I want to talk about trauma. The conversation about trauma is becoming more popular in mainstream media. People are slowly accepting that it is not just veterans of a war that experience trauma but individuals who have experienced abuse, rape, natural disasters, illness, and oppression. Overall, I believe we are having the wrong conversation about trauma. As with much of our discussion of poor mental wellness, we spend a lot of time focusing on how trauma destroys the lives of those who experienced the trauma. There is no denying this is true. My experience with trauma caused by emotionally abusive relationships/friendships sometimes brings me to my knees with pain. I see how my fear of the trauma reoccurring my life leaves me in a constant state of fear which manifests as anger and thoughts that I am unsafe and the people I love are out to hurt me. What we seem to talk so little about it how despite the pain that leaves us on the floor we manage to stand back up and that despite the fear we continue with our relationships. People who have experienced trauma are some of the most resilient people I know. My own resilience often amazes me.
I first realized that society had a skewed view of trauma when I read through Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (the third book in The Hunger Games Trilogy) for a second time. To briefly summarize, The Hunger Games Trilogy is about an older teen named Katniss who lives in a dystopian version of the USA (called Panem) where the homes of its citizens are divided into 13 Districts and the main city called the Capitol. The Capitol is extremely wealthy and the Districts become increasingly poor and oppressed as you count from 1-13. To keep control over the Districts the President of Panem declared that every year, each District will give 1 young girl and 1 young boy as Tribute to The Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death, with the Victor (the last person left alive) is rewarded with a life of wealth. Katniss goes through The Hunger Games not once but twice and then goes on to lead the rebellion against the Capitol. Throughout the trilogy, Katniss experiences overwhelming oppression, violence, and loss. The trilogy ends with Katniss explaining to her youngest child that she still suffers from the memories of the Games and the rebellion but that she keeps going regardless of that pain. The first time I read Mockingjay, I remember being so disappointed that Katniss didn’t come out unscathed. I couldn’t understand why the main character of a book wasn’t living happily ever after. A few years later, when I read the book again, I finally understood. The author was showing real trauma. Collins didn’t want to give us a happily ever after because that is not how life works. Trauma can stay with you, show it’s face in your everyday life, and it does not have to completely consume you. No matter what Katniss went through, she dealt with the dreams and the memories. She married, raised her children and carried on with her life. In the final movie, she explains to her infant that she survives by remembering all of the good things that happen in the world. This is what many trauma survivors do, find ways to keep going.
We need to talk about the Katniss’ of the world. We need to talk about how we survive.