Triggered trauma

I’ve found myself taking longer and longer breaks from Social Media. As much as it can open the door to the world and give you an opportunity to be heard, at times I just want to slam it shut and throw away the key.

Just when I think I’ve stabilised my racial trauma, something comes knocking on the door to trigger the PTSD that’s so deeply embedded in my internal. You see the thing is, once you’ve experienced trauma, it’s tough to erase from your existence. I’ve had to settle at the fact that I navigate my trauma after years of failed attempts trying to eliminate it. There most definitely is a titanium brain connector that doesn’t want to budge because all my life, society has reminded me that I am a black person, along with all the prejudices that trail closely behind.

I’ve been battling with myself for the past two weeks whether to write this article because of its super-sensitive nature, but I knew that if I didn’t express how I’m feeling, resentment and infuriation would bubble inside of me and I’m just not about that life.

Sarah Everard.

Sarah disappeared in South London. My manor. My home. Less than 20 minutes from where I was born.

Within 24 hours of her disappearance, the alarm was raised and this became a high profile case. I joined in on the worry – what had happened to this woman and how could she have vanished into thin air?

As each day passed, there was more and more media attention. Six days after Sarah was last seen, Wayne Couzens, an off-duty Metropolitan Police officer, was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping before being charged with murder the next day when Sarah’s body was tragically uncovered in a wooded area of Ashford.

Sarah was beautiful and well-liked. She was also a white woman. If there was ever going to a story that caught the British public’s attention, this was it. Add a police officer to the mix and things quickly escalated.    

Sarah’s murder ignited a widespread debate about the safety of women. Women’s right groups stood up to say enough was enough and called for tougher action on violence against females. As much as I wanted to jump aboard this feminism train (I mean this is what I’m all about), I found myself stuck several stations behind.

Although Sarah’s death was horrifying, saddening and every other similar adjective, for some reason, I felt like the air had been punched out of me. Why was I becoming overwhelmed with all these conflicting emotions?

I cried for Sarah, but I also cried for myself and Black Women all over the worldNaomi Hersi,  Nicole Smallman, Bibaa Henry – these are just some of the Black Women tragically murdered in London in the past few years, but where are their stories? Why is our pain always muffled? Where was the outrage over these killings? Where were feminist groups then? I cannot help but feel that Black Lives don’t Matter, or it matters only when convenient. Heinous crimes committed against black women rarely garner widespread headlines and response.

I do not want to in any way take away from the atrocity of Sarah’s murder; however, it cannot be denied that Black Women are not protected. Our bodies are viewed as disposable because when we suffer at the hands of others, the impact this has on others is negligible.

The racial trauma black women experience isn’t black and white; Black Women exist at the intersection of double marginalisation. Trauma can be caused by long-lasting repetitive events, which racism fits right in to. Living in a patriarchal society only increases our burden. The impact of trauma is complex and affects our daily lives. Trauma commonly manifests into exhaustion, confusion, sadness, anxiety, agitation, numbness, dissociation, to name a few.

Sometimes it’s hard to get up and feel positive, and often it’s difficult to assess situations for what they may be; sensitivity and reactivity rear their ugly heads. Lately, triggers have been coming at me like an Uzi in full motion. Research shows that exposure to discrimination, either directly or indirectly, can trigger racial trauma. Indirect discrimination can include witnessing discrimination against a member of a particular group.

Just over a week ago, eight people, many of them women of Asian descent, were killed in shootings at spas in the US state of Georgia at the hands of a white domestic terrorist. To add insult to this tragedy, the sheriff’s deputy, who should have wholly condemned the perpetrator’s actions, dared to comment that the suspect in the attacks had “a really bad day” before the shootings. I mean what? WHAT?! It was also later found that this deputy had posted anti-Asian posts on Facebook in the last year.

As minorities, how are we expected to feel safe?

The very fabric of how our society is set up means that people of colour, especially black people, will always suffer racial trauma for as long as inequality and its associated by-products remain.

We are two days away from opening statements in Derek Chavin’s trial, the police officer who murdered George Floyd and I’m anxious. It is incredibly rare for police officers to be convicted for taking citizens’ lives, even when the incident is caught on camera and clearly shows wrongdoing.

Most of us virtually witnessed George’s murder and for the first time, the fight for black lives diversified. We’ve stood together to express our condemnation of the mistreatment of black bodies. What a beautiful thing this was. WAS.

There is still so much we need to do past marches and black squares. We have to collectively challenge society’s stubborn hierarchy of the value of human life and turn up for black people. I pray that George Floyd and his family receive the justice they deserve because a win for George is a win for all of us. If Chavin walks free, I don’t know how we will all get past this. There is so much at stake, mentally and physically (weathering).

Taking control of what we can do will be vital to counteracting the unrelenting trauma that doesn’t seem to want to let up. Some actions you can take include:

  • Taking part in activism against racial injustice.
  • Finding a supportive community that understands racial trauma.
  • Employing self-care, including healthful nutrition and exercise, and taking time away from traumatic experiences.
  • Avoiding relationships, when possible, with people who dismiss the seriousness of racial trauma.
  • Identifying racial trauma triggers and avoiding them during times of intense stress.
  • Going on a limited media “diet” to avoid images of racial abuse.

I pray for peace. I pray for equality. I pray for love. And I pray for self-governance. Taking responsibility for our actions (or lack of) will move us toward real and sustained change.

Sending light and love always.

DiDi x   

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