Having started and re-started writing this post, I find there is little to say that hasn’t already been said repeatedly. Find the helpers. BE the helper. Check in with marginalized friends and coworkers. Survival is resistance, joy is resistance. Speak out. Educate yourself. Educate others.
But here we are again, grieving and angry, terrified and horrified, shocked but not surprised:
2012: mass shooting at a Sikh temple 2014: mass shooting targeting women 2015: mass shooting at a Black church 2016: mass shooting at an LGBTQ+ nightclub 2018: mass shooting at a Jewish synagogue 2019: mass shooting targeting Latinx 2021: mass shooting targeting Asian women
The fact is, until we name White supremacy, racist violence will continue. Until we name misogyny, gendered violence will continue. Until we name the obvious, overt prejudice and discrimination that feeds the violence, it will persist. It’s not an outlier, it’s a prime societal driver. Denial is complicity. Silence is complicity. Every racist and sexist joke left uncriticized has contributed to these atrocities. Every classist, nationalistic assertion left uncontested has contributed to these horrors. Every paltry excuse for violence has made room for further violence.
Speak the names of the victims. And find out how to say them correctly.
Daoyou Feng, Paul Andre Michels, Julie Park, Hyeon Jeong Park, Delaina Ashley Yuan, Xiaojie Yan. And two more yet unnamed. May they rest in peace. 고인의 명복을 빕니다.
Friends, I am asking you personally to please sign up for this bystander intervention training. It's just an hour. You'll come out of it better prepared to help when help is needed. It's not the only answer. But it's something real that everyone can do. https://t.co/LlstHERH5E
By now it is not news that many of us have experienced mental health challenges over the past year. For most of us, every life domain has been affected in some way by the pandemic and by social unrest: physical, mental, social, professional, financial, and even existential. Even those who somehow escaped the worst of the harm have been affected. For those still experiencing loss, violence, work and housing instability, illness, or financial crisis, there is a clear reason for ongoing distress and symptoms. But lately I’ve been seeing that even those whose lives are beginning to stabilize are discouraged because they are experiencing a fresh wave of symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Many times when someone comes in with unexplained symptoms of depression or anxiety, I ask what was going on this time of year last year. And very frequently, it turns out to be a leadup to the anniversary of a traumatic or painful event: a “traumaversary.” Experiencing a resurgence of symptoms at the anniversary of an event is also known as “anniversary effect.”
As the saying goes, the subconscious may experience all times as one, but it sure keeps an accurate calendar. This makes sense from a survival standpoint. Part of trauma response is an attempt to save us from further traumatization by avoiding similar situations. The subconscious may tell us, “last time I was in this situation, something harmful or threatening occurred, so be on the lookout for danger!” Whether consciously or not, we remember situational cues such as what time of year it was, the quality of the light, the smell of the air, the temperature, what seasonal events were happening, what landscape we were in, and numerous other aspects.
What we are seeing now is a mass-scale traumaversary. A year ago we were all plunged into a worldwide nightmare that went from bad to worse, and from which we have largely not yet recovered. Contagion, social strife and violence, financial crisis, medical nightmares, and other sources of fear and powerlessness, if not outright terror. And we are still incurring losses.
You may not even realize how much you’ve been through! This mental health status chart can help you to assess how you’ve been affected. Were you feeling worse than you realized? Are you still in red or orange? Are you moving towards green?
The fact is, we have been through mass trauma on an unparalleled scale. In part because internet access has allowed us to share everyone’s moment-to-moment feelings and reactions all day, every day, all over the world. In one sense that can be good, because it validates our experiences to see others having similar reactions. But in another sense, immersion in everyone else’s trauma can increase your own trauma. Also, having to go about everyday routine as though things are “normal” can make things worse.
What can we do about traumaversary?
For any kind of trauma, recognizing when symptoms may activate is very useful. Many times we do not recognize why we are feeling bad until it’s already been going on for a while, or perhaps even in hindsight. If we know in advance that a certain time of year may be especially hard, that can help to reduce the severity. Not knowing what’s happening can make it worse.
Anticipate symptoms and stressors
What kind of symptoms are you experiencing now? When you think back, are they similar or related to what you were experiencing last year? Is there any pattern to when they occur, such as being at home, at work, around certain people, doing certain activities? Here are some common symptoms I’ve been seeing:
Discouragement: pushing so hard, for so long, and although there is hope for improvement, it’s far slower in coming than we may have hoped. Burnout/malaise: stress is cumulative, and it takes time and energy to heal from it. Many have not had the opportunity to recover from each day before the next day comes, let alone the opportunity to recover from a year’s worth of constant stress. It’s hard to stay engaged and interested without stress recovery. Exhaustion: many are exhausted from unceasing exertion: physical, cognitive, and emotional. We may be sleeping a lot more, not feeling restored after sleep, and too drained to participate in our usual tasks and activities. Impaired executive function: forgetfulness, loss of concentration, unusual time perception (speeding up or slowing down), difficulty planning and implementing activities. Not being able to “get things done.” Dissociation: losing track, losing time, spacing out, not being present, feeling numb, feeling unreal or that the world is unreal. Hypervigilance: being easily startled, easily woken, heightened anxiety. Sleep issues: insomnia, exhaustion, hypersomnia. While many have gotten some relief from the insomnia of the past year, hypersomnia is still prevalent. It’s not surprising considering the cumulative stress and burnout we’re experiencing!
Find ways to support and care for yourself
Recognizing how much you’ve been going through may already be enough to mitigate some of your symptoms, because they will feel less inexplicable. This may also make it easier to allow your reactions instead of telling yourself you “should” be able to function. Acknowledge to yourself how hard this has been and continues to be! We can’t truly heal from a trauma that is ongoing, though we can find ways to cope.
Never feel bad for not being "productive" when you read about 500,000 people dying.
Soul anguish is what happens when grieving rituals are replaced by normalcy rituals. Don't "power through" the heart of your humanity.
Remember the basics of caring for your body: sleep, nutrition, exercise, and social interaction. It’s unreasonable to expect yourself to feel okay emotionally if your basic needs aren’t being met. Go through each one and see what can be improved, even in a small way.
Also, allow yourself to experience enjoyment! Sometimes when everything has been terrible for a long time, we feel wrong or guilty enjoying anything. But joy helps us to stay mentally healthy and balanced. It doesn’t mean you aren’t serious or you don’t care about others.
Back to “normal”?
There is hope and solid progress towards restoring a robust and healthy society. But life has changed forever in some ways. Sociopolitical rifts have become stark. Lives have been lost, homes have been lost, jobs have been derailed. And most of all, safety has been lost. In truth, we are all vulnerable to illness, we are all vulnerable to violence, we are all vulnerable to want and instability, but the past year has made this truth concrete to many who felt safe before. We can’t put this back in the box. These are real losses, and if grief comes up, it’s okay to allow it.
One sure-fire approach to help restore your own sense of agency and safety in the world is to contribute to making it safer for everyone, whether that means protecting others simply by following pandemic guidelines, supporting causes that help the community, or speaking out in helpful ways. You’re still part of a living, hopeful world that many people are working on improving. ❤
I know this is a stressful, even traumatic time for many. Uncertainty increases anxiety, and there is so much uncertainty. Discouragement worsens depression, and there are many discouraging events. Fearsome news and social targeting increase PTSD symptoms, and there are fearsome events and targeted attacks happening, up to and including violence.
So I will not say “everything will be fine regardless of the outcome.” Because there will be many uphill battles regardless of the outcome, and those in marginalized groups will be bearing the brunt of those uphill battles. The lid has been ripped off a great deal of ugliness in our society, and the ugliness will not go back into that can regardless.
So instead of saying “everything will be okay,” I will say, what really keeps you okay will remain intact despite the outcome. Because what keeps you okay, what has kept you alive so far, is people taking care of each other.
Electing supportive, fair government is ONE of the ways we take care of each other, but it is not the only way. Sometimes it is not even the most important way! Remember, power comes from the people. That means you!
You, and supportive family. Close friends. Colleagues. Fellowships and congregations. Mentors. Neighbors. Even people you don’t know personally, working to keep things together and moving: Postal and delivery workers, health care workers, grocery workers, movement members, clergy, poll workers! Thousands upon thousands of people like you are invested in keeping life going and helping others be okay, too, regardless of what happens in any election.
We don’t get to choose what arc of history we occupy, only what role we play in that arc. You are living through historical events that you did not choose. So let this radicalize you, rather than lead you into despair (–Mariame Kaba).
Survive, help others survive, thrive, help others thrive. ❤
Don't lose hope; the world is full of kind, compassionate people just like you. Make sure your vote this year aligns with your values so the compassionate majority can be visible, inspiring more acts of kindness and overcoming any fear or desperation that divides us. 🙏🏽💕 pic.twitter.com/IBJJxtvpzH
“Fighting like hell” has to mean that [white] people are willing to do the heavy lifting of shifting thought + culture in their communities so that the livelihood of people of color, immigrants and trans people is not contingent on the makeup of the supreme court.
Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren ‘Black Lives Matter’ Statement
As followers of Jesus we stand in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters enduring racial violence and systemic oppression. We denounce anti-black racism resulting in police brutality, mass incarceration, and unjust legal systems that disproportionately harm black and brown people. We denounce the evil “principalities and powers” at work in our world that seek to kill, steal, and destroy people made in the image of God.
As a congregation we commit to doing justice and peacemaking in the way of Jesus. For the times we as a church have been complacent about the suffering of others, we confess our complicity. By God’s grace we repent and courageously align ourselves with the Spirit’s activity and the Messiah’s reign on earth. And in obedience to God we seek to set things right where every valley is lifted up and every mountain is made low. Jesus teaches us how to struggle against oppression through his example of standing in solidarity with those who were considered ‘the least’ and ‘the last’ in his society. And because Jesus affirmed that poor people’s lives mattered, that Samaritans lives mattered, and the lives of those crucified by Rome mattered, we affirm that black and brown lives matter too, and are precious to God.
As a congregation we commit to deepening our faithfulness to Jesus through holy listening, through intentional learning, and through discerning congregational public action. ∙ As a congregation we commit to creating intentional inter-generational space where the stories of our black and brown brothers and sisters are received with love. In line with God’s upside-down kingdom, we will encourage marginalized stories to be centered while inviting those in the dominant culture to step back and be slow to speak and quick to listen. Specifically, we will make space for this congregational practice immediately after we return to worshiping together in our building.
As a congregation we commit to deepening our understanding of the history and present systems of racism in the United States, as well as the complicity of the western church in the legacy of white supremacy. We will study the history, our present society, and the theological implications of racism and its ties to the church. Specifically, our congregation will begin with Jemar Tisby’s “Color of Compromise” video series. We will follow that up with ongoing learning.
We will grow in our understanding of what it means to be an intentionally and actively anti-racist church. Finally, we commit to taking public action because we are called to do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. Just as Jesus spent most of his time out in the streets of Galilee serving and living in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable we too seek to take action that makes the Jesus story visible to those who have their backs against the wall.
Specifically, we commit to ongoing discernment as a congregation about what public actions, community partnerships, and organizing efforts in our neighborhood we will participate. We know that faith without works is dead and discipleship requires a love willing to respond to the suffering of others. We pray for a prophetic witness that pleases God and participates in seeing justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.
Harrisburg First Discernment Team & Pastor Belita Mitchell
(Harrisburg First CoB is located on Hummel St in Harrisburg’s South Allison Hill neighborhood which is comprised of the largest concentration of low-income families between Philadelphia & Pittsburgh.) ~
You can watch Jemar Tisby’s “The Color of Compromise” series too!
Yes, I used the exact same title as last year’s post. Because it’s still true and more salient than ever!
In this time of critical mass, we have an opportunity to make changes at every level. Governor Wolf just declared Juneteenth a state holiday.
This Friday is the first anniversary of @GovernorTomWolf declaring June 19 as Juneteenth National Freedom Day in Pennsylvania, a state holiday centered around the continued need for a fair and just society.https://t.co/0jEaOla5C1
A Comprehensive List Of Mental Health resources for Black women: these organizations are doing their best to provide mental health services specifically for Black people. Use them, share them, support them.https://t.co/nkdvEG6USz
"If you’re struggling with your mental health, know you’re not alone and help is available. Here are eight mental health resources for black folks looking for more support right now" 📲 https://t.co/K7Va3tno5k
Hi White People! I want to tell you something. It's the second week since the explosion of this round of protests. The second week since George Floyd's snuff film started being broadcast all over. I want to tell you something about my experience with white progressive backlash.
“This google doc was thoughtfully put together for white people and white parents. Read, teach your children, others, and more importantly yourselves. Do NOT rest on the laurels of black people and expect them to continue to do the work for you.”:
ICYMI: This google doc was thoughtfully put together for white people and white parents. https://t.co/XRuyal44Zo. Read, teach your children, others, and more importantly yourselves. Do NOT rest on the laurels of black people and expect them to continue to do the work for you.
DC physician’s Detroit childhood Girl Scouts experience:
Story I learned last night:
I started Girl Scouts in first grade and was an active scout until I was 17 (12th grade)—did ALL the GS stuff and loved my scouting experience. I was a GS national delegate.
My troop, 1001, was in Detroit and almost all black.
— I'm a Doctor. Stay Home and Wash Your Hands (@dst6n01) June 9, 2020
How to show support to Black colleagues:
For White academics:
A thread for my fellow white academics: It is wonderful that we are all feeling a renewed sense of urgency around the important work to be done in our profession. But, here are a few thoughts about how to do that productively and in ways that don’t burden our PoC colleagues. 1/n
"Every day, we have woken up and answered the emails and gotten on the Zoom calls. We’ve showed up with a smile, and put the pain and fear behind us. We’ve swallowed the rage while responding to our bosses…" @dbcadet shares.https://t.co/xLJbhuH5q0
“White folks wanting to help? Here’s your one freebie”:
White folks wanting to help? Here’s your one freebie. Then I’m off to play video games & enjoy a gummy. So pull up a chair:
— Tanya, Chaotic Black Deathbane (@cypheroftyr) June 2, 2020
Thread of reading list recommendations from Victoria Alexander:
I’ve been getting a lot of questions from my non-Black friends about how to be a better ally to Black people. I suggest unlearning and relearning through literature as just one good jumping off point, and have broken up my anti-racist reading list into sections: pic.twitter.com/gj5uko69OY
Book recommendations to share with young readers from Kathie MacIsaac:
Purchase and read these books, share them with young readers, find videos where the authors discuss them and show them to your classroom or kids. Invite authors to Skype. Do some research. Listen to those voices that have the answers when we don’t know what to say. #mglitpic.twitter.com/dzGUoN7T67