*Trigger Warning* – the post discusses the recent wave of tragedies in the US and greater world. If it will upset you or trigger a mental health crisis, please do not read.
“SPOILER ALERT: People have been killed.” Terrorist attack! Sniper attack on police! Man in car shot by police! Mass shooting!
At the risk of sounding negative, sometimes we must face reality and recognize that none of this appears to be ending anytime soon. Rather, the window between events is getting smaller and smaller. Honestly, what’s next? What will it take to have a few days of just trivial headlines? Look, I get that by turning on the news or being on social media we’ve made an unofficial non-verbal agreement to accept that there will be some tragedy featured. After all, the only good news we get to see is in the film “Anchorman” (Panda Watch!) But we’ve reached a new low. I feel as citizens of this world, we are now caught somewhere between never leaving the house, arming ourselves like Rambo, or becoming completely apathetic to terror, race issues and anything else that will be thrown at us in the coming days.
Taking stock of my own personal social outlets and resources, I’ve noticed my current Facebook newsfeed reads like an endless stream of sad, confused and angry posts about the state of US race relations, officer-civilian relations, international relations, terrorism and more, while my Twitter feed has evolved into a non-stop barrage of hashtags beginning with Pray for “fill in the blank” or “_________ Lives Matter.” It’s an unsettling feeling when each morning a new hashtag appears in an effort to unify people or show support for a grieving community. Now, I am in no way diminishing any of these calls for support. What I’m concerned about is how often these terrible events are occurring and how we cope with them, particularly when facing a mental illness. .
Having a mental illness during times of duress is nothing short of torture. Horrific tragedies such as Orlando, Dallas, Paris, and Nice tend to hit closer to home than the average person. Yes, it is completely normal to feel fear, worry, or panic that this could happen in your own community, but when you have a mental illness, the pain lasts much longer. It can become crippling and all-consuming. There’s the immense sadness and deep concern for all those involved despite their status to us as strangers. We experience empathy for their families and friends only to then begin having feelings of hopelessness for our community and our world.
Crisis is almost always a mental health trigger. But how do we avoid these triggers? Obviously the best way would be to avoid, well civilization, but since that’s practically unattainable, how do we cope? What can we do to not start crying in the car waiting for the light to turn green or while picking up the dry cleaning? I asked myself these questions after the terror attacks in Paris. I asked myself this again after Brussels. Then after Orlando. Then Instanbul. Then practically every day for the last two weeks.
Self-care, therapy, music, art, medication, meditation, yoga, exercise, nutrition, are all great and can be incredibly helpful, but they can only do so much. Is this our new normal? Are we going to have to find new ways to cope with mass casualty events, the fear that someone may attack in a public space, or worse? This is not something I want anyone to face, but my instinct is telling me we’re going to have to find new ways to handle this stress and fast, because it isn’t getting better. Pessimistic isn’t anything we aspire to be, but this is reality and we have to combat the negativity in our world with positive means in order to manage. I guess this is what they mean by the new normal.