People might tell you the world has been filled with people who don’t play by the rules and who create havoc and fear in others since the time of the Roman Empire, if not before, and that the recent acts of terrorism are just more of the same. While this may be true, try convincing my frightened heart and mind of it. For me, somehow, this time things are different. I’m still trying to stop reeling from the 9/11 attacks. So when the terrorists of ISIS took credit for killing innocent men, women, and children in the recent attacks in Paris, the post traumatic stress I was juggling within my limbic system got reactivated. I was reminded once again that our world is extremely unsafe. PTSD is not just a syndrome that afflicts soldiers coming back from war, victims of sexual abuse, and survivors of natural disasters; it is a syndrome that every person walking this earth whose eyes and ears are open and aware of current events is—or should be—now carrying.
For the first few days after the Paris attacks, my brain put me on hyper-alert. No amount of self-talk could lower my anxiety. I was checking my phone for Reuter alerts, obsessively asking people for statistics about our chances of getting killed in a terrorist attack, and needing to know where my closest loved ones were around the clock. My sleep was disrupted. My passion for life turned into an existential malaise of “what’s the point?” And mind you, I’m a pretty hardy soul. I play hard and I work hard. I run toward life and adventure, am community minded, and try to keep my footprint small enough so many generations to come will survive. All that went out the window after the Paris attacks, and it has been slow getting back to making the effort since.
I wish I could say I am one of those who still feel unharmed, inured, and confident terrorist attacks happen to other people. But my mind doesn’t work that way. My mind says, “Why not me?” Maybe life really is random and we either get the luck of the draw or not?
If you are out there and have the kind of brain I have, you have my sympathies. What I can say is that if you are stuck in a loop of fear or are having trouble calming down your nerves, there are professionals all over the world who specialize in the treatment of trauma. You can find an expert at http://www.emdria.org. It’s also important to huddle with those you love and trust in your world. Take refuge in your community. Talk with like-minded friends who will be there to comfort you.
I grieve the fact that some people in this world have no regard for human life, and are willing to perform savage acts in the name of religion. I’m pretty sure I’m going to go to my grave never understanding the injustices that others commit, and the heinous acts that go unpunished. For now, I continue to watch the news a little too much and stare out the window in disbelief for a little too long. But I know that as long as I take my own advice, I’ll reclaim what brings me joy and purpose, in spite of it all.
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