Originally posted 10/09:
You know what happens when you fill a balloon up too much? It pops! We seem to be a nation on the verge of exploding. There is so much pent up frustration, anxiety, fear, anger and despair locked up inside the American people we are about to burst. Something has got to give. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your life situation is, we are all affected by the same issues right now…a depressed economic situation, a healthcare crisis, a nation at war…not to mention everything else we deal with on a daily basis in our own personal lives…losing our job, going through a divorce, getting sick…there is always something. You never know what is really going on with people. People are pissed off. We are directing our anger outward. We are mad at our boss, our girlfriend, the kid who tattled, the Army, the government, drivers who hesitate at a red light, grandmas who take too long at the check out, the kids crying on the airplane…whomever. We lock it up the best we can, but if we don’t have a constructive outlet for all the pressure, we unload on society.
There has been so much violence recently. Whether we are talking about shooting sprees, domestic abuse, gang rapes, beatings, lighting people on fire, angry mob mentalities or just yelling at the kids for no reason. We are a stressed out country. Life seems out of control and it’s driving us crazy. We all just need to count to ten and take a deep breath…
History shows that the frequency of mass murders is increasing, although, they seem to go in spurts. Increased stress, both social and economic, increases violent tendencies. Teen stress has increased in the last year. It is estimated that 10% of teens suffer from anxiety and 28% of tweens say they are stressed. Teen violence is up. In fact, homicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24 overall. Breathe. So, what happens when our kids feel stretched in too many different directions? Like a balloon, they’ll explode. To date, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history took place in April of 2001, in two separate attacks at Virginia Tech leaving 33 people dead including the two college gunmen. In January of 2011, a lone gunman, Jared Loughner, opened fire in a Tucson supermarket parking lot at a political event, killing 6 and wounding 13 others, including a Congresswoman. In the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, two bullied teenagers killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before taking their own lives. In 1995, Timothy McViegh bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City killing 186 people in retaliation for perceived government mishandling of Waco. Four years earlier, the deadliest mass shooting was in Texas, when George Hennard had a psychotic breakdown and drove into a Luby’s Cafeteria and killed 23 innocent people before committing suicide. There have been maybe a dozen, smaller shootings in between Columbine and the recent events at Fort Hood. Quiet, “normal,” loners to some observers, but with an angry or depressed side. They all felt like outsiders who needed to be heard, and they all got the attention they so desperately sought. They all made news and captured their moment in American History at our expense. They are part of the cautionary tales we tell each other. Exhale.
So, what is the lesson? People are fragile? We can only take so much? Like a balloon, we need to let some air out. Regardless of who we are mad at, whatever our problem is, perceived or real, we need to vent some way. If we have a constructive outlet, then society doesn’t get blown away when we snap. We need to find healthy outlets for all the pressure and we need to teach our kids to do the same. Our kids are dealing with the stresses of growing up…peer pressure, not getting the girl, not being cool, or cool enough, or being too cool, being bullied, being teased or embarrassed…all the things we all dealt with in one way or another, but combine that with parents that are stressed out and consumed with their own pressures…add unlimited access to the internet and exposure to violence at every turn…video games, TV shows, news. It can be overwhelming for them and they are overloaded. Teens that feel out of control and isolated, turn to anything and any one that makes them feel more powerful…weapons, gangs, sex, drugs, violence. Every parent’s nightmare. O.k., breathe.
Take a run. Talk to someone. Breathe. Start journaling. Start knitting. Breathe. Get advice. Get help. Breathe. If it is not working, do something else. Try something else. Breathe. Remember that tomorrow is another day and that you will be o.k. People that find themselves in despair feel isolated, helpless and trapped. They don’t have a support network they trust. Find someone you trust. Don’t keep it all locked up inside. Let’s start with the basics…sitting down to dinner together every night, talking to our kids about their days, their ups and downs and maybe even having a laugh. Helping them sort through their issues, might even help us decompress from ours. We all need to let it out…just let it all out…before we POP!