Intergenerational Trauma

Well, I had therapy today and it kind of kicked off these thoughts around Intergenerational Trauma and Residential School and myself. My paternal Grandma was in Residential school and I never really heard her stories before and I’d not spent a lot of time around her growing up. Like yah I would see her but I guess I didn’t really expect her experience would have anything to do with me.

But then I’ve been seeing all these posts about Residential Schools since that mass grave was “discovered” (although most of us who know about residential schools knew about the graves and it was in the TRC report). And just, oh man. So many stories were being circulated, and some performative guilt and grief from settlers that really bothered me. I think I was just so angry because it’s like WE KNEW THIS why didn’t you believe us about how bad it was?

Anyway we talked about it in therapy today. And I think the main reason I didn’t want to see so much about the residential schools is because it hit too close to home in a way I’m still struggling to accept. I was like, going on Reddit instead and reading about people’s relationship problems because the residential schools stuff was so overwhelming.

And my therapist brought up intergenerational trauma. And like yeah I guess theoretically I know I probably have it but I didn’t sit down and start putting pieces together until after my therapy appointment.

But I was reading about it and they said descendants of people who had been in residential school had higher rates of psychological distress and suicide. And I started thinking about when I was a kid and the suicide thoughts started showing up. And they were SO STRONG. And like, so automatic. Like I didn’t feel I had much control over them. And I came so close to trying so many times. And my family had to have me doctored and then of course as an adult I got on psych meds to deal with it. But my therapist said something about how sometimes we are carrying things that don’t belong to us, they belong to our ancestors.

And I think if I was in a residential school yeah suicide would seem like one of the only ways to escape. My Grandma didn’t do that, she’s still alive today. But like, I can see that kind of distress and hopelessness feeling like a legit way to feel in that situation.

And the way I dealt with my suicidal feelings was to learn how to problemsolve, because usually that’s what they were in reaction to, all kinds of problems, like work or career or love or whatever. And it really did help (my meds help too) and I haven’t been suicidal in years. But like, you can’t problemsolve your way out of residential school. My Grandma and her sister ran away when they were 10 and some men on horses just brought them back. And I think that also relates to my feelings of hopelessness at times when facing oppression or even interpersonal conflict, like I just kind of accept shit because fighting only means you’ll be punished even worse.

But it also makes me wonder about all those Indigenous youth who have been dying by suicide, if it’s ALSO an automatic thought that is just living in their bodies because their mom or dad or grandparents were in residential schools.

It really makes me rethink my history and my feelings and my mood disorder. Cause I think I felt like if I had those feelings I must be so broken. Who would feel like they needed to kill themselves because things got hard? And then I also wonder about my drug and alcohol abuse and if that ties in somehow as well. I mean probably.

So there’s lots going on in my head and I’m trying to pull out the pieces and find out what is me and what is inherited trauma. Cause I feel like I would be such a different kind of person if I didn’t have this in my body. And like, would I have been able to form more solid relationships and deal with conflict better? Would I be able to stand up for myself more? Would I have been a happier person and not needed to waste so many years doing drugs and shit?

And it’s not even just the schools but also all kinds of trauma that my Mom’s family went through way back when the bison all got killed and they were being starved and fighting the government and being trapped on reserves and the smallpox and all of that shit. Like what did that do to our family? Is that why we have so much bipolar disorder and ADHD?

But also I was thinking about what it would feel like to be trapped in a residential school and not be allowed to leave. And like, I’ve spent 12 weeks altogether in my life involuntarily committed to psych wards. So I know what it’s like to not be allowed to leave an institution and to have rules put on you and to be traumatized in those spaces by the workers and the patients. And I was thinking about how that was like a recreation of the kind of trauma being stuck in a residential school would feel like. One hospital I was in was fine, but the first one in Montreal was so awful that I had intense PTSD for four years afterwards. And I think it’s so interesting that I would have that experience and it would be similar to what my Grandma had (although yeah way shorter and I got to leave and not come back). Having your freedom taken away is a horror that I think is very difficult to describe. It’s traumatizing really. And then to have to go through that for years as a child? Ugh!

There are graves at the school my Grandma was at, she remembers them digging them up to move them because they were too close to the playground. So awful.

I don’t know. My therapist is Jewish tho which I just found out today and which makes me feel better because she knows intergenerational trauma. It’s such a weird particular thing. And like how do you heal from that?

Anyway, she says we can talk about it more as we go along which is great for me because I want to figure this shit out and not have it negatively impacting my life in the same ways it has been. I also got to cry a lot in therapy which was good for me because I hadn’t cried about this stuff until today.

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