Flashback and dissociation- TRIGGER WARNING. Please ONLY read if you feel safe.

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.

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Nights like this…

Tonight I’m sleepless and trying to exorcise the demons in my head. J and I have just talked and I love love love the smooth, sweet drawl of his voice. That voice anchors me whilst I’m feeling strange.

I’ve been a little dissociative tonight. I’ve been at Saturday family tea- the whole clan, aunties, uncles, cousins- the lot. My auntie was babysitting her best friend’s daughter, who is a shining gem of a seven year old. She played with the puppy, a rare event- Juno puppy is not the world’s biggest fan of children, but this little girl is an old head on young shoulders. She let me read to her. She cuddled up with me and the puppy, her on my knee and the puppy beside me. I felt very safe, but somehow a little sad.

I think what’s triggered me a little is talking about my ex to her. My auntie was married to her abuser, and this little girl knows a highly edited version of that story. She calls him Naughty, so we all do too. We had gone upstairs in my nana’s house to see one of the many family portraits hanging on the walls, and she mentioned to me that she knew that Naughty was a bad guy because HIS smile was not a good smile. All the other people on the picture had big, happy, truthful smiles, she said. Only Naughty’s wasn’t right.

That really hit me hard. SHE could see, through our eyes, the flaw in him, the defect that ate at his core and caused such harm to my auntie that she ended up in hospital, too. She knew, this seven year old, that there was a man not to be trusted- and she could see that through his smile!

She asked why my auntie had even married him in the first place, so I explained that sometimes, the scariest baddies are the ones that pretend to be your best friend. I said that I had been with a naughty man, for six years.

The wise, innocent little face formed an expression I’ve mostly seen on adult faces: she was appreciating how hard that was for me.

“Whew,” she said, “that’s a long time.”

I said that yes, indeed it was, but he hadn’t started out bad. He’d pretended to be one of the good guys, and I had never seen the badness coming at all. He’d added the bad stuff in, bit by bit, until I didn’t know that he was all bad.

Looking at those feathery blonde brows rise in shock, I was struck with an intense desire to protect her. I would have jumped in front of a bullet for that child, and I still will. I would right now. I didn’t want that angelic creature to have to face what my auntie and I have faced- the sleepless nights thinking he is perfect and I am not, the agony inside as he breaks up with you and demands you back only for the cycle to repeat. I felt something tearing inside of me in my chest- my heart was trying to reach through my chest to keep her safe.

Talking to Dr K, my therapist, on Thursday may have stirred a lot up- I was trying to tell her about some of the things I’ve had to endure under him- but this has made me remember long nights waiting by the phone, worrying about ringing him in case it ‘wasn’t convenient right now’. I’d get yelled at if I didn’t ring at bang on ten pm. I feel like time is slipping backwards, like having a rug pulled out from under your feet. I remember the feeling in arguments, that bad feeling of ‘I’m losing you and it’s my fault and you knew I was going to say that, oh god why?!’

I’ve found a song that sums it all up. He never drove, but the car keys are symbolic. They are the keys to my heart, my freedom, my life. They are the things that drove me and the things he took control of, bit by bit. Those phonecalls I tried to make that he aborted with one stern word. The threats of all sorts, the demands, and finally go to sleep silly girl, we’re getting nowhere tonight. I would try not to get too upset but tears inevitably burned my cheeks, that acid tang, and the feeling of being about to throw up came when he called me pathetic. I was trying so hard. I was. I promise I’m trying so hard to be different and more like the girl you wanted me to be, the girl I was when you met me. I promise I won’t go to anyone with my problems, definitely not you, I’ll solve them myself. I know I’m weak and need to stop being such a little girl I promise I won’t do this again I swear I’m not going to hurt you I didn’t mean to oh god don’t say that to me I’m not like that I swear I’m not-

The loop plays on and on, and I drown it out with other things. But, in the background, it’s always there, along with his replies.

Life optional.

Dear brain,

Please do not do this to me. Please stop giving me days where all I can do is hide in the house and flinch whenever anyone passes the window or door. Please do not give me the world’s shortest attention span. Please stop your constant guilt-tripping, your self-hatred. Please, please stop it.

I am sick of having all my plans derailed by panic attack. I hate the paranoia. I cannot stand hearing the voices of the dark passenger say all that hateful shit to me. I don’t want to live through another day where I feel like a little girl, terrified and alone and wanting the bad dream to end.

Today was that day. I lived in a nightmare all day. I waited for it to go or for me to wake up, but I couldn’t do it. I have been in my onesie, huddled up on the sofa, the tingling of my skin reminding me that yes, I did take a shower, but the disgust inside still claiming I am dirty.

I had to tell my mum I couldn’t do class because I was terrified to step outside the front door. She STILL doesn’t quite get why I couldn’t. She is angry with my ex for intimidating me, but tells me to go to class anyway, because I will beat him that way. I wish she was right. I wanted to scream on the way home from the tube this morning. I was convinced he was going to be waiting for me, in a dark little flat in London. Thank gods my mum doesn’t get it, though. At least that means she is safe from all this bullshit that invades my head on a daily basis.

Brain, do me a favour. Let me not feel this socially and emotionally inadequate. I am so tired of the endless guilt! I left my mum with the impression I am ok now, and she told me I had to tell her when I am feeling bad. I can’t. I am so conditioned to rely on myself, I don’t even want to ring up J and let him know. He is close to me, and I don’t want to bring him down either.

One day, you tell me, I will whinge so much that both my family and J will tell me to shut up.

On that day, you tell me, this little dream of “it’ll all be ok” will end forever, and back will come the self-harm, the pain, the suicidal intentions and of course, the dark passenger will break down the door in my mind. Already smoky, threatening tendrils are creeping from underneath it and tapping me on the shoulder again.

On days like this, brain, you make me believe that there is nothing left for me. You pull me to my knees with a barbed wire noose around my throat. I hurt everywhere, and I think you secretly enjoy it.

I want to sleep and forget, but you even make my dreams hell. Where is there to run now, what with your constant abuse making every safe haven another lie?

I don’t know what to do. I want help now, but it’s four months down the line.

I knew this would happen once I left J and my family. Today, I wanted to get on the first plane out of the country and be back with him, taking my family too, but instead I was trapped in my living room, feeling useless.

Thanks, brain. Seeing him everywhere I go is a real treat… not. That, and seeing people who don’t exist; reliving anniversaries of arguments and trauma in flashbacks (emotional, mental or physical); de-realisation; dissociation; and of course, depression.

I feel so fragile, and it is all your fault.

 

Oh no, wait, it isn’t.

 

 

It’s his.

Going home.

I wrote this in floods of tears on the plane, on the way back to England, on the 6th of February.

 

 

I’m on my way back to England.

I ache.

I want J so much it hurts me inside.

Throat tight, chest aching, eyes burning with tears I don’t want to shed but have to.

Here, on an aeroplane, in front of probably about twenty strangers, I’m suddenly not afraid to cry and let them see. I don’t care. I miss J so much I feel like the rest of the world should know too.

I have spent three of the best weeks of my life since being depressed here. I feel like I have made huge strides forwards in my healing by letting J as close to me as man and woman can get. He asks me to be in control, he asks me to say if it hurts or feels good.

It always feels good, because a man who treats you like a princess out of the bedroom is going to treat you just the same once you are in bed with him.

He opens doors for me. He laughs at the same stuff that cracks me up. He always tells me to “go relax, baby” and that he “will take care of it”, whether ‘it’ is washing dishes or making a cup of tea for me.

I keep crying. I want him with me, to hold me the next time I have a flashback whilst dreaming. J held me to him, stroking my hair and my arm and shoulder until finally I felt a bit more grounded. He sat me on the sofa, got me a cup of earl grey, and he manfully let me soak his shirt with tears until I finally knew where I was, which house I was in, what year it was and that I was safe.

J has been human. Real, warm and human. I love his little quirks, his routines, and the fact that he is going to quit smoking because he “hates smelling of smoke breath” whilst I am around. Actually, I’ve said to him that on him, it actually smells kind of sexy, but he still wants to quit. Good on him. He is planning to get another job, as well as his music, to support his efforts to come to England to see me.

What am I going to do until I see him next?

I know I will work really hard to get a dance job, sign back up at the bar I used to work at, and try to get modelling work on the side. I plan to make this year a real try-hard year, a year where I can finally dance and then… Who knows?

J will be behind me whatever I do. He watched me dance and told me I was “amazing”, and bought me a drink afterwards so we could chill out. I felt proud of myself, and happy that he finally saw me dance. It’s pretty boring, I think, watching class, but he sat there and watched every last exercise, every step. I want him to see me perform. I want him to see me as I was pre-injury.

I’m crying again.

I miss his smile. Gods, I miss that. It’s only been an hour and I miss it so much already. His smile is so warm and loving, and it lights me up from the inside so I have to smile back.

I told him that I couldn’t wait to see him again. Time is a bastard- I can’t wait, I need him here now. If you’re reading this, J, don’t panic- I should be a little better by tomorrow!!

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve fallen head over heels for J and all he represents to me, all over again: justice, creativity, peace, happiness, liberty, and love.

I have regained them all in these past three weeks whilst living with him.

Bed, sleep, and J.

Bed is the enemy. I never thought I would say that, but it’s now a truth in my life I wish I could avoid. I used to love sleeping, and long, lazy mornings in bed, but that was in the days before I remembered my assault.

Now, I battle paranoia, sensory hallucinations, skin-crawling body horror and the everpresent voices of the dark passenger, each and every night. Worse, I also have to contend with flashbacks and pain from my back injury, and of course, my unpleasant bedfellow, insomnia.

Usually, I take herbal sleeping pills to combat the insomnia, but I’m not at my house and I forgot to bring them. I talk to J when I’m lying in bed, so I can feel safe and reassured, but the WiFi in this house isn’t good, so I couldn’t. Already I’ve been dissociating, my insomnia is back without the benign sleepiness of my pills, and my skin is already crawling in horror.

It’s at times like these I use my memories of America and J to pull me through. I miss the reassuring weight of his arm slung protectively over my waist, his sleepy voice in my ear, the slow, steady thump of his precious heart. I miss hearing him tell me to go up to bed, and he would see me in the morning. I miss the slow, sleepy smile on his face when I used to come and wake him up in the morning.

Most of all, I miss him in general. I’ve been craving his hand in mine for weeks, and I wish he was here so I could wrap him close and lie there, protecting him and he protecting me, from both of our demons. Soon, he said to me last night, soon.

I want to feel safe and comfortable in bed again. I miss being able to feel sleepy without worrying about that shadow in the corner being my ex. I like how I was starting to feel when J was with me in America, and I want that feeling back so much.

Hurry up world, I miss my American, and I miss feeling safe at night. The two, I think, are intrinsically linked.

No rest.

Today is yet another bad day. The voices hate me. I am sick of waiting for the psychiatrist. I am sick of trying to drag this diseased carcass through another abuse-filled day. I hate the inner contents of my head.

The voices were merciless today. They told me that I have no one to rely on, that nobody cares and that I am going to have to make another attempt on my life. I have argued with them, fought them, yelled at them and ignored them, and for what? Literally another earful of abuse.

Someone called me a slut today. The voices loved that. Some unknown commenter trying to insult my boyfriend said one of my trigger words, and I am at 5% on my moodscope score… Not much needed to push me the fuck over the edge.

Why am I such a loser? Why can I not be normal? Why can I not have a brain that works properly?

I think the psychiatrist doesn’t give a flying fuck about me, considering that it has now been TWO FUCKING WEEKS  with no communication save what I have begged out of them. Monday, I had to cope with a whole goddamn day of dissociation. Today, and a couple of days ago, voices and flashbacks. I want an end, and if I don’t get one soon I am terrified that I will listen to my stupid auditory hallucinations and go for another attempt.

Really, at this point I am out of fucking options.

flashback.

I’ve had a friend of mine come to stay for a couple of days. K has been a loyal friend since we teamed up at secondary school, age 11. I love her to bits for her unique outlook on life, her loyalty, her constance, and her perpetual strong spirit.

We had  a lovely afternoon on Saturday. We went to the cinema to watch the film of a book she’s read. We bought ice-cream and laughed and went to see the animals at the pet shop and wandered round the local travel agency (mainly researching flights to the US. Hehe). We watched our film, and started the walk up to the bus stop together in the dark.

For some reason, I was suffering from hyper-vigilance. I was staring around me in the dark to make sure my ex was not hiding in the shadows. I was scanning every male face for violent intent. I was shaking, and my hands clenched as a group of boys wandered across the road to the other side. On the side of the road we were on, a group of people started to file out of the employees’ exit, their shift finished for the day. The boys across the road were standing still, yelling to each other and staring.

I couldn’t contain my panic. I practically started running. K caught up with me and subdued my tears, stopped me from panicking as badly. She talked to me and brought me back to the real world.

She told me that I am not a victim. She said that I shouldn’t be defined by what he did. She also said that I should take this to the police, but I still don’t know how that would pan out.

The important thing is that K believes I am not nothing. She knows that what happened to me was the fault of one cruel man alone, and that to her, I am still her friend. The same girl she knew when she was eleven.

I am so grateful to her for being there for me, but more grateful for her reminding me that I am a person who deserves love. A person who deserves happiness, and deserves friends.

 

Take that, dark passenger. Call me a bitch, a slut and a whore all you want, but K thinks I am not. And I believe her.