One morning, on my way to work in London, I saw someone take their own life. My immediate memory was of feeling sick. That was the first thing that hit me.
I remember leaning against a barrier and as I was explaining to two police officers what I’d witnessed my legs started really wobbling. Once they had taken my information, one officer said, ‘You know you’re in shock, don’t you?’ and he advised me to be with people, not to be alone that day.
I knew my flatmates would be out for the day, so I went to work. I’d stopped shaking and didn’t feel sick any more, but I was starting to feel dazed. As the morning went on, I knew I wasn’t ok, so I left the office at 12pm and went home. One of my flatmates was home studying for some exams, she could immediately see that something wasn’t right. I went to my bedroom, got my pillow and duvet and just slept for hours on the sofa beside her.
When I woke up hours later, I still felt dazed and had a really strange feeling that I didn’t want to be alone. It wasn’t something I had ever experienced before. I wasn’t even registered with a GP at that time, but a friend who is a doctor told me I needed to get myself checked out. When I found a doctor, they could see that overall I was doing ok given the circumstances. I just needed time.
In the days afterwards, it was more productive for me to be at work than at home. I also needed to be around people. But I was still doing strange things like sleeping in my lunch break. I would go into an empty meeting room or walk to the park and just sleep for an hour. This went on for about ten days.
Despite how I felt in the days and weeks after the incident, I don’t think I have been profoundly impacted in the long-term. Perhaps that’s because I didn’t know the person who had died. When British Transport Police contacted me about my statement, just to go over some details, they asked me if I wanted to know about the person who had died. They told me some basic details, which helped me to process what had happened.
Even though I’m sure it was difficult to know what to say to me at the time, my flatmates were great. I was very lucky to be surrounded by people who supported me – my friends and my colleagues who were just there.
If you’ve never experienced trauma before, you’ve got no idea how your body or your mind is going to react to it. It’s so important that you communicate with people. It can be quite a scary thing to go through and the more support you can get, the safer you’re going to be.