Time and Trauma

What measurements of time should we have for those suffering from serious diseases or those who have gone through trauma? For these individuals, time is significantly altered, warped or, worst of all, nonexistent. That was the main takeaway I had after Nindyo’s class towards the end of the semester, that victims of trauma and those suffering from other physical pain have a significantly altered sense of time. For example, someone with dementia has a much weaker sense of time than someone with their senses fully intact. Because of this insidious and terrible disease, it is tough for someone with it to get their hands around time and the daily norms of society. The same is true for people with Parkinson’s.

I have had distant relatives suffer from dementia, and even though their fight was painful, I distinctly remember one significantly light-hearted moment. It was at Christmas, with my great grandmother and my great aunt, both of whom struggled with the disease in their final years. As they communicated across the room to each other, one realized that they were forgetting something. The other exclaimed that all she wanted was a good Easter. While this was a moment many of us laughed at, it was a living example of just how skewered time can be to someone who has this awful disease. Because of it, the mere sense of time and date can change by the minute, and it did for my two relatives, both of whom have since passed.

I also believe, after learning what we did in Nindyo’s class, that victims of trauma must experience something similar. There are two versions of someone who goes through a major traumatic event: the person from before and the person after. The date and time of the trauma is something that victims remember vividly; that’s why someone like Christine Blasey Ford, in her recounting of an unwanted sexual encounter with Supreme Court judge Brett Kavanaugh, can remember events from nearly 40 years ago like they happened yesterday. While I am not as familiar with the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on individuals, I do believe that the repeating of the stressful event, as well as how much it can sear itself into one’s conscience, can warp someone’s understanding of time.