Last night I had a nightmare… something that in and of itself isn’t newsworthy since one of my primary lingering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms is persistent nightmares. Even the basic narrative of this dream wasn’t particularly unique. There were Nazis, explosions, fire, running, swimming, trying to breathe, attempting to fix or clean things to hide, desperation to survive. I awoke in characteristic fashion —exhausted physically, emotionally, and mentally.
What’s different this time around is when I awoke, I didn’t note my brain was trying to make sense of a past trauma. No — this dream was an amalgamation of past and present. A visual representation of some of the earliest memories I have and what I have been witnessing in the here and now on TV and social media. A confluence of my own lived past trauma, my grandmother and great-grandmother’s horror tales of their living through World War II, the Nazi invasion of Budapest (Hungary) and surviving a year in the concentration camp at Auschwitz (Poland), and the current invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
The stories I was told were traumatizing, no doubt. But when I heard them, they were very much tales of things that happened long ago in a land far, far away. They were firmly in-the-past tales that were told to help educate us on what can happen and why we must be vigilant so they never happen again. And yet here we are, not so long ago and not so far, far away, experiencing what feels like a replay of the stories I grew up with occurring in real time before our very eyes, and it’s exceedingly triggering.
The thing about intergenerational trauma is the trauma isn’t just about the stories we were told (perhaps at an all too young age in far too much detail)
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