Now What? Finding Healing After Trauma – Podcast Episode 2

Part of the story of coming to be for many individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community involves traumatic experiences, at the hands of family members, schoolmates, partners, or general society. And thanks to the advent of social media, many are coming forward with their experiences of trauma and its effects on their lives, encouraging many more to confront an issue that is an open secret in most Queer spaces in the world.

Whether it be a religious upbringing that encourages the development of internalized homophobia, or parents who demand heteronormativity from their obviously Queer children, or societally-ordained forms of violence, whether physical or otherwise, that allow the proliferation of discrimination against gender and sexual minorities, sources of trauma are as varied as they are unrelenting.

“Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.”
― Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

In my interview with licensed therapist Kindall Tyson for her “Black and Abroad” YouTube series, I revealed how, growing up as a Gay child and teen in Kenya, such forms of psychological, even physical violence were not only expected but encouraged when it came to people like me. Rather than providing protection from bullies, it was my teachers who were the proverbial bullies, rather than providing counsel during my trying moments, it was my spiritual leaders who condemned me to the fires of hell, and rather than provide a scientific and balanced approach to – not mine but rather society’s struggle with – my sexual identity, it was the therapists whose services my family sought who further reinforced dangerous stereotypes held by society about people like me.

I also admitted that I still have nightmares about one teacher in particular who took great pleasure in punishing me for no apparent reason when I was a student in high school, and as a result of my excruciating experience with authority figures, I regress to an inarticulate, timid teenager when in the face of bosses or managers. Though I can manage it, it is something I have had to acknowledge and learn to curtail as and when it happens, reminding myself that I am no longer a helpless 15-year-old, but rather a 30-something consummate professional living a life that my younger self would have never dared dream of let alone pursue.

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“Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going inside ourselves.”
― Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

In a phenomenon called age regression, those who have experienced forms of trauma are likely to mentally regress to the age when the traumatic event happened to them. According to an article published on The Good Men Project, the “reason that people regress is they haven’t healed from trauma. They also may not have a great support system where they can process their emotions. That includes a therapist and a network of friends, family, and loved ones. Trauma is a significant cause as to why people regress. Here is how trauma can impact the adult mind and cause people to revert to a childhood state.” Some of the signs of regression according to the article are:

  • Flashbacks to painful memories – upsetting memories can cause a person to regress. They’re triggered by these mental images, and the reaction is to revert to a childhood state.
  • Disrupted sleep – An individual may have traumatic events that show up in their dreams. They could have persistent nightmares with a common theme.
  • Baby talk – A person may regress to such a young age that they start talking like a toddler. It can be strange to interact with them during this state.
  • Temper tantrums – Children throw temper tantrums as a normal part of their development process. Adults may engage in this behavior because they’re regressing.
  • Disassociation – Sometimes, people regress by checking out of a situation. You might find a person who appears to be daydreaming. They’re in their own world so they can protect themselves from perceived harm.

It is for this, and many other reasons that many in the LGBTQIA+ community are choosing to seek professional help to deal with the residual effects of trauma sustained through their journeys of acceptance. And as Michael Johns, aka “The Gaymer Tamer” will attest, even physically moving away from initial sources of trauma doesn’t mean that the trauma will not be replicated in your new location, as he came to find out in his group of friends and saw triggering patterns from his childhood and behaviors from family members get replayed in his close friends’ group in Beijing.

Michael Johns aka The Gaymer Tamer

In his words, Johns describes this dichotomy as the “Mean Girl” hierarchy, where, even within safe spaces, the structures of bullying and trauma-inflicting behaviors are replicated. But even in this case, when one has no other place to turn and safe spaces are no longer what they promised to be, what does one do? How can one achieve healing, forgiveness, and the strength to move on, either alone or onto another more accepting group? I discuss this and more with Johns in yet another light-hearted, yet insightful, and wine-fuelled conversation this episode of the Piquing Duck podcast.

Listen to the podcast on Spotify and Anchor!

Photos: Unsplash, Michael Johns

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