1 Sivan 5762
I have been feeling so edgy and tense lately. After 9/11 – things in the states feel very unsafe. I walk around with a lot of fear, and more often than not I feel overwhelmed. I used to be able to handle my schedule and now there are many times when I just feel like I am falling apart and I can’t seem to handle things in the same way as I used to. I was able to take a small vacation so I went to Israel, thinking that this would be a safe haven for me as it felt for me when I was in seminary. I did feel much comfort in being able to daven at the kosel and pour my heart out, and the sense of Kedusha there is certainly palpable, but there were several bombing/shooting incidents while I was there. B”H I wasn’t in any of those incidents, but being entirely familiar with the areas that they were in, and seeing how those people were hurt and being in Israel at those times… well, this just added to everything that I am feeling.
I don’t feel like I am in control of myself and I don’t feel safe anymore. Please help me!! Can you give me some advice as to what to do? Am I normal?
Name & seminary withheld upon request
It sounds like you are really going through a rough time. The feelings that you described in your letter can be extremely disconcerting and confusing. From the things that you said, it seems like you may be in a form of crisis. Let me explain a little bit about it. Crisis can affect anyone. Crisis occurs when there is a dramatic change in one’s circumstances. It can happen at a very good time – like having a baby or moving to a new city or new home, or at a difficult time such as a death, sickness, or the events that are currently going on in the world. There are many, many people who are expressing similar feelings to those that you described. There is a whole gamut of reactions that people may have during a crises. These include crying, not feeling well, having anxiety attacks, being depressed, being hyper, feeling insecure, feeling incompetent, feeling panicky, feeling overwhelmed, inability to think rationally or make decisions.
For a crisis that has a beginning and an end – what might be normal time span for it to last would be anywhere from two weeks to two months. Something that is an ongoing situation can certainly take longer. So everything that you wrote in your letter is really quite normal for someone who has experienced either 9/11 or things going on in Israel. There are so many different levels of crisis. If a person was directly involved or hurt in an occurrence, the possibility of extreme crisis is high, but a person can be affected by the events even if they were not part of them
So the question is what can you do?
1) It helps very much to talk it out with people. Not necessarily for answers but to speak about what you are feeling and experiencing. Are there people around that you would feel comfortable talking to? These can be friends of yours or someone who is older that you trust.
2) Was there a time when you had similar feelings as these – or perhaps you went through a similar circumstance? How did you get through it? Part of the aspect of crisis is that for a time a person may lose some of their coping skills. If you can draw on past experiences to see how you coped then, well, that is a gem in your hand to help you to cope now. Many times we have the potential already inside us – so what we must do is to recall it and tap into it.
3) Who do you have available to you as a support system? Do you have family around you… close friends… community? Positive support systems are incredibly helpful at times likes this. They can benefit you in many ways. Become aware of who they are and ask for help from them.
4) Sticking to a routine is very crucial. When our emotions go out of whack somewhat, a routine can help to get us back on track. A predictable flow of the days in your life is comforting and grounding, and can help us get oriented.
5) Try to get some exercise or get out and take walks. This is also conducive to refreshing the mind and body.
Everything that you are depicting would be quite normal for the events that are surrounding you. If you see that these feelings persist for a long while or seem to be getting worse and affecting more areas of your life, it would be wise to seek professional help. The counseling for these types of things may be relatively short term, and the benefits quite valuable.
I hope that this information is helpful to you, and that you’ll be feeling more like yourself in a short time. Hang in there!!
With warmest wishes,