Triggered

Horrifying is the only word that’s coming to mind. When I think about the recent shooting in Las Vegas, I think of all of the memories that I’ve had there. I also think of how our lives can be snuffed out in an instant by an unconscionable individual with a gun. And incidents like these test my anxiety, specifically my social anxiety.

I said my wedding vows in the Mandalay Bay in April of 2003. Though my marriage ultimately did not work out, my wedding day is a joyous memory. I vacationed in Vegas at various times with my now-ex-husband and daughter. I also have a good friend, a Las Vegas resident, who considered taking her seven-year-old to the now-infamous concert.

That hits way too close to home for me. Why bring terror to a place with so much potential joy? It is unfathomable for most of us.

And how does this incident affect those with social anxiety? Our fear of other people, in many cases, is always acute. To fear degradation by others is normal. But to fear for our lives is a far more disturbing matter. I have been through a few corporate training sessions regarding an active shooter situation, and my brain almost shut off because the video enactments triggered my anxiety. I honestly don’t know how I got out of the training rooms without having a meltdown.

After a near-suicidal incident in 2009, my senses seemed heightened to those who showed me compassion. I told myself to remember how I was treated with sympathy and support, and that most people are kind. Most people are compassionate. Most people would sooner defend your life then take it. Look at these ladies and gentlemen who stayed instead of fleeing the scene, thereby saving dozens of lives. I’d like to think that more of us are like those heroes than someone who shot at so many innocents.

You’re already seeing mental illness blamed for this incident. The truth is that most people, mentally ill or not, are not violent.  I do prefer to think that this horrific event was caused by unmitigated malice. But in reality, no underlying cause explains this act of brutality, for it is by its very nature senseless.

As Mr. Fred Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” And I turn my fear, and my hope, into looking for them.

It’s impossible to ignore casualties of this magnitude, and everyone is keyed up. I wish there was something I could say to comfort all of you at this time. For my part, I am trying not to fixate on it. I’m keeping politics out of this for now, but my friends and family know how I feel about gun control. Thoughts and prayers are always appreciated; however, I don’t think that they ultimately solve anything.

We must fight back by having hope. We need to seek out the moments, big and small, that bring us joy. We need to remember the name of a victim instead of the highly publicized name of the shooter. We need to move forward from this tragedy somehow.

I only wish I knew how.

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