Trauma Redux



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As many of you know, either because you know us personally, you’ve read this website since the beginning, or you read my memoir, I have a bad, nasty, horrible history of phone calls in the night. Okay, let’s get real, how many bits of good news are delivered via phone in the wee hours of the night, right?

On October 9, 2013, while we were still sleeping, the phone rang at 5:34 in the morning, with the news that our beloved Sam “might” be dead. You know how that story goes, there was no “might” about it.

Now, long before that call, I had trouble sleeping. I’ve had insomnia most of my life. Sam’s death moved it to biblical proportions.

Fast forward to last night. I was in a rare deep sleep cycle, and at 3:34 a.m. this morning, the phone rang. I was so asleep, I thought it was the alarm (which I turned off, meaning that I overslept this morning), but finally realized it was the phone. In the dark, I struggled to find the receiver and croaked. “Hello?”

The woman on the other end barked. “Oh. Wrong number,” and slammed down the receiver. No apology. Nothing.

Here’s the thing. That simple wrong number isn’t just a wrong number when you have experienced a trauma that originally arrived from a phone call in the wee hours of the morning. It isn’t that simple. That phone call last night threw me into hours of a racing heart, fear, grief, sadness, a little bit of anger for the woman’s cold response, then contemplating what is coming with the ALS, and how I can help with that. From 3:34 until 5:48 (the last time I looked at the clock), I had hours of grief, fear, and anxiety. I can’t tell you how many times I talked myself through mindfulness breathing routines. I did the full-body tense-and-relax activities. I envisioned a white wall and focused on it. I visualized the places on earth where I am happiest, and the people I am happiest to be with there. None of that helped because I was too triggered.

Why am I telling you all this? Because if you have experienced trauma in your life, no matter how you try to protect yourself, you may come into situations where it is triggered, and it will knock the stuffing right out of you. Even now, my hands are still shaking and I am tired and fighting a headache from that adrenaline rush from when the phone rang. But the person calling didn’t set out to do this to me. While I would question why anyone is calling someone (it was a local Vermont number) at that time of the night, still, she didn’t plan to trigger me. But it did.

If you have a history of trauma, take care of yourself. Be gentle. Don’t expect perfection from yourself. And if you trigger someone else, own it, learn from it, and give as much love as you can to the person you have harmed.



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