wE'Re AlL mAd HeRe

Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Panic… and the rest!

The Terror Trigger

The news of what went down in Westminster yesterday affected everyone. Phones rang & buzzed all over London, family & friends desperate to know that their loved ones were safe. I’ll never understand the desire to take a life. To cause pain.

My heart goes out to all the victims of this horrific attack. There’s a legion of people behind you, sending their love & support.

From a mental health perspective, terrorism is one of my triggers. The faceless danger, with the power to cause devastation. I remember an incident when I was 9 years old. It was a Saturday morning and I was in M&S Manchester with my parents. My mum wanted a new coat, and although I was bored to tears, I knew that tactically it made sense to keep my mouth shut. I was more likely to get some chocolate at the checkout this way!
Suddenly there was a store announcement, they had received a bomb threat & we all had to evacuate immediately. From the way that staff were behaving we knew this wasn’t a drill. It was around the time of the ‘Manchester bombings’ (1996), so threats were taken very seriously. I squeezed mum’s hand so hard it hurt, as people darted past us. With each step forward I waited for the explosion. I can still visualise the whole scene and what I was thinking “I don’t want to die,” “please God help us, I promise I’ll be good from now on,” (I only believe in God when I’m either in serious trouble, or reeeeeeally want something).
As we reached the door I physically braced myself. If the glass smashed now we’d be dead.
Fortunately the bomb turned out to be a hoax, (some joke). Yet the damage to my psyche had been done. It was a harsh reminder that the world around me wasn’t safe. Afterwards mum tried to reassure me that everything was ok, but I had nightmares about it for weeks. I started worrying that maybe the hoax bomb was actually a test, and that somehow the terrorists had identified me as a threat (God knows why, but I was young). I literally wrote lines in my diary at one point “please don’t hurt my family,” in case they read it. I also refused to venture into Manchester and would probably have struggled to leave the house if it weren’t for school. Ahhh, good old compulsory school.

Eventually I struck up a casual conversation with my dad about terrorism, (like any normal 9 year). Anyway, knowing my personality he must’ve picked up on something, because he said “you can’t be a slave to terrorists. The truth is, they could strike anywhere. There’s no point living your life cooped up at home. You’re more likely to be involved in a car crash anyway.” (I stopped him there because he was giving me ammunition).
It took a while for what he was saying to sink in because I HATED the fact that I didn’t know where they would strike, that’s what made it so scary. But then I didn’t want these thoughts to stop me from leaving the house. So I made sure that I went into Bolton town centre on Saturdays and I kept hanging out with my friends. I suppose it was an earlier form of exposure therapy.
It took a good year before I felt comfortable going  to Manchester, but I got there.

When the attack happened yesterday, all those terrifying thoughts started spinning through my head once more. I sent Dan a ridiculous message: “I know this is a pointless thing to say because we can’t control what’s happening, but please could you be extra safe on the tube tonight? Stay late or something maybe.”

However, after some deep breathing I remembered the realities of the situation:

  • Anxiety feeds on feelings of not being in control and this is one of those ocassions when you can’t control anything. Nobody can.
  • Write down what you’re worrying about, get them out of your head and on to paper. What is the liklihood of these worries happening? (Be honest).
  • Distract yourself until Dan gets home. Don’t curl up with it.

In some ways mental illness is a form of terrorism. It aims to frighten, bully and stop you from living a normal life. And just like all the brave Londoners this morning, you cannot give in to it. Don’t ever give a bully terrority.

All my love to everyone in London. x x x x

London

Categories: Anxiety

6 replies

  1. Ah man. I am the same at the moment. I was watching the BBC news at 10pm last night and ended up crying hysterically!! My boyfriend asked if it had set off a memory but I don’t have any memories like you do, no idea what is going on with me, I felt my reaction was disproportionate!! I absolutely HATED travelling to London this morning, felt so uneasy walking through the station. I hate that these bastards can make us feel like this. Everyone keeps saying they are not scared – but I am!! X

  2. Many people will have been triggered into “fight or flight” mode by this news, whether they have a memory of a relevant experience or not. When our “anxiety load” is already heavy, pretty much anything can feel like the last straw but the techniques you describe, Claire, can help us to engage the thinking part of our brains to calm the reactive part and just being gentle with ourselves at times like this is crucial. (At any time, actually!)

  3. It takes me back to growing up in the 70’s/80’s when I had mortal fear of going to London (thanks to the Ira) and nuclear war. And to think I ended up with an anxiety disorder ……

  4. I felt this anxiety straight away yesterday. Im due to fly out on holiday with my family in may and im now dreading the whole thing. From getting to the airport to the full holiday and then back home again. I don’t want ot to ruin my time away but i know it will be there all the time niggling at me just when i was getting better and had been signed off CBT. Any advice would be gratefully appreciated. It is a control thing i guess as i am a massive control freak and have the need to prepare for the outcome of any situation (world ending scenarios preparatons) We all stand together in this instance because no one in the world won’t have a certain amount of anxiety about terrorism or the implications tge affects if terrorism can have on our lives.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that you’re struggling Jakki. It’s natural to worry about travel at times like this, but you’ll push through it. Can I recommend hypnotherapy? I’ve been taking it more seriously lately & it really helps for situations like this.
      All the best xx

      • Im going to try it claire as i think it could really help i just wish i knew how to do it properly? I have however heard of the straw method on planes….regulate my breathing through a drinking straw…and because im a smoker it should hopefully help in areas where i can’t smoke? Thank you for replying ive been a sufferer for a long time and had become somewhat of a hermit, seeing you on TM made me sit up and realise im not alone in feeling the way i was as i could sympathise with alot of things you were talking about. xxxx

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