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FROZEN

Of course, everyone is happy during their passing out parade, but I tend to think I was happier than most. This day was the culmination of a lifelong dream of becoming a law enforcer. I was so ecstatic I felt my heart would simply explode with joy, I was so proud of my achievements that I felt inches taller, I was very optimistic of my bright future and eager to report to my first posting.

My very first assignment was to restore law and order in a village after the villagers had clashed with a neighbouring village over stolen cattle. There had been several days of unrest and we were finally called in to bring back normalcy.

I saw a boot kick the chicken coop open and flatten it, next a rifle was used to push open a feeble door which collapsed under the force, in the house was a terrified old man cowering in a corner of the house which did not stop the officer from raining down blows on him.

The neighbouring houses were torched down in seconds. The terrified villagers scampered for safety empty handed. They ran without looking back and not a single soul dared to slow down until they were as far away from the scene as possible.

A few of them were not so lucky as to escape unscathed. Those not fast enough, those not fit enough, those not young enough found themselves surrounded and cornered. Kicks, blows, slaps, clubs, sticks rained down on them furiously. Their screams could be heard miles away, but this did not stop my colleagues.

I froze. I could not move a single step. I felt as if time had stilled, as if the video of life had been paused. Everything around me seemed to be happening in slow motion and I felt far removed from the scene. I wanted to take a step forward, but my legs simply refused to cooperate, I was glued to the spot.

Years after this incident happened, I can finally solve the puzzle of my reaction. I have learnt that human beings have four survival responses – fight, flight, freeze and submit. Previously, every time I remembered the incident, I had been unable to understand my inability to act. I had been so traumatized by the show of excess force that I had shut down and frozen. It’s such a relief to finally have a name for what happened.

Self-awareness is a cornerstone of wellness. Attending the Wellbeing and Resilience sessions is for me a journey in self-awareness. It’s a journey that I look forward to helping my colleagues take once I’m back to the station.

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