August 22nd, 2010
Yesterday I attended a lecture by Jen O’Neal on her trip to Uganda. She told us stories of women who had sustained or been forced to perpetrate horrific atrocities. Although they certainly had residual emotional effects as a result, the women she met were generally not depressed. They had full access to their emotions, both positive and negative.
I thought about this in comparison to Afghan women who, as a result of all they have been through, suffer from a high rate of depression. I saw that there a key difference.
In 2003, when I asked women in Woleyat prison how they support each other, a few told me that when a new woman comes into their room, they would encourage her to tell her story and they would cry together. The crying together would help them bond as each woman in the group would take on some of the storyteller’s pain and by connecting with their own similar stories, they could help heal some of their own traumas.
However, on this trip when I asked women how they most often deal with difficulties they face, many of them told me that they keep their troubles to themselves so as not to add to the burdens of those they love. This is a prescription for isolation and depression.
In both groups, the ones who are moving forward, who are engaged in creating better lives for their children and/or the wider society, heal the quickest and have emotional access to the most joy.
Joy is a state of being that doesn’t fall into the lap of the beholder but must be strived for. Jen O’Neal