Imagine that you walk into a crowd of people who suddenly get into panic, running to get away from something. What would you do? Would you run with them or go against the current to see what is happening behind the crowd? Normally you would run away, and most probably get worried, scared for your life.
When a traumatic event hits too close to us, we might develop
Social support received from understanding friends and family serves best as an emotional regulator in such situations. It is important that the individual gets to be listened to and soothed by others. This can help the person to process the fearful emotions and thoughts connected to that unusual, often life threatening experience.
It is common to grieve the lost peace and sense of security within ourselves and in our environment. We may experience fear and anger against those who inflicted the traumatic terror. Your whole perspective on life might be shifted. You may ask yourself questions such as: "What if I were closer - I could have been a victim… Why do such atrocities happen? Why here? Why to those people? What would I do if I were on the spot? Would I be able to react fast?"
The fact is that most people get paralyzed when they become suddenly aware of danger to their lives. The unusual, shocking, unbelievable situation blocks their brain from reacting fast. If the person is part of a crowd it can be even harder to control one's self. The crowds inevitably stop those who want to react faster. Each one of us does the best we can do in such trying circumstances.
It is very common to stay in shock for a while after the actual danger has passed. Then you may feel fear, anger, and even guilt for not being able to do anything more than you did. You may feel many conflicting emotions within, such as confusion, tension within the body, edginess - a chaos of feelings may arise and these followed by insomnia or nightmares.
You may fear talking to others about your nightmares, flashbacks, or emotional numbness. You may feel empty, abandoned and experiencing panic attacks, or extreme irritability or agitation.
Just because the reaction to stress is so omnipresent in horrific incidents it can be difficult to know when our reaction is more severe and may require professional help to get you through.
Watch for flashbacks, nightmares, feeling of emptiness, frequent panic attacks, or attacks of rage, or even violence, or debilitating worry. If you find any of these reoccurring, get yourself a listener, a counselor or therapist. Try not to be embarrased to ask someone to help you out in your search or call a local hospital to ask for names of those who might be able to help you out. If you have your personal doctor, make an appointment and relate honestly what is going on.
Be aware that when you enter a state where your usual life is disturbed, you may not even notice how altered you are. If you have a chance, ask others around you if they have noticed a change in you. If they notice things about you that may need a close attention, give yourself a chance and seek help.
Your own reaction to traumatic situation is unique. Comparing your situation with others is not a good idea. Frankly estimate whether your life is more or less going on in the way as you expect it to go, or not. If you know that you are suffering, try to have the courage to get support until what troubles you is resolved and you feel relieved. If it helps you process your thoughts, use a diary, write it all down, find someone to talk to, even if it is online. Whatever idea may help, grab that and use it. Don't let yourself drift away into a state of isolation and pain for too long. As a survivor you can be of help to others around you who may need your help either in prevention, or information dissemination. Finding your way back to feeling good again is your own responsibility. There is help out there, just ask for it.