recognizing your trauma trigger can set you free
Time does not heal all wounds. Unresolved trauma can be triggered by smell, anniversary, touch, sound. Recognizing your trigger can empower you.
As I sit outside trying to put on George Michael’s modified diapers (we don’t get dog diapers here), fix my son’s old suspender around his tiny shoulders, he wriggles and playfully tries to run away like he used to. His front legs pedal as fast as they can but he doesn’t move because his hind legs are paralyzed from his spine problem and old age. Before you read on I have to say, NO! this is not a tribute to a dead dog. George Michael is 17 years old and he is very much alive. This is a story of how he kept me alive!
George Michael (no association with the late singer) only responds to you if you call him by both his names. He owned his name. If you have ever owned a Jack Russell Terrier before you would know exactly how huge of an ego these tiny dogs have. Most people name their pets after their favourite movie star, a tribute to a loved one or even a vegetable (I know a dog called Rhubarb), but I named mine just because…..
We were watching the sitcom Arrested Development (not my favourite!) while trying to figure out his name and I think the name George Michael Sr. and Junior is uttered so many times in this series that we were brainwashed into choosing this name. And it stuck!
Putting on his diaper is recent routine, just started 2 months ago. The first day I had to put him on diapers, my heart wrenched and I cried for the whole week. Not only was I sad for his conditions but the sadness was much more deep-rooted. I was 19 years old again and standing right back in my mother’s living room, looking over my father who has soiled himself in his sleep. I could feel my heart twist, I could smell him as I helped my paralyzed father up to the bathroom to wash and change his diapers. I was very angry at my dad for getting into such a condition for like any daughters he was my idol. He was my place to complain because I just felt he loved me more. Although he had no authority over my mother’s decisions, it was comforting to have someone on your side.
My anger was mainly because I wanted him to fight the disease. I’m sure he can beat it if he tried harder! He is not trying hard enough! My dad can’t be so weak! My angry mode was ON full swing until he died. Only then did my family tell me that my father did not get paralyzed because of diabetes, he in fact, had 4th stage lung cancer which spread to his brain. In our culture, kids are not given the full information in the name of protecting the younger. I was the youngest. But what my family did was not protection, they robbed me my final days with my father. I was robbed of my goodbye. My closure. They gave me instead, my first BIG trauma.
This was 24 years ago; I should have gotten over this by now, right? But tears still run-down cheeks as I am writing now. ‘Time heals all wounds’, the saying goes. But passing of time does not heal trauma, it just postpones your healing (Cortman. C & Walden, J, 2018).
And you re-live it over and over again when you get triggered. Trauma can be triggered by anything from anniversaries, birthdays, a sound or even a smell. This time mine got triggered by me putting diapers on my once very healthy happy jumping dog!
Recognizing my trauma and my triggers allow me to take away the power it has over me. And that’s exactly what I choose to do. George Michael has watched me dance away in tears on top the table alone, he has sat at the door waiting for me to come home, he has jumped on me scratched me, even bitten me during his frustrating sexless teenage years. In fact, he even tried to eat my new born son! But he has never failed to love constantly for the past 17 years. It is just fair that I return the love with much more love. Every morning when I wake George Michael up, (call me paranoid) my heart skips a beat and I always check if his belly is moving from his breathing, just to make sure….. I am aware that my days with George Michael are numbered but I will not let my past trauma tarnish the memories I continue to make with him.
Allowed free to roam, trauma has a way of taking over your life.
Cortman, C., & Walden, J. (2018). Keep pain in the past. Mango Publishing Group.