The flags are at half mast today as they have been most of the week… as they have been more in the past few years than I ever remember they were throughout the years before I became an “adult.” As I drive by the flags and recognize that they are lowered, I try to consciously remember the reasons each time: a former president’s passing, an attack on a government installation somewhere in the world, another mass shooting in another state I’d never been to. And for a quick moment, I try to take a second out of my day on my commute to remember… to force myself to really think about the reason for the memorial through human eyes.
However, it simply doesn’t ever seem to process quite right. It all feels more like remembering the trailer for a scary movie I had seen on TV earlier in the week. We see these tragedies more and more and more throughout the world and it is something I feel myself becoming numb to and I do not like it. But, I comfort myself in the knowledge that if it happened here locally, I would feel different. It would impact me and I would really feel something deeper and more human about it all.
Last Friday, I get a random notification on FB.
“Mark yourself safe from Virginia Beach Municipal Center Shooting?: I am safe or Does not apply to me.”
“6 people have been confirmed dead- 4 hospitalized.”
Did that say the Municipal center? As in … the courthouse complex?
The Facebook messenger starts going off from a friend in Canada.
-“Good, was worried”
-“Shooting in Virginia Beach… 11 people killed”
(Wait… its 11 now?!)
-“Oh. That. Yes, different side of town. Completely crazy. Thank you for checking on me.”
… different side of town… as if that made it as far away as Sandy Hook or somewhere else I was unfamiliar with. But, it wasn’t unfamiliar. I used to live in Courthouse Estates just a few blocks from the center. I regularly go to the municipal center for permits and licenses for my business.
And yet, it still wasn’t registering.
“12 people killed in Virginia Beach Shooting on Friday. Deadliest mass shooting of the 2019 so far.”
I hear this on the news Monday at the doctor’s office in the waiting room from some national news channel.
Today, I sat on my therapist’s couch and mentioned how disconnected I feel to it all. Literally, I feel so guilty and cruel because I don’t feel what I thought I should. She shares with me that she has had similar conversations with many people this week. We all are feeling disconnected from it.
It all seems very surreal to me. But everywhere I go this week, I see shirts and stickers and it written all over the marquees of all of the businesses: VB Strong.
But, I don’t feel strong. I feel numb… and vulnerable because I feel I shouldn’t.
The thing that really gets to me is how I know how it feels to have a mental break… but, I’ve always felt that I could always ask someone, somewhere for help. The man who did this worked for the city IN the courthouse complex… at anytime, he could have walked into any building… the courthouse, the jail… anywhere and told someone that he was a danger to himself and others and he would have gotten the help he needed within a matter of moments. But, did HE know this?
We are taught so many things throughout our lives. We learn about ‘stranger danger’, ‘stop, drop, and roll’ if we catch fire, the warning signs for a choking victim and how to render aid. However, we aren’t ever taught what to do when WE are our own enemy. What are the warning signs of mental health? Where are the posters on the back of doors in breakrooms at work outlining who you can go to for help? We get annual physicals for every part of our body, but we never take a look at mental health and we really rarely even talk about it. Hell, and if you do, there’s a stigma upon you because you’re “crazy.”
I don’t have the answers, I really wish I had even one solution, but I don’t. All I know that I am going to keep going and talking to my therapist to help myself learn how to connect better with those around me and to prevent the world of social media friendships, text only communication, and a revolving door of heinous acts of violence to desensitize me any further. Most importantly, I will continue to be a advocate for mental health awareness… for myself, for the victims, for our community. That is the only answer I can give and how I can be strong for my community. I just wish I had a better answer for all this. I really do.