News & Anxiety

This week is mental health week, and as devastating as things are in the news in Canada right now, it almost seems appropriate for this topic to come up.


Many people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder find that watching the news triggers their anxiety. Generally, I don’t find news to bother me too much. I mean, I can hear a story about some product I use or have used or food I’ve purchased that has a recall or some controversy of some kind and that can get me thinking obsessively about whether or not I’m going to be affected by it in any way.

For the most part, I’m pretty good at pushing those thoughts away with logic.

However, when it does bother me, it’s usually because I have some kind of connection to some part of the story.

News

Right now, Fort McMurray is all over the news because of raging wildfires causing the entire city to be evacuated.

As some of you may know, I lived in Alberta for several years. I lived in northern Alberta for four and a half years during high school. Fort Mac is about a 7.5 hours drive northeast of where I lived. It’s only that long because you have to go south a ways to get there. There’s not much going on up in that part of the province. Everything is far away.

I only ever went to Fort Mac one time, on a band trip in grade 11. We left early to go to Edmonton because there was nothing to do after we finished playing at the festival. So, I don’t have much to say about it as a city, but being a well known city in a province I called home for 14 years, I have a bit of an emotional connection to it. To any city in the province, really. I also know a few people, clients from my former employer, from the public school division in Fort McMurray.

Fear & Anxiety

If it had been anything else, it probably wouldn’t have bothered me as much but because it’s a fire, it upsets me a fair bit.

I have a very intense fear of fire. I don’t want to say it’s an irrational fear – because, you know, it’s fire, it can be very dangerous and unpredictable, so it isn’t completely irrational – but the severity of it is right up there and may almost qualify it as irrational.

There probably isn’t any actual logical reason why I’m afraid of fire. I have a very similar fear of lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes, and sharp objects that can cut off limbs. I have a hard time even being near the gas fireplace in my parents’ house. Even when it’s not turned on. Seeing anything about house fires, forest fires, wildfires, etc. on the news or online scares me.

Intrusive Thoughts

In addition to the “simple” fear of fire, seeing images of things like what is happening in Fort McMurray right now, triggers very vivid, intrusive thoughts.

I used to brush it off as simply having a vivid imagination. That was before I understood what intrusive thoughts were. I don’t even need to be looking at an image of a fire to see, in my head, it raging through a bunch of dry trees and engulfing an entire neighbourhood.

Images on TV shows and movies of people being trapped in fire burning houses and being burned alive have probably contributed significantly to the images I see in my head when I don’t want to.

But that’s the key with intrusive thoughts, they’re unwanted. They are intrusive because they seemingly come out of nowhere. I have kind of figured out what can trigger many of my reoccurring intrusive thoughts, but in most cases it’s everyday things. I can’t avoid these triggers. It’s impossible.

I’ve been living with these intrusive thoughts for so long, that I’ve sort of gotten used to them, but that doesn’t make them any less intense or less unsettling. It’s just something I have to deal with on a daily basis.

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