Psychologically, fear is the body’s emotional response to perceived threat (the key word in that sentence being perceived).
Biologically, it is an increase in brain activity in areas such as the amygdala and hypothalamus, and a release of chemicals varying from adrenaline to cortisol (the stress hormone).
Physically, fear is induced stress: it is an increase in heart rate, excessive sweat, dilated pupils, and an increase in blood pressure.
That should explain why my heart is currently racing.
I woke up unnecessarily early this morning on my own accord, and as I rolled over to check the the time, I was met with a slew of university alerts. There was a supposed armed robber on my campus. And my heart rate began to increase, as my chest tightened.
All of a sudden I felt the onset of fear and panic overwhelming my body, and from inside my small apartment here in Greece, I felt the urge to scream and run. I felt confined in what had become, over the last few days, a safe space.
In the week or so I have been away, I have maintained my distance from social media. I’ve gone on to post photos, I’ve held a few conversations through Whatsapp, and I’ve regularly updated my Snapchat story, but I’ve maintained a level of ignorance about shootings and uproar, simply because I wanted to maintain my travel bubble.
Well, it appears it has popped.
Shortly before I left, my mother and father sat me down to have a very honest conversation about the state of the world we are living in. My mother explained that should any major shootings or bombings happen on my side of the world while traveling, my first objective was to maintain my safety, but my second was to call them and let them know that I was safe. And while it was a conversation I took to heart, it was one I figured I’d never need to actually comply with.
But as I now sit here and I wait for the next university alert… all I feel is fear and panic and worry for my friends back home.
I would argue that within the last two years, our perspective on mass shootings and school shootings have radically changed, and the concept has become more present on many of our minds. Certainly, the thought has crossed mine while hearing about various attacks on other campuses.
Attending such a large University, and attending one in such close proximity to our capital almost seemed too welcoming for such an event to happen… but the threat never came (or at least was never reported). But now it has.
My thoughts on fear: fear is a universally experienced emotion that is paralyzing in effect. While certainly not paralyzed at this moment, I all of a sudden feel the very real possibility of what I had once written off to be an impossibility.
Fear may be overcome through deep breathing and the sound of a familiar voice. To that end, thank you to the friend who listened to my awkward heavy breathing so late at night over in the US. As a side note, that is the true definition of friendship.
I’m going back to sleep now. Or at least I am going to try. My thoughts to all my friends back home; maintain your vigilance and be safe. ❤