I have always loved travelling and it has not changed, however the world has changed a bit the last couple of years. Back in 2005 I was living in London when the first terror attack on the tube happened. I was shocked and changed my travelling routine for a while, but slowly I got back to living life normal again. When I moved back to Sweden, Stockholm I felt so safe being back home . However that changed for me on 7th April 2017 when a terror attack did hit Stockholm and I found myself in the middle of it. Here is my story and how I came over my fear of this trauma.
It was a ordinary Friday, I was planing to go early from work to do some shopping. Then I had plans to visit a friend in the inner town of Stockholm. The weather was beautiful, a lovely spring day in April. I was so happy on this day. I managed to leave work around 2pm and took the subway to the main shopping street in Stockholm City. I was shopping, enjoying my Friday afternoon.
“It’s OKAY to be scared. Being scared means you’re about to do something really, really brave.” ― Mandy Hale
As spring was on it way I was looking for some new trousers. At this point of time, chaos had probable already started further up on the main shopping street, but me and everyone else around was still unaware of the danger we were soon to find us in.
I had planned to go to Zara a bit further up on the street, but just as I crossed the street I saw another shop that I thought I will just nip in there and then to Zara. I went towards the back of the shop looking for trousers, seconds later I hear a big bang and see the entire shop window break into the store. I did not understand anything, neither did anyone around me, until someone screamed that a truck had just driven down the main shopping street.
Then chaos broke out inside the store. For a few seconds all kind of thoughts went through my mind. The panic around me got worse and the store staff opened up the exit and told us we could go out there. A woman next to me with a pram was in total panic and did not really know where to go. Still I was having trouble understanding what just had happened.
I went towards the exit with other customers and we walked down a staircase and arrived on a back street. I stepped out on the street, but then other people came running down from the main street screaming and crying and saying that someone was shooting on the main street. I jumped back to the exit hallway of the store, at this point I was so scared. I felt real fear for my life. But I pulled myself together and I thought I must get out of there.
“To escape fear, you have to go through it, not around.”
― Richie Norton
I left through the back exit t again and there was a lot of other people on the street, some in panic, some in awe, some just standing there not knowing what was going on. I walked as quickly as I could away from the chaos. A few seconds I heard police cars, helicopters and ambulance. Still at this point I had yet fully understand what had just happened, I was so focused on quickly walking away from he area, so I never checked on the phone if there was any news on what had just happened.
With everything that had recently happened in Europe I was already pretty clear with the fact that it had been a terror attack. I just didn’t know how serious. I quickly called my closest family to tell them I was OK, as I know when things like this happen the phone network usually gets overloaded and you cant get through. I was so shocked but I managed to tell them I was OK.
As I walked away from the city I saw other people around me crying and in shock. The whole town was in chaos. I walked quick out of the city and to my friend. I am was physically undamaged but the memories and what I have been involved in left me with anxiety. As I arrive at my friend I broke down and had a cry. This is also the first time I see the news and get a clear picture of what really did happen. The decision to quickly go into another store before Zara is a decision that will always be with me. Because if not I would have been on the main street when the truck drove through the crowd. I stayed at my friends house during that evening. I did not sleep and I was still in shock. My friend drove me home the following day and I went to bed and slept through Saturday and Sunday.
“I have to face the fear. I have to take control of the situation and find a way to make it less frightening.” ― Veronica Roth
After this I was scared leaving the house. I was so shocked that this has happened in Stockholm, in my country, the safest place on earth for me. As soon as I heard a bang or something breaking my brain reacted and for one second I felt fear, the same fear I felt that day. I stayed home from work for a few days. I was and are still so happy that I was OK. I realised that I needed professional help to work through the fear. Luckily for me I got help quickly via work. I slowly took small steps, helping me to move on. I am here sharing a few tips on steps that I took that I felt was very helpful.
- Visit the place where the fear started. Go back for a few minutes. Then a few days later, go back again stay a little bit longer, continue to do this until you no longer feel fear associated with that place. Let the brain create better, happier memories of that place.
- Have plenty of rest and look after yourself.
- Take time off from work.
- Go and speak to a professional. They can help you with taking steps overcoming your fear.
- Set small tasks for overcoming your fear. Step by step. Allow it to take the time you need.
- Talk with loved ones. Get them to understand your fear and they can be a part of the healing process.
- Realise that you may never fully will overcome your fear but try and live life as normal as possible.
- Overcome the fear while doing things that are fun, for example I was very scared going out in public, with big crowds. I booked tickets to a concert. This way I would be in a environment I feared, a big public event. But at the same time I was in a happy place at a concert with a friend.
- Be proud of the steps you have taken. Reward yourself when you feel like you have achieved the steps you set yourself.
UPDATE A YEAR LATER ON
It’s now been a year sense I found myself on Drottninggatan in Stockholm. I been back a few times however it is not a place I choose to visit that often. I do it if I have to. I don’t feel comfortable as I am still getting over my fear. Walking down Drottninggatan will never be the same for me, that’s just something I have to live with. Its not filled with that joy of going down the high street to shop, it is still filled with a bit of fear and reluctant. I go into the shops and do what I have to and then I go home. I look over my shoulder and I pay attention, to see if anything suspect is going on. I have my mind sharpen to react. My brain does that automatically I guess, because it can feel that I am feeling fear. I don’t like feeling fear and I go back Drottningatan to try and slowly train my brain not to associate this place with fear. Its small steps but as I said it will never be the same.
Last week I walked into the shop I was in when it all happened. It as the first time I was back. I was so glad I managed to walk in, try on a pair of trousers and walk out and feel OK. I was scared but I managed it. Next time it will probably go even better. Overcoming fear isn’t a easy task it takes time, and you need to ensure that you take the steps you feel the most comfortable with, not what others tell you to do or feel. I will continue to work on my fear everyday and I will continue to visit Drottningatan.
This post is dedicated to everyone being affected by the terrible attacks throughout the world.