In the Extreme: Memory and Trauma (Part 3 of 3)

Judging by my Facebook feed, 2014 wasn’t particularly kind to many of my loved ones – most are bidding the year “good riddance to you” and some have already moved on to 2015 without looking back. And so I close the memory and trauma series just as 2014 is winding down: looking back to look forward.

Looking Back

Over twenty years ago, after a series of tragic events, two peoples who once lived in peace with each other as neighbors turned against one another. In the spring of 1994, Hutus slayed close to 1 million Tutsis in a matter of months. The BBC has a special from April 2014 on the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

But there are people who survived. Who remembered what that horror was. Some will speak of it, most won’t.

What typically characterizes people who have survived violent attacks on themselves or on their friends and family? Who have had loved ones murdered?

Nightmares and flashbacks. Watch this three-and-a-half-minute-long interview with the Rwandan genocide survivor, Consolee Nishimwe, on Voice of Africa:

It’s an awkward conversation, but because of the anchor’s pointed questions and Ms. Nishimwe’s candor, we get a hint of how haunted she is by the memory, suffering from flashbacks decades after the awful act.

Survivor’s guilt. In this short cartoon video, a young American war veteran walks us through the questions he asks himself and how he copes.

Violent tendencies or anger management issues

Looking Forward

I’m closing the year darkly, I know. But I’ll open 2015 with a lot of light.

There is healing, and there is new technology that may be able to help the worst cases. Treating traumatized people typically requires time, cognitive behavioral or other psychotherapy, and, sometimes, medication. More recently, researchers have begun to understand that PTSD does not have a one-size-fits-all cure. Scientists have linked different parts of the brain with different symptoms and hope to be able to tailor treatments accordingly. And “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” isn’t too far off.

So there is hope yet, even in the darkest times.

Knowing that life is an amalgamation of good and bad experiences and memories, that 2014 was no exception, and that life wouldn’t be what it is without trials to triumph through:

Good bye, 2014. Hello, 2015.

Happy New Year, everyone.

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