Since I work up Sunday morning and read about the mass murder of predemoninantly Latinx LGBTQ people in Orlando, I’ve been in a perpetual state of terror.
I read two or three articles to get a sense of what was happening and as I cried, my heart started to thump ominously. I felt the familiar chills and sounds and inability to breathe and knew that I was having an anxiety attack. As a survivor with PTSD and chronic anxiety, it is not unfamiliar to me. I sat staring at my computer screen with my heart racing as I tried to breath, overwhelmed by feelings of sheer terror. All I could think about was how terrified the people in the club must have been. That doesn’t seem remotely sufficient to explain what I mean. I’ve had a gun used to commit an act of violence against me (sexual assault) and it wasn’t fired – it was just there, it was just a power move to control me. Just writing about it brings back the feeling so much that I had to stop writing.
Thirty seconds later, I realized it was time to head out to Pridefest and the personal and political smashed my heart together into a thousand pieces.
I didn’t make it to Pridefest. I just stayed home and cried. I cried for the victims, the survivors, the families, my community and I just couldn’t stop crying. I also couldn’t make it to a celebration, a large crowd filled with God knows who and what. I wasn’t able to rationalize what would probably happen. Each time I closed my eyes, I felt that terror seep into and it took me to a terrible space in my head.
That’s how terror works.
Sometimes when I hear a very loud sound, I cringe and hit the floor. Sometimes, I yelp. And sometimes I just cringe inwardly and stop breathing until the moment passes. Usually it is nothing.
The combination punch of terror in response to a real situation with anxiety about all of the fears about all of the things – sucks. It is unnatural, but real.
People have all sorts of different responses in the face of a horrible tragedy. Right or wrong, up or down, understandable or perplexing. Giving people the space to process their response isn’t just a matter of backing off. It may mean wading into an uncomfortable place to assure someone that they are not alone.
I don’t have much to add to that. My anxiety is pretty overwhelming right now. I’ve reached out to a few people and their responses have been … dismaying. One person told me that old queer people process things differently than younger queer people. Several told me to get over it. My favorite was the person who told me that its my job as a community leader to be a support, not ask for support.
Actually, this is my favorite response – I’m anxious about controlling a LGBTQ centric event inclusive of cis het allies. Seems like allies tend to take over most spaces.
Again this experience probably has something to do with our different positions in terms of generation. I find many more of my cis het peers understand deeper complexities of queer experience and are caring and supportive and reflective about their work as allies. I imagine it could be quite different for queer folks who are older than me.
That’s super helpful. Old people are the problem?
I don’t feel anxious at all, now. I do feel I want to cry again. There’s no end to the punishment for asking for support.
And that’s what anxiety feels like …