We had tea with the Lord Mayor of Belfast this morning. Meeting him was marvelous. He was very candid and funny and put us all at ease which was quite a feat since we were all balancing delicate tea cups and perched in fancy chairs. The city hall was unreal. I had never realized that marble could clash with anything but I guess when you get up to 3 or 4 different types of marble, stained glass, velvet, plaster molding, intricately carved wood, etc. it really is possible. The tour guide likened it to modern ‘bling’ saying anything can become tasteless when its overdone. It was like the fine details just kept getting added and added and reminded me of the lack of control iwhen people binge eat or drink in order to cope. Could there be such a thing as binge decor? Maybe it would be related to compulsive shopping…
After the city hall visit, we went to Lifeline where we had coffee and a long talk with Fergus about the challenges and joys of crisis work and providing 24 hour support hotlines. That conversation went everywhere and was so engaging we were late to get back to Bridget who was patiently waiting to do a presentation on her experience in trauma work. We discussed the impact of trauma on pre-lingual children and how the lack of language and episodic memory can prime a person for developing PTSD symptoms in response to future traumatic events. The events cease to be experienced as separate events and become triggers for the first event that the person was unable to create meaning for. It was similar to something I had learned about briefly in a neuroscience class but it incorporated some Gestalt and energy concepts so that it gave a nice holistic view of the healing process for people coping with developmental trauma. I also got the names of some researchers in this area that I will look up for further deepening my knowledge on some of these aspects of early childhood trauma.
Unfortunately, one of our classmates is in the hospital here because she developed an infection that will require an overnight stay in the hospital. She missed out on all of these experiences and I think we all felt her absence as an extra layer of sadness in this place that is so permeated with sadness and rage. We’ve worked out some shifts for making sure she has company and it sounds like she’ll be back with us tomorrow. I just hope her hospital bed is comfier than the beds here at the hostel.
In some ways, the whole trip feels like the city hall. The coping we’ve witnessed is full of distancing and putting pretty faces on layer after layer of emotional pain. There’s also so much going on every day that I don’t have time to fully process it all. I can only imagine how much more potnetially overwhelming it is to live here and cope with the trauma every single day. Bridget kept using the term “the overwhelm” and even though I’ve never heard of overwhelm used as a noun, it is so apt, there really isn’t another term to apply.