Brian and Ahmed's Puzzle: Post Traumatic Stress

My life collided with Ahmed’s just over a month ago.

I first met Ahmed (name changed) in what seemed a chance encounter. He showed up with his social worker in the refugee camp at which I have been working since 2015. He was introduced to me as new to the “city”--and also in need of furniture for his new place.

Fast forward a few days. My mother in law died, so “coincidentally” all of what he needed was available. Soon the relationship grew.

The day of the furniture transfer was challenging. Language misunderstandings resulted in a destroyed previously well functioning washing machine. But at the end of the day all the furnishing was done for the new apartment.

But so much was unsaid...

I thought I was helping with a practical situation. I knew that Ahmed had lost his wife and daughter in an explosion in Damascus. (He showed me the video from his phone before I even knew what he was showing--images which I can never unsee again.) But I was unaware of the many steps he had taken since his departure from Syria, via Turkey and eventually to Germany. Steps that indicated a serious problem with the fallout from what happened to his wife, daughter, and son.

Ahmed’s son was not killed but so seriously injured that it was a miracle that he survived. I was later, after the event, to find out that the son was held ransom in Syria. He was saved only by a payment. It was all too terrible for me to hear.

His son survived after much physical difficulty and was also living in Germany in a home for children, apart from Ahmed. But Ahmed worked to see that his son could live with him again.

A wonderful idea! But the reality looked different. Ahmed’s son did come to live with him, and it was a catastrophe. But no one knew it--at least, not me. On the November date in question I knew nothing about any of this.

I only knew that I had met with Ahmed the day before. He told me he was a Christian and wanted to be baptized. Wow I thought, amazing! I had been sharing with him from the Gospel of John. He was coming to our church regularly, but I was surprised he was ready to declare his faith openly. While I was talking with Ahmed, we were discussing some Bible texts--and his son came in briefly. We said hello and he disappeared again.

The evening ended on happy terms. Or so I thought.

The next day I got a disturbing WhatsApp message, and fortunately I saw it right away.

20 November, 2018 -- Ich habe mich jetz entschlossen, von euch Selbstmord zu begehen, ich möchte heute nicht mehr in dieser Welt leben

I have decided to kill myself. I do not want to live in this world anymore.

I called Ahmed immediately. Then I called the emergency services staying on the phone until I heard they arrived. In time to save his life.

He now calls me the one who has given him a new life.

But I later discovered, this was his 7th attempt at suicide. 4 times in Turkey, 3 times in Germany.

I was able to save his life this time simply because I was online “at the right time.”

My main take away point: there is so much I cannot control. I just want to be open to be there to help when I can.

Life can be terribly hard; and the brain’s response to it is a puzzle. We may not understand it--but we can always react with care and understanding.