Racial Trauma & Asking for Help in the AAPI/BIPOC Community

Blog #1 (June 8th, 2021)

This past year and a half has been a difficult year (to say the least) for masses of people within the COVID 19 pandemic. While I plan to speak about the grand effects of the pandemic—socially, psychologically, and economically, I wanted to first begin by offering some validation and solidarity for folks in the BIPOC/AAPI community.

From Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Maggie Long, Vilma Kari, the 6 Atlanta shooting victims (Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Soon Chung Park, and Yong Ae Yue), the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the bodies of 215 indigenous Canadian children found— the pain doesn’t stop.

Disclaimer: Since I’d like to keep my blogs short and palatable to readers in a constant rush, or to those who feel a sense of guilt for taking the time for yourself– here are some topics I hope to discuss more upon the future.

– Racial Trauma
– Historical/Intergenerational Trauma
– Acculturation & Assimilation
– Vicarious Trauma/Secondary Trauma
– Isolation & Apathy
– Otherness
– Grief & Bereavement

When we hear or watch the media cover stories of violence against people who look like us, it hits us even deeper. We can have a wide range of emotions from sadness, shock, fear, anger, shame, and even numbness– all are entirely appropriate. With the recent uptick in hate crimes, police brutality, and discrimination in multiple BIPOC communities, we are forced to face the hard and ugly truth that this has been an ongoing pattern for generations and generations. It’s only now that footages and reports are being captured and released to the public. Thus, we are faced with the multiple aftershocks from such traumatic events– whether they are happening to us personally or to even strangers. It becomes a collective experience in the community. We mourn and grieve for those who have faced such undeserved adversities and violence.

Some questions that may ruminate in our minds may include:

“This could’ve happened to me.”
“This could’ve happened to my family member.”
“This could’ve been my friend.”
Why is this happening?”
“How long will this continue to happen?”
“Why aren’t people talking about this more?”
“I wish they would stop showing this over and over again…”
“Who can I talk to about this?”
“Who will be willing to listen?”
“How come people don’t care about this as much as I do?”

When we continue to brew in these conflicting questions and various feelings, we can often isolate ourselves even more in anger, guilt, and sadness.

This can also transition into apathy, which can stem from becoming desensitized by experiencing and seeing/hearing these incidents too often, and even by using the numbness to disassociate as a way to cope with difficult emotions. (But most times, this isn’t very sustainable and our stresses pop up again.)

We may begin to unconsciously solidify our feelings of “otherness” and we try to convince ourselves that people simply do not care and that we are alone in this. The perspective of caring about such heartache while others don’t seem to care makes us feel like it’s you versus “everyone else.”

We also can feel othered, and say,
“This would’ve not happened if I/they didn’t look like _____.”

This is just the tip of the iceberg, as our entities are made up of countless identities such as, our race, ethnicity, skin color, sexuality, gender, sex, age, body size, socioeconomic class, immigration history, etc. The list goes on…

This also attests to why and how many of us have a wide range of emotions, levels of triggers, and methods of coping, as well.

How we cope with hardship is usually passed down from generation to generation.

You may have been brought up in a family or culture that stigmatized the topic of mental health or even speaking about our feelings, at all. This is where I highly encourage you to lean in and listen to what you need physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. It can be challenging to do this if this is new to you. People can also exhibit what we call, “psychosomatic symptoms.” This is another clinically proven evidence that stress, anxiety, and depression engulf us physically, too. Somatic symptoms can be seen as your body signaling that your mental and physical wellbeing need more honoring.

Examples of psychosomatic symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Abdominal distress (i.e. stomachache, nausea, etc.)
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep
  • Aches and pain (i.e. muscle soreness, back pain, chest pain, etc.)
  • Difficulty breathing (common with anxiety)

Our bodies and minds are intelligently interconnected and they need a break too!

Emotions are not bad.

Emotions are there evolutionarily to help protect ourselves from danger.
And by speaking to a professional, you can receive more guidance on incorporating strategies to better manage your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Please ask for help and support. While we always hear people commending “resilience” and “strength,” here is a gentle reminder– asking for help and expressing yourself is one of the biggest forms of resilience and strength. It’s not selfish to have self-compassion and help ourselves. We can also help others better when we are more whole.

Working with a licensed mental health provider can also ease the feeling of “burdening someone” you know and also help cultivate skills on how to break the patterns and cycles of intergenerational trauma that need tending and healing.

I want to offer you affirmation that you are not alone.
Here’s an oxymoron: Many often suffer alone collectively.

Please take care.

Written by Sowoon Park, LCSW


Coping, acculturation, and psychological adaptation among migrants: a theoretical and empirical review and synthesis of the literature

Assimilation and Individual Differences in Emotion: The Dynamics of Anger and Approach Motivation

The Relationship of Acculturation, Traumatic Events and Depression in Female Refugees

Published by Marbled Mind

Mental Health Advocate

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