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Archive for October 24th, 2011

Man under Palm Trees (c) Lynda BernhardtMy father-in-law took my son and me for a visit to his college alma mater at a military school. We watched the military parade, ate lunch in the mess hall, and then watched a football game. I had a great time other than experiencing a strong trigger reaction during the military parade. The trigger tied into two traumatic events from college, both of which I wrote about in this blog entry.

The first memory had to do with a gang rape of sorts, although in fairness to the perps, I probably appeared to be consenting. What I did not share before was that this was a party attended by many men in ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corp). So, visiting a military campus, where all of the men were in ROTC and in uniform, was the first trigger.

The second trigger was the smell of a man’s cologne. It was the same cologne that my ex-boyfriend used to wear – the same ex-boyfriend I wrote about in that blog entry who raped me in his dorm room at a different college.

So, we were standing around the parade grounds with hundreds of other people watching the ROTC parade with the smell of that man’s cologne hitting me. I couldn’t get away – it was very crowded, and I was there with my kid and father-in-law, which was chatting with a fellow alum and his wife as other people pressed in around us to watch the parade.

I got lightheaded. I told myself I couldn’t leave, which moved me into feeling dizzy and then the blood draining out of my head. I dropped to my knees to try to stop myself from fainting.

At this point, my father-in-law noticed that something was wrong and directed me to a nearby bench that I had not noticed before. With deep breaths of air not smelling like my rapist’s cologne, the dizziness/lightheadedness went away, and I felt more like myself again.

After the parade, we took my son to the gift shop, which is where all of those other people went as well. It was hot and crowded, and I had to wait in line for 20+ minutes with wall-to-wall bodies. That didn’t bother me a bit – no lightheadedness at all.

It has been a long time since I was hit that hard with a trigger. I am used to the “floaty,” lightheaded feeling, but I don’t recall feeling ready to faint. Of course, I used to dissociate with regularity, so I probably was unaware of how hard a trigger would hit me. I guess I should celebrate that I was able to stay present through it.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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