While the events in Syria may have gone unnoticed or ignored by the rest of the world, Syrian expatriates live and breathe the events going on in Syria every day. We follow the events almost religiously. And while nothing we experience outside of Syria is even near what Syrians inside Syria experience, the revolution has taken its own special toll on us, Syrian Expatriates.
I visited and lived in Syrian refugee camps in March 2013, a mostly safe area with little weaponry and fighting to be seen, but still so much terror. After my visit, I came back to the states with a new perspective on life, purpose, intense passion to work for the Syrian people, and something else. Night terrors. For nine months after my trip, I had night terrors, horrible dreams of losing my friends, being trapped under shelling, and so much more. As a result, I did not sleep properly for months. Going to sleep had become a form of torture for me.
Thankfully, the night terrors have stopped. But since, I have noticed another kind of PTSD. Something called Vicarious PTSD.
Now, I hear fireworks and immediately assume I am hearing bombs go off, I am jumpy, and very paranoid. I am not in Syria, I am not experiencing bombs falling over my head, no one is trying to kidnap me, and yet, that is the reality I perceive. And unfortunately, I am not the only one who has these kinds of experiences.
Living outside of Syria and watching the horrors that strike our brothers and sisters in Syria is worse than any horror film. It is gut-wrenching, brutal, painfaul, and it stretches the mind. Torture techniques none of us could have ever fathomed are now burned into our memories, and worse, we know people who have endured it.
But there is another deep, dark, taxing experience we endure- guilt. Guilt for everything and anything. Guilt for having a home. Guilt for having clothes. Guilt for having pocket change. Guilt for driving a car. Guilt for having a grocery store. Guilt for having a pleasant view outside our windows. Guilt. To stay so guilty is paralyzing, and to overcome guilt creates an internal sense of inhumanity. There is no winning.
And finally, we are so far away. We are far away from the heart and soul of our revolution- the people. We are not protesting with them. We are not struggling with them. We cannot see them in person. We cannot hold their hands. We can only exchange words. Words, while powerful, have lost their value in this revolution. And now, Syrian Expatriates have become a body missing a heart and soul.
This is the emotional roller coaster we have been riding for the last three years. But it isn’t just emotional anymore. A day in the park with a picnic will not fix it or make it better because Syria is still bleeding. We wake up thinking of Syria, sleep thinking of Syria, and fill our entire days with Syria. Syria never leaves our minds. While we physically live very far from the violence, mentally we are front and center. Our friends’ injuries are worse than our own. We not only feel it, but we watch helplessly 13,000 miles away unable to do anything but watch and type into our keyboards.
We are used to it now and we should not be. The world should not have let it go this far. But it did. The world did not just let Syrians go silently into the night, but Syrian Expatriates too. And the cost of this decision is still unknown.