The phrase “It’s been a minute” can be heard among New Orleans folk to mean a very long time.
For example, many years after Hurricane Katrina, the city’s more vulnerable populations still endure secondary wounding and re-traumatization. The vulnerable, however, are not limited only to economically disadvantaged, racial and ethnic minorities, uninsured, young or old, the homeless, crime victims or those with chronic health conditions, including mental illness.
Psychological and emotional vulnerability can spread across the sociocultural spectrum, depending upon the type of losses being endured. Some traumatic experiences have a beginning and end, with the promise of eventual “closure.” Others involve repeated and layered traumas over time, with a cumulative negative effect.
I don’t see people wearing a t-shirts that say “I Survived Katrina,” because they’re not completely sure they really have survived. It might be inaccurate to describe their stress as post-traumatic, because they still endure the occasional and sudden “flash forward” — for instance whenever a big storm forms in the Gulf.
Brooding over what else might happen is the emotional equivalent to a physical wound that keeps on oozing. The crisis never seems “over.” The announcement of “all clear” does not come.
Do you sometimes wonder: “When does this ordeal really end? Will things ever get back to normal? Can our community ever heal? Will the serenity and security of calmer times be restored in my lifetime?”
Such gnawing questions can side-rail the grieving process, with significant implications for mental, emotional and physical health. In my day job, I practice psychotherapy in a primary healthcare setting, where it is more than obvious the mind-body connection flows and counter-flows. Our minds and bodies keep score and the issues are in the tissues.
Find someone you can trust. Open up. If you don’t talk it out, then the pain can seep out sideways, when you least expect it and in ways that can cause other problems.
Believe it or not, I counsel with individuals and couples who are just now talking about various traumas they have endured, ten years after the occurrence. Now that’s way more than a minute!