Recovery over the long term
Rebuilding your life does take time. There is no quick fix and you will do it at your own pace and in your own way. Be patient and kind to yourself.
Try to establish some kind of routine, order or pattern to your everyday life.
Seek support when you need it. You don’t have to travel this journey on your own.
You are likely to experience an emotional rollercoaster for the first year at least, but you will learn to ride it and not be frightened by it.
You will build a new life for yourself and your family and with the right support, in time your life will become easier.
Your experience will become a memory and you will have the capacity to control that memory. There may be times when these memories are triggered. This is natural and to be expected. You can allow them to come out of their box, and you can also put them back in there. For more information, download the Reintegration Guide.
Re-evaluating your priorities
Having gone through a significant incident, such as a kidnapping, you might end up re-evaluating your priorities, whether related to life, work, relationships or leisure pursuits. This is normal. Don’t rush things. Don’t do anything for the first six weeks and don’t make any major decisions in the first six months. Be prepared for the long haul.
PTSD can come many years after a traumatic event
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after you have been through a traumatic event, such as a kidnapping. During a traumatic event, you think that your life or others’ lives are in danger. You may feel afraid or feel that you have no control over what is happening around you.
Most people have some stress-related reactions after a traumatic event, but not everyone gets PTSD. If your reactions don’t go away over time and they disrupt your life, you may have PTSD.
PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not appear until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than four weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work or home life, you might have PTSD.
There are four types of symptoms of PTSD.
- Re-experiencing: where you relive the event through flashbacks, bad memories, nightmares or where you feel like you’re going through the event again.
- Avoidance: where you try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event, and you may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
- Negative changes in beliefs or feelings: Where the way you think about yourself and others may change because of the trauma. You may feel fear, guilt, or shame. Or, you may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy. This is another way to avoid memories.
- Hyper-arousal: where you may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. Or, you may have trouble concentrating or sleeping.
It is important to remember that PTSD can emerge years after your release. If you suspect you are suffering from PTSD, Hostage International can help you to find the support and care you need. See Dealing With the Impacts of Trauma
You might find it difficult or awkward to rebuild relationships with your colleagues. They won’t understand what you have been through and might find it difficult to know what to say or how to help you. Some might not have found out about your kidnapping until after your release due to the need to maintain secrecy around some cases. Even those that are genuinely supportive might end up saying or doing the wrong thing or ask you inappropriate questions. Most people find it difficult to talk about ‘sensitive’ issues and tend to say nothing for fear of saying the wrong thing.
It can help if your manager briefs them ahead of your return and helps them to understand how you might be feeling and how your experiences might impact on your behaviour, your ability to do your job and your interactions in the workplace.
Handling the impact of trauma and physical health on your ability to work
You may encounter challenges that impact on your return to work. Your concentration may be affected, you may experience difficulty dealing with everyday stress, such as rush hour transport.
There may be physical triggers in the office environment that may affect you, such as sights, sounds and even smells that might take you back to your captivity. For example, if you were kept isolated or in a dark space you might find it difficult to work in a windowless office. Perhaps specific noises will trigger flashbacks making a noisy environment distracting. Open or closed plan offices may work better depending on your experiences.
You may need to ask your employer for flexibility to allow you to avoid rush hour traffic or public transport, which can cause heightened stress and anxiety. You might also struggle to sleep or have disrupted sleep patterns, meaning it would be better for you to work outside normal office hours.
You may have difficulty with tasks that were once easy, or find multi-tasking difficult due to your impaired concentration. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It is understandable that your mind needs time to heal after being kidnapped. It will take time to get back to your previous levels of productivity, but be assured that most people do.