The days following the incident were spent establishing normality and routine at work and within my home and social life. I didn't want to speak about the incident in front of my daughter, and my parents whom I saw daily. I wanted them to be reassured that I was 'okay', as they had been very upset and anxious about my welfare. So, I had 'put a lid' on the whole incident in my mind, but all was not well.
In the weeks following the incident, symptoms of PTSD gradually came to the surface. I can now identify this condition, but at the time, I was not at all aware that I was suffering with PTSD. It was not a recognised condition then, it might have been seen in the form of 'shell shock' experienced by war veterans.
My symptoms were as follows:
At work I was anxious when anyone passed by the windows of my classroom, and I would immediately check out their identity, and their business at the Unit. When the bell rang at the entrance door I would enter my colleague's room to see who was at the door.
In the dining hall I would sit furthest away from the door where the intruder entered, and I would frequently check in that direction, feeling in a constant state of expectant danger, and ready to run. I would insist on my classroom door remaining open all the times, I wanted to know who was outside and who was passing by.
I became obsessive about my daughter's own safety at school. I wrote a letter to her Headteacher and Governors urging them to examine their Safety Procedures regarding intruders. I did my own risk assessment of the school interior and surrounding areas, and sent it to the Headteacher. He had already been informed by the Education Authority to assess safety procedures at the school as a result of the incident, so my suggestions were very welcome anyway despite arising originally from my anxiety.
When I was out and about, shopping for example, I would frequently check the location of Exits in shops, and position myself where I could see all areas easily,
I became nervous in crowds of people, and would leave to seek quieter areas. On one occasion when I got off the train at Paddington Station, I felt I was choking and my legs gave way when I was faced with a large crowd of people rushing towards me on the platform.
When walking in the street, I would constantly check the faces of strangers, and check behind me. I became hyper sensitive to loud noise, or animated talking, and I would distance myself from any altercations, verbal or physical, and demonstrations of anger. I would become especially anxious when I heard Alarms of any kind, and I would want to run then.
At home I frequently checked security in and around the house, and looking back now, I would have been living in a permanent state of fear. This was my PTSD.
As time went by, I did settle down to a calmer life, but the PTSD I had experienced hadn't been recognised, and dealt with. It remained under the surface, weakening my ability to deal with any future trauma that might occur. In the years following I experienced house burglary, serious bereavement issues over the loss of my parents, and my beloved cat, robbery from and damage to my car, and 'empty nest' syndrome, when my daughter went to University. These life events and losses, are stressful at the best of times, and are usually coped with, but in my case, they sat on top of my original undealt-with trauma, and I developed functional dysphonia....my vocal chords seized, I lost my voice.
Along with specialist voice therapy I also received counselling, during which I was able to recognise and accept the original PTSD I had suffered, and my recovery began.
I am certain that if a self-help programme, such as the Spring Programme, had been made available to me immediately after that traumatic event, many years of suffering would have been prevented.