Moving On From The Marathon: Processing Trauma

Posted on April 25,2013 by hmonkmspp

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I have been searching for the words to write a post since the tragic events at the Marathon bombings last week. It was a terrifying week to live in the city of Boston that left many of us shaken, scared, and confused. I personally had a difficult time discussing the events, and chose to avoid the media and conversations until the day of the lock down.

On last Thursday night, before the bombing suspects' pictures were released, I had the chance to spend time with my dear friend Nicole that attends MSPP with me. We were having a girls' night, catching up and frosting cakes. We first talked about everything else we could think of, and then lastly turned over to the subject of the marathon. I guess finally having a fellow psychology student there was what I needed to open up about it. I told Nicole how I needed to spend time away from my boyfriend because he was constantly glued to his computer, checking a live blog feed, a police blotter, and two news stations all at the same time. For me, this was just too much to take in, and I became defensive and frustrated. Then Nicole asked me if that was just how Jay needed to process everything.
"Oh... right..." I thought to myself, "processing...". As psychology students, we talk a lot about how our clients process things, (how people actively understand and cope with new information). I have helped many of my clients process events in their lives that were difficult for them to understand. However, as I was living through this terrible nightmare, I was having difficulty remembering that we all understand and cope differently. Earlier in the week, I felt numb and detached, and was aggravated by those that wanted to drown themselves in news of the bombings. I did not want to see photos, or hear names of the victims, or even read stories of heroism on that day. I felt as if it didn't really happen, and by not discussing it, I thought I could wish it to be nothing but the nightmare it seemed like.
Then Nicole said that magical word: process. I realized that this was not selfishness or heartlessness on my part, and that my boyfriend was not a sadistic man with attentional difficulties. We were just processing the events differently. As the events of late Thursday night into all of Friday unfolded, I became increasingly glued to the television. For the first time since the marathon, I wanted to watch the news and follow the events. I sat on my couch with a cup of coffee for hours and hours, listening to the surreal chaos coming out of my tv. After a few hours, however, it all became too much for me to handle, and I needed something else to keep myself sane. I pulled out a jigsaw puzzle, and somehow the simplicity of putting the pieces together made me calm, and helped me process the events of the week.
As I returned to my field site this week, I was surprised to find that none of my clients brought up last week's events. They processed it very differently than I did. Just like my housemates, my peers, my professors, and my family. Trauma affects everyone differently. Try to keep that in mind and have a little respect for other people's styles the next time you notice someone reacting differently than you are. It's not easy, but it's so important.