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When you have a surplus of feels

14 Jun

I woke up Sunday morning to a dozen breaking news reports on my phone’s lock screen. Before I could check the time, I saw that over 100 people had been shot at an Orlando nightclub, and half of them were dead.

Maura wanted to snuggle with me in bed. She had crawled in, full of giggles, asking for tickles, then curled up and fell asleep on me. I held onto the embodiment of sweetness, love, and innocence while reading about senseless tragedy.

I knew I shouldn’t read the news stories. I was already in a not-fabulous place, and working hard to keep from spiraling, but my insatiable need to know always wins out. Then my brain takes all those details and runs away with it.

Maybe it’s extreme empathy, or a really amazing ability to imagine myself in the scenario, but I will read stories and my brain wonders what it must have been like. I will step into the scene like an actor in a movie. When I watched the first World Trade Center building fall, my first thought was “Oh my God, there were still people in there.” I could imagine the stairwell, what would happen first? Would the ceiling come down on me, or would the stairs give out from under me? Would there be a moment of free falling before impact? That’s just how my brain works.

By Monday morning, more stories about the victims of the Orlando massacre were brought out. As I was reading one about a mother receiving text messages from her son right before he was killed, on the side was a link to another story of a mother, frantically looking for her son – who was also murdered in the nightclub that night. These mothers showed pictures of their beautiful boys smiling, and I wondered, my God, what it must have been like to be waiting to hear news. Knowing the longer you waited, the less likely that news would be good. To hope that your son is critically injured and unconscious in the hospital rather than still in the club, dead. To wait hours, only to be told the worst has happened. To say my heart went out to those mothers, and all the mothers, was an understatement. Their children weren’t much older than my own sons. I tried to find hope in the line stretching around the block of people donating blood to the victims, or the posts of support, but my brain had gone down the other tunnel – where it was just tragedy. Senseless tragedy. Heartbroken mothers. Pictures of smiling faces that will never smile anymore because of one angry person.

It was one person. One person who did this. I can instantly come up with dozens of wonderful people to remind myself that the world has more good people than bad. But that didn’t help me.

I realized long ago that these sort of things affect me. It’s not that I’m making it about me. I swear, I’m not. I just, I don’t know, feel it so much. I don’t know if I can ever describe it properly. But it’s the reason why I tend to stray away from tragic stories. Not because I don’t care, but I’ll care too much, if that makes any sense. I don’t know if it’s linked to my anxiety, or depression, or if it’s just a ramped up sense of empathy.

So in a moment of self-care, I walk away from the tragedy. To give myself breathing room. To give my brain time to wind back down to normal levels. Yesterday, I decided to distract my brain by reading “The Fifth Wave” again, as I got the final book, and like to re-read the series as the new books come out. Yes, I used alien invasion and the wiping out of most of humanity to distract myself from yet another mass shooting. I watched cat videos and a Korean soap opera with my daughter. I stayed away from the internet for a while. I’m going to do more of that today.

But please understand, my silence isn’t that I don’t care. It’s just that I’m caring so much, I get frozen. I have to back away so I can keep breathing, so that I don’t hide under a blanket for a week. I post silly videos and find a reason to laugh because I have to snap out of the funk trying to pull me down.

But I do care. I always care. I promise. I just have to make sure I take care of myself, because I have to take care of others. And it’s hard to take care of others when you’re hiding under blankets.

And for anyone yelling “OMG THIS IS ME!” as you read this, let me know, so I know I’m not the only one who goes through this rollercoaster of emotions at every horrible tragedy. And let me say this – it’s okay to back away from it all for the sake of self-preservation. I believe we can change the world with baby steps. We may not be able to make the petitions, but we can sign them. We may not be able to march on the capital, but we can smile at a stranger or help a friend. We may not be able to change everyone’s minds, but we can teach our children by example. We can have a ripple effect of our own. Even if it’s from a keyboard behind a computer screen.

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15 Responses to “When you have a surplus of feels”

  1. franhunne4u June 14, 2016 at 11:51 am #

    On a completely diffeent note:
    Saw you and your article about the teenage-bitches who try to tell you how to live your life at a certain age – in the HUFFPOST!! Yeah!

  2. murals2go June 14, 2016 at 12:54 pm #

    You are in good company. The difference is, you know when to turn away. I am having a very difficult time doing that, unfortunately. As an artist/grad student, I’m thinking of a way to put all my feels into a piece of artwork. That usually helps me deal with stuff like this. And the vitriol online from so many haters is the worst. 😦

  3. GreatLakesWoman June 14, 2016 at 1:04 pm #

    I woke up to this news on Sunday morning and began watching Willie Giest on the Today Show (not exactly how he figured his Sunday would be, I’m sure). When one of the live updates from Florida stated that the death toll was 50, I gasped out loud in sheer horror. Then I got teary-eyed and felt an overwhelming sadness. I still feel it. I don’t think exactly like you do, but the sadness and the realization of this horrific tragedy are so difficult to shake. You are not alone in having “feels.” Thank you for so eloquently sharing your thoughts.

  4. Lisa Dorsey June 14, 2016 at 1:12 pm #

    You may all be Empaths. The same things happen(ed) to me:

    http://liveboldandbloom.com/08/self-improvement/empath-traits-of-highly-sensitive-person

    • Laura June 14, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

      Lisa, I was going to say the same thing. I dispise labels of all kinds but have been extremely grateful for the label of empath, because there are many websites to help you learn to protect yourself. Knowing that someone is anxious, sad, scared, whathaveyou is fine. Feeling all of those emotions is not. They aren’t mine and they are very heavy to carry around. I have learned how not to take these negative emotions on and that has been life changing! Thanks for the link!

      • Lisa Dorsey June 14, 2016 at 7:30 pm #

        I agree I agree! It has helped me understand & take better care of myself.

  5. scott butki June 14, 2016 at 2:21 pm #

    I just posted this on facebook: I usually share this mommy blogger’s posts because she talks about life raising a daughter with Intellectual Difficulties but today it’s her description about having so many strong feelings after Orlando that make me want to share her comments – some of her feelings and reactions match my own

    I was trying to describe earlier how i feel and the term i came up with is fragile. When something incredibly jarring happens i become more fragile and thus little things can make me cry or emote more than is normal or average.

    so hugs and thanks for all of your blog posts

  6. Renee Anne June 14, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

    No, it’s not just you. The way the political atmosphere is around here, coupled with the BS going on in Florida (not just the Pulse massacre, but also the shooting of Christina Grimmie, whom I had never heard of until that day), and my personal anxiety & depression & such….I think I need a media break. Instead, I’ve been writing a dystopian novel, not knitting (which is honestly driving me nuts but I just can’t seem to bring myself to do it), and trying to avoid social media in particular. I’ve also been trying to shield my kids from all of it, because they are so young (5.5 and 21 months). I don’t want them to see the horrible things going on. At the same time, I want them to see the good in the world, even if it’s brought about by tragedy (the 5-7 hour blood donation lines in FL, for example).

  7. Cathy Munson-Klein June 14, 2016 at 4:31 pm #

    Definitely not just you. I was still in bed, too, reading an article about the plot of the new Harry Potter play that my daughter had sent me when I saw the headline. Not the best way to wake up. I was immediately in tears, thinking about all of those other mothers, being grateful that my son and his fiance live in what felt like a safer place in that moment (Boston). Then I remembered the Boston Marathon bombing and how close they and their friends lived to that and how worried we were that day. Our children won’t be safe anywhere until the weapons and hateful attitudes are eliminated from their free reign in our culture.

    I watched and read a few news stories that day, but had to back off after that. I have other family that live in the next town over from the shooter. Florida feels like a really scary place right now.

  8. Angie James June 14, 2016 at 4:32 pm #

    Me too…..I feel too much some days too. I worry that to others I look like I just don’t care because I just try and not show it so I don’t lose it, I’m not sure that makes sense. Just know you aren’t alone. I feel it too. Empathy, depression, anxiety it’s all in a knot inside of me and I can’t untangle it…..

  9. CF6 June 14, 2016 at 8:41 pm #

    100% not just you – sometimes I have to step back, breathe, hug someone and go do something happy. I consider this self-care. I am not negating the horrors of it, just making sure I don’t go down with the ship so to speak. Thank you for putting this into words.

  10. Rosa June 15, 2016 at 9:55 am #

    Yes, I hear you. I know that familiar downward spiral that’s a combination of anxiety, depression, helplessness, rage, everything that is triggered by bearing witness to the horrors of this world. I can’t face a world with that much evil in it everyday. It’s hard to walk out my front door knowing that there are people in this world who wake up with hatred in their hearts driving their actions. I have trouble enough fighting against the darkness on what are otherwise good days.

    Stepping away is self-care. It doesn’t mean I don’t care. It means that I am no good when I am shut down. I can’t help anyone, even myself, if I get to that point.

  11. citymomco June 16, 2016 at 12:04 pm #

    Thank you for putting in to words and sharing this. I’ve been feeling and experiencing this too. As an INFP, I emotionally consume and empathize to the point where it’s not healthy for my well-being, and it triggers my anxiety. Thanks for the reminder to put your self first. It’s a practice.

  12. Faith M. July 2, 2016 at 10:43 am #

    I totally understand where you’re coming from. Around every corner there seems to be another terrible tragedy lurking and it’s making the world a scarier and scarier place to be and to raise children. I too suffer from anxiety and depression, as well as bi-polar disorder, and feel every tear of victims and victims’ families. It DOES make you want to hide under a blanket, but you’re spot on in taking a step back and realigning your focus. We have others that depend on us and need us each and every day…..

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