I had a flashback in therapy yesterday.
It was the worst one I’ve ever had. I was not expecting it- there were none of the usual signs, like seeing hallucinations of my ex or constantly jumping at loud noises. I had been feeling dissociative all week (since I last wrote, Crisis Team have been seeing me daily) and I’d been squeezing onto a worry stone I was given by H to try and ground me, to keep me in the present. I didn’t know that was a sign for a flashback, but apparently therapy is tapping into places in my head where I can’t remember what happened consciously, but my subconscious knows all too fucking well and it poured out.
I came into therapy feeling jumpy and shot through with adrenaline so I tried to calm myself with the little buddha garden they have in reception. I stroked the rake through the sand, watching the grains trickle by, and started feeling a little better. Then Dr K came for me and we went to her office, only I’m not sure what she was saying and I can’t really remember how we started out conversation and it scares me because normally if I dissociate, some little part of me knows where I am and what’s happening. I just feel like I’m floating away and I’m outside my body, watching my life happen, but this has been different recently and I have been unable to remember huge chunks of my day.
Dr K asked me if I was ok because I looked like I was going to have a migraine, and I remember asking her to turn the light off, and then suddenly it was off, and the heater was going, the noise started to swirl and I couldn’t hear Dr K’s voice any more properly and I was being sucked through the back of my chair into a vortex. Dr K started asking me what was happening and I told her that I felt like I was travelling back in time. She asked me to hold my hand, my younger self’s hand, or maybe take J with me. I did both- J on one side, me on the other, and I travelled in this light place with images and scenes from my life flashing all around.
Suddenly I was sitting in my old flat in London. I was in the corner of my bed, that rickety thing that would squeak even if you rolled over. The curtains were drawn, the light dim, and there were clothes everywhere. His coat was on the computer chair, his shoes under it. His shirt hanging over his back on the foot of the bed.
I was terrified. The covers were all over. The blanket was neatly folded on the floor and the two toys I treasured the most from my childhood were lying on the floor on top of it. I was chilled, numb, shaking, in pain. I was naked from the waist down, knees drawn up to my chin, feet crossed, head buried in my knees. I pulled the covers over me, wrapping myself in a nest. The bedding was my parents’, and even that wasn’t helping me to feel safe.
The back of my neck hurt like hell, ached like I’d been trying to hold it up. My lower stomach was creased in agony. There was blood on the bedsheets. Lower still, I smarted and stung and throbbed. I wanted to get the pyjama bottoms that were on the floor, I wanted to reach out and hold my two toys close to me. I wanted to run out of the door, even dressed how I was, but I couldn;t because he was suddenly in the doorway.
Dr K’s voice guided me, asked about what I could see, asked me how I felt, asked what was happening. I knew he wanted to start again. He was asking why I had wrapped the duvet round me. He wanted to know why I wasn’t waiting for him. He put his hands on the back of my neck and I pushed them away under Dr K’s guidance.
I knew what he wanted- sex, again, until he had had enough. It didn’t matter what I wanted. I had no right to say no. I felt sick, shaking, dreading the next thing, but numb on top of all that so he couldn’t see.
Dr K asked me to push him away, out of the doorway of my room, so I did- he fell, down a huge black gaping tunnel, and I resurfaced, crying and shaking and panting for air and scrambling for words.
I kept asking her if what I had just been through was real. I wanted to know if I was still there but also if this was a real memory, if I really had seen what happened after that time that I was in pain having sex and asked him to stop and he just carried on. I documented that here, in a post called the worst thing. Dr K said that she thought so, and she thought I was brave, and that I was safe and I was with her in hospital and I didn’t need to feel afraid any more.
I spent the rest of the session recovering. I hurt still, and Dr K explained that I had felt the pain then but blocked it off, and I was feeling it now. I had to just remember I was safe and he could never touch me like that again. She said to go home and curl up maybe, sleep, wrap myself up and remember I could look after myself however I wanted.
I did. I had an hour before teaching to recover where I just read, wrote in my journal, and taught in a determinedly present way, then went home and slept and cuddled my puppy dog. She slept curled up in my legs again, soft little head resting in the crook of my bent knees.
That was the hardest thing I’ve ever written, apart from one other thing. I wrote about my awful flashback on my wall on my social media account as part of the take five day.
I have received so many positive comments and so many messages of support over my post, even though it was much less detailed than this. So many of my friends and best friends have supported me by commenting on what I wrote. Their words were incredibly loving and welcome, and I had tears in my eyes, reading them all.
Best of all? J and I have just finished a long Skype conversation where quite a while was spent with me explaining what I’d been through, and him trying to understand, but still accepting it and loving me for who I am. He was there with me in therapy, and he was there with me tonight as I scrambled to make sense of it all, and to explain it to him- someone I truly love. It’s the one thing that will help me sleep tonight as I pick my way through my shattered, broken memories. I know he is holding my hand.