Three years ago, as I was trying to figure out how to live in a world where my body shook, as my mind simply couldn't process much of anything, as I couldn't find joy in the things I'd once loved, I thought I'd never really feel safe again. I hoped, but I didn't truly believe it early on. Over the years, as I came out of that fog, as my body went still, as I took my life back, the fear dissipated. It took time. I still traveled and felt fine but I would have my moments, going through security, being in a crowd in a foreign city or a familiar one here. Last Fall, I was faced with a situation that would have caused me fear, post-bombing. And for the first time since April 2013, I was not afraid. The attacks in Paris were unfolding as I sat in my hotel just outside of D.C. The next day I had plans to be in the city. I knew security would be heightened (which used to be a trigger), I knew we were on an elevated alert and that really, any attack can be a sign that more is coming. That fear did hit me for a few moments as I stared at the TV but then I turned it off and I made the choice to release it. As I walked through the city the following day, the normal triggers to my anxiety (sirens, large police presence, simply the thought of what unfolded in France) didn't affect me. I felt peace. We walked around without fear. We enjoyed passing by a large street hockey game, taking place on Pennsylvania Ave right outside the White House (a location I would have avoided before out of fear). We then visited NYC on the way home. Again, no fear, no worries something may happen. So, how do I feel so safe?
I had someone tell me 5 days after the bombing that I would always feel that way, that I would always live in fear and have anxiety and I would just learn to manage it. This happened as I came down from my first major anxiety attack. This was from a veteran who suffered from PTS. Most people would accept that. After all, that person would know, right (I say, maybe)? I did not accept it. I immediately thought in my head, “Nope. I will not feel like this forever.” And that is what I carried with me, letting it pull me out of the deepest holes into which I fell. I researched and found people who had suffered PTS and experts who said you absolutely can live your life fully and be at peace again. So, that is what I reminded myself, even in the darkest times. Hope.
As we see violence daily splattered across our TV and computer screens, how do I still feel safe? Because the facts simply do not support that the world is generally less safe. And, I will not give in to the opinions and feelings of others because they aren’t facts. We should, instead, be trying to ease those fears. The actual statistics show us that violent crime is down significantly domestically and worldwide. Remember, terrorism kills a much smaller percentage of people than other violent crimes. I also know that we only see the bad stuff. The news is not reporting on the places where nothing is happening, where there is peace. They are not focusing on the fact that there is less crime, but instead focusing on every instance of crime, and putting it in our face, especially higher profile violence. But, historically, this has always existed, even right here in our own country. Yes, there is a problem. We need to address the fact that there are people out there committing violent acts. There always have been, always will be, and there are ways to decrease it even more than it already has, if only people and our government can come together above the power struggles and ideologies and do what is truly right for the whole.
Some other food for thought because it’s something I’ve thought about a lot over the last 3 years. You may not agree, but hear me out. Isis can claim to be responsible for basically anything. Generally, the terrorists are either dead or they claim their loyalty to Isis. Loyalty to a group does not necessarily mean they are a part of the group. It means they are screwed up in the head enough to believe the same things as that particular group and feel(There’s that word again) a loyalty to them. And that is what Isis wants. They want to look like they are causing as much destruction as possible. They want us to think they have more power than they do. That’s THE WHOLE POINT. This isn't because I've been told so, it's because they have literally said it. So, why wouldn’t they claim responsibility for everything they can, whether they had anything to do with it or not? There are sick people in the world. They are given too much opportunity thanks to the internet to fall into the trap of believing this extreme, hateful, misinterpreted ideology. So, they go out and perform some violence that they feel is justified. But some are just sick individuals, not part of a group. I wish we’d stop giving Isis so much credit (yes, see them as a threat but stop helping to build them up), stop allowing them to control how we live our lives. The fact that we are allowing that, that people who want to lead us are allowing it, that people are giving them so much power, is what really does scare me for our future. There is proof this group is weakening and we need to be sure they continue to do so. Let's not do the exact opposite.
So, when I say I have no fear, that’s not completely true. I have fears. These are the things that do scare me simply because of what they will do to our country and our world and how they will help fuel the fire and actually create more reasons to be fearful.
- Racism and prejudice.
- People who are racist and/or prejudice who try to say they aren’t. I know many who will use a derogatory term to describe someone of a certain ethnicity or skin color or sexual orientation and yet say they are not racist. Sorry, but you are part of the problem if this is you.
- The extreme amount of hate, divisiveness and anger that people among me and in general have that has been highlighted this last year. Hate and anger leads to more hate and anger.
- The thought of people walking around carrying weapons in public places, around kids, around people who could be mentally unstable, around me. (They carry weapons around freely in most of the countries where terrorism exists daily. We are not one of those countries despite what some may want you to think.)
- That our country will use that anger and have it backfire on us, by feeding right into terrorist’s hands rather than truly getting rid of them and proving them insignificant.
So, there you go. I spent over a year living in constant fear, feeling unsafe. That was long enough. I now live at peace here and abroad. I may be more aware of my surroundings, I may not choose to go to particular places that are pockets for violence right now (which has historically happened), but I will live my life on my terms, not on the terms of a terrorist organization or of mentally unstable individuals who choose hate. I encourage you to do the same. There is far more good in the world than bad. That is a fact.