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Covering the 2020 News Cycle as a Journalist With PTSD

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I want to get personal for a moment. Over the last eight years as a journalist, I have covered very traumatic events — it’s the nature of the industry. As a disabled journalist, the stress and things I cover make me physically sick. 

• What is PTSD?

My first month I covered the Boston Bombing, and I realized real quick that the news isn’t for empaths or for the faint of heart.

School shootings, natural disasters. 

I covered the brutal murder of my colleagues and I saw the pain racial discrimination caused my local community.

I was only 21, two years into my career. I woke up to the texts from my colleagues saying there was a live shooting during the morning show, and to not look at the footage. I knew then and there the nature of my work changed. I held hands and cried with the victims’ friends and family. Live shots have never been the same. Journalists all over the world put their lives on the line knowing all we are armed with is a camera and a microphone, but ever since 2015, ever since that early morning live shot at the lake, it’s never been more dangerous. Especially for our reporters of color. My reporter, who is a person of color, was threatened weeks after at the murder site… covering the vigil of the murder. He was harassed and followed by someone who thought it would be funny to act as if he was pointing a gun at him. I went to the funerals and my heart still aches at that memory from years ago. 

I thought I have seen it all.

But nothing I have covered could have prepared me for 2020 — my souls aches at every raw feed I see and by the end of the day I am covered in hives.

Our days are long as we share the voices of the people and the oppressed. The fact that my colleagues in the media are putting their lives on the line to make sure we do our duty to cover the civil rights crisis in our country is something that comes with the job. But I fear for all my reporters of color — especially black reporters — who are in the midst of the protests; I am lucky I work in a small town and things have been more peaceful, but I am aware that my town is in the minority; I get so upset at the thought of a reporter, advocate or blogger doing their job and being on the receiving end of a police retaliation. But that’s what was happening.

Covering hate and seeing unjust violence to your fellow humans puts a weight on your heart. I can’t put it into words; I can’t fathom why this hate still exists. It breaks my heart how everyone is hurting and the only thing I can do right now is take a step back. To my warriors of color, I am so sorry you live this hate. It’s bad enough watching it. But living it first hand? Just because of who you were born to be? #blacklivesmatter, #blackvoicesmatter.

I stand with you, next to you, behind you and in front of you. Right now is the time listen to the voices of the people of color expressing their stories of pain and discrimination, and work through our own personal pain to find the best way to help start the process of fixing the pain our community is suffering.

My family is very affected by the violence, and I pray every day the light will outshine darkness and hatred. Not only does this current state bring up horrible past experiences that my entire family has faced in the past, but we are also dealing with the death of our grandfather, who passed in the summer.

Papa fought his terminally failing heart for years, but as he is a man of God, I don’t think his heart could bear the state of the world. The unjust hate was one thing he couldn’t bear. And it is so hard for me right now. I feel so much of the community’s pain with my own pain, and it’s overwhelming. When I get overwhelmed, I can’t communicate. I shell up. I freak out. I can’t say how I feel in the right way.

My family has already been on edge because of my work and how it has brought up many personal experiences that have caused PTSD. I need to step back before it gets too bad — knowing when your mental state needs to be better is essential to being a patient advocate leader. Knowing when you need to make boundaries is how you will be able to take control of your mental state before it takes control of you.

I am so heartbroken, I expected so much more from this week. So. Much. And instead I lost many…

The only way to fight hate is by coming together, standing up and shining light to make lasting change. Growth is key.

Be the change you wish to see in the world — stand up in solidarity with those whose voices get overshadowed. Every human has a duty to stand up for human rights, and as leaders we can add our voices to those of the oppressed; sooner or later, you won’t be able to drown out the voices of many. 

Sending love and spoons to you all, hug your family extra tight right now. Be kind to all, yourself and strangers, and if you are feeling like I am, focus on the things in your life that you can rely on. 

This feeling is temporary if we can find the solution.

Getty image via Mihajlo Maricic

Originally published: November 12, 2020
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