It was a rigmarole getting my hospital records in the first place.
“Yes, I know, but I need the records relating to my nose operations” I politely spoke down the line.
“Yes, I’ve had heaps of operations, but I’m interested in getting the notes from 2014 to 2020.”
“Yes I know there’s a lot of them.”
Back and forth, back and forth, like an Australian Open rally between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka.
But my surgeon needed the information about (one of) my nasal reconstruction operations, and so I persisted.
And finally – success! My records were getting released. I could expect them on Wednesday.
They arrive packaged up at my front door, and like a spiky-toothed ferret, I tear them open. A bundle of paperwork falls out, along with an innocuous looking, silver USB.
Later that night, I slot the USB into my MacBook, sip my cold tea and navigate to the drive.
Folders come up.
My heart starts beating faster. There’s dates on the folders, and I know what they might contain.
I double click.
An array of photos comes up.
Pictures of me getting escharotomies, literally being sliced up the length of my arms and legs to reduce the swelling to my extremities. The contrast between the garish polish on my toenails and the pallid eggshell white of my fat and flesh. Gory, grisly, gaping wounds of red and yellow and white.
I keep clicking through. They’re making me feel sick but I can’t stop looking.
My phone vibrates and it’s enough to disrupt me – I slam my computer shut and push my chair back from the desk.
I hate the word triggering. It implies something that you can’t turn back. A gun firing. A bomb detonating. Athletes diving off the starting blocks.
Stop it, stop it, stop it, stop it.
I go upstairs. The kids are asleep. I want to cuddle Michael but he’s asleep too. I talk to myself. “It’s okay, Turia” I say. “Anyone would be triggered. Anyone would be upset. Those photos just brought back some truly awful memories for you and that’s okay. It’s not your fault. You will get through tonight, you will get through this hour. You’ve been here before”.
Rahiti stirs and I’m grateful for the distraction, for the ‘thing to do’ right now, in this moment.
I pick him up. He is exquisite. I try and still my heart. I take some long and slow deep breaths.
I do my 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise. I look at Rahiti’s button nose, his soft little lips, his wispy hair, his sand coloured eyelashes, his chest rising and falling methodically. I feel his plush skin, his nappy bum, I press my finger against his cheek, I kiss my nose to his. I hear the white noise machine whirring, a car passing by on the street, the sound of him breathing in and out. I smell his skin, and then I smell it again for good measure. I taste the tannins of the cold tea in my mouth.
I gently place Rahiti back in his cot and shut the door.
I can’t sleep.
I can’t sleep.
I can’t sleep.
I lower my expectations for the evening. It’s no longer about me getting eight hours of solid sleep and the baby not waking and me feeling awesome in the morning and going to the gym. It’s literally about holding on until the morning. Things will be different in the morning. Nights are hard, nights are the hardest, I’ve done this before.
I make my bed on the couch. I leave the light on in the kitchen. I watch the whole season of Stateless. I drift in and out of sleep. My alarm goes off at 5 am but I’m already awake.
I go to the gym. I go through the motions. “Hello, how are you?”. I laugh. I sip my water. I haven’t brushed my teeth.
I work. I show up for Zoom meetings, hair brushed, smile stuck to my skin.
I take the boys for walks. We play in the sand. They cry. We laugh.
I eat perfectly ripe mangoes, and go for surfs, and catch up with my friends for Christmas drinks.
And then I call my psychologist.
It always does.
If you’re going through a hard time right now, know that I see you.
You really are not alone.
Speak to someone. Make an appointment. Chat it through.