By Nancy Black
I’ve been triggered. I didn’t know I suffered from it, but I do now. My heart has been racing almost as fast as my mind. I feel tense. And I feel afraid. My fight or flight instincts are kicking in.
I’m trying to process all of the forces of good and evil happening in our society now through a humanistic approach. But it is not easy. On one hand, the country and the world have joined together in deep mourning for the loss of Kobe Bryant, an amazing basketball player and an even better example in the world of what a good person is. Our collective thoughts and prayers go out to all who perished in that tragic helicopter crash and all those left behind to grieve their losses.
On the other hand, no one can deny the country is dangerously divided by the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump. It reminds me of the O. J. Simpson trial, hence the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I’m serious. It is really bringing back my horrible memories of that demented time in our country’s criminal justice system. And it is not helping that Court TV is currently airing a documentary commemorating the 25th anniversary of the shocking and terrible murders and the volatile trial that followed. I lived in Los Angeles at the time. I worked with a close friend of Ron Goldman (one of the victims). I had been a limo driver for more than seven years, which means I drove A LOT of huge celebrities — bigger than O. J.! I ran a theater company whose opening night was delayed by two hours because of the infamous Bronco slow car chase. I watched as people gathered on the side of the road cheering on O. J., not even caring about the facts of the murder investigation.
To be a limousine driver in L.A. during the trial of O. J. Simpson was a challenging time, especially since I had driven Robert Shapiro, one of O. J.’s lawyers. The trial was on every news channel, blaring from TVs in every home, office or store. And the city, nay the world, was divided. Forget DNA evidence. Forget science. Forget the facts. “If the glove doesn’t fit, we must acquit,” Johnny Cochran famously announced during that trial. Perhaps it was being so close to the events and the people involved but, what was for much of the country a fascinating spectacle, for me it was extremely upsetting and difficult to handle.
My PTSD is triggered now because I fear the public will never pay attention to the evidence or know the truth at the heart of the current impeachment trial. Everyone has picked their side, so the facts are irrelevant. PTSD is real. According to the Mayo Clinic: “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”
Some of the symptoms experienced during a PTSD episode are intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. And those symptoms can vary from person to person and throughout time.
My father, who taught pilots during the Korean War, had serious PTSD. I remember my siblings telling me of the time when my family went to the Cotton Bowl to watch fireworks on the Fourth of July. My father was so freaked out by the BOOM of the fireworks that we had to leave. He dealt with his traumatic experiences by drinking himself to death.
If you are suffering PTSD like me, from any type of trauma or event in your life, there is hope for us. It involves getting help, which most people, like my father, are hesitant to ask for. We all want to be able to do everything ourselves. But we can’t. “Getting timely help and support may prevent normal stress reactions from getting worse and developing into PTSD,” the Mayo Clinic states. “This may mean turning to family and friends who will listen and offer comfort. It may mean seeking out a mental health professional for a brief course of therapy. Some people may also find it helpful to turn to their faith community.”
I am taking all those suggestions and putting them into action. I am talking to my friends about my feelings. I am working with a therapist. And I am praying for our country, our senators and our president. And, of course, I am praying for Kobe Bryant and all those other helicopter crash victims and their loved ones. May peace and justice prevail. Amen!