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Posted under: Culture Opinion Race & Identity

Why I think media-driven PTSD is real

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This past weekend I really tried to shut out the world. It was my birthday weekend, I had a lot of positive things to focus on and I decided that I needed to detox from social media for a bit. I find myself doing this a lot more lately so I don't get overwhelmed. The lives of unarmed people of color are being snuffed out at such a rapid, vicious rate that I've recently tried to brace myself before watching or reading the news. Only, I can't brace myself. Each time I read or hear about these murders I'm knocked completely off kilter.

What's worse is I write for a living and feel compelled to take to my keyboard each time and lend my voice to the droves of those outraged by these deaths. But lately I've found that it's getting too hard. I get real nightmares accompanied by real tears when my brain scrambles the images of the dead with thoughts of my only son. So if the bombardment of police killings on our social media feeds and the inevitable slough of ignorant comments we're forced to wade through afterward are indeed a form of psychological warfare, the best way to describe the condition I've developed from it is media-driven PTSD.

But I can't ignore the news, especially because it's not the boogie monster in all this; it's simply a conduit. These days I just engage with the news differently. When I click through a link, I read the articles, try my best to avoid the videos and steer clear of the comment sections on most sites. Not viewing the videos preserves my sanity the most, though. Honestly, I think the only reason I used to be able to watch them is that I truly believed that the footage would get justice for the families of the victims. Like, by watching it I was adding to this awareness bubble that would somehow result in a positive outcome. But it was a false hope.

And again, this is me. I don't have the psyche strong enough to bear a feed full of violent images, no matter where they come from. I feel a bit macabre when I watch videos of these deaths -- like a voyeur in the crowd at a bastille execution of an innocent. Some of my friends and family argue that we need to see this stuff to be shocked out of inaction, but I remind them that motivation is not a one-size-fits-all deal.

For me, the news of these deaths is already devastating and galvanizing. Reading black font on white screens has been enough so far to make me march, boycott, sign petitions and do whatever else I can to be a part of the fight. The only silver lining I can see for my hypersensitivity is that I won't become desensitized to the deaths of these people. I need my grief like I need my joy. Both sustain me and help me make sense of it all.


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