Tips for Coping with PTSD after the Boston Marathon Bombing

” I asked for Strength and God gave me difficulties to make me strong” … D.K.

 

 

” I’m at the Boston Marathon, taking pictures at the Finish Line.”

That was the last time I talked to my sister before the Boston Marathon bombings on Monday April 13, 2013. When I got news of the bombings, I was working in the outpatient clinic across the street from the hospital. A colleague of mine came into the office where all of the physicians were writing their notes, and informed us of the horrible news.

“Someone bombed the finish line of the Boston Marathon.”

In complete disbelief, I immediately went online to see if what he was saying was infact true. And it was. My fingers shook as I dialed my sisters phone number, praying that she would answer. But she didn’t. Tears were coming down my face as I kept trying and trying to get through to her. I did not have a good feeling about the whole thing. I knew she was at the finish line, and I imagined the worst.

I frantically called my sister’s husband, hoping that he would have some answers to what just happened. I knew PJ was at work, and not running in the marathon this year. My sister was alone. He answered, and I could hear my sister crying in the background. “Just tell me she is ok.” She will be, he said.

The Boston Marathon is a day that will go down in history, where the viscous acts of a terrorist has forever changed the atmosphere of a city and the lives of the people that were there that day.  My sister was there at the finish line at the exact location the 1st bomb went off, innocently taking photos for her scrapbook. It was a joyous celebration that Boston has been proud of since 1897, and this year’s race was exceptionally exciting, it was Patriot’s Day.

 

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2013 Boston Marathon
Photographed by: Alexandra Boncek

 

The 3 hour mark was the height of the race for the majority of runner’s. Hundreds people lined along both sides of the street, watching the runners cross the finish line as they streamed into the spectator arena, commemorating them for their achievement. My sister was surrounded by families of all ages that came to cheer on their loved ones. There was one family in particular that she will never forget, because they may have saved her life. Alexandra decided to move a 1/2 block from where she was standing to give the family more room, they had a very large entourage, and my sister was alone. It was much easy for her to find an open viewing area anywhere along the race, so she moved down a few hundred feet until there was a break in the crowd.

Not even 2 minutes later, the first bomb went off at the marathon’s finish line, and Alexandra’s life was spared.

The images captured from that day of the aftermath of the bombs are too grim to display to the public. And those that were there in the vicinity will never forget the horrid display of terror and violence. Blood soaked sidewalks, victims with leg amputations, young children and adults screaming for help. Alexandra ran for miles under she reached Cambridge, never slowing down, as she felt the city was under attack by terrorists. For the days that followed, the tragedy pursued. Not only was my sister unable to get the images out of her head from that day at the race, she also could not stop imagining ‘what if’ she didn’t move a 1/2 block down the street.

The road to recovery after experiencing a traumatic event can be short or long, depending on the context and degree of harm that the victim experienced. For the people of Boston, they are strong and relentless. For some, recovery may be as quick as training for a 26 mile race.

 

Road to Recovery: How to Recognize Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

 

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Daily Dose Tips for Understanding PTSD:

#1: People cannot just ‘get over it’. From the outside, we tend to think it is easy to imagine that bad memories fade and the emotional trauma that one underwent is easy to erase . Unfortunately, with PTSD nothing fades.

#2: Your presence alone matters. PTSD makes people feel pure isolation. In the most post-traumatic state, it makes a difference to know that there is always a supportive friend or family member.

#3: Trauma changes people. After a traumatic experience we like to believe that life can return to the way it was, but more often than not, this is not how it works. Trauma leaves a significant impact on the emotional well-being of a person.

# 4: Keep this in Mind: PTSD is A Normal Response to an Abnormal Experience.

Recovering from a tragic event is just as hard as witnessing or experiencing the tragedy. It will take time and willingness to seek help when you need it. Remember: YOU ARE NOT ALONE! There are many life events that can potentially severely compromise the emotional well-being of an individual. This in turn can  cause intense fear which may lead to may Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), an emotional illness where the traumatic event is constantly replayed in the person’s mind that experienced some sort of tragic event. Such events often include either experiencing or witnessing a severe accident or physical injury, receiving a life-threatening medical diagnosis, exposure to war combat or to a natural disaster, exposure to a terrorist attack, being the victim of rape, mugging, robbery, or assault, enduring physical, sexual, emotional, or other forms of abuse.

Help is on the way…

Self-help treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a gradual, ongoing process. Healing doesn’t happen overnight, nor do the memories of the trauma ever disappear completely. This can make life seem difficult at times. But there are many things you can do to cope with residual symptoms and reduce your anxiety and fear.

PTSD self-help tip #1: Turn to others for emotional support

It is incredibly important to stay in touch with your friends, family and ones if you have just experienced a traumatic event in your life. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can make you feel disconnected. Try not to let that happen. A stressor may tempt you to loose touch with others because #1 you either have no energy to reach out or #2 you do not want to burden others. But what we tend to forget is that others WANT to help. The support from other people is vital to your recovery from PTSD, so ask your close friends and family members for their help during this tough time.

If you do not have anyone else to turn to, try to feel open to joining a support group with others that experienced the same type of traumatic event. Support groups for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can help you feel less isolated and alone. You’ll learn how to cope with symptoms and work towards recovery. If you can’t find a support group in your area, try online.

PTSD self-help tip#2: Become Mindful of Your Experience

If anyone has ever read ‘In The Now” by Eackhart Toll (which I highly recommend everyone doing), you will realize the importance of “Mindfullness.” Mental health professionals are beginning to recognize that mindfulness can have many benefits for people suffering from anxiety, depression and even PTSD. Mindfullness means that one is in the Present Moment. Practice by taking a deep breath. Focus only on the breath. Feel your lungs expand as air is delivered through your nose and deep down into your chest. Focus only on the breath. This exercise will introduce you to mindfulness, being aware of the details of the present moment only, and may be helpful getting you “out of your head” and in touch with your surroundings. By practicing this daily, you will begin to see that your thoughts and emotions will become more manageable and less stressful.

PTSD self-help tip #3: Cope with Anxiety by Distracting Yourself

Is Anxiety a permanent thing? Absolutely not. There are ways to combat anxiety, and they should begin with the purposeful use of distraction techniques.  Distractions are anything you do to temporarily take your attention off of a strong emotion. We often think too much of the traumatic experiences that give us anxiety or the anxiety of trying to overcome fear that we loose touch with reality, and of ourselves. But, by temporarily distracting yourself, you may give the emotional experience time to decrease in intensity with each time you digress from it. Try some of these easy techniques: Volunteer your time at the local homeless shelter or children’s hospital, reach out to a friend in need, or take a weekend vacation to a remote destination where nature and beautiful scenery is involved. Taking positive action and diverting attention from the stressor directly challenges the sense of helplessness, a common symptom of PTSD.

 

 

 

 

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DanielleKrolMD
Dr. Danielle Krol, a native of the Philadelphia area, spent the majority of her early life growing up in New Jersey. With over 15 years’ experience in Dance and Theatrical Arts, Dr. Krol was pursuing a career as an actress until her mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. For the 3 years that followed, Dr. Krol placed her life on hold and took the responsibility of Caretaker for her terminally ill mother. Her passion for medicine came about during her mother’s illness, and her determination to become a doctor came about after her passing in 2002.

Comments

  1. Alexandra Boncek says

    Thank you for posting this. I tend to still find myself having some difficuties from this day. My anxiety has been very high lately…if i hear a loud noise, am alone, just thinking. I have many things going on right now to keep my busy and I am in control of my feelings and behaviors, there are just times where I am affected by this. I plan to get mental health help soon as far as talking to a therapist to see if that will help with my anxiety.
    Recently I attended a wedding in New Hope, NJ and there were fireworks on the waterfront- right where the rehearsal dinner happened to be. I was inside when the first one went off. While many people think fire works are beautiful (they are) this was a very hard thing to experience. The sounds, smells, smoke…its all brought these emotions back and I cried the whole time everyone was enjoying the fireworks. I was shaking a lot and just trying to do deep breaths. I was able to stay and watch them for the entire time but once they were over I had to leave. Its unreal how something like fireworks can trigger you to feel emotions from a bombing…. I think I am all done watching fireworks…
    I want to write about this experience sometime soon…I just…start to think about it and then I can’t write just yet..one of these days I will.
    any other suggestions are greatly apprecitated! Thanks so much for this blog- its a great thing you are all doing. 🙂

    • DanielleKrolMD says

      Dear Alexandra, Thank you for your comment. Words cannot describe the emotions that I felt that day when I could not get a hold of you on the phone. You are so blessed in every way. There’s a special place for you here!