by Fowsia Musse

My name is Fowsia Musse. I am the executive director at Maine Community Integrations in Lewiston, and I want to share some thoughts I had on May 27.

I became a refugee child on May 27, 1989. Seeing and enduring events and tragedies that a young girl should not have seen impacted my mental health in ways unimaginable. Later, coming to the United States, I learned that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. 

The war fought back home was centered around inequality and the struggle for power in the Somali government. When you suffer from trauma, and especially intergenerational trauma, it often manifests in different realms and arenas of our lives, often without our even noticing.

During the coronavirus pandemic, some of the day-to-day lifestyle changes in Americans reminds me a lot of the traumas I witnessed back home. On May 27, I went to Walmart, where I witnessed lines and lines of shoppers. This reminded me of the lines of people back home in Somalia waiting for food and water. Although a subtle reminder, it was a reminder, nonetheless. The memory also had a positive side. It reminded me of the graces and freedoms that we may sometimes have in our lives. Seeing the lines at Walmart took me back to a time in my life where I was living in a constant state of fear – constantly running away. But 31 years ago, I would have never imagined myself to be in the place I am now.

Recognizing triggers and reminders of the things that have hurt us or harmed us is an essential part of healing and taking care of our mental health. It is always good to take the time to engage in mental health care and take care of yourself – enjoy life! Take a picture, laugh, and be happy.