In mid-June, a woman with a young son returned to the park-and-ride in a suburban Seattle town. On the car was a note: "Kill all Niggers! I'm gonna kill you the next time I see you. KILL KILL KILL. KILL OBAMA." The woman called her white husband, who told her to get out of there and call the police. The police said it was a hate crime and that she should never go back to that parking lot. "Take another bus to work, that's dangerous." At that point, the terror for herself and her son and her two other sons at home arose. Within weeks, two black men were killed by police, one in Minnesota, on in Texas, and the woman came to see me for awful PTSD: nightmares, anxiety, flashbacks, fears for her kids.
At the first session, the intake showed a good family: white mom, black dad, 2 siblings. Good parents. Raised on a farm, the only black people in the county of a northern state. Advanced education, great job, good husband, great kids, well attached at home, at work, and with friends. We used a modified EMDR protocol, EMD, with finding the note, and her distress cleared from a 10/10 to a 4/10 fairly quickly, and then stayed stuck–"What if it happens again?" "What if he figures out who I am and where I live and comes after my boys?" "And by the way, I've been thinking about things I never think about" including
- My black grandfather was shot to death by a white man he didn't know, on the side of the road in the South, when my dad was 5.
- My brother was shot and nearly killed by a white man he didn't know, in Eugene, when he was getting into a car. He has scars all over his body from the bullets.
- When I was a kid on the farm, me and my cousins climbed over a fence to the BLM (public lands) where people used to do target practice. Some white men drove up in a truck and aimed their rifles at us and kept them aimed until we ran far away, back to the farm.
- All the times I was called the "Nigger", or sneered at, or left out of things, or harassed on the street. . . .
So we did EMDR on all these targets and a few targets that had to do with death that weren't directly about race. The trauma has cleared beautifully, and in these few sessions we have bonded wonderfully, laughed together, and I've shared her anger at what's happened to her, what's happening in the country, and her fears for herself and her kids.
She had already told me that I could tell her story. At Monday's session, When I told her that her anxiety was all PTSD, and that she wasn't wired for anxiety disorders, like Generalized Anxiety or OCD, she sobbed louder than at any other topic. "All my adult life people have told me I have GAD. Doctors have given me medication for anxiety."
I said "Look at the trauma you have experienced! I don't anyone else outside of Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan that has so many losses and near misses, in these years. . . Yes, you have anxiety, but you are a solid woman without the ultra-sensitive body that the born-to-be-anxious people have. This is trauma!"
She cried some more, smiling. Then she said, "Thank you. I didn't know that the generational and cultural stuff had had this much effect on me. I try not to pay attention to that stuff. I always thought that there was something wrong with me, which was why I was suspicious of people, especially white men. Now I get it. It's trauma. Thank you!"
She sighed, and dropped her shoulders. I told her that the danger to her and her kids was real, and that it might help to use awareness of the "now" to notice when she was safe. If she felt fear, look around. If there was no threat, let herself soften and notice the safety. Notice the good. And notice the exits. We're not done, but we're a way down the road.
Another thing. Two other women have been threatened and one beaten in liberal Seattle. 3 guys got off the bus and grabbed another black woman who had a little kid. One held the child while two beat the woman to a pulp. A white woman with black kids was chased home and had "Nigger-lover" written on her house. My client has contacted these women, to support them and be supported. This stuff has not been happening as much, until now. We're blaming the permission that Trump has given to show racism, anger, hate and violence. What do you think?