24 March 2011

Handling appalling news when you weren't doing so well to begin with

by Nia



What a mess. Good grief.

If your ability to handle emotions has been compromised by blessed depth, the disasters/war can make you feel as if your humanness is distorted. You might not feel comfortable reflecting too much on your own mental state, though, either because you feel you should not be dwelling on personal problems when so many others are suffering so much worse, or because people around you are of that opinion and will not want to hear about it.

Soon after 9/11, Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation (a memoir of her struggles with depression at college), was quoted as saying about the terrorist attacks, "I just felt like everyone was overreacting. People were going on about it. That part really annoyed me." (Toronto Globe and Mail 02/02/02)  That went over with the public like a lead balloon, and Miramax canceled the release of the movie version of her book.

In the spirit of creating a safe place to examine these mental conundrums without risk of relationship, fiscal, career or PR repercussions, I offer herewith:

Assorted permutations of possible reactions
of a blessedly deep person to unnerving headlines

(All entrées come with the option of a side dish of guilt for feeling better/focusing on material things/focusing on yourself in the face of this devastation. )

  • Your problems seem smaller by comparison and you are grateful. 
  • You feel significantly worse. The whole thing just adds to the godawfulness of the godawfulness. Fears of everything going to hell have been 99% realized.  
  • You feel worse because X% of your portfolio is GE stock (they made the reactors in question).  
  • You feel worse because the disasters underscore the fact that your life really isn't so crappy and yet you feel crappy anyway. 
  • You are depressed and irritated that people around you don't seem to be emotionally affected by the situation. Your friends are shallow and unfeeling.  
  • You feel that people around you are acting holier-than-thou in their concern. They are fake and probably don't even register what's really going on. 
  • You're irritated that you're expected to act a certain way and say certain platitudes and not complain about the decisions that made the nuclear disaster possible in the first place. More fake, shallow, etc.
  • You don't feel much of anything about it. Your normal numbness presides.
  • Ditto, but then you feel worse because because you can't feel an appropriate grief.  
  • You are frustrated because your brain is so scattered you can't sit and focus your brain long enough to pray for/contemplate/reflect on those affected. 

And then there's the fear and anxiety...

  • You worry that we're not being told the full extent of the damage and that radiation will be affecting the food supply, the water, our DNA... Energies we once devoted to the pursuit of happiness, automobiles and cable TV will now be diverted toward resources we once took for granted. (People suffering from night terrors might be especially familiar with this thinking.)
  • You worry that you're never going to get parts for your car again and you will eventually have to take public transportation and your commute time will triple. 
  • You worry that our economy will achieve a new level of tanked-ness and life will get even worse and more uncertain. 

So maybe the disaster puts the whole head mess on pause, or maybe it doesn't. That's the bitch of it. As a fellow depression-sufferer once said wonderingly, "Even if I wake up in the middle of the night, it's still there."


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Illustration by M. Rhea.