How to survive

I’m loathed to watch the news these days. It’s depressing. There is either coverage of politics, a celebrity mishap that I don’t care about, weather-related events, or a tragedy.

As much as I try to avoid the news, it ends up finding me. Articles end up plastered all over my Facebook and Instagram feeds. Perhaps it’s my fault. I feed the algorithm. Maybe I shouldn’t use these apps. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Occasionally there will be a story of tragedy in the news that really gets to me. A teenager wreaking unnecessary death and terror at their school; a parent killing their children after years of family violence; a fatal car accident resulting from a drunk driver; a woman attacked by a man she didn’t know while she was walking home at night.

And then there’s the news that I actually willingly watch that is sadly not considered important enough to be covered in our news because it is so pervasive. It’s the destruction, death, poverty, inequality and God knows what else that permeates the third world.

No matter the source, all of these ‘news pieces’ are incredibly unnerving. They remind me that the world is unfair, that there are people out there who are seriously deranged beyond repair, that tragedy happens everyday, and that it can happen to anyone… including me. And it fills me with worry.

I recently met a patient who had been a victim of one of these tragedies and was still suffering as a result of it. I listened as they recounted what had happened, and tears began to well in my eyes. Embarrassed at my display of emotion while this person sat there with poise and strength, I looked away, hoping those tears would redistribute as I imagined myself going through what they had been through. It frightened me.

One day, they were just a normal person, going about their normal life, doing normal things. And then the next day, they were changed forever. The actions of a person they didn’t even know had caused them so much harm. And although they had physically recovered, they could never look at life the same way again. They could never feel safe.

“It could have been worse,” they said. “At least I’m still alive.” And the edges of their lips curved up to form a smile.

I was in awe of this person. A survivor. Although forever changed, they still had gratitude and hope for the future. Unlike me, they weren’t crippled by worry about what else could happen to them. They didn’t allow this tragedy to take anymore from them than it did on that day.

And in that moment I realised that while life is not fair, and tragedy could strike at any moment… nothing can prepare you for it. You can either spend your life worrying, letting darkness take from you and consume you until it really does get you. Or you can laugh it in the face by letting it strengthen your resolve to live your best life while taking nothing for granted.


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