Never have I had a class spark anxiety as quickly as my class on trauma reporting. It seems like it would be obvious, and I was expecting it, but I don’t think I truly prepared myself for the weight of other people’s heartaches.
I written posts before about how other people’s problems stress me out way more than I feel is necessary or normal. My overactive empathy has kicked into overdrive in J4301 way, way faster than I thought it would.
Yesterday in class, we watched part of the National Geographic documentary Witness: Joplin Tornado. Joplin is a mere four hours away from Columbia, and many MU students are from there, so it’s a tragedy near and dear to our hearts. Watching videos shot by citizens, hearing the screams of confused and frightened children, witnessing the total destructive power of the supercell — it was almost too much.
I did what I always did when I get super nervous and I can’t leave or check out: I fiddle. I play with my necklaces, spin my rings, snap the hair tie on my wrist. Sometimes I think most of the reason why I wear so much jewelry is so that I have something to distract me when I get anxious.
The experience got me thinking: what would I do if I was actually in an event like the Joplin tornado? Or some other traumatic event? I have a sneaking suspicion that I would either be the one to freeze or burst into inconsolable tears. Meaning, of course, I would be essentially useless. And if you know anything about me, you know that I hate feeling like I can’t help or serve someone.
Beyond my own nerves, how could I possibly write a story about a Joplin survivor? How could I possibly find the strength to dig into someone’s worst nightmare and make them open up their wounds so that I can tell everyone about it?
Usually, I am confident in my abilities to write and report. I am sure Katherine has some professorial tricks up her sleeves, but I’m nervous, to say the least.
Side note: as of Jan. 28, there had been 11 school shootings in 19 days. I am so not looking forward to diving into that politically-laced pit of children’s suffering.
Side note, part two: If you’re a fan of Malcolm Gladwell, I would highly recommend “The Unconditional” by Amanda Ripley. It’s what I’m currently reading and it’s utterly fascinating.