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Triggers, Tears, Trauma & Trust

Triggers are a bitch! Sneaky little fuckers who creep up on me, jump out totally unexpectedly, bite hard and scare the shit out of me. I had an interview a few days ago. I've been a mess ever since. Little did I know, that a seemingly harmless question would trigger days of trauma and tears, unlock an overwhelming reaction, send me back down that bottomless pit of sadness and disappointment and bring up my one remaining roadblock to stand steadfast in front of me. Taking my best friend of 40 years to point it out and unblock the floodgates.

Now this job means a lot. It's another step to re-building my life again. Getting it would mean more financial independence, having some purpose wider than my family and simply feeling important and worthy again. It is a big thing and I have been very aware of that. I swotted hard. Harder than I ever have for a job interview before. I answered all the questions, the interviewer had no follow-up questions, I felt I did ok, but you know what it's like after an wish you'd done better, you pick yourself apart, go over everything little thing. You prepare yourself for the bad news and kick yourself for what you think you could've done which would have got you the job, which you don't know you haven't got yet!

5 hours later I was a big crying, anxious mess. Completely devastated. Had I got the job? I had no idea???? I still don't!

The next day I felt sick all day. That night I had another horrific nightmare, woke up drenched in sweat, with my heart beating out of my chest. So many of the discovery emotions were back. I was inconsolable, lost back down the hole of disappointment and sadness which so happily swallowed me back up again. I didn't want to get up. I couldn't get up. I just needed to cocoon and cry. So I did. Curled up and let it all come out.....aaaaaagain. Doubled over, wretching in pain and howling that oh so familiar howl that I have befriended over the last two and a half years.

That afternoon I called my oldest friend. The one who knows me better than anyone on this planet. We've known each other 40 years. I told her I'd had an interview. She asked me how I was and I said I had been a mess and I didn't know why. I said I knew there was a lot built into this interview and job, but I was behaving pretty uncontrollably again. She started off being very pragmatic about the interview, as I told her the questions and my answers. Then she stopped me and said, "You got triggered, you know? Back up to that question again."

Now, these questions were competency-based. The ones which start "tell me about a time when....." They were so bloody long that 10 seconds into my answer and I had forgotten what the question was! I can't remember the full question, but it was something about showing resilience when dealing with difficult people. As soon as my friend pointed it out, I knew she had nailed it. In fact, it brought back how my experiences abroad had flashed up in my mind, ever so quickly just before I picked my answer.

Bang! Trigger, right there and I hadn't even noticed it. "That's what you had to do the whole time you were away and had to live in that place being judged and talked about."

My God, was she right!

Can you imagine that as an answer in an interview??

"So Mrs.....using the STAR technique, can you tell me about a time you showed resilience when faced with difficult people?"

"Of course, Mrs. Interviewer.....The situation; my husband had an affair when stationed abroad and I had to move out there to save my family. The task; to live 200m down the road from the righteous and vile, remorseless other women while being gossiped and talked about by various prominent people across the Army camp for 20 months. My actions? Well, I had to use every ounce of self-control I had not to firebomb her house, scream blue murder at these people and rise above it every day. I carried myself with as much dignity and grace as I could, fought off suicidal and homicidal thoughts and compulsions pretty much every day, continued to look after my kids and husband, make friends, get a job and be the charismatic, confident person that I am. The result? Fucking emotional, mental and physical exhaustion, PTSD and 2 1/2 years of fucking shit. But hey, my marriage is intact and I saved my family. How's that for resilience?"

What this trigger also brought to the surface was how close I am to feeling normal again. I could literally feel it, one step ahead of me. All I have to do is take that step. Letting go of all of this and trusting. Just stepping into the old carefree me and being happy. Moving through life with excitement and vigour. Just being the person I want to be. God, it feels amazing. It's so close, I can feel, taste and touch it. It's so God damn close and it feels soooo good. All I have to do is step. Just step and take it.

Be it.

Live again.

Can I do it?

Can I fuck! I am terrified.

I described it to my friend as being thrown to snarling, vicious wolves or being lead out blindfolded in front of a firing squad. Pushed out into a coliseum full of people cheering and screaming violently at you, wanting to see you get eaten and killed. Defenseless and scared, wondering how the fuck you got there and why everyone hates you so much. Unable to get out. Terrified. Then realising the person who pushed you in, locked the door and fucked off, was your husband.

This fear is real and despite all the work I have done since D-day, it's the final hurdle that still brings me to my knees every fucking time. This is the trust aspect I grapple with. Not the "why is he on his phone, where is he, what is he doing?" that my naive pre-affair viewpoint assumed was meant by broken trust. That doesn't even register with me. This is on a whole different level. It's the feeling that your husband slowly loaded a gun with bullets in front of you, handed it to a complete stranger and told her to shoot you. Shock, disbelief and utter terror.

That was this trigger. That seemingly harmless question in an interview, compounded by feeling like I was being judged and having to prove my worth again (which of course is the whole point of an interview), but it was all too much. Too close to the core for me.

I want to step, I really, really do. I want this gone from my life. I want to let go. I want to be me. I want to be free.

But I can't. I am still too frightened. Yet I am just as frightened I will feel like this forever. Hold myself back from that freedom forever.

I told my husband. After apologising again, he said, "you might not be able to step today, but another day you might."


1 Comment

Trudy Love
Trudy Love
Jun 04, 2021

I can so relate to this. I just was passed up for a promotion and it was given to a younger woman with less seniority but more "vision". Once again, another woman was chosen and I felt those same feelings.

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