I hate to admit this, but I’m sort of sensitive when it comes to heavy news stories. I didn’t realize this about myself until my best friend from high school joined the Marines and was shipped off to Iraq during the war. She spent two years in Fallujah, in the heart of the action. Her Army-enlisted brother was in Afghanistan and so was my oldest sister. I used to love watching the news, but whenever they would reveal names of people who died overseas my heart would drop every time. It just became too much, so I stopped watching the news. When they all came back I decided to start back keeping abreast of what was going on in the world. But then it just seemed like there were so many news stories of how horrible people are. People killing and beating children, racially motivated crimes, men setting their ex-girlfriends on fire. Just thinking about it all, even now, has me feeling extremely tense and there’s a vein in my eyelid that is pulsating right now. It’s just too much.
During spring semester of my final year of college, a year after the Virginia Tech shooting happened, I was zoning out in my dorm watching E! when they did this program: “Going Postal: 15 Shocking Acts of Violence.” Now, for someone who is so sensitive to these things, I still don’t know why I watched it. I like to contribute my viewing to the fact that it was in list order, because for some reason, I love watching countdown shows, I don’t know why, but I do. So I laid in my bed watching as they counted down from one senseless act after another. By the end I was sitting full upright on my bed, eyes wide and I think I was even sweating. After they revealed that number one was the VT shooting I became even more paranoid.
Before the Virginia Tech tragedy, if I was in a library and someone came in wearing a black trench coat, I would immediately leave. But after that if I was in a class and someone opened the door to peek in to see if the class was still in, I would get so mentally freaked out. Silently praying while simultaneously planning my escape route if something happened. One of my friends finally called me on my paranoia, and in a hushed tone, I whispered to her about how ridiculous people had gotten. I told her story after story from the countdown, like the guy who drove his truck through a McDonald’s and just started shooting people, or the guy who began shooting in a mall, and the “Barbie and Ken” couple that would kidnap young girls, rape them, and then kill them. My friend had a look of worry on her face, not because of all of the sickos out there, but for me. She became worried that I allowing my fear to invade my normal life, and she was right, it had. Everyone became potential murders, stalkers, pyrotechnics that wanted to try lighting someone on fire.
Things didn’t help when I came across the show “I Survived,” and saw how many people were betrayed by people they knew. A guy dated a girl for over a year just to satisfy his urge to kill someone close to him, or the lady who was raped and stabbed multiple times by her neighbor’s 16 year old son.
I finally decided that my friend was right. My fear was beginning to consume me. I wouldn’t allow myself to fully enjoy a place I was until I could spot where all the escape exits were, and while I smiled and laughed with my friends my mind continued to go over the contingency escape plans in case someone comes in with malicious intent. I began to avoid watching anymore “tragic” countdown shows, avoided “I Survived,” and I was beginning to feel more comfortable …until Sandy Hook.
Being a mother, that was difficult to watch and understand how something like that can happen. I feel like I can’t discuss it, but from that moment my old fears not only came back, but heightened because it was no longer my life on the line, it was my child’s. It wasn’t until I began to realize that keeping my daughter in the house everyday wouldn’t be good for her. I’m not saying that I’m fully over everything, but I decided that I couldn’t let my fear stop me from living my life, or from my daughter living hers. As people in the world continue to prove that there should be a mental ward on each street corner, I ask that you continue to live and enjoy your life, but always be careful. Also, be careful with what you mentally feed yourself, because that could compound your fears as well.