If you have lived through a life-threatening event you are probably familiar with the symptoms of post-trauma stress. Symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, and hyper-vigilance. The severity of these symptoms can vary over time but they tend to increase when the person is reminded of the traumatic incident they experienced. For example, if the person’s traumatic incident involved gunfire, the unexpected sound of a balloon popping could result in an anxiety causing burst of adrenaline. This reaction is the result of the person’s subconscious mind working to protect them from perceived danger. Symptoms also tend to increase as the anniversary date of the incident approaches or when similar incidents are reported in the news media.
As the anniversary of the 1994 shooting and plane crash at Fairchild Air Force Base approaches, I usually find myself to be a little more “on edge” than normal. For me, this annual feeling of unease has lessened over time as I work to diminish my symptoms, but it hasn’t gone away completely. This year, the 2017 anniversary has coincided with several similar incidents of tragedy around the world. These tragedies have been widely and repeatedly reported in the media. This over-coverage of violence and negativity has the potential to make this anniversary unusually distressing. I don’t consume a lot of news media anymore, but for the next week I will be distancing myself even further from the news. Instead, I will focus on the positive things in my life; my family, my friends and the beauty in the world around me. If you find that you are feeling particularly distressed, I encourage you to do the same.
In the book, Warnings Unheeded, I briefly covered the steps I took to recover from post-trauma stress. One of those steps was learning to look for the positive in all things. If you are unable to escape the media coverage of violence and tragedy, you might try to look for the positive among the negativity. Look for the story of the first-responder, whether they be uniformed or civilian, look for people helping others. As I wrote about the men and women who responded to the incidents at Fairchild AFB in June, 1994. “Their story is proof that behind the scenes of every tragedy, is a story of humanity, bravery and compassion. Their story is evidence of something we all need reminding of now and then. The number of good people in this world will always outnumber the bad.”