Tag: Mental Health

Generational Trauma

When my mother got very ill in 2007 I spoke to hear a lot about family. She shared a lot of things with me that she had never shared before; about our family, about our heritage, about her upbringing, and some of the troubling things she had to endure. Some of the things she shared explained some of her very fundamental traits. What was remarkable is how aware she was of how the damage she sustained had influenced her attitudes and behaviours.

Life has not always been kind to my mother. Part of that unkindness was because my grandmother had been ill-equipped as a mother due to life being unkind to her. My grandmother did the best she could, given the post-world war circumstances she had to survive in. She made choices that, in hindsight were probably not the wisest, but she made them in order to survive. Stress makes your planning horizon shorter, and when the stress becomes institutionalised it turns into trauma, often locking you in that short term thinking. Her trauma impacted how she raised my mother the best she knew how, but like so many others who suffered trauma, could not keep herself from traumatising her daughter.

My mother’s life was not easy, but it was a hell of a lot easier than my grandmother’s. So the trauma, which was passed down from one generation to the other, became a little less. She was able to sooth some of the pain and heal some of the trauma and make better choices for herself. Better, but not always good. Her horizon expanded a little bit, when compared to my grandmother’s. She did the best hat she could in raising her children. She set me up with slightly less trauma, to make slightly better choices and therefore a slightly better life.

It is undeniable, however, that I have traits and display behaviours that are dysfunctional, which I can trace back to my mother’s dysfunctions, which in turn I can trace back to my grandmother’s dysfunctions, which in turn are linked to the things she had to do (the person she had to become) during the war. This is what I understand to be generational trauma. With a bit of luck you can diminish it with each generation, but if you are not that fortunate, you pass it along to, or even exacerbate it for the next generation.

Two weeks ago one of my friends, a person I have known for decades, made a heartless comment when we were discussing the Netherlands considering apologising for their role in the transatlantic slave trade. He mocked the idea that such a move would make any difference and cynically joked that he wanted an apology for WWII. At best he suggested that generational trauma does not exist, at worst he suggested that even if it did exist, he wasn’t suffering from me (which I doubt) and therefore nobody should be.

He’s well aware of me, my life and I’ve shared things with him about my family, their struggles and my own. His comments and callousness really hurt me and I’m not entirely sure what to do with that.

Kribbig

This is the twentieth week of the lockdown, having worked from home and only going out for a run four times a week, and a small handful of social events. I’ve noticed that lately I’ve become more irritable, and it’s been manifesting itself in a heightened anxiety around clutter. Especially other people’s clutter where it would be inappropriate for me to interfere with it. Where normally I would make note of clutter and internally bitch, moan and complain about it, now I find it increasingly difficult to keep my mouth shut. Also, the feeling that I have when confronted with clutter has become more intense.

The same goes for particular inconveniences. Like how the tap in the kitchen sink seems to have been designed by a complete fucking idiot who had never encountered a sink before, but read a description of it in a book once.

So I do what I always do when I need advice regarding mental health issues, and I turned to my sister. I wanted to know whether this was temporary, or permanent; like due to the result of growing older, for instance. She assured me that it was likely due to have no access to the normal ways in which I blow off steam; jiu jitsu, partying, etc. I really hope she’s right, because I really don’t want to put Joasia through these moods.

Suicide, Mental Health and Gatekeeping

Someone in my family committed suicide a few days ago. It was quite unexpected, not just for me, but for a lot of people. Apparently, he had been quite unhappy for a long while with things stemming from childhood, things that he was addressing in therapy. I keep wondering what it is about one person that they can lead a life of misery, setbacks and struggle, without ever earnestly considering the thought of suicide, while another lives a relatively affluent life whose happiness was derailed during a formative period, who then decides to take their own life?

It makes me reevaluate existential pain and suffering. The human psyche is too complex to compare two situations. It makes me reevaluate a lot of the mental health gatekeeping which happens. Someone claims to have ptsd, and others jump on that person for suggesting that their pain and suffering is en par with the suffering of others who have a more “legitimate” form of ptsd, like soldiers. You simply can’t compare the two cases on such a superficial level.