Sensory input is connected to our memories, as a certain taste, smell, touch, sight or sound can immediately activate a memory, be it long dormant or perhaps recent. How often do we read or hear of someone trying to recreate a favorite recipe inherited from a deceased family member, with the remark that “it just doesn’t taste like the way grandma used to make it”? Hopefully most of the recollections are pleasant ones. Alas, sometimes that is not the case.
After Monday’s morning minyan, I turned on the radio to listen to the news as I was driving to my office. I knew that there had been a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California, but I did not anticipate what was about to be played on the radio. While I do not know if it was a video or just an audio recording, someone at the scene recording the sounds as the shooting occurred. I heard live(recorded) gunfire, the sound of which I had not heard in nine months, and it brought me back to October 27, 2018. I was distraught and shaken for the entire day. I can report that I am okay as of the writing of this blog.
I have come to learn that despite processing what occurred on that horrific day and integrating it into my being, harsh reminders will traumatize me once again, and that I do not have control of what that trigger might be. Possibly over time the response will be less severe, but that remains to be seen. There have been prior occasions when this has occurred, and I now understand that once you become a victim, despite how you learn to live with your memories and experiences, the potential remains to relive it any day.
I share this with you because this may be your experience as well, or perhaps that of a family member or friend. While never suggesting that I am a specialist in mental health, I have learned that trauma is not always immediate, but can occur years after an event, and has no specific timetable. Sadly, some people are unable to process their trauma, as we have learned from one parent in Sandy Hook and two teens in Parkland. Part of being a member of a community, in whatever way you chose to define your community or communities, is to be mindful of the needs of others in our community. If you sense that something is just not right with someone you care about, better to reach out and help in error than not and be wrong. Do not respond like Cain did to God. Be your brother’s keeper. Their well-being depends upon it.