Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash
On another occasion, I had collected brush from around the farm in an effort to clean up the apple and apricot orchards. It was dry brush; perfect for a family campfire. A little newspaper at the bottom of the twigs and larger sticks and limbs at the top made for the perfect recipe. My brother struck the match, threw it at the newspaper, and the fire began growing steadily until it was burning as a typical fire would.My brother and I cut down a tree that had potential to fall and damage the shed and barn. We cut, split, and stacked the logs but left the brush in a large pile in the yard. Because it was green wood and brush, my brother, who was very intelligent but rather carefree and fearless, doused it in gasoline. He was standing about five feet away when he lit the small cardboard match. A deafening boom was heard, and the ground shook. I looked over at my brother, and he was laying on the ground about 15 feet away with singed arm hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows. One tiny match caused an instant, blazing fire.
Finally, my brother worked with the youth in the church he attended. He and my sister-in-law invited the youth group to come to the house for a bonfire. It had rained the day before, and the wood was damp. My brother was not deterred, but his children were afraid of another earth shaking boom. He lit the match and held it to the newspaper and dry kindling to gradually heat up and dry the small twigs. He then used the heat and fire from the dry twigs to dry the larger sticks. Eventually the logs were also burning. It was a slow process, but the fire kept the teenagers warm and made great s’mores.
Why would I tell these three stories? Because the match and fire in each of those stories carries metaphorical significance to me.
I have experienced many instances of trauma throughout my life. In 2006, I experienced trauma that I held very close to my chest. I did not talk much about it, and I was not comfortable with thinking about it (I still prefer not to talk or think about it). I was impacted by several stressors in 2015 that created a devastating blow and sent me down a path of depression, desperation, guilt and shame, and multiple hospitalizations over the course of several years. During one of my stays, my doctor looked at me after listening to me speak very vaguely about the trauma I endured and said, “Why now?”
About a week before entering the hospital this time, my phone rang from across the room. My husband said, “Your brother is on the phone.” I replied, “Which one?” I immediately cried; I cried the ugly cry. A few weeks later, while in the hospital, I did the same thing. I was speaking with my husband on the phone when he told me that he needed to put me on speaker phone so he could read a text message from my brother. I asked which brother. It stung again. I waited until I hung up the phone before I sobbed, but the pain was almost unbearable throughout the morning. I was still raw from the first time it happened. Before I spoke with my doctor that afternoon, the nurse informed him that I had been having a rough day. He asked me what was going on. I explained the entire situation. I explained that I have a difficult time with my brother’s death because I also tie it directly to the trauma I experienced in 2006. His response? “Why now?”
Why now? I hate that question. Does anyone understand how invalidating that question feels? Does anyone know that I feel misunderstood and that what I have experienced becomes insignificant when that question is asked?
Why now? Because I was triggered; that’s why. Because sometimes things come up. Sometimes memories, dreams, flashbacks, sights, lighting, sensations, sounds, scents, tastes, and other things can be triggering.
Why now? Sometimes a trigger is like a match that lights a pile of brush doused in gasoline, and it instantly explodes with no latency. There is a trigger and an immediate, intense reaction. Sometimes a trigger is like a match that lights a pile of newspaper and dry wood, and it seems to be a typical or acceptable amount of time from trigger to response. But sometimes? Sometimes a trigger is like a match that slowly heats up and dries out the wood until it can become that raging bonfire.
Why now? What a terrible question.