In a post-2020 world, we have been victims of an all-encompassing trauma that has taken its toll on our nation’s well-being. The original trauma of a Trump presidency, compounded by COVID and political chaos was a perfect storm for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to flourish. Having lived with PTSD for the greater part of my life I know how it shatters you.
As a survivor of both childhood sexual abuse and an adult rape victim, I have learned to navigate the cluster of problems associated with the disorder. Because traumatic memories are encoded in the brain differently than other memories, with PTSD traumatic memories become dissociated, fragmented, free-floating in time. They pounce into the present unbidden in the form of flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts & images you cannot control.
But now I recognize it in friends. Sleep problems & nightmares. The lack of concentration, & loss of interest in activities. Unrelenting anxiety, along with hopelessness coexist with irritability, & jumpiness.
When your sense of safety & trust are shattered it is normal to feel unbalanced, disconnected & numb. It’s common to have nightmares, be fearful & find it difficult to stop thinking about what has happened.
These are normal reactions to abnormal events.
For most these symptoms are short-lived. Once the danger passes your nervous system calms down & everything goes back to normal. Because at some point life does “return to normal.” But life has been anything but normal these past several years. PTSD happens when there is too much stress in a situation. Even if the danger has passed your nervous system is still “stuck” unable to return to its normal state of balance & are unable to move on from the event.
When we finally emerge from COVID & chaos we will be looking at a mental health crisis that we are woefully unprepared for. How do we negotiate a world in which all sense of safety seems to have been destroyed? How can we confront & process and overcome this loss of trust & the ways we have been forever altered by chaos, division, & cruelty?
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Sally Edelstein is an award-winning N.Y. collage artist and writer who considers herself a visual archeologist digging deep into American mythology, excavating and examining the social fictions we and society tell ourselves over the past 70 years. An incurable collector of vintage ephemera, she utilizes imagery found in her extensive collection drawing heavily on pop culture images from the 50s thru the 70s, creating work that provides a shared cultural history of becoming female in America and how the media has fragmented us. A feminist since the second-wave women’s movement of the 1970s she was recently profiled in Ms. Magazine.
A nationally exhibited artist, she is a multiple awards recipient from the Society of Three-Dimensional Illustrators, The Art Directors Club Of NY, and the Society of Illustrators. As a writer, her essays have appeared in Independent, Ms, Next Avenue, Next Tribe, and The Ethel. Told through both text and illustration her blog Envisioning the American Dream probes the ways that advertising and media steer out perceptions of race, class, and gender.
A nationally exhibited artist who received her BFA from School of Visual Arts, her work has been shown at The Heckscher Museum of Art, Museum of Sonoma County, Arlington Art Museum, Brown University and Reece Museum. She currently resides in Huntington, N.Y.
© Sally Edelstein