I noticed it first around the age of 8 or 9. I was watching BBC news at my grandmother’s house and a young girl by the name of Billie was murdered by her foster dad. Or maybe it was her uncle. Every few days the story would unravel and get a little deeper, and as it did, my imagination would runaway with itself and my heart would be left pounding. This was the first time I noticed I could feel my heartbeat in my ears when I got scared.
I couldn’t wrap my mind around why someone would want to kill her. She was young like me. And though I did bad things sometimes, mum and dad never tried to kill me. Take wooden spoon to my backside or my hands, yes. Stand in the corner with my arms raised, yes. But kill me? I don’t think so.
Then there was 9/11 in the 8th grade. We had recently moved to Massachusetts, and I still had the pleasure of speaking with my British accent. Our theology teacher did her best to keep us at ease that morning as Katie, one of my classmates, fell into a crying fit. Her uncle worked in one of the towers. By the time I had gotten home almost every single cable network was showing coverage of the attack. Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network were the only safe channels that I could remember, so my brother and I curled up on our parent’s bed and watched Dexter’s Laboratory. But when bed time came around, I replayed the planes crashing into the towers over and over again. My thoughts? “Why in the hell would Daddy move us to this crazy country? This doesn’t happen in England.”
After 9/11, there were several more cases where the news kept me up at the night, and now that I am older, and kind of but not completely wiser, I can recognize that feeling my heartbeat in my ears was a sign of rising anxiety. Something I feel often when watching news coverage.
The news triggers my anxiety, so I do my best to avoid watching the MSNBCs and CNNs.
Most of the news I do watch or read comes from social media. Not because it’s at my finger tips, which I can not lie that does help a lot. But it’s because the news on my twitter feed comes wedged between jokes, memes, and think-peaces. It’s delivered in a voice that is relatable. I don’t have to switch between multiple different channels to get the full story. In a swipe I can either avoid the madness or I can be educated through the crazy conversations had within the threads. It’s easier for me to consume and not triggering to this little old mind of mine.
Not to mention, Twitter reports out on news related to black and brown people faster than mainstream does and ever has.
But when you have anxiety, watching the news confirms all the crazy scenarios you have already envisioned within your head. Plane crashes become more real and more likely to happen. Assaults and robberies in your neighborhood become your fate, you’re just now waiting for it to happen to you too. Watching fatalities happen to other people in different angles, from multiple video sources, puts you in the front row to bullshit without the popcorn but with a lot of PTSD. And if we’re being completely truthful here, when stories are broken they come with a barrage of statements of how terrible things could get, more so than the positives. Hell now a days with Trump, there are no damn positives. And for someone like me, who tries hard to keep her mind on the realistic side of things, sometimes I need a bit of hope to be served with my tragedies.
So though I’m sure it sounds childish, and little absurd that I really don’t want to know what’s happening in the world every moment of the day, me tuning in and out is me taking care of my mind. Because I like to sleep at night. And I only want my imagination to be used for positive things, and creative changes. So constantly consuming the news does more harm than good for me, and well, my self-care just has to come first.1