Staying Sane as WE mourn the tragedy in Las Vegas – Podcast Transcription
Dr. Denise: Hi everybody it’s Dr. Denise. The show is going to have a different format with everything going on in the world and the unimaginable tragedy in Las Vegas. I thought we’d just discuss some tips and tools and how to stay sane when we’re going through feelings of grief, loss, and processing unbelievable atrocities for humanity. So I’ve invited Cathleen O’Toole back on the show today and we’re going to give her a call.
Dr. Denise: Good afternoon.
Cathleen: Good afternoon Dr. Denise.
Dr. Denise: Wow. So Cathleen is back on the show and we were talking earlier today and it’s just so near and dear to both of our hearts and for all of us with what’s going on in the world just how do we stay sane. And Cathleen has a unique background in journalism. So can you give us a little background on who you are and we can jump right in and talk about what we’re going to talk about today.
Cathleen: So I am a retired broadcast journalist and I’ve spent 21 years in television newsrooms and have covered all sorts of stories. Happy and sad and a lot of sad difficult stories cross our desks like the one that happened in this country this week.
Dr. Denise: I woke up to Cathleen texting me and just want to take a moment to offer love and condolences to the lives lost in Las Vegas and to all those that are in recovery. And also from a mental health standpoint the trauma that you endure when you witness something like that.
Cathleen: Right, to fill people in as to where we’re at when we are having this discussion right now the death toll from Las Vegas stands at fifty eight humans lost Dr. Denise. It’s the deadliest such attack in American history and we are learning stories of a husband gunned down shielding his wife. A woman carrying her wheelchair bound sister away from the carnage. As law enforcement is running towards it. The shooter we now know is dead after coordinating a methodical assault with cameras even in his hotel room and a stockpile of weapons. The FBI has just interviewed this man’s girlfriend as agents try to piece together what the rest of the world wants to know and that’s why why we all ask ourselves as we hear this. You know staccato of that gunfire Dr. Denise soul shattering and maybe some of us had been brave enough to even watch that video of people running, ducking, confused letting their primordial instincts take over. Why? How do we make sense of it? How do we live in a world like this. Dr. Denise?
Dr. Denise: Well I don’t know how to answer that. I think that it’s just unimaginable. And I think that right when you were recapping I can tell you I felt the chill when you were describing the loss of the lives in a very primal way. I just felt the suffering I felt the sadness and I think it’s so important that when we’re sitting down and watching news or going through our social media or even this morning I was working out at the gym and it’s just on every single channel and I think one thing that Cathleen and I spoke about is we do need to get the news we need to know what’s going on. But I’m very passionate about our mindset and our mental health and like how much news is enough and how do we get the quality of news and the quantity of news that we don’t end up traumatizing ourselves over and over again.
Cathleen: So we, how do we do it Dr. Denise? Do we…we kind of take our own temperature if you will right?
Dr. Denise: Yeah I think everyone has to know what their own neurostyle is. When I say neurostyle I mean the way we process and perceive information. Some people can watch the news and maybe their pulse doesn’t go up or they don’t think it’s affecting their brain. They can go on their way. I had a patient this morning that was in tears. She was like I don’t know what to do. I’m trying to know what’s going on. And she has a lot of anxiety and I think she’s handling it great and she and I specifically for her you know we all have different levels of awareness. And so for me personally when I watch the news I try not to watch gunshots I’m not telling you to not watch gunshots but it’s basically we have to know our own threshold for pain and fear tolerance. And I will tell you, my professional opinion is find one or two news stations and just get the data and then I think we can all feel really like helpless like learned helplessness like what is going on with humanity? I mean do you ever experience that?
Cathleen: Yeah I mean you know even I I’ve had friends who even think I’m not bringing a child into this world because of humanity. I’ve had friends say that to me. And even as adults we can say like how do we put one foot in front of another in a world like this?
Dr. Denise: No absolutely and there’s going to be a vigil tonight. We lost two people in Manhattan Beach, a teacher and a police officer. And you know, a lot of the administration and other teachers were at the concert and so there’s a real loss right here in our own community and I think part of being human is there is going to be loss, there is going to be suffering. However I think that prevention is something that we need to think about as a society and we need to you know some things are just not preventable. You know there’s fluke things that happen and your like, look you’ve got to be kidding me. But I think that there needs to be a lot of discussion moving forward. And I know this is a big, big ticket item here and I don’t want to make this about this but you know we need to look at the different gun control and we need to limit. I mean a lot of the countries in the world that don’t have access to guns don’t have the kind of violence we have here in the United States.
Cathleen: So right, that’s a big ticket that we could spend the next two months talking about. What about for the student next door who’s heading off to high school and you know she might think I don’t really have a lot of control over gun control laws and how can I, how can I help? It’s not like this is that this is a hurricane and I can send pallets of water. You know, how can I what can I do.? How can I turn this grief, and this like stomach curdling feeling, into anything positive?
Dr. Denise: Well I was feeling that my heart’s been very heavy. And yesterday, one example that I did when I was just mourning the loss and thinking about all the suffering that’s happening after this unimaginable, I said to myself, “come on you need to get out and some fresh air, you need to take a break from thinking about it.” So one thing we need to remember is we need to be masters of our own inner world and our mindset. And we have to know ourselves well enough if we’re thinking about something which can be called ruminating when we think about something over and over again. Do I need to go get some fresh air, take a walk, call a friend, make someone smile? Switch to comedy. You know, and there is, you can donate blood. There’s all kinds of things you can do to feel like not that you’re helpless that just you know so you can send in prayers love to you know your mind is really powerful and pausing and reflecting when there has been a loss life is if that’s your in your nature to be mindful of that that could be very helpful. And then I think really having gratitude for your children and for your own family and just giving them tons of love.
Cathleen: Right. Yeah. So on Monday after I texted you and I didn’t get to speak with you yet but I came out of the chiropractors office and I was just like this was just hitting me. And I think also it depends on what else is going on in your life, right? At one point one month you can be OK I can handle something like this with a little bit more vigor then like the next month you’ve got a couple of personal issues…if I’m making sense. So I left. I left the doctor’s appointment and I looked at myself in the mirror and I had all this makeup on my face. And then I spoke with you and you said these words about turning, turning, like turning the light on inside of me. And like you know just trying to emit light to everyone I met and you can explain it better than I can. What you said.
Dr. Denise: Well I think that we need to remember that we’re human beings, but we’re also, we carry an energy, and there’s so much, so many feelings and thoughts that are happening that we can have ways where we can… I was at a Jack Canfield lecture was lik, OK I wrote imagine a waterfall around you and then if you read many different books in quantum physics and things there’s ways of envisioning white light it actually creates like an energy buffer. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to feel your feelings it’s not going to mean you’re not upset or sad or fearful. However, you’re actually practicing with intention to not take on the magnitude of the sadness or the anger you’re still going to feel your feelings and then you have some more power to then almost ask yourself like I think I remember on the phone you’re like I’m just still sad.
So if you need to let yourself be sad for a half day or an hour or five minutes be the keeper of your thoughts and really focus and have intention and then you can make a decision like OK I just want to shift this into neutrality and is there anything positive I can do to help someone. So you’re an active participant in changing the way you think, feel and act. And I know it might sound, you know until you start doing this automatically, it might sound like really you can do that, but it’s just it’s something that if you have a ritual you can do I do something like this in between seeing clients I mean I’ll go from one patient that you know has anorexia that’s weighing 78 pounds that’s an adult to someone else that just got an A on her report card because their ADHD is treated,right? So, I think we all do this throughout our life. We go through different almost like snapshots. And so I have a way of making sure I’m really focused on the, the person or the situation right in front of me and I of course I feel sad that someone’s not able to eat and I offer my medical advice and my healing advice. And then I make sure I shut the door before I see the next client. I take a deep breath, and I actually clear it, like Sunday and I send them love and light like please I hope you’re going to have a better week and we can do that for ourselves moment to moment too. We don’t have to keep watching, you got to, if you’re someone who get sucked in, which we all do. My gosh there there’s times when I’ve been on social media and I’m like you’ve been logged on how long, right? I do this right too and I think we need to self regulate how much news or how much social media we’re able to tolerate in that given moment which is just being mindful and being self aware.
Cathleen: So the last thing really important question that I wanted to ask you as it pertains to something like this is what about our children? I mean those of us who encounter children in our lives whether we’re a schoolteacher or a parent. How do we handle this with kids? I know the age matters right?
Dr. Denise: Right. I mean I think the one thing we all remember is that every parent has their own parenting style with their kids so you have to use your own judgment. I do think we need to check in with our children more when you and I were growing up Cath we didn’t have the access there was I remember it was like the 10 o’clock news is when they had a lot. Not that the 6 o’clock news didn’t have murders and different things going on but it was more of an adult time or an adult show was on.
Dr. Denise: Whereas right now our children have iPads they have any kind of iPhone access to media all the time. So I think coming up with a framework in your own home and you know there are parent regulations that you can put on some of the iPads and things but I think talking to your child is the most important thing and maybe as a family whether it’s sitting down to family dinner or I know for teenagers when you’re in the car with them they can’t get away.
Cathleen: They’re a captive audience.
Dr. Denise: They’re a captive audience. You can sort of check in with them and see did anything happen at school today? And actually as we record this podcast there was a report that there was a shooter at Mira Costa high school here in our town just like three hours ago. And the SWAT team was there and everything. And so I know like my patients this week that come in they’re going to be talking to me about what did that feel like. So I think we have to check in with our kids. And by the way there was no active shooter. Everyone’s safe, everyone’s OK. But we need to kind of have a way of having a dialogue that’s age appropriate and saying was there anything that upset you? Did you read anything on the news? I don’t think that that’s a common thing. I mean I have an eight year old who is mostly on YouTube who is not really on the news yet, but now that we’re talking about I think saying to him was there anything you saw today on your tablet that was upsetting or was just too much for you to handle?
Cathleen: Right. Right. You know it’s interesting and not to digress, but you talked about the reports of a shooter at a local high school by you and the world of journalism has changed because probably not six, seven years ago we as a journalistic profession did not report things like that that weren’t accurate like we would report bomb threats or we wouldn’t report you know a phoned in shooter thing until it was an actual event where it was also a way to try to prevent that kind of copycat thing from happening. But the whole world is changed because everything so instantaneous that kids will report this on their phones. So the media had to change and adjust to that. And so that’s why, you know, the whole landscape shifts almost daily. And you know what’s unfortunate is tragedies like this this week you know we wish we could say goodbye to them forever. And that’s the one thing that really isn’t shifting.
Dr. Denise: Yes. And then I know that this is something we’ve talked about this makes a really good point when we have instant access to Twitter and social media. I know a lot of people that just say I just don’t look at it. I don’t even look at my news. I didn’t look at the social media because they know that there’s so much coming at them which is very different. That’s a very different milieu environment of news than when we were growing up.
Cathleen: Right, right. And somehow we have to learn to navigate it. And with the help of people like you.
Dr. Denise: Yeah and so I think with I think the reason for the show is that we today this particular episode was that we’re like how do we stay sane? How do we do this? So I think we need to we need to readjust as a society and we need to have self-regulation with how much social media we allow ourselves and our children. We need to take media breaks where we check in our phone at the dinner table. I know that a lot of people do that even at parties they have a bowl and they just check in their media so that people actually converse and make eye contact because when you’re completely plugged in all the time you’re creating a fear reflex every time you see like a shooting or something, I’m not saying don’t get the facts, I’m just saying have a way to self-regulate. I think that’s another big tip.
Dr. Denise: Well I think I do want to just pause and just offer so much love and my condolences to all the lives lost and all the brave heroes that you know shielded other lives and all the first responders and also lots of wishes of healing to those who are recovering in the hospital. And then also to those who saw the psychological trauma of watching people run when that kind of unbelievable unimaginable tragedy happened in Las Vegas.
Cathleen: I’m sending my wishes and prayers as well Denise.
Dr. Denise: And thank you for being back on the show Cathleen.
Cathleen: Thanks for having me under these circumstances.
Dr. Denise: OK.