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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

How I Get Through It

Please know I am writing this with the utmost respect for what the families and friends of those directly affected are going through.  I am just giving my personal feelings on this subject because the question has been raised in the past and I want to address it one and done for anyone else who may wonder the same.

The other day I had an acquaintance who was flooding my feed almost every 30 minutes with her thoughts on the tragedy in Las Vegas.  I messaged her and asked her if she knew someone there because her reactions were enough to make you feel like she was personally connected with it.  She said, "no, but how can you NOT say anything?"  I don't know if she meant "you" meaning me personally or "you" as in society as a whole but I wasn't going to engage her on it.  She felt strongly and somehow posting as if she were a newswire service brought some feeling of control by informing others when she couldn't really do much else, I guess.  It reminded me of a comment I got a few years ago on a 9/11 post where I brought attention to Aortic Dissection, the undetectable condition that took the life of one of my favorite actors, John Ritter on September 11, 2003.  The woman messaged me and said "how can you not talk about 9/11 today but you can talk about one man dying?  Unfollowing."  I tried to respond but it came back to me as undeliverable.  So in case anyone else has wondered the same thing, I will address it here once in the wake of what the country is going through right now.

I remember every detail about September 11, 2001.  The Mr and I were playing hooky.  It was a beautiful, sunny day and as we were getting ready to go out to see the latest American Pie movie.   I turned on the TV while he was going down to iron.  I was bombarded with images I thought were from another country and Dan Rather giving updates.  On the screen flashed "lower Manhattan" and all I could say was "oh my God!" over and over again.  When I couldn't answer the Mr as to what was wrong, he ran up and we proceeded to watch four hours of people running for their lives in the rubble, the planes hitting the towers over and over again in replay and finally watching them fall.  I couldn't take it anymore and we went to our movie as planned and as we walked the empty mall into the empty theater, there was a sense of relief that we could escape all we were being bombarded with by the media.  Wild theories and misinformation swirled for days and even weeks afterward.  You would get emotionally charged about something you heard only to hear later that wasn't correct.  The media was so worried about having something to say, that they reported all the things because we were leaning toward a society that was demanding answers immediately.  We'll give the people what they want even if it's not accurate.  For weeks, I had nightmares about the planes hitting the towers just like I'm sure many of you did.

As we as a country tried to make sense of this senseless tragedy, we all were clamoring for information to help us understand.  That somehow any answer would be good enough for what we witnessed.  I remember a year later watching a documentary that was originally supposed to be about one of the NYC fire departments but they recorded the plane flying overhead and then the calls coming in.  It was two hours of trauma to watch.  I still hear the sound of the bodies hitting the awning of the building as they chose jumping over fire.  I just got physically nauseous typing that.  It took six months before the images of the planes and the sound of the bodies stopped replaying over and over in my head both awake and asleep.  I didn't know anyone who died there.  I didn't know any of the families who suffered such great loss but was deeply, psychologically affected none the less.  When the anniversary came around, the bombardment was just as strong.  The weeks leading up to it were like this morbid countdown in the media and then the day of replaying the horror but now to music and filters to give more dramatic effect, like we needed it.  For the five years following, it was the same and while no, I will never forget, I also could no longer participate in the feeding frenzy of trauma seeing those images pop up every year.  When social media became big, it was worse because come midnight, the "never forgets" started and constant updating and need to comment on it.  I understand that completely.  We all went through something together as a country.  It is a horrible wound we're trying to heal but I didn't feel compelled to dig with a scalpel every year to re-open the scar that was slowly healing.  I truly feel the other people that had a hand in all of that but were never brought to justice, smile with every news story and social media post.  They know they got exactly what they wanted which was to haunt us every year without them having to do anything else.

I have a friend with a birthday that day who now suddenly felt like she was no longer allowed to celebrate socially or she at least couldn't thank people for birthday wishes without the caveat of the new meaning the day took on.  It was in seeing her new reality that I decided how I would mark that day and it would be to bring awareness to a heart defect that marked that day being sad to me for other reasons.  I have said my prayers for the families and those affected.  I have said my prayers for those who have bravely fought and died for our country in light of those attacks.  But then came the Beltway Sniper attacks, Fort Hood, Sandy Hook, the Boston Marathon, the Charleston shootings, the Pulse nightclub massacre and now Las Vegas.

After Sandy Hook, I told myself I could no longer plug into the media matrix of these events.  I sent out a blanket prayer for all of the horrible mass murders done by cowardly, disgusting people past, present and future because my psyche just cannot take the inundation.  I understand people's need to show their support by changing their profile pictures, writing long heartfelt posts and the like because they feel like they need to do or say something. I am all for anything that shows your heart.  Just because I do not do those things does not mean I don't care or am heartless.  Out of necessity for my own mental health, the furthest I can get into events like these is read a blurb, say a prayer and try to move on because I am super sensitive.  I feel deeply and I take on other people's pain and stress to the detriment of my own health.  I've always been that way from childhood and if it's one thing I know from 9/11, I cannot watch videos or read about it without it affecting my mood, thoughts, and dreams for weeks or months depending on what I see.  Given we live in a society that somehow deems it okay to show dead bodies without warning because it's "news", I can't unsee that.  I refuse to let some poor person going to a concert or commuting to work suddenly be emblazoned into my brain because of the way they died.  No one wants to be remembered for the way they died.

Your feeds will be flooded with enough stories and social media posts without me contributing to that.  So please assume that when a national tragedy happens, that I have said my prayer for all of those affected but have also chosen to do that privately.  Whatever you need to do for yourself to help you move forward, is your right as well.  Don't judge people for how they do or do not react to tragedy, we're all just trying to do the best we can for our own lives and how we live.

If you need help coping with the potential mental effects you may be feeling after the Las Vegas shootings, this article may help give you some tools to use to deal with vicarious trauma.

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  1. Everyone grieves differently and everyone experiences feelings in varied ways. I know you're a highly sensitive person and have such empathy that you kind of cannot help but experience the trauma yourself even when just seeing video of a tragedy.

    We live in a different world now than we did before 9/11. Every day we have the news to remind us of that if we let it. But we do have a choice. We can know about the bad things that happen, honor those affected, and keep moving on with life in spite of the evil out there.

    But most importantly of all, I think, is to do what you feel you need to do to get through it all - and be respectful of the fact that others may have to go through it differently. If we all did that then maybe this world we live in would truly be better.

    1. Yes. You know just from us talking about 9/11 last night that I broke down three different times talking about media clips we both remembered. You were able to talk about them casually though it still affected you and I was a sobbing mess because I could recall the reactions of people, the sounds of moaning and sobbing that I can never unhear. You have a need to process things to see how you would react in the same situation. Just you describing to me the 30 second pauses of reloading and the people having to coordinate trying to get out in a timed manner brought me to tears. Can't do it. Can't read it, hear about it or watch it. Too much for my empathetic heart to take.

  2. Thank you for this post. I too avoid visual coverage of these events. I generally get my news from the radio which allows me to stay informed but doesn't bombard me with the visual images that I know will haunt me. I also limit the amount of time that I listen - whether it's election coverage, natural disaster coverage, or an incident like what happened in Las Vegas. When you post other "stuff" on anniversaries I truly appreciate it. I'm sorry that your friend doesn't feel she can celebrate her birthday anymore. People need to understand that tragedy doesn't own the day - just because something awful happens one day, doesn't mean that everything else that happens that day or that day in other years, just ceases to exist.

    I have a lot more to say on this actually, but it's your post and I don't want to take over and talk for days. The point will still end up - thank you for saying your prayer and then focusing on other events.

    1. You're very welcome and I'm glad you could relate to it. We have stopped watching the news altogether. It used to be how we'd start and end our day and who needs to have the violence and perpetual bad things on all fronts thrust in their faces. It may mean I'm "out of the loop" and I"m fine with that. You are so right, that tragedy doesn't rule that day. My dad's bday is the day they bombed Pearl Harbor, we didn't feel like we couldn't celebrate his birthday. Bad things are going to happen on someone's special day (like the Vegas thing happening on my friend's wedding day) but should she not be able to celebrate her anniversary without an asterisk remembering the victims every year? I feel it's important to remind people of other things on those hard days because there is going to be enough of it mentioned in other people's posts/feeds. I can bring awareness to a cause that isn't discussed much and if one life is saved because a reader remembered when a loved one is having a heart attack "make sure they check the Ritter Rules, it might not be a heart attack!", then it is worth it.

      You say all you want, it may be my blog but you write to your heart's content if you feel you have more you want to say! <3

  3. I'm so sorry if people are rude enough to give you a hard time about this. Unfortunately in our current social media obsessed / reality star world, the line is being very blurred with what the general public has a "right" to know about the public personas we follow. You show us parts of your life and that makes some people feel entitled to know your whole life because they can't tell the difference anymore between the two segments. If you were a political / social justice blogger than I would expect you to publicly have an opinion on things like these events, but you aren't, and for me, your blog is a place I come when I need a break from that stuff, so thank you for not blurring those lines and just doing you.

    1. I guess I just figured people see enough of it via the way they get their news, their social media feeds, etc so I don't need to add one more reminder. I'm all about letting people escape to my boring life if they need to! LOL So yeah, I'll just keep doin' me, yo!

  4. 9/11 was horrifying and those images will forever be emblazoned on my mind. I've had several people as me if I've watched the coverage of all the abandoned animals in FL and TX with the hurricanes and I tell them I cannot watch those things. I have an unnatural attachment to animals and I cannot handle seeing those images either. I remember a friend of mine one time gave me the book Marley and Me thinking I'd like it -- even though SHE couldn't handle reading it, yet thought that I would?!?! Especially knowing me almost my whole life?! Never cracked it open.

    I think people all deal with tragedy in the only way they know how. Some need the constant 24 hour news updates, and feel the need to express them on social media, perhaps as an outlet to try to make sense of something to which there is no human reasoning. Others grieve privately and don't care to talk about it because the pain is too intense. Still others can appear very unmoved and uncaring with the attitude of, "well, sh*t happens" because the reality is just too scary to contemplate. However someone needs to cope is the right way for them, and even if we don't agree with or understand someone's coping mechanism, it should still be valued and respected. My way not be right for someone else and vice versa. The saddest thing is when you see the whole purpose for the grief getting lost in the process because suddenly people are turning on each other because they feel they are the authority on what's the proper to way acknowledge such tragedy. That kind of thing is the main reason why I avoid social media altogether, as well as main news outlets. My personal mantra is don't offer advice unless someone specifically asks me for it because nobody needs my opinion on every topic under the sun.

  5. Oklahoma City bombing was my 911. That was the one that shook me to my core. Shocking. I think it might have been the day care. I had very small children at the time.

    So I was already to the point that you are now, when 911 happened.

    Sandy Hook hit me with a whole other level because one of my babies during Oklahoma City was a student teacher by sandy hook. So it was sort of a rehash of both.

    I filter what I am exposed to hugely. Because I just cannot emotional roller coaster and I need to be able to sleep.


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