“There was a war coming...the streets were in chaos. Rival crews (were) vying for the crown... it would surely get bloodier before it got better.”
-Old Man Al
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder characterized by specific symptoms following a traumatic event. When we think of PTSD, we think of veterans--the courageous beings who put their lives on the line for our country. We think of the distress many of them experience after returning from combat—the “shell shock” or heightened reactions to stimuli, the avoidance of facing traumatic events they’ve experienced, and the nightmares and flashbacks. What most don’t think of, however, is the poverty-stricken war zone that most of us call “the hood”. These symptoms were best depicted in the two main characters of Love Seldom. Trust Never., East and Dos.
East was an easy-going guy who had an absent father and a mother who suffered from years of depression. After his father’s murder and his mother’s suicide, East coped with his grief by avoiding his true feelings despite having constant thoughts and flashbacks of times with his mother. Eventually, he found love in Tez. But when Ricardo suspected that Tez had betrayed him, East was forced to choose between his life or Tez’s. The murder East committed against Tez left him feeling regretful, riddled with guilt, and unable to “shake it”. Is there a possibility that East’s regret and avoidance of the trauma in his past is due to PTSD? What about the frequent flashbacks and memories of his mother?
Dos was always the cocky and arrogant one of the two, but over time there seemed to be a shift in his character. His obsession with survival led him to betray his friend and his own father. The scene that truly paints a picture of someone with possible mental illness was the night at the hospital after his father was shot.
“...where were you this morning when my father was shot? Cuz you been acting different ever since that night with Tez. Now you up here at the hospital acting all concerned and shit. It don’t add up.”
In this scene, Dos was on edge, paranoid, and seething—his responses were, without a doubt, heightened due to the stress he was under. Here, he was accusing someone, who had always been loyal to him, of being disloyal when he had been the most disloyal throughout the entire story—a sure sign of paranoia. Could the stress and trauma of seeing his father (and associates) turn his back on his right-hand man be the cause of Dos’s mind shift and paranoia towards East?
Although this is a fictional story, situations like this are, unfortunately, common in the real world. Survival is the name of the game in the hood. Understandably, people do what they feel they have to do to survive. Due to minimal money and resources, people often times turn to crime such as murder, robbery, and drug and sex trafficking. A lifestyle like this, for most, can be traumatizing and similar to actual war zones. Symptoms found in veterans like having nightmares, flashbacks and paranoia, are also commonly found in those who live in poverty. In 2018, 20.8% of those living in poverty were Black Americans (2.5 times more than Hispanics and approximately three times more than Whites). What this data suggests is a possible higher prevalence rate of PTSD in Black Americans.
Due to its prevalence, you may know someone who may have undiagnosed PTSD. Please refer to the following booklet for strategies on how you may support them. Of course, professional help is recommended, but these strategies are a start.
If you have lived through or have witnessed a traumatizing event and are currently suffering from nightmares, unwanted memories, heightened reactions, depression and/or anxiety, check out this website. There are plenty of resources listed, including trauma focused therapists who can be of a support to you.
Black People, show love. Trust the Process.