It’s that niggling worry at the back of your mind you don’t talk about. The nightmares you have about death and dying. You try to imagine what it will feel like if (when?) something bad happens to you.
Experts tell us that almost everyone will experience one tragic event in their life. Whether it’s the death of a loved one from suicide, murder, illness or old age, our own sickness or debilitating injury or experiencing a violent act towards ourselves or those we love, it’s likely to happen at some point.
One of the worst things imaginable happened to me. And I’m OK. In fact, I’m better than OK. It turned out to be nothing like I’d imagined.
We are used to seeing traumatised people on TV moments after a horrific event. We hear about people who have experienced tragedy and have never recovered. We know all about PTSD. But here’s what you don’t know.
The percentage of people who DON’T find their way back to ‘normal’ after one of life’s difficult events is very small.
After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, only about 5% of people who lost someone that day had ongoing PTSD. 95% of people who experienced one of the worst things imaginable turned out OK. Chances are you will too.
Think about that for a moment. The chances that you will suffer from debilitating sadness and depression after a loss or trauma is very slim. On the law of averages, you can expect to be OK. Whatever happens, you WILL be OK.
As well as knowing you’ll probably be one of the majority who process tragedy in a normal and healthy way, you can also prepare right now for the Worst Thing Imaginable. Not by worrying, not by being hyper-vigilant, not by seeing shadows around every corner, but by practising what psychologists call resilience.
One of the simplest and easiest ways to practice resilience is to fully appreciate every great moment you have right now. Like saving up for a rainy day, you can saturate your mind and body with joy, kindness and pleasure knowing that it hold you in good stead when the trying times come.
Instead of worrying how long your luck will hold out, instead of worrying that ‘all good things must come to an end’, participate fully in your wonderful life every single day.
It’s not selfish to be happy. It’s not boastful to revel in your good fortune. If you are in a loving relationship, if your friends and family inspire you, if your children crack open your heart, don’t worry about how you’ll cope if anything ever happened — instead drink it all in, savour every morsel, drown in happiness so even the pores of your skin become used to it. This is your insurance, this is your investment in the future.
Love your life. Live in the moment. And remember, no matter what – you will be OK.
If you are a survivor of the Worst Thing Imaginable, what advice would YOU give?
Inspired by Ingrid Poulson’s book Rise.