told of the perversion that came with the rape, the deviant nature of how it was done. I had been doing so well until the last barrage of media on CSA and the Church.

I have been told my dreams are my way of believing I can escape the past so as not to accept the specifics of the abuse. They said I am running away in my dreams but do not want to really run away. I have disclosed so much, felt I had healed and now I struggle with the most heinous part of the abuse. I have thought I could escape working through this part seeing I had done so much. I just need sleep. I do not want to escape, I know what was done but I tried to write the details and I could not, I sobbed. I have been told the overwhelming media and news triggered something I had controlled. Wrong again, the abuse controls until all is released. I just need sleep to think clearly and process what I knew and thought I processed, wrong again. So much to work through.


Sorry to hear what you're going through. Glad you are gaining some clarity. I find a similar dynamic often works in me: periods of doing well can begin to unravel as an important aspect of the abuse which I haven't yet discussed begins to move out of me. First shows up in sleeplessness, dreams, irritability, and, if I don't deal with it, flashbacks, etc.

I wish you the best getting through this challenge and still remember the help and encouragement you extended to me when I first joined and had so much difficulty with various challenges, especially severe dissociation.



You are exactly right. I was told we let of what we can handle and ultimately the whole story must be told and not remain solely in my head. Leaving it in my head alone allows it to swirl and wreak havoc as I try to veer away from facing it. I am working on it and I do not want to return to the world of flashbacks. I want to process without going there because they were a painful and long process.

Thank you for your kind words and insight.



I just wanted to come back and say that this evening was another zombie-triggering event for me. I always feel better after I reach out to my close supporters and to you guys here.

I wish sometimes that I could be asexual so that I wouldn't get triggered by stuff out in the porn world. Either that or already in a healthy intimate relationship where I feel free from triggers. I notice that when I am feeling most lonely and stressed I am also most vulnerable to being triggered. I look at porn and/or for hook ups that make me more triggered and emulate certain aspects of the abuse like humiliation and dominance. And so much porn out there is totally catered to creeps and is so pervasive. It makes me so .... [triggered is not even a strong enough word at this point]... like I just want to crawl out of my skin and evaporate. I can't take the negative physical and mental feelings and my body just shuts down and goes into zombie mode. Sometimes I am subconsciously trying to seek closure or self-harm by exposing myself to triggers, but it doesn't go anywhere.

On the outside, I come across as a happy over-achiever who is so involved with work and uni, but when events like tonight transpire, I feel a bit of me dies inside- or is at least badly wounded. I feel like an actor without genuine emotions, albeit memories of the emotions and behaviours I have to simulate in order to get that pay cheque, to complete that course, to keep up appearances in my social life.

And now I have a full and busy day tomorrow and rest of the week and I need to pretend like everything is ok.
Really, when all I want to do is hide under my bed covers and not leave the house, getting out there can be a good medicine for me. Like running, the first few minutes can be uncomfortable (for few hours in the case of being out of the house), but eventually I reach a threshold where it is not too bad and I enjoy it, with energy to continue on. That's what I keep telling myself.
Perhaps it's just a form of mania expressed as sociability and productiveness at work and uni?