The Before

Where what was thought to be perhaps just a season to pull through, prevailed into years of an increase in baseline heart rate. Where she became blind to her own tribulations, despite how confronting they were to outsiders. Years where she could not tolerate knowing what she had experienced, nor could she comprehend her new change in brain biology, her hijacked digestive track, or how her nervous system became provoked with induced hormones of urgency and panic. She was faced with the embodiment of a faulty alarm system that led to blowups or shutdowns in response to her innocuous comments and facial expressions.

Born from conflict and raised on a battlefield, trauma lingers. Trauma violates the ideals we try to live up to, and smirks as it reveals with disgrace that sometimes it is the things we love most that destroy us. Trauma proceeds in violence, always; and strikes deeply and shockingly like the violation to the archetype of the mother as all-protecting of her young. Not always, you see, laughs trauma. Trauma can look like being presented with mutualising terms that excuse their chaos. And the counter response? It was fawning, for her - utilised daily, tirelessly, as she tried to keep the unpredictable behaviour away. Trauma, like poison, is mostly covert, but visible in its work. Silent and deadly, with capacity to span across decades and generations, trauma seeds itself in cells that mutilate, and leaves people in a flood of volcanic ruin.

The After

With her children at her forefront, she became an agent in her own rescue - her very own cleanup crew. She became the sandbag wall - an expert in how to deal with devastation. Her symptoms became part of her strength, and she was able to master control in the face of stress because that is all she had ever known. A master in ascertaining intent behind behaviour, she learnt that sometimes the best things lie on the other side of our fears. There can be power over panic, and it is possible that dignity can be restored and upheld. Because despite her kindness, a gateway violated by others, her inner strength was unmistakable. Her ability to balance gentleness and love, with fierceness and strength proved that she had no intention of shying away from the suffering of others. Now she had the knowledge necessary to respond effectively to our most urgent communal health issue.

With an intimate personal knowledge of trauma, and a hope of bridging the indifference to become a trauma-conscious society, she knew that silence never made history, and that at times we must be willing to endure the discomfort. She aimed to be a contributing member of society, to live fully and securely in the present, to be accountable for her success, and to be curious - a trait she had no opportunity to be in survival mode. There is importance in curiosity, you see, because being certain does not allow you to seek alternatives.

As we all try to figure out how to tell our stories, let us declare with confidence that boundaries do not have to be set in stone or identical across situations; let us declare that we are allowed to relax, alter, tighten, or shift our boundaries at any time; let us bask in the knowledge that whatever is happening is finite, and will, at some point, come to an end - adding to our ability to tolerate; and may we dwell in the understanding that only certain things deserve our reactions. Let us sing loud and proud that it truly does not matter if it is real - it merely matters because of the power it holds. And so, may we restore as we rebuild, and may our grief be followed by action. May the goal always be solace, safety, and sanctuary; and may we always believe in the power of reciprocity, of love - knowing with full conviction that we can live safely in someone’s heart, and that not all people will our submission. May we be at peace knowing that trauma’s aftermath never truly ends; that our systems may always, to a degree, monitor risk; and that we can still, despite it all, hold capacity to be a resource.

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