Islamabad - Two years ago, this day proved many of my perceptions wrong.

Having seen some traumatic and tragic events, bloodshed, mutilated bodies and those sprayed with pellets after bomb blasts in the wave of terror, I thought I had become emotionally numb. I figured I had become insensitive.

Having had grown up in a time when there was just one television channel and watching the news of a couple of deaths in a road accident or landslide would leave the viewers in shock, the journey towards this insensitivity was not easy, straightforward and short. 

In a line of events, the wave of terror affected me like the whole nation. I lost fellow students in a suicide blast at my university, International Islamic University, Islamabad. Having escaped the blast with a margin of a few minutes, my mind could not make sense of how those parents would cope with a loss of their lifelong investment – their children. While I stayed with my parents, those parents mourned the death of their future, their children. Then, I lost six colleagues in a plane crash, and their bodies took days to be identified. More than once I had gone through a feeling when you just switch on a news channel and come to know that a suicide blast had occurred at a place where a family member was present. You cannot contact him because the telecommunication networks have jammed. The feeling when you are prepared to hear the news of the death of your loved one, and when you are almost 100 per cent sure that your family member would be severely injured or may not be alive kills something inside you. Although I was lucky that my family members returned scratch less in all those incidents, after going through such trauma more than once, I thought I had reached the saturation level. I no more had a soul which was alive. I thought that no feeling of uncertainty and loss could supersede those incidents. Frequent terrorist incidents further added to it. To me nothing worse was possible. I had become insensitive, and emotional numbness had taken over. Probably it was adopted as a protection against feeling too much after trauma. The mind could not take more pain, shock, and emotional reality.

But time proved me wrong.

December 16, 2014, started as a routine day at the office. Regular meetings and assignments were part of the day unless a colleague dropped by and mentioned of some terrorist activity in a school in Peshawar. Having gone through a phase where we as a nation would anticipate a terrorist activity of some sort every couple of days, it seemed like a regular and routine incident. But as we followed the news, mind refused to make sense of what the eyes were watching. This time the enemy had attacked innocent children. The mind became numb. The only visual in front of my eyes was that of my youngest sibling who was in school at that time. “Don’t they have children?” This was all I was able to say with tearful eyes. I was at a loss for words. “No, they don’t have children,” a senior colleague, a mother of three replied.

A human cannot act in such a barbaric way. Why would somebody slaughter children?

How can you blame emotional numbness if you start feeling hopeless about your future, especially when your future, your child is no more?

Post-traumatic stress is not rare in a society like ours. It is underreported due to a number of factors. The actual percentage, therefore, remains, unknown. We need to realize that in a society where discussing psychological issues is a taboo, the phenomenon exists, and there is a great need to address it.

Journalists also continue to be at the risk of exposure to work-related traumatic events. They bear witness to the sufferings and journalistic realities which the audience cannot be exposed to. Some of them are vulnerable to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric symptoms.

There is a need to create awareness. There is a need to break the taboo.

The pain cannot be eased. There is no closure.