Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget

Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating change you do choose. ~ Michelle Rosenthal

Triggers are defined as anything that sets off a particular response in someone. These responses are sensory reminders that cause painful memories to resurface. Trauma triggers are terrifying because they release a feeling of anxiety, unease or panic.

I have several lifetime trauma triggers going back to when I was 6 years old. The drowning of my younger brother, Owen, is one that triggers my fear of swimming or even submerging my face in water. Other triggers relate to growing up under oppression, having to face life identified as a second-class citizen.

One such trigger surfaced on a Sunday morning when Chris and I visited Alexander, our second grandson who was admitted to hospital.

‘Just one more’, Michelin said as we entered the room.

Chubbs, as Michelin affectionately calls him, because off his chubby cheeks, was sitting on his father’s lap, inhaling the puffs through the mask. His unruly mass of curls reminded me of Michelin at that age.

I was immediately transported back to sitting in the same position, with Michelin suffering the same condition at the exact age. Only back then we were in segregated living arrangements in South Africa. Yes, hospital wards were segregated for those old enough to remember.

The moment Alexander spotted us, he stopped the inhalation and jumped into Chris’s arms. The toys were scattered all over the bed. I noticed the crumpled bedsheets. Shoes and items out of Michelin’s bag were strewn over the chair and all over the fold out bed.

Back when Michelin was his age, our oppressors complicated our lives. We could be treated by white specialists, but in our own ‘non-white hospital section. There were few ‘non-white’ specialists, for obvious reasons. It was a mammoth challenge for ‘non-whites’ to reach that status of specialist. Anyway, I digress, but that’s how our memories work. There are many twists and turns, frustration, anger and plain old who the $&@$ do they think they are. Yes, present tense.

So, on this Sunday morning, in a hospital ward in the northern suburbs of Sydney, that scene triggered me. The visual of carrying Michelin from one part of the hospital to the other, because the specialist confused things. Michelin couldn’t be treated in the ward where the specialist tried to examine him. We were sent packing to the ‘non-white’ side. They did not want his little 3-year-old sick body to touch the sheets.

Trigger moment, when the nurse and doctor entered the room to examine Chubbs. I panicked, the room, the bed, it’s untidy. What will they think of us. Will they treat our little grandson differently. I didn’t notice that they were focused on Chubb’s progress. My eyes searched their faces, darted around the room and back to them.

I had to tidy the bed and the whole room because they will judge us. Panic, the toys needed rearranging, the bedsheets needed straightening, I dragged Michelin off the fold out bed, tidied the shoes, repacked his bag, wiped the surfaces. Where is the broom.

‘Mum, I am so exhausted, what are you doing?’

‘The specialist is coming; look at this place, we must clean up the room or he will look down on us.’

Mum, mum, relax, you are doing someone’s job. The specialist is coming to check on Chubb’s wellbeing. I doubt he will have time to look around the room.’

And so, I realised that my triggers will be forever a part of me. I am thankful that Michelin has no memories of the first three years of his life.

Note: Remind yourself that you are safe. Take slow deep breaths. I repeat a mantra in my head: I am safe. This is not then.

Share this post

Comments (2)

  • Clive Reply

    I doubt those thoughts will ever go away but there is just a tiny portion of my defiance that treats it with the contempt that it deserves. Let’s hope that never happens here.

    February 7, 2023 at 11:14 pm
    • Beryl Crosher-Segers Reply

      Thank you for reading my blog and for your comment. You are right, it never goes away. We somehow manage to live with these memories. We can’t stop racism but we can stop legislated racism. Warm regards.

      February 7, 2023 at 11:20 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.