Terrorism. Austerity. Politics. Brexit. Racism. Refugees. War. Misery.
The news lately has been full of horror stories, it usually is. It feels like recently, there have been more atrocities happening than ever or they’re just getting more air time. Watching or reading the news can be beneficial, it allows you to keep up to date with what is going on over the world (even if our news channels tend to be West centric) and keeps you aware of the global situation. Generally, people believe that it is important to be educated on current affairs because, as a society, we have a responsibility to defend humanity. However, there is a problem with this expectation related to mental health.
I stay informed about world events because I care about other people, I want to know what is going on so that I can have discussions with others about it, I like to know about politics because it impacts my day to day life as well as those around me. But sometimes, I have to switch it all off and pretend things are not happening. I understand that people in these horrendous situations like civilians in war torn countries do not have the ability to switch off. The headlines we read are their lives. Some of us are fortunate enough to be able to remain ignorant to global affairs and I often feel the need to do this for my own well-being.
Seeing images of attacks, starving children, bombs being dropped – it is all real and it is happening and it is depressing and sad. It leaves me feeling helpless and useless. I want to help and knowing that there is not much or even nothing I can do increases my own emotions around my lack of self-worth. It is not a single person’s responsibility to fix the world’s problems but knowing that politicians are making mistakes that will lead to deaths makes my heart feel heavy. I cannot keep watching things fall apart.
My anxiety gets worse when I expose myself to the horrible events going on in the world. My suicidal thoughts get worse – “why does anyone want to live in a world like this?” is a question I often ask myself. My depression gets worse knowing about all this misery. I get trapped in the thought of “I have nothing to be depressed about, all of these victims of x do.” Beating myself up over situations out of my control is part of my nature. Ignorance allows me to get out of bed every day.
When the EU referendum results came in, I was devastated. The uncertainty of Britain’s future scared me and everyone wanted to talk about it. There was times when I walked out of rooms when discussions began or asked if we could talk about something else. I needed to save myself from all of the emotions that come with being uncertain about the future.
Although I do feel a bit guilty, I think that it is okay to take a step back and focus on your own mental health even if it means not knowing about events in the bigger picture. If you find yourself getting depressed or uncontrollably angry scrolling through the breaking news stories, stop. While being informed is important, it should not be put above your own mental health. Pretending things are not happening does not make you a bad person, it makes you human. It is only natural to get overwhelmed by the reality of the global situation.
This links quite nicely with the lack of awareness around mental health and political activism. I’ve been asked before why I am not more politically active if I care so much. My response to this is that not everyone has the capacity to be involved in activism. I cannot attend marches because of my anxiety. I struggle to speak up sometimes because I am so afraid of not being able to make a difference. Just because we are not marching next to you does not mean we do not stand with you. Anyone within activism needs to know that not everyone has the same abilities and the amount of work you put into a campaign does not equate to how important it is or how much you care about the issue.
I care and I want to make the world a better place. But I need to get out of bed every day and go to work and function. Sometimes, this feels like too much when it appears that the world is crumbling around us.
It is okay to switch off. It is important to switch off if it means you will be more able to live another day. I switch off now and then because there are times when I cannot; there are times when the headlines will be my life. Let me protect myself while I have the opportunity to do so.