Monday, September 28, 2015


For years I have heard people talk about "triggers" or warn someone that a certain article or discussion might have triggers for some people. I knew what it was, and respected the concept, but couldn't really relate. I didn't have any that I personally recognized. Perhaps that is because I was lucky and had never really experienced such a profound trauma that could be triggered. 
That's not true anymore. 
For those of you who may be unclear on the concept of triggers, I took this definition from
trigger is something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma.Triggers are very personal; different things trigger different people. The survivor may begin to avoid situations and stimuli that she/he thinks triggered the flashback. She/he will react to this flashback, trigger with an emotional intensity similar to that at the time of the trauma. A person’s triggers are activated through one or more of the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.
While it doesn't always happen, it has happened often enough that I have to acknowledge that I believe I now have an official trigger bringing me back to last February. It happens only when I'm alone in the car and have to pull over for an ambulance with its siren going.

The other day I was driving home and heard a siren but didn't know where it was. It appeared several blocks in front of me as it came over a hill. I really didn't need to stop, but I always do. There was a car double parked and the ambulance was going to have to go around it and I figured with my luck I would be right in the way at the moment he needed to come into my lane. I had already stopped and was thinking about this and doing the rough calculations in my head (which if you know me is a hilarious concept). This thought process was more to justify my decision to be ultra cautious and pull over.

As everyone likely does, I  wonder who's in that ambulance and what happened and hope it will all be OK. I don't really feel sad or scared or anything except passing concern and good citizenship for getting out of the way.

 When the ambulance passed me I realized I was crying. And that's not the first time that has happened.  Perhaps that is due to the fact that I know first hand that sometimes it isn't OK for whoever is in that ambulance.

When the realization hits  I am suddenly sitting in that ambulance early on Valentine's Day 2014 with Maggie in the back heading for the hospital, knowing in my heart that this is the end. So I sit there on the side of the road for a few minutes as the other citizens move on. One guy gave me a strange look as he passed me like "Move it sister, show's over."  I smiled at his ignorance of my personal hell.
The feeling doesn't last long. I don't weep for hours, In fact generally the realization, the memory and the reaction are simultaneous and then it's over. I never feel it coming. It just happens.

Who knows if it will always happen - in fact I'm not sure it always does. Obviously I can't avoid these situations and they don't happen so frequently that it's disruptive. It's just something else out there in the world that I cannot control. I have decided to simply embrace it.

Sure it makes me sad for a few minutes, but that almost always "triggers" something about her that makes me laugh or smile. And there are a of more of those memories than the sad ones.


  1. I find it powerful that you've never had "triggers" given the amount of trauma you experienced even before Maggie died. I also find the brain -- the body -- the soul -- incredible in how they are so intertwined. What you say here about how quickly this happens just takes my breath away -- as does your acknowledgement of how the "good triggers" have an equal power. I think you're spot on in accepting both -- even embracing them. Thank you for sharing this insight.

  2. Every time I hear a siren I remember the EMT's streaming into our house to save Lu. Every time.
    Love to you~


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