How Our Hearts, Minds, and Bodies Are Reacting to Pulse

As our city awoke on June 12, 2016, many of us here in Orlando found that our sense of safety and security had vanished while we slept. The recent attack on our LGBT community and the largest mass shooting of our lifetime here in the U.S. has left many of us in a whirlwind of physical, mental, and emotional reactions as we try to make sense of the unthinkable.
Any time we experience something traumatic, even if you are not directly involved, it can have a predictable and widespread effect on us. My hope is to reassure you that your reactions are normal and to share some resources for crisis counseling to help you begin putting the pieces back together.
If you have been affected by our recent tragedy, here is an outline of what you might expect to experience in the coming weeks. These are some of the most common reactions, but are by no means an exhaustive list.

Your Emotions

  • You may experience a period of emotional shock in which you feel “on-edge” or numb, or some alternating combination of the two.
  • You may struggle to accept what has happened, find yourself pretending that it hasn’t actually happened, or brief periods where it seems unreal.
  • You may disconnect emotionally and go into a period of “autopilot” where things seem unreal, disassociated, or as if you are in a fog.
  • You may feel panicked, hopeless, helpless, empty, isolated, uncertain, irritable, guilty, grief-stricken, or hostile.

Your Thoughts

  • You may blame yourself, blame others, believe you’re losing control, or believe you’re incapable of coping and functioning.
  • You may become hyper-vigilant of your surroundings, always looking for exits and safety measures, experience repetitive thoughts about the trauma over and over again, or replay particular moments on repeat in your mind.
  • You may have difficulty concentrating, feel confused or disoriented at times, be forgetful, or struggle making day-to-day decisions.

Your Actions

  • You may become impulsive, wander aimlessly, pace, have trouble sitting still, or feel the need to move about suddenly.
  • You may “check out,” withdraw from others, or avoid responding to others’ attempts to communicate or connect with you.
  • You may jump or startle easily when you experience loud sounds or other unexpected events.

Your Body

  • You may experience physical symptoms of increased heart rate, nausea, increased blood pressure, muscle tension, fluctuating body temperature, or fatigue.
  • You may experience periods of hyperventilating, headaches, shaking, or fainting as well.
  • You may also experience chest pain, difficulty breathing, or heart palpitations. If you experience any of these 3, please seek medical attention immediately to ensure your safety.

Your Spirituality

  • You may question your beliefs, feel angry or confused by how this trauma could be “allowed to happen,” or begin to withdraw from religious or spiritual services.
  • You may become more spiritual as you search for a sense of faith, connection, and meaning in the aftermath.
Pulse shooting orlando
If you are experiencing any of these reactions, please know that your reactions are normal and to be expected. To care for yourself and assist yourself in coping with these feelings and reactions, please consider seeking out crisis counseling to help you through the process.
For crisis counseling in Orlando, we have a great deal of mental health services set up to help. Many counselors including myself will be providing free crisis counseling services to help you get through this. For more information on how to begin free crisis counseling, please contact The Center, our local LGBT community center, at (407) 228-8272 where you can get set up with a referral to myself or another local provider. The Center is located at 946 N Mills Ave. Orlando, FL.
Above all… Be patient with yourself. Allow yourself to cry. There are many steps in the healing process, but know that you don’t have to take them alone.
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