Posts Tagged ‘effects of trauma on youth’

I have previously shared that I have almost finished reading Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy. I have about 50 pages left to read in the third book, Mockingjay. One of the minor characters is a woman named Johanna Mason, who won one of the previous Hunger Games. She is the tragic character who has both the strength and the weakness of having nobody left to lose.

Johanna makes a comment to Katniss (the lead character) that the one thing she thinks her shrink is right about is that you can never go back to being the person you were before the trauma (in her case, before the Hunger Games). For this reason, she must let go of trying to become that innocent girl again and, instead, find a way to live with being the person she is today.

It’s just a small part of the book, but it was one of the most meaningful conversations for me as a trauma survivor. Because my child abuse started at such a young age, I don’t really have a “before” to go back to, which I guess is a blessing in some respects. I don’t grieve the loss of the innocent girl I was because I don’t remember ever being that person. Still, I do grieve the innocent girl I should have been. I don’t think it’s the same thing, though. I grieve a concept while those whose trauma started later grieve a version of themselves that ceased to exist after the trauma.

I think this dialogue in the book resonated so deeply with me because it is part of the process of “letting go” that I am work through right now. Another thing I need to let go of is any hope of being someone who has never experienced trauma. That ship has sailed and isn’t coming back. It is unrealistic for me to strive to act and react as someone who has never been traumatized acts and reacts.

If I can accept this truth at a heart level, I can let go of my definition of “normal.” I used to tell my therapist that I just want to be a “normal” person. What I meant by this is I want to be like someone who has not endured trauma. That simply is not possible.

This reality does not have to be a “bad” thing. I have many strengths that were honed because I have survived trauma. I need to let go of the labels of “good” or “bad” and, instead, recognize and accept what “is” and “isn’t” without judgment.

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I received Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy as a present for Christmas, and I haven’t been able to put the books down! They are dark, with each book in the trilogy becoming darker than the last. The first book (the one that will be a movie in March) is about the Hunger Games themselves, where two children (ages 12 to 18) from each of the 12 districts are forced to represent their districts as “tributes” in the Hunger Games. Twenty-four children are placed in a dangerous arena, and they must kill each other off. The one survivor becomes the victor.

Book Two (Catching Fire) explores life after enduring trauma and the sickening realization that the trauma doesn’t end when the Hunger Games do. Book Three (Mockingjay) moves into trauma-induced issues of trust and grief. I am 2/3 of the way through Mockingjay. I simply cannot put these books down!

The blurb at the end of my book says that Suzanne Collins’ intent is to explore the effects of war on those who are coming of age. While the books do this, they run so much deeper. They really address the effects of trauma, which we child abuse survivors know is not limited to war.

The books explore how trauma permeates every area of the lead character Katniss’ life. If she was never brought into the Hunger Games, her life was on a course for falling in love with and marrying her best friend, Gale. However, Peeta, not Gale, was the one who endured the same traumas that Katniss did, which forges a bond that excludes Gale. When Katniss feels safe, her life seems to move back toward its initial course, but when she feels unsafe, she gravitates toward her trauma-bonded relationships. As the books progress, Katniss loses the ability ever to feel safe. Her nightmares become worse, and her ability to trust disappears. Katniss must stay on guard because being hypervigilance is what has enabled her to survive.

The books also explore how our connections with other people are both our strength and our weakness. Our love for others is what gives us the strength to keep fighting, but loving others also makes us vulnerable to those who want to hurt us. One of the strongest but most tragic characters in the books has both the strength and weakness of having nobody left to lose.

The books explore what we must lose in ourselves in order to survive trauma. They also explore how even the strongest of the strong can break inside as well as the coping mechanisms they turn to in their brokenness.

I don’t see how this trilogy can possibly have a happy ending. I suspect the goal will be achieved but that it won’t result in happiness. As we have seen with our war veterans, the effects of trauma on Katniss and others won’t disappear simply because the war is over.

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