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Trauma and the true value of holidays

I realised how important holidays are the day we left Kangaroo Island. It was 7 January and the heat wave had bush fires raging across the country. I dropped Gordon off at Rapid Bay, one of the best jetty dive sites in Australia, so he could snorkel. It was too hot to take a toddler to the beach.Rapid Bay | Blah Blah Magazine So, I took a drive around the country lanes with the air conditioning on full. Heckler slept as we passed fields of gold, cut through forests, dipped down into green valleys and around quaint farms.Rapid Bay | Blah Blah Magazine
Professor Gordon Parker of the Black Dog Institute was talking about trauma on ABC radio. I have now reached that age where I like listening to people talking on the radio… Parker is a big guy in the Australian world of psychiatry and his name came up a lot when I was working with a psychologist. He was talking about how to cope with traumatic situations, based on the work he has done with those who survived the Black Saturday bush fires in Victoria.
The interesting thing about our brains is that they seem to be wired to cope. A lot of people spend the first couple of years after a traumatic event carrying on, rebuilding, moving on and the like. However, according to Parker’s research, something interesting can happen after three years. Just when we think we have rebuilt our lives in the pragmatic sense the emotional floodgates open and things can fall apart. It’s a survival mechanism that allows us to get on and cope and it is only when things seem safe or are at a safe distance we start to process what happened.
It’s now three years since my waters broke when I was twenty weeks pregnant with Heckler. He was born three and a half months early and we have spent the last couple of years in the delirium of early parenthood, having his developmental milestones assessed, doing his physio exercises and generally trying to convince specialists that he probably doesn’t need a speech therapist, because he talks the leg off the chair at home, he just shuts up in hospital examination rooms – doesn’t say boo. We have been coping, carrying on and counting our lucky stars.
We were some of the fortunate ones who got to take a baby home. Five of our little humidicrib neighbours didn’t make it. Hang out in a neonatal intensive care unit long enough and you see a lot of death. I often wonder how the parents of those beautiful babies are doing. It’s coming up on three years since they held their little ones until the last breath and placed them in tiny coffins.
Parker finished the interview by saying  that the problem with the three-year delay is that it can take people by surprise and that they often don’t understand what is happening, because so much time has passed since the incident they thought they were over it.
The news came on the car radio and reported more fires burning. It was time for me to return and collect Gordon from the jetty.Rapid Bay | Blah Blah Magazine I told Gordon about the three-year theory and then picked on him until we had a fight. I could see what I was doing, but I couldn’t stop myself. I wanted a fight. I wanted the dirty laundry out in the holiday air, where all that salt, sand and sun could help me clean it and clean it did.
Holidays are so much more valuable than we often give them credit for. Beautiful places and relaxation are wonderful, but sometimes it’s the spaces in between that prove invaluable. Stripped of my daily routine to fall back on, I could feel something brewing and all that big sky time helped me blow it away so I could return home with clear eyes and an open heart.

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Cybele Masterman (Bele) trained as a beauty therapist, aromatherapist and journalist. After working as all of the above has found herself on a quest for a beautiful and meaningful life that doesn't cost the earth. Follow on google: +blahblahmagazine twitter: @blahblahzine or Instagram: BlahBlahMagazine

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13 comments

  1. That’s beautiful Belle. xxx

  2. I think it could be true. I was made redundant in October from my long term job … since then I’ve been so busy building my own business & getting on with life that I haven’t really thought about it, even though it was devastating. I’ll keep an eye out for my mental health when things settle down a bit / the 3 year point – whichever comes first!

    • The brain is amazing in the way it works. Good luck with all your new adventures it all sounds very exciting and maybe the three year mark might be the perfect time for a holiday x

  3. Beautiful Bell x

  4. That is a very interesting theory of Professor Gordon Parker’s and it makes sense. I think we are wired for survival. Some sort of adrenalin kicks in, so it’s not surprising that down the track the emotional floodgates may open. I also love the way you have written this post … particularly explaining how getting away from daily routine can allow us the ‘space’ to process some things that we otherwise don’t have the headspace to do. So glad you returned home from your holiday with clear eyes and an open heart 🙂 xo

  5. It makes perfect sense to me. I’ve had the most intense 3 – 5 years and it’s all hit me now. I’ve heard Professor Parker on the radio too (yes, I’m at that stage in life as well!). He speaks so well and profoundly.

  6. Great thought and article Bell. Look out Christmas this year! 🙂

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