I’m reluctant to admit this, but I’m still afraid to ride the Tube. I feel guilty about it because I wasn’t near the attacks and didn’t suffer as so many did. But I can’t stop being nervous whenever I leave my house. It seems like no one is as concerned as I am anymore and I would just like to get back to normal like everyone else, but I feel helpless.
Everybody’s sense of security was disrupted after the bombings, so don’t be embarrassed if you've been feeling anxious. The Guardian reported on Friday that a third of Londoners experienced “substantial stress” in the weeks following the attacks, citing a survey by the British Medical Journal. But the study was conducted before the attempted attacks on July 21st and the Stockwell shooting, after which, by our own calculations, a lot more than a third of us were freaking out. Post-trauma anxiety tends to dissipate for most people after about 4-6 weeks. So hang in there, and try to keep a normal routine. It's the most important thing you can do to get back on track. Here are some other tips for helping you feel better:
Don’t dwell. If you've found yourself obsessing over eyewitness accounts or tributes to the victims, you may be paralysing yourself with fear or sadness. Try to limit your exposure to media coverage for a little while and focus on something else. If you've been avoiding public transport, now is the time to return to it. Bring a trusted friend with you and travel outside of rush hours as a start.
Talk to someone. The NHS recommends discussing your worries with friends and family, which can help. If your fears are persistent or getting in the way of daily life, ask your GP for some advice, or call the 24-hour hotline run by 7th July Assistance, 0845 054 7444. They offer emotional counselling for free and to everyone. They do emphasise everyone, regardless of whether you felt directly affected by the attacks or not. The web site also offers some general tips on dealing with trauma.
Make a change. Perhaps since the attacks you're struggling to reconcile how fragile human existence is. Many people respond to this realisation by trying to lead a more fulfilling life. It sounds really trite, we know, but efforts at self-improvement will make you feel more in control. So if you’ve been contemplating a life’s dream, like a career change or running a marathon, perhaps now is the time to go for it. You will look back at this summer and feel stronger, rather than diminished, as you do now. If you have the time to give, you might consider volunteering. You’ll feel like you’re doing your small part to make our crazy planet a better place.
Above all remember you’re not alone. We all think about the attacks and the victims every day. But it is important to move forward, and you have the right attitude by wanting that. People, especially Londoners, are pretty damn resilient, and you’ll find in time that you are too.