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Living in limbo: the particular trauma of being a Victorian right now

So, as restrictions are announced and the COVID-19 landscape changes yet again, we’re not just dealing with the danger at hand; we’re also dealing with all those past traumas. The triggering is very real.

When danger arises, we are meant to mobilise, take action, and then return to a sense of security. But we are now living in a state of perpetual fight or flight, and we are not designed for this. Our stress hormones have been pumping for 18 months, but they aren’t able to do the thing – Mobilise! Take action! – that gets results. When we feel the reward of being able to take actions to defend ourselves, we have a sense of agency.

But in this case, we are being asked to perpetually defend ourselves from danger, without relief. We do what needs to be done, we rally, but the threat is forever looming. And the repeated lockdowns just reinforce this sense that the danger has not passed. We exist forever in limbo.

We are being asked to perpetually defend ourselves from danger, without relief.

We are being asked to perpetually defend ourselves from danger, without relief.Credit:Chris Hopkins

In May, I sat outside the Arts Centre on a freezing Melbourne night with my best friend. Under a blood moon, we drank red wine, knowing that the immersive dance performance we were about to see for Melbourne’s RISING festival was probably its last. Lockdown 4.0 had not yet been announced, but we could feel it in our bones.

Pendulum, the performance we were lucky enough to see, involved suspended bells, each pulsing and buzzing and humming in unison with the dancers’ movements. Its aim was to showcase the human body in a state of flux. It was hypnotic; the sound of the bells echoing through the NGV, reverberating off the walls. The dancers moved and dodged and braced and dipped, as each bell swung and swooped.

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And here we are again, all doing these choreographed dances, as we hear the sounds reverberating off the walls and our bodies look for movement. We brace. We dip and dive, beholden to factors outside our control.

Natasha Sholl is a writer and former lawyer living in Melbourne. Her book about grief and trauma will be released by Ultimo Press in February.

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