It’s late and I should be sleeping. A busy day is planned for tomorrow that includes the gym, taking my daughter on a playdate, working with a client, etc. All great things, indeed. But I’m wide awake. Wide awake and thinking about the shootings. Wide awake and thinking about the destructive path those bullets are still taking; ricocheting, ripping through the survivors, families, friends and communities of El Paso and Dayton. Tearing through all of us.
I’ll be getting tired soon as I took my medication not too long ago, though. The meds I take to help out with my PTSD and depression. The PTSD and depression caused by, put simply, a bullet. Just one bullet from a .22; a tiny piece of steel that would’ve killed me had my dad not been home from work that day. A bullet any bigger coming from any other direction would’ve absolutely muted my small, five-year-old body. Events such as the ones that transpired in the last few days are known triggers for me, they used to bring up night terrors, rage, sadness, irritability, anxiety, fixation and melancholy. But I’ve put in some deep work with that and continue to.
If anyone knows how hard it is to make sense of these tragedies, put them into perspective, and turn these emotional times into action, it might be me.
So, what can we do to turn these reactions into actions? To take a step back from our emotions, examine the representations of the reality they create, analyze their accuracy, and formulate a reasoned response?
There are things that work for me and might work for you, too:
- Focus on family and friends. Appreciate with deep gratitude the little things that we take for granted most of the time. Example: that first hug I get from my daughter to start off the day.
- Realize that there is no blueprint for how to feel. Emotions, especially around traumatic events are complex. There is no right or wrong way to feel. Take stock in your emotions, work through them, talk about them.
- Cast aside your own unfounded fears and judgements of others. Be kind, build community, seek out those persons and marginalized groups that need support. Learn about others. Make new friends.
- Focus on self care. In tough times, it can feel downright selfish to do something that is good for ourselves. That’s bullshit. A strong, resilient mind and body is not only key to optimal mental and physical health, but by taking care of ourselves, we are, in fact, putting on our oxygen masks first so we are able to support others.
- Turn off the news. Stay informed but don’t overexpose yourself to more, unnecessary stress.
- Continue practices that give you some emotional relief. For some it might be exercise or meditation, for others, it might be dinner with friends.
- Realize that bad things happen. Even to children.
- Do something. By donating to the families affected by gun violence. By voting for those who align with your values. By being prepared. By standing up to hatred and bigotry. By listening. By fighting for change.
- Don’t retreat/regress to destructive behavioral patterns to cope. This can include isolating, detaching, using alcohol and drugs to numb your feelings, acting out, etc.
- Ask for help.
If you need to talk, I’ll listen.