Healing From Trauma as a BIPOC
More than half of adults report experiencing or witnessing at least one traumatic event in their lives. Such an event might involve abuse, a natural disaster, divorce, the death of a loved one, illness, and so on. Not all of these events cause long-term trauma but when they do, the damage must be addressed by a skilled professional.
Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) are just as susceptible to the above-mentioned events. But, as BIPOC, they also face some very unique and potentially traumatic scenarios. However, unlike something “obvious” like a car accident, racial trauma is often denied by mainstream society.
What is Racial Trauma?
As the name implies, it is a race-based version of any other kind of trauma. And just like any other kind of trauma, it is not for outsiders to judge. If someone was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after enduring domestic abuse, it would be unacceptable to say they were “over-reacting.”
Racial trauma is no different. If a Black mother feels traumatized from all the news stories about gun violence in her city, it would be unacceptable to say she was “over-reacting.” The nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts are very real and must be validated.
Some Possible Causes of Racial Trauma
- Discrimination at work, home, school, or anywhere
- Being treated differently because of your ethnicity
- Being treated differently by bosses, teachers, police officers, or anyone else
- The accumulation of micro-aggressions, e.g. people asking to touch your hair or storeowners having you followed around in their establishments
- Judged harshly for not speaking English
- Having problems getting a loan, finding a place to live, or any other basic function
- Viewing racist depictions in pop culture
- Viewing videos of real-life violence against BIPOC
Combine these examples (and there are so many more) with the ongoing risk of trauma faced by everyone by merely being alive. It adds up to a heavy, relentless burden that can wear any BIPOC down.
Healing From Trauma as a BIPOC
It starts with a recognition and acceptance that trauma is present. Many BIPOCs feel self-conscious about admitting they’ve been traumatized. To do so might be viewed as weakness or perhaps a sign that the “other side” is winning. But, to not get the help you need is to ignore the reality that racism very much exists in our society. No BIPOC is immune. Once you’ve accepted this, you can move forward to some important self-help steps, e.g.
Interacting With Your Community
There is so much strength in the collective awareness of the wrongs you’ve all faced. Your community — whether it be the church, your neighborhood, etc. — understands. And if you still struggle with the stigma of having “mental health issues,” start by connecting online.
Help Your Community
One of the unexpected benefits of connecting with other BIPOCs who’ve been traumatized is the healing that comes with helping. Within any group, you will play different roles. Sometimes, you’ll be the one who needs support. Other times, it’s you who is helping others.
Practice Daily Self-Care
It’s an exhausting reality to live with the oppressive presence of racism. You need to find ways to create balance. Caring for yourself when it comes to sleep, exercise, eating, and more must become the norm. Lead by example.
Most of All, Talk to a Therapist Who “Gets” It
I understand. As a BIPOC therapist, I can offer solace and I can help you recover. Trauma is not something you can fix alone. Therefore, I invite you to reach out. Let’s connect and talk about you and what you’re feeling. Let’s get you moving toward a place of healing with trauma therapy.