“You’re not alone.” I say this to myself often. Knowing this, because I do know it now, eases the harshness of my anxiety. Acknowledging my triggers allows me to connect the dots, anticipate my patterns, then move forward.
As I write this (November), there have been an average of one school shooting per week and a total of 307 mass shootings in the United States in 2018 so far. Sadly, guns in schools, and other places once considered safe, is not as rare as we’d like to believe.
When the horrific Sandy Hook massacre occurred in 2012, my first child was not even five months and my postpartum anxiety was in full bloom. I blocked out the news. The television in our one-bedroom NYC apartment was never on while my baby was awake, and I skimmed social media on my phone when he slept. I purposefully did not read or watch any news out of self-preservation. Elementary school was a long way off and we still needed teeth first. I couldn’t go there. There— where I go—worst case scenarios and panic.
Just a little over five years later, Parkland, Florida happened. No longer brushed aside in the news for the next story, men and women, young and old, took to the media and the streets to protest, to share, to try to change policies.
My son is in kindergarten, and the anxiety comeback occurred in my head as I connected Sandy Hook to Florida to my son about to enter kindergarten in the fall. My husband told me to analyze the statistics so that I can ease this state of anxiety. I did. Okay. Then I watched the news, read the news, read social media, and a tornado came on. Statistics don’t really hold back a tornado.
My descent into full-blown anxiety happened when one grieving father on the news spoke about how he never thought it would happen to his daughter. So, I went there.
As a mother I wanted to create a foolproof safety plan in my head. As a mother, I wanted to do anything I could to ease the pain of suffering students and parents. As a human who cares about our society, I wanted to do anything I could for change.
This time around, parents’ fear of sending their kids to school is being shared, and heard. Why not before now? As one friend put it, before, we kept going “back to our bubbles.” But not this time. This time awareness and activism are gaining traction. The recent election is a strong indicator that many people are not happy with the current status quo on any level.
And where do we go from here in the aftermath? I’m not going to disclose my dark feelings, but will say that recent events, from shootings to a flu epidemic, have tapped on my panic button. Days with full blown anxiety, and some days off.
I found a mom’s group that helps. I find stillness in connecting with these women, and realizing I’m not alone, that I’m not strange or different, just occasionally misunderstood by those who don’t get it… yet.
The generalized anxiety I experienced before my first child manifested as worry. But it never prevented me from living my life, forging on, traveling, going to school, getting my degrees.
Now, my anxiety has a very specific face. My triggers can sucker punch me at any moment. I am familiar with the cycle. I know that reading the news is a bad idea. I also know that I’m not alone. And that has to be my mantra.