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Processing Trauma During a Time of Civil Unrest

by Jasmine Ledesma

Photo by Jackson David from Pexels

Trauma has no face. When it comes into your life—either by means of witness or direct violence—it will feel like an old friend. When it begins to bleed into your everyday life, by way of nightmares or anxiety or derealization, you will feel as though there has never been a time it did not exist. The mirror will split in half. You will stop answering to your name.

For those living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a complex and debilitating disorder born from a traumatic event, one way you can minimize symptoms can be by alleviating stress in whatever ways you can. This can mean reaching out to help when you need to, journaling, scheduling your week out in advance, indulging in a hobby, and generally avoiding scenarios, words and images that might trigger your symptoms. But what do you do when the news is ugly? When trauma—although not your own but trauma regardless—is being aired across all of the news networks?

The idea of generational trauma has long been dismissed solely because of the way it is misunderstood by the general public. Many believe that what is being suggested when we say generation trauma is that children of traumatized people, and it should be noted that according to the VA women are more than twice as likely to develop PTSD than men, are going to develop PTSD from their parents’ experiences. This is far from the truth and paints the experience in a cartoonish light. What experts mean when they say generational trauma is the effect of one’s trauma, the display of symptoms, on their children. For example, if a mother is afraid of going outside due to her trauma, her daughter will witness that and might develop her own fear or thought process regarding the outside.

Within the context of the massive rise and public dismissal of police brutality in the last few years and especially now, this notion of children witnessing their parent’s reaction to the violence who have witnessed their parents directly affected by segregation and racism is more prevalent than ever. You might be the child or the parent. It is okay and perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed. If you have PTSD, this notion along with the news itself might be even more overwhelming. You are healing. Remember that. Repeat that to yourself when you wake up and as you fall asleep. The mind wants nothing more than to heal itself. All of your tiny, tiny cells are growing, tripling even as you sleep. Your body loves you. It does right by you.

Alongside therapy, which might consist of one-on-one sessions, group therapy, or a more intensive residential treatment, there are many options as to how to take care of yourself right now. You must be kind to yourself. This will look different for everyone. It might be taking a walk while listening to a podcast, making tea, baking, starting a new show, or even playing with your dog. Whatever you need to do to raise your spirits and stay present.

In recent years the word “trigger” has been taken to be a term used at the end of teenage jokes or to only be used by shrill white feminists. However, the phrase holds serious weight for those suffering from PTSD. If you are nervous about whether a book or movie might contain something that could trigger you, and you do not have to justify your triggers to anybody, you can use Common Sense Media to check. It is meant to be used for parents but can be used to search for specific warnings.

There is power in action, no matter how small. If you need to feel in control or as though you have helped somebody else, you can go through the Black Lives Matter website to sign petitions and if you can, donate. You are okay. You are healing.

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