In the heat of a moment, a life can be ended or forever changed. The destruction can come from a sudden impact or from a series of intentional, cruel actions.
I recently read the book, “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma,” by Bessel van der Kolk, MD, following the recommendation from my primary physician. In our quest to end the daily migraines I suffer from, he told me nothing is off the table. I agree. And I try everything he recommends.
There are parts of the book that, as someone who is not clinically trained, I was not able to follow in perfect fashion, but the gist of that which I gained was fascinating and, in some ways, life changing.
I learned there is an array of trauma that can bring one to Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. And I learned how the body, not just the mind, becomes wired differently when forced to endure unescapable trauma. I learned why I think the way I do and I gained a better understanding of how my body has kept the score, including my daily migraines.
The traumatic events I have endured did not all occur in individual heat of the moment incidents. Many took place over time — a long trail of varied assaults by multiple doers of harm. And I’m not sure what makes me sadder, the direct knowledge of how cruel people can be, or the awareness that many who read this column know exactly of that which I write.
As I have been listening to #BlackLivesMatter stories that have been so generously shared by Black people through personal conversations, the news and social media including through the #BlackintheIvory conversation on Twitter, I’ve thought about Van der Kolk’s book.
Racism occurs in both that heat-of-the-moment sudden impact kind of event, as well as in the long-lived trends of cruel words and actions. Van der Kolk wrote about how when we have experienced inescapable trauma, among the ways it changes us is that we become hyper-alert. I realize that I am still learning, but one of the things I am coming to understand from reading and hearing more about #BlackLivesMatter is that the hyper-alert state is a prevalent state of being for our Black brothers and sisters.
When I say prevalent, I mean omni-prevalent. It not only plays a role in big decisions, but choices that are made every single day. These are choices like: what to wear when running a quick errand, what road to drive on, what road to go for a run on, what to say and do when assumptions are made based on the color of one’s skin, and more — the list is infinite.
As I mentioned, I’m still learning. As much as I’m grateful for the knowledge, I admit it brings my heart to weigh heavier and heavier every day. But I remain hopeful that as the conversations and changes continue, one day #BlackLivesMatter will be a given and no longer the source of trauma for which the body and mind must keep the score.
Written and submitted by Amy Randall-McSorley for The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.