Coping Through Journaling: A Gaza Student’s Journey Amidst War Trauma

Journaling war: How one Gaza student coped with trauma

Today, the enclave witnesses a grim reality: over 90% of its population has been uprooted from their homes.

In Cairo, Shurrab’s life no longer hinges on the perilous confines of a danger zone, yet she grapples with the haunting memories of the UNHCR tent. Her relentless efforts to secure her parents’ safety in Gaza tether her to the past.

“My family remains under the tent. Its specter still haunts me,” she lamented. “I carry the weight of guilt, juxtaposed against my access to basic necessities like water, electricity, and shelter.”

‘The trauma persists’

While the psychological toll of war gained recognition with the advent of PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) in the 1980s, predominantly stemming from veterans’ ordeals in the Vietnam War, experts stress that enduring exposure to conflict engenders unique mental health dilemmas.

Amidst the enduring cycle of violence, military occupation, territorial annexation, and restrictions on mobility, Palestinian youths, and young adults, spanning the Gaza Strip to the occupied West Bank, confront profound psychological scars.

Coping Through Journaling: A Gaza Student's Journey Amidst War Trauma
Coping Through Journaling: A Gaza Student’s Journey Amidst War Trauma (Credits: NBC News)

“It’s among the most afflicted regions in the world, in terms of psychological distress,” noted Dr. Audrey McMahon, a psychiatrist affiliated with Doctors Without Borders, speaking from East Jerusalem.

Recent studies underscore the magnitude of the crisis. A comprehensive World Bank report from last year revealed that 71% of Gaza’s adult populace exhibited symptoms indicative of depression. Similarly, a Save the Children study in 2022 documented that over half of Gazan children harbored suicidal thoughts, with 80% grappling with emotional distress.

“When children exhibit such alarming levels of distress and depression, the question isn’t what’s wrong with these children, but rather, what’s wrong with the environment? This is far from normal,” emphasized McMahon, drawing from her on-ground experiences in Gaza.

Shurrab, cognizant of these harrowing realities, spearheads initiatives aimed at healing through art therapy in Cairo. Having survived seven wars in two decades, her journey fuels her fervor for mental health advocacy. Since resettling in Cairo, she has organized ten journaling sessions, attracting Palestinian refugees and Egyptians alike, and aspires to delve into creative therapeutic modalities through further studies.

In recent years, the therapeutic potential of journaling and expressive writing has garnered attention in mitigating conditions like PTSD fostering resilience amidst persistent anguish and bereavement.

Reflecting on her own journaling journey, Shurrab recalls the solemn vow she made before fleeing Gaza: to pen her diary’s final entry only if she survived the war. The last page bore poignant farewells and unresolved queries about her parents’ fate and her own uncertain future.

“Questions that still echo without answers,” she mused, contemplating the remnants of her Gaza journal.

Amidst the tapestry of uncertainty woven into her diary’s pages, Shurrab remains steadfastly optimistic.

“Traumas aren’t to be evaded,” she asserted. “They sculpt us, enrich us, and imbue us with profound wisdom and vitality.”

I'm Richard Rosales, I cover political news and ongoing US elections.