Getting Over a Violent Robbery
I experienced a violent home invasion about 4 months ago. I came home to find a robbery in progress and was beaten very badly before the intruders fled. I couldn’t remember much of anything useful to identify them, and so they have not been caught.
I have been having a very hard time getting over the event. I moved out and found a new place across town. I just didn’t feel safe anymore at home and there was too much that was reminding me of the attack. I thought moving into a new place would help, but I am still very messed up and still have nightmares more days of the week than not.
My friend, who is a nurse, has recommended keeping a daily journal or diary to write about my feelings and my memories of the attack and of the nightmares that I am having. She says that this is a therapeutic tool that is helpful for victims of trauma. I have been trying this for a week or so, but I find the experience kind of unpleasant, like reliving it unnecessarily, and it’s not making me feel any better. Is writing in a diary a good way to get past a traumatic experience? What else can I do to get on with my life?
Ed Schmookler Says ...
First of all, I am very sorry that you were subject to this violent attack. It is a real shame.
Getting over something like this is hard, and nightmares are a common response to trauma. It is one of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. You might want to read about that online, in case you are someone who benefits from information.
For some people, writing a journal can help; for others, like yourself, it might do the opposite, just re-triggering the memories with no particular benefit. Maybe for you it is just re-traumatizing. So maybe something else would be better for you.
I think sometimes the first order of business is to find safety, and you have done a big thing to help with that: you moved. One relevant question might be: is there anything else you can do to help you feel safe? Are there people you know whom you can be with that can help with that sometimes?
Another aspect of this is that your body wants to deal with what happened. When something like this happens, it comes out of the blue, and it is hard to integrate with the rest of your life. Sometimes, talking to someone like a therapist can help. Maybe going over the event or your feelings now with someone who can support you will help you process through this in a relatively safe environment, rather than writing about it alone.
But I do want to say, there are no easy answers. We are designed to remember what shocks and hurts us, so that we can watch out for any further similar danger.
So it does take time to slowly get to where it bothers you less and less.
Sometimes that can happen quicker with a therapist's support. If you do see a therapist, make sure they have experience dealing with trauma.
Please feel free to discuss this further with me. I will email you my address.
Hope this helps