This post was going to be a follow up from my last post about teen test anxiety. I have that one ready to go, and will post it in late July - early August before school begins. But right now I need to talk about the events that transpired at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch on Tues., May 7, 2019.
Here in Colorado we've seen a lot of gun violence perpetrated by children killing and wounding other children. I'm sick of it, and I'm sure you are too. But last week I was touched by the STEM School shooting in a way I haven't been before. The facility I was in also went on lockdown due to our proximity. I spent the next 3+ hours calming down others, as did my colleagues. During the event I felt and was calm. I even joked with co-workers. It almost felt like a drill . . . . although there were moments when I looked at the kids and mom I was in charge of keeping safe, and wondered, "Should I tell the kids to be quieter? Should I turn off the lights? Should we hide?"
I went through some stages that many of my co-workers told me they shared. Stage 1: I was "fine" while we were on lockdown. I was even "fine" shortly after. I got tons of texts, emails and calls from concerned co-workers, clients, and friends checking to see if I was ok. I knew I was angry and shaken. But I felt numb more than anything else. Later that evening at home, I even scheduled a girl's night out with some colleagues.
Stage 2: I stopped being fine. For some of my co-workers they said they "lost it" as soon as they got to their cars. One said she couldn't get to her car fast enough for fear of a stray shooter still on the loose. But for me I didn't lose it until 9:15pm when I saw the first shooter's name in writing on the news. I don't know the guy. It just became real for me when I saw the kid's name in writing.
Stage 3: I've been having some funny "symptoms" since last Tuesday. My stomach gets upset at least once a day. Randomly, without notice, I want to cry. I get really irritated for apparently no reason. And the one I dislike the most: I want to tell anyone sitting against the window in my office to please sit somewhere else. Please don't sit in front of the window. I don't say it. But I want to.
See, during the lockdown all of us were instructed to move to interior rooms without windows. All doors to room/offices with windows were to be closed. My office has windows. Big windows from floor to ceiling. I used to love those windows. Right now I don't.
As a yoga therapist who also specializes in trauma, I know that this third stage I've described is traumatic stress. Anyone who's been through a dangerous, critical event (a shooting, severe weather, a scary medical procedure) can relate to these symptoms. Right after the event you don't feel quite right. You're fuzzy, and somewhat fixated on that thing that just happened to you. I'm sure many of us in the Denver area are experiencing this right now if you've ever been in proximity to a school shooting. Right after the event it's common for any and all people who had a brush with the critical event to exhibit these symptoms.
But what happens next? For some, these symptoms will fade on their own, especially if you have supportive people around you who listen to your experience openly. But for some, even if you have that support, you can't get back to life as usual. Or perhaps you don't have a supportive system of friends and family--you feel isolated. If either of the last two is true for you, don't ignore what you're going through. There's nothing wrong with you. Keep in mind that you're having natural reactions to unnatural events. Whatever you feel right now is fine.
Use exercise to help you get through this. Stay active. Don't sit around. Go kick a soccer ball, take a run, play with your dog, do yoga, put on a gymnastics routine for your family. Whatever. Just move. Wear yourself out. It's a really, really good way to let go of all the bottled up tension, fear and stress. Let it loose.
You may not want to talk about it at all. That's fine. You don't have to. Refer your parents, friends or mates to this blogpost if they're pressuring you. Maybe just sit with someone you trust without talking. And do MOVE.
Just don't go it alone. Seek support. I offer 20-minute complimentary consultations via phone. You can also talk to your counselor at school if you're a kid or teen. Since school is about to let out, find out if your church or local rec center has some resources. If you're an adult, make an appointment through your work's EAP (Employee Assistance Program).
Traumatic stress makes everyone feel very alone. So don't isolate. Find the help you need, and that's right for you. Know that you're not alone. A lot of us are feeling "off" right after the events of May 7. Others are feeling what you're feeling right now, so go find them. You are not alone.