Mental Illness in America

Today I turned on the news to yet another senseless shooting in Missouri.  Each time I hear about a school shooting, or mall shooting or __________(fill in the blank) shooting I worry about what this repeated exposure to violence is doing to me.  For it is doing something.

It makes me afraid, it saddens me, and worst of all it makes these events become “normal”, “expected” and thus less shocking.  That is what terrifies me the most.  That I am becoming desensitized.   That I am becoming part of the problem.

In May of 2014, I was sitting in a small apartment in Mountain View, California, listening to the morning news, when they began covering a school shooting event in Oregon at Reynolds High School.  This was a school district I knew well, as I had worked as a school counselor in the neighboring district for seven years.  I still had friends who worked there. I knew the campus—the neighborhood.  I Knew what it was like to be in a school with distraught students and you yourself distraught, but putting aside your own emotions and feelings to take care of them.  I knew it wouldn’t be over once the shooting had ended.

And then I went on with my day.  By 3:00 in the afternoon I was back to writing.  This is a poem I wrote about that day and my own horror at how quickly I had moved on.

Mental Illness in America

                   Reynolds High School Shooting, May 2014

After my eyes welled wet,
after my Facebook post about
violence, teachers, fear,

after watching a reporter
interview a kid in shock
wondering where his
sister was,

after hearing the gym teacher
was fine, the bullet only grazed his hip,

after the horror of it,

I caught myself looking at my toes
noticed I needed a pedicure
thought Popsicle Pink
would match my new blouse.

Published in Cirque, A Literary Journal for the Pacific Northwest Rim, 2014 – Vol. 6. No. 1