Being a survivor

On Friday over 130 people were killed by terrorists but many hundreds, possibly thousands more would class themselves as survivors of those atrocities. There are almost a hundred people still in a critical condition in hospital and presumably many hundreds more recovering from fairly serious injuries.

There are lots of people out there still trying to make sense of what happened to them. Each person will have their own story from Friday evening, their own story of utter terror, of panic, of things that are painful to see, hear and even think about.

I thought I was going to die for a couple of seconds, I can only begin to imagine the terror of having that thought for minutes or hours.

There is no definition of what makes a survivor. There is a clear definition between being alive or dead but no clear definition between a survivor and a mere witness. Was someone who hadn’t yet got to that fateful concert in Paris a survivor? Was someone who escaped that concert through a back entrance a survivor?

For me being a survivor is about how you feel. If you feel like you could have not survived then you probably see yourself as a survivor.

In my incident I saw myself as a survivor initially. As the weeks have passed I no longer feel that attachment to the incident. I’m back to being just an ordinary person who’s used up one of their nine lives.

For the lucky people who are survivors of the Paris attacks they may not feel lucky. It is almost certainly an event that will hugely change their lives. Some will be physically changed, broken limbs, scars, paralysis. Others will be mentally changed, losing friends, losing family, having flashbacks.

For me I had it easy, I had no connection to the 11 people that died, my injuries only affected my life for a couple of months and I’ve managed to mentally get over what happened to me.

Mentally getting over a traumatic incident isn’t easy. For me I had to understand what happened. I was quite thankful that the incident was fairly well documented by film and photographs. I could see roughly what had happened. I still have no idea how close I came to being killed, probably about 5 metres. But I do know that I couldn’t have stopped anyone else from being injured or dying and that gives me a lot of comfort.

To stop the constant thoughts and “what ifs” I had to replace my emotional thoughts of the incident with rational logical thoughts. With armed gunmen fighting for a religious cause I’m not sure there are easy answers and a rational way of thinking about things.

For those who feel like survivors of the Paris attacks (or even of any traumatic incident) some advice for you: people are thinking about you and your well-being, it isn’t just about the friends and family of those who passed away. It feels strange to be thought about by people you don’t know at all but it can be a comforting thought. You need a lot of mental strength as a survivor, especially so if you are badly injured. Make sure you get your friends and family to support you, you will need them even if you don’t realise it. Tell people what happened, telling your story can help to reduce the burden of it. At some point you will probably get back to some form of normality, but that may take months or years. And finally don’t expect answers to all your questions. Some things, despite everyones best efforts, will never be answered.

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