Leaving Sarajevo was much harder than I anticipated. I spent time with friends and family traveling afterwords, and this was pretty effective in allowing me to avoid reintegration for a little longer. Then I am home, and starting to work full-time, and I have been a witness to one of the darkest times in human existence but no one else around me has. How can I hold these stories of death, survival, and resilience and spread truth? At first I told it exactly how it was, especially to those closest to me, and even if the only question was how my vacation was. But then a funny thing happened, and I stepped away from Bosnia, genocide, and war for a while. I worked, I lived, and I avoided (including this blog post). It was so easy to do.
This week I reconnected with another close friend, and told the stories and experiences I brought back with me again in great detail, over many hours. I felt reconnected to my experience in Bosnia again, and felt guilty for taking space from it in the first place. This is a small part of our privilege as witnesses, and not survivors. At any time we can leave the trauma behind. Though it is always there to come back to, this is and will continue to be a balancing act, both in my personal life and experiences as a trauma clinician. The pain and suffering of others affects me deeply when I listen to and attune myself to it, but I can stop at any time. My goal for reintegrating after my experience in Bosnia is to spread the truth and stories I have learned in a sustainable and consistent manner. I have found some ways over the last week to weave these into my thoughts, conversations, and daily life without feeling overwhelmed. I hope to encourage people to listen to the difficult parts of my experience as well as the ones filled with joy, and to be respectful of the knowledge I have and limits of others.