I never really understood what it meant to be triggered. On social media it seems to be a byword for someone who is ‘too sensitive’, and whilst I understand the true meaning of it, I never fully grasped what a crappy thing it is to be triggered until recently. I’m guessing that I’ve been triggered before, but I don’t think I’ve had the self-awareness to recognise it for what it is until now.
At least as far as my own experience goes, being triggered is not just about getting upset over being reminded of something bad in your past. It seems to me that when you are triggered that reminder serves to, emotionally, put you right back in that place you so desperately want to forget.
I really don’t remember much about my childhood, and I prefer to keep it that way, but some things stuck. None of them are good. When I was about 16 my mum got a gall stone stuck in her bile duct, which caused her to go bright yellow. She was admitted to hospital, and since my dad was (is) a complete waste of space, myself and my little brother and sister went to stay with some aunties, on my mum’s side of the family.
That side of the family is extensive. My Nan and granddad popped out kids into the double figures, and cousins, well, we stopped counting when we got past 30. Growing up the message was clear – if anything ever happens we’ll be there for you. What a load of shit.
As a kid we were always visiting my mum’s side of the family. Everyone loved my dad, thought he was a ‘diamond geezer’, but after he dumped his family for some disgusting old trout (after years of emotional abuse I might add) you’d think they’d stand by their sister, right? Nope! Amongst other despicable things, my uncle (my mum’s own brother) let my dad rent his flat, which in itself is pretty low, I think.
So, mum goes into hospital, and I’m already at breaking point at this stage after the messy divorce, plus I’m at a pretty delicate age that’s difficult for any teenager to deal with at the best of times. I’m trying to get to grips with that, plus I’m at college and barely coping with what I now recognise as crippling anxiety. I’m self-harming pretty badly too, but no one knows about that yet.
Thankfully, I go to stay with one aunt and my brother and sister stay with another, but we are only there for one night before they decide they don’t want us.
After being dumped back home where I start to figure out how I’m going to look after two school-age-children, cope with college and try not to worry too much about my mum, the phone rings. It’s my uncle, and he wants to know where my dad is because he hasn’t paid the rent. I said I don’t know (I didn’t, and yes it’s a touchy subject with someone whose family has let them down so monumentally), so he gets angry that I’m not giving him the information he wants. He hangs up the phone but then calls straight back. I don’t answer it, so I’m left a lovely answering machine message informing me I’m a cunt, and that he wouldn’t piss on me if I was on fire. ‘Scuse the foul language, by the way.
That evening an aunt picks us up to take us visiting at the hospital, and I’m told not to tell my mum I’m upset. The one single adult I feel like I have left in the whole world who cares about me, and I’m not allowed to say anything.
Aaaaanyway, mother gets better and I set to work not thinking about this kind of stuff, whilst keeping a hatred of everyone on my mum’s side of the family simmering on a low heat for the rest of eternity.
On Monday, my mum was back in hospital for an operation, and oh boy did I find out what being triggered really meant. On top of being worried about mum, I felt the huge weight of responsibility settle on my shoulders and honestly, I felt like I’d be crushed by it.
Things were very different this time around though. My brother and sister are both adults now, and if I ask them for help, they’ll give it. I’ve got some pretty marvellous friends who are only ever a text or a call away, and I actually have quite an amazing support network at work, of all places.
I know all of this, but for the last two weeks I’ve felt like a frightened and abandoned child who is completely alone in the world. I’ve been wondering whether, if I saw my father, I might try to wring his wrinkly old neck. Because I’m so furious that he wasn’t there when we needed him in the first place. Which is weird, because he’s the very last person I want help from right now. ‘Triggered’ seems like a very small word for such a big feeling.
Whilst waiting for the hospital to ring, a couple of aunties are incessantly trying to get hold of me, wanting updates. Every time the phone makes a sound I’m on it, my heart pounding, anticipating the news of how the operation went. My brother and sister are with me, and they sit up straight and pay attention. The whole room is on high alert. But nope, it’s an annoying aunt. After the initial shot of adrenaline, all I can think is, alternately, ‘where were you when we needed you?’ and ‘I hate you so much, I wish I didn’t have to have anything to do with you’.
Mother is on the mend now, and although we don’t know exactly what the future holds (we are waiting to hear what, if anything, happens next) I’m sure now that I can deal with it. I won’t crumble when my family needs me, and I’m choosing to see it as a good thing that I’ve had to revisit all of these feelings.
By thinking it through, I’ve been able to challenge my own thoughts. I think I’m all alone, but I’m not. I think I can’t cope, but I can. I think everyone will abandon me. They won’t – the family and friends I’ve chosen to keep in my life won’t let me down.
So, this was my brain on Monday. Tuesday was an insanely frustrating day, trying to get my mother out of the hospital, which we eventually achieved a mere 6 hours after she was physically ready to be discharged. About five of those hours were spent waiting for a letter to be printed off for her to take home with her, just outlining what she’d had done. I’m failing to see why that took so long but also, another hour was spent waiting for the pharmacist to deliver some unknown drug for mum to take home with her.
Whilst some poor person was no doubt sitting in recovery for hours waiting for a bed to become available (as my mum had been the day before) a bed was being taken up waiting for a patient to be given Co-codamol, a frikkin drug you can buy in a supermarket for under 30p.
A) why didn’t they give her the prescription so we could collect it from the pharmacy ourselves? Not that we would have bothered, we have a drawer full of over-the-counter painkillers already… and B) why the flip is the NHS giving out prescriptions for stuff like that in the first place? How much must that cost? At least ask if it’s needed first!
Wednesday I was late getting to sleep as we had shopping delivered, then on Thursday I took my brother to an awards ceremony. I can’t go into details (at his request, he keeps things on the down-low) but we spent the afternoon hobnobbing with important police officers and commissioners. It was a weird kind of afternoon, but we both did surprisingly well in a social situation we both found excruciatingly uncomfortable.
Friday and Saturday I slept most of the day (keep in mind I’ve been working nights as usual) and now finally, finally I’ve had enough rest in order to be able to think straight.
I haven’t felt Christmassy at all so far, and what with everything that’s been going I haven’t felt like wearing my Christmas hats or anything like that. However, I am off work now for four whole nights!
So, expect normal service to resume shortly, with hopefully three weeks’ worth of festivities somehow crammed into a few days. Challenge accepted!
Thanks for reading,