It’s been more than 20 years since Tim Black was stabbed at a Vancouver apartment complex, but the trauma in the days that followed is something he’s been dealing with for a lifetime.
The drama began when Black heard yelling coming from a neighbouring suite and went outside to see what was going on. A man ran out into the hallway and the pair exchanged words, which quickly escalated into a wrestling match where Black was stabbed twice in the arm.
The physical wounds eventually healed, but Black noticed something wasn’t right in his head. His partner also noticed he was no longer his fun-loving self.
“I would wake up in the middle of the night, I was hyper vigilant, irritable, angry, just not the same person. I had a much lower tolerance for things not happening the way they should,” said Black. “It changed everything for me really. It changed my relationships, my way of being. Sleep in particular was a major problem.”
As part of his training to become a therapist, Black came across a paper about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It made him realize that he had all the classic symptoms — flashbacks, night sweats, hyper vigilance, problems sleeping and jumping at loud noises — so he decided to get help.
Learning how to deal with PTSD was a gradual process and is something Black still has to keep in check. If he gets stressed out and isn’t sleeping, the symptoms come back. He’s also stopped watching violent movies, military movies and the news — a lifestyle he calls a “zero trauma” diet.
Black’s personal experience with PTSD influenced him to become a trauma therapist and he now works as an associate professor of psychology at the University of Victoria, who specializes in treating military personnel and civilians. He’s also worked with first responders suffering from PTSD, which he said still has much shame associated to it.
“You can only take so much as a human being. Everybody has their own point where they’ve had enough…You can train people but it’s the one thing you didn’t inoculate them to that’s going to get them in the end,” said Black, who was ashamed for years to tell anyone about his own battle with PTSD.
“It’s because your body and brain are doing things to you that you don’t have control of. Any time you don’t have control over your own brain, people feel embarrassed…It’s not my fault that somebody stabbed me. That’s not my issue, that’s their issue. That’s why I speak about it because there is still that shame.”
When it comes to victims of crime, Black said everyone handles the aftermath differently, depending on what’s happened previously in their life.
The week of May 29 is National Victims and Crime Awareness Week. In order to mark the week, Restorative Justice Victoria has teamed up with the Men’s Trauma Centre and Greater Victoria Police Victim Services to put on the symposium, The Power of our Voices: Resiliency after Trauma.
Black will be one of the speakers at the symposium, along with Central Saanich Police Sgt. Andy Duke, who will talk about trauma and first responders.
The symposium takes place Monday, May 30 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the David Lam Auditorium. Tickets are $15 and $10 for students.