Those of you brave souls that have been following my write ups for Families in Global Transition… thank you for making it to this one! It’s been a useful exercise in processing all of the amazing material gleaned during this conference, but I wanted it to be an opportunity also to signpost readers to some of the variety of the expat blogosphere and other resources too. I hope it’s useful…
Friday afternoon saw us gathering together to benefit from the rapid-fire Ignite sessions. The presenters of these deserve a special medal… they were probably the only speakers to keep strictly to time, as they had slides automatically forwarding every 20 seconds! They were concise and inspiring, and provoked reflection also. I especially enjoyed Emmy McCarthy‘s challenge to global women to be mindful of the ‘Mummy Wars’ and unite to create Global Village in which to raise our families… and Mary Bassey‘s insights into the ways in which stereotypes of race in the globalization narrative are often unwittingly reinforced. Emma McCarthy has since written a post on how to prepare for an Ignite talk, and includes a link to her presentation – check it out here.
We had a chance in the afternoon to do some speed networking – and yes, it’s awkward as it sounds! But also really useful! There simply weren’t enough break points between sessions to connect with all the other delegates, and this was a fantastic opportunity to be very intentional about making connections and getting a bird’s eye view of the world of the globally mobile. Many thanks to the organisers for putting us through it! 😉
Saturday morning’s keynote was delivered by the dynamic Melissa Dalton-Bradford, who shared with us a very personal story of loss that had us all in tears. She skillfully connected us to her own experience through the power of empathy, helping us to connect with each other as a community through all the experiences of loss we shared. This, she shared, was the crucial role of the an empathetic community in supporting globally mobile families; to connect in our common experiences of vulnerability and loss and offer ourselves, incomplete as we are, to each other as a loving support system. As I sobbed though her talk, I wondered if a team of counsellors should actually travel around with Melissa (!), as the depth and intimacy of her presentation was unprecedented, and the power of emotion elicited was almost overwhelming.
The concurrent session I attended after I’d mopped myself up a little (!) was held by Anna Skoulikari and Dalia Abu Yassien, both of Bristol University. They presented on ‘Leaving the Global Family, Moving Across Homes’, centering on their experiences developing a TCK society at their university, only the second in existence on the UK university scene! Their passion for creating a safe space for TCKs in transition was inspiring, and encouraging. I’d had the pleasure of connecting with Dalia before the conference, and it was great to meet in person and hear more of their work.
After lunch, I attended Katarina Holm-DiDio‘s session on ‘PTSD and the Relocating Family’. My own work with TCKs (see more here) has reiterated to me the number of TCKs who stuggle with trauma on one level or another… and I was hoping to gain some useful insights. I was not disappointed. Katarina shared some invaluable information relating to her research on PTSD and cultural interpretation of stress that indicated the different ways in which different societies manage stress, and the implications of this on how PTSD is recognised and diagnosed. In particular, Katarina spoke of African and Asian societies more often experience physical pain or even paralysis rather than emotional instability, because those cultures are less emotionally expressive in times of stress. The stress internalises rather than externalises, and displays physically instead.
This revelation resonated with me strongly (and others in the audience also) because a family member of mine had recently been struck almost immoble due to a progressive pain and paralysis in her limbs. Doctor’s could not explain it or treat it, and though we had an idea it had been triggered by stress we were left reeling by it. By a miracle (and I do not use this word lightly) a healing service at church had provided a safe space to grieve what was happening, and reminded her of the love and support around her, though no physical healing had taken place. The day after this service, however, she found the pain had simply gone, and she could walk where previously she’d been dependent on a walking frame and mobility scooter. We were overwhelmingly grateful though shocked, and the physical healing has thankfully remained.
So listening to Katharina’s talk, the pieces began to fall into place. My family member, also a TCK, was raised in an African country, and had absorbed a lot of the tendencies to process emotions internally. She had experienced multiple traumatic experiences however, yet displayed more physical than emotional symptoms. The doctors treating her saw a White British patient, however, and would have been more attuned to presentations of stress in line with this cultural background, unaware of her hidden cultural experiences. PTSD was not a part of the diagnostic conversation. And yet, when she had access to a highly emotional space, yet one that felt safe and validated, the physical symptoms were eased dramatically.
The implications of this research on TCKs suffering from stress or PTSD is huge. Amy Jung, present in the audience, also shared about Complex PTSD, a relative newcomer on the diagnostic scene, and shared some useful materials on this term.
Complex PTSD – U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Complex post-traumatic stress disorder – Wikipedia
This session achieved something very special… It taught – gave us access to greater knowledge of issues pertinent to the experience of being TCKs – and helped us to apply that knowledge to our lives in applied and useful ways. In fact the whole conference had this dual thread running through it.
Thank you FIGT! Thank you for giving me access to the wealth of knowledge out there, and for being human and grounded enough that this knowledge has the opportunity to move from the cerebral to the lived experience, for it is there that knowledge may encourage, comfort and inspire.
See you next year!