Kim Kardashian West is apparently toying with the idea of going back to Paris for Fashion Week, which would be the first time she returned to the city since she was robbed at gunpoint in October of last year, according to sources at People. While her actual travel plans are TBD, it does bring up an interesting question: Will this trip bring up painful memories of her traumatic robbery?
West hasn't explicitly said that she has post traumatic stress disorder, but her sister Khloé Kardashian did call the event "traumatic" — and most experts would agree that being robbed, gagged, and bound, and having your life threatened, would be categorized as traumatic.
Only about 20% of the population will experience PTSD — a mental health disorder that occurs after a traumatic event — but 70% of the population says they have experienced a traumatic event, according to PTSD United. "Generally, there's a very wide variation in how people respond to trauma," says Sumati Gupta, PhD, a clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma. "We can't speak to [West's] experience or any other celebrity's, because we don't know, so it's difficult to say what to expect when she goes back." Still, it's safe to say that heading to Paris might feel different this time.
"When we experience trauma, it's stored differently in your brain than a normal mundane activity," says Gabrielle Applebury, MFTi, a trauma specialist. "Trauma doesn't store completely, but instead splits off and gets stored in our unconscious." Even long after you've been able to disconnect the event from the place where it happened, your painful experience could be waiting to resurface in your memory, she says. We can assume West will not want to stay in the same hotel where she was robbed, but even just being in the city could be enough to bring her back to that moment in her memory.
"Returning to the scene of the crime, even if you're not consciously feeling triggered, can make you experience uncomfortable symptoms, like your heart rate rises, you breathe heavier, and generally want to avoid the situation," Applebury says. This is a basic evolutionary survival tactic: Our brains are wired to remember a dangerous event pretty much forever — hearing the rustling of leaves tells us to be on-edge, because one time there was a saber-toothed tiger around the corner, for example.
The unfortunate reality is that many people don't have a choice about returning to the place where something awful happened: They're forced to relive their trauma over and over again, because the "scene of the crime" is a place they can't logistically avoid. It doesn't matter if you experienced trauma at work, at home, or doing something you love to do, because your brain doesn't know to shut off your response. "If things aren't resolved, you have an unconscious drive to reenact the experience," Applebury says. West is reportedly in counseling as of October, which is a great and necessary step in anyone's healing process, but Applebury points out that if West did have a memory disorder, medication and counseling can help the symptoms, but won't erase the trauma.
Whether or not West returns to Paris is totally her call; her sister Kendall Jenner will be there, and Kanye West also expressed interest in going, according to People. If she does go, we hope this time will be different — but simply because she feels safe and happy.