Following last week’s somewhat graphic blog entry, which seems to have – judging by comments and emails – really struck a chord with people, this time I will try to put into words what’s going on in my world. While drawing has been something of a release for me it has also in some instances put me in a far more vulnerable place than what writing commonly does, and so, we’re back to using the tool of my trade; the written word.
This whole week people have been saying one thing to me over and over; “Not long until A. gets back now.” I know that it’s meant to be encouraging, and that, in comparison to eight days or three weeks ago, this is true; it’s not long to go. But, honestly, time is a pretty relative thing, and when every night is an eternity of endless flashbacks and breakneck shuttling back and forth between the past and the present, well, four days is a very very long time indeed.
Also – and I accept that I am to a large degree responsible for planting this idea in people – just because A. will be back, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the flashbacks will stop. In actual fact I’d be very surprised if they did. I think that part of the reason why I’m having them is that I am, perhaps, becoming increasingly more able to allow these memories to surface.
Most of the flashbacks I have aren’t of ‘repressed memories’; most of the situations I actually consciously remember. What is new is that there are feelings attached to them. They aren’t just distant memories like “Oh, yeah, I remember that happening. He did this, I said that, and then…blah blah blah”, what they are is a re-experiencing of the emotions I had back then, played out in the past and present simultaneously. For the longest time, I never felt anything about the abuse. I was completely void of emotions and could be frighteningly matter-of-fact about it. Actually, I still can be. But now, all of a sudden, I’m having these flashbacks which come with a whole host of feelings I must have felt back then, but which I have never allowed myself to truly experience.
So, in a way, the flashbacks in themselves aren’t really the problem; as I’ve mentioned before I’m now pretty good at finding my way out of them. What is a problem is that even after I’m out of the flashback I still have to deal with all the emotions it has brought to surface. It’s a similar (but obviously much stronger) sensation to waking up from a nightmare; you know that there is no real threat, but your heart is still racing, the fear is still there, and it takes a while to come back to yourself. Only, in the case of flashbacks, the threat was real, and so are the feelings you are left with. It’s like a delayed emotional reaction to an experience that once was real.
Once A. is back, I hope I’ll be able to explore these feelings in a safe way, and at a pace that doesn’t scare the crap out of me. But, in all honesty, even though that’s what I’m hoping for, I’m not at all sure I’ll actually be able to do it. When it comes to the abuse, and by extension, the feelings I had about it – well, I just seem to be incapable of saying the words out loud. Even writing them down is next to impossible. In fact, with a few exceptions, the drawings I’ve made in the past days have probably been the closest I’ve ever come to actually expressing outside of my own head what actually happened.
But maybe they can be a starting point?
PS. Observant blog visitors will have noticed that I’ve added a section called “On My Shelf” to my site. This is not a Best Oflist, but they are books I’ve found interesting and/or helpful – and I thought you might, too! That said, three of the titles listed are books that I definitely think should be required reading for anyone practising as, or training to be, a counsellor or psychotherapist.