The news cycle these days is enough to give you whiplash. It’s like being under siege, like one of those horrible missions on any given RTS game where you have to survive for a period of time while the game throws waves upon waves of enemies in your direction. Winning isn’t an option, survival is your only goal.
For someone with mental illness, survival in the media onslaught can be particularly difficult. For years now, I have maintained a habit of Social Media Blackout Weekends, as a method of self-care. I didn’t want my weekends tarnished with being angry at things happening on the news. I chose willful ignorance over being informed, knowing that anything that happened over the weekend could be addressed just as easily on Monday morning.
Then there was the day that my partner walked in and said “I know you stay away from the news on the weekends, but I don’t want you to find out about this the first time when you get to work. You need to prepare yourself.”
That was the weekend that the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando was attacked.
The news cycle taking its toll only got worse after November, when I was so angry, perhaps angrier than I have ever been. I would obsessively check the news, Twitter, everywhere so I could know what they were going to come after next. My healthcare, my sexuality, my partner’s identity, our mental health conditions, my mother’s and my best friend’s disabilities. All seemed (and have proven to be) under target.
I was, quietly, having panic attack after panic attack, gradually unraveling. Those closest to me noticed, but I’ve never been good at asking for help. Something had to give.
I expanded my media blackout. Weekends were media-free, but so would every weekday after noon. I would check on current events in the morning, and that would be it.
I also wouldn’t be going down without a fight. Despite my crippling social anxiety, I have made a single phone call to an appropriate representative daily on my lunch break. I read from a script. I give my name and address as a constituent. (I recommend https://5calls.org/ for this.)
And those two things combined have helped me survive. I’m still informed enough to be a good citizen, and I am being proactive in trying to defend the things important to me. But I had to realize that, if I wanted to stay sane and reasonably healthy, I would have to give up being informed at the moment something happens.
I am still angry, but it’s a manageable level of anger. I no longer feel like I’m going to implode. I know that, if there is something major I need to know about immediately, I have trusted friends who will let me know that I should break my blackout and see what’s going on.
But choosing to be uninformed for specific sections of my life has been the best thing I could have done for my own health. I will still know the things, eventually. I just don’t always have to know them right now.