Too many times now, we have had to hold each other up, get through a day that goes on normally—if we’re the lucky ones. Normally enough. “Normal” is a new obscenity because another mass killing in the US is a new normal.
How do you get through? Call loved ones, friends, family, do the nose count to make sure everyone is safe & sound. Text messages, phone calls and hugs of reassurance. Figure out what you actually can do if they are not, or are among the missing, unaccounted for. A fun trip to Vegas becomes something…else.
Figure out how you’re going to help, if you are going to help, in whatever way that is meaningful for the afflicted. Give blood. Donate dollars. Call and harangue and pester your elected officials not based on their responsiveness but based on your need to be heard. To effect change.
Then what? The immediate activities provide distraction and then comes time to feel. Here are some basics to take care of yourself, because being triggered – an apt word – is not some right-wing joke but a real thing. Being retraumatized is collateral damage. You deserve to feel as well as you can given the circumstances, for your own sake, but for one other: we need more awake, woke people to be active and do more so we can maybe, possibly, unlikely, but maybe, make this latest sorrow our last sorrow.
- Limit yourself to one news source and consume it sparingly. Don’t watch every single TV station, don’t read every single newsletter in your email inbox, don’t follow all the text alerts; choose which news site you’re going to get info from. Limit it to that.
- Turn off audio if the relentless replaying of the sounds of the video footage bother you. The sounds of gunfire and screaming are not conducive to peace of mind or to resolute action.
- Do soft things for yourself. Soft textures, like a well-worn t-shirt & sweatpants, or your favorite jammies, those are soothing and comforting. Honestly? Eat whatever. You need to feel ok and one day off the rails of your normal eating plan is worth repenting from later if what you need is soothing. Escapist television is better than something challenging or hard-edged right now. Better yet, turn it off entirely: soft music, played on low volume, instead of TV. Pet your pets. Brush your hair with long, slow strokes, more than it really needs – that is comforting and soothing. Have someone else do it for you if you can. Get or give a backrub, shoulder rub, footrub. Brush your skin if you know how, or apply lotion in long, calming strokes. Feet in fuzzy slippers; socks are better than shoes if you don’t have cushy slippers (why don’t you have fuzzy slippers?)
- Once you’ve had enough, shut off the news source. We don’t benefit from exposure over and Over and OVER. Mute Facebook or other social media, unless you have the rigid discipline to only look at videos of kitties and puppies. You know the broad outlines of what happened. Early information is often wildly incorrect. You’ll be able to touch base with your chosen news source a couple of times a day to find out what you need to know, what you don’t want to know but we all have to bear.
- If you are a person who was previously traumatized, or even if you weren’t, the brain prioritizes bodily sensation and sensory input. So if all you can do is pop something in your mouth that is strong tasting, (like an Altoid, not Fireball), do that. Engage all your senses to help your mind stop focusing—for right now—on this latest horror.
These measures are usually best for folks to try right after something horrible hits the news. Sandy Hook. Pulse. Vegas. It’s not a long-term solution, it’s a patch to get through the initial horror and still be a little bit able to function, because, if you’re one of the lucky ones, you still have a job to get to, kids to care for, normal life to attend to. You are not planning a funeral or celebration of life, you’re alive and your loved ones & friends & family are all alive, alive in our new, perfectly abnormal, normal.
Take care of yourself, so that you can do more just as soon as you can. I believe we all owe the world that. We owe it to those struck down. We owe it to one another and to ourselves. We can make a new normal that is better.