Sunday and Monday saw many parents crowd the banks to pay school fees and hit the road to take their kids to school. However, it is possible that the kids we received were only physically available, but mentally and emotionally devoid. These students are not machines that can just get up and go emotionally. So, what can they do to get back in the mood of school?
When something as traumatic as relieving the experience of genocide happens, the blow can reverberate in our thoughts and feelings for extended periods of time. If not dealt with,such stress can easily morph into a life-long melodrama which we act out unconsciously. Any student feeling out of sorts should try the following:
Firstly, you need to recognise what is happening in your mind. The mind is a story-teller who loves to embellish the tale with each narration. So, stick to the facts. Just the facts! Refrain from going into what-if scenarios of what would happen if Genocide struck again, or dwelling on the scary nightmare you had after watching a Genocide movie. Instead, bring yourself back to the present moment. Traumatic events tend to play like a movie, over and over again in the mind. This is called a flashback. When you catch yourself re-living the horror, bring yourself back to the present moment by breathing deeply and feeling your feet. Notice what is happening right now: the chair in which you are sitting.
Similarly, always take a breath before taking any action. Many of us medicate our emotions through action. If we don’t take a breath and try to think clearly before we act, we can expend a lot of energy doing things that are not really constructive and which might even be destructive. If it is impossible for you to evaluate your action, ask a trusted friend who has no investment in the outcome whether or not it makes sense to take the action you want to take. On the other hand, if you are paralysed when you know you need to act, breathe your way through it and do the best you can.
In addition, avoid fights. Wait out your emotional wave before making any big decisions. After a traumatic event, the emotional wave is like a tsunami, and its power to distort your reality is very great indeed. Wait, wait, wait and wait some more. The dilemmas created by turbulent emotions usually resolve themselves into emotional clarity with the passage of time. Since most of the things you think when you are terribly upset are not altogether true, wait until your emotional wave has subsided, and don’t think for a minute that being mean to someone, revenging or even fighting will solve anything.
Don’t make stuff up. The past can only be experienced as a memory, and the future is purely speculation. The story-teller in your Mind wants to wrap its script around the facts of the past and imagine what the future holds.
No matter what happened before this moment, the moment is all there really is. Distortion of reality compounds itself when you believe in a future you imagine, based on what you make up about the past. Break the pattern of making stuff up by asking yourself, “Is that really true? Or did I make that up?”
Also, avoid fixing blame. Shame, blame, guilt, outrage, pity and self-pity are corrosive and artificial. Don’t engage in them! The best we can do when bad things happen is to realise that we are imperfect humans trying to be perfect, and that’s not a bad thing. Unfortunately, bad things happen to good people, and when bad things happen, we can evolve from the challenge and grow into wiser, more resilient people as a result.
If you realise you are not able to let go and move on by yourself, seek appropriate help. Friends and family may not be the best people to provide you with ongoing support. You may want to consult with the school counselor or spiritual advisor instead. Prayers usually come in very handy. Commit your cares to the Lord that he may sustain you.
We understand your situation. We are actually there ourselves. But life must continue, right? So let’s do everything possible to help us settle down because second term is quite a busy one. Make the most at school for a better Rwanda.
The writer is a lecturer at The Adventist University of Central Africa