My thoughts are all over the place this morning. I’ll try to organize them for you, but no promises. We’ll just have to see what happens.
First of all, there are actually two saws. There have been two saws since I came back from the Capitol City, but I may have failed to mention that. One of them is further away. It’s been whining away for most of the past year. I can usually get past it. The other is much closer. I think it is next door, but I haven’t seen it. This one is louder these days, because they have returned to cutting stones with it. For a while, this one was closer and louder for that reason, but it was cutting wood. Now it is even worse.
Today, they both started up around 8:30. One strategy I think I will have to use is just getting up earlier, even though it is nice to sleep in and it is nice to get up when it is not quite so cold. If I get up earlier, I have more time to process things before the major triggers start up—the saws and then the dark. I woke up at 4:30 and couldn’t drag myself out of bed until 5:30. It’s okay though. For a while, I was getting up only at 7.
I started to get a sense of myself as a little girl having flashbacks: at school, in the bath, getting dressed. These intrusive images, sensations, emotions. I didn’t start having flashbacks in my 20s after I left home. I had them five. I had them probably at three. They must have been so frightening to me. There was no one to get any comfort from them, no one to help me calm down, but also no way to understand that I was having them.
So the saw starts up today and I feel really scared. I try to calm down, but it’s difficult. I know I can do it now, but the saw is just so loud. I feel worthless. That goes together: fear and worthlessness are part of the same event I am being reminded of. Suddenly, it hits me that it is just fear. I am just very afraid. Fear at that level is really unpleasant. It’s really something close to torture, but it’s just fear. It’s still only an emotion. I don’t know what I mean by that. I don’t mean to minimize it.
However, it brings me back to that thought about what it was like for me as a child having flashbacks and I wonder if I am also afraid to be afraid. I am afraid of the intrusion itself, because as a child I had no way to cope with them or understand why they were happening to me. They just seemed like these weird things that happened to me that didn’t happen to anyone else. I was just crazy. They were scary and terrible and made me want to do bad things like hit someone or hide under the table and I was crazy for having them.n
It seems like it helps to understand that. I tell myself this is just my brain working. It is just doing what it does. Nothing is wrong. I am not crazy because saws give me flashbacks of horrendous things. I haven’t failed at “healing” either. It also doesn’t mean I am ruined, or that the trauma has left some kind of “taintedness” behind. I am not expected to have amnesia for the trauma, or to be able to control my memory of it in ways I don’t have to control my memory of anything else. All is well. It’s not pleasant but all is still well.
I think that helps. Later, I’m thinking about it again, and I have all of these feelings about it. It’s like that one thought opened a door. I felt so broken because of the flashbacks. They seemed to be a sign of “damage” rather than of the brain’s attempt to do something after the fact that it had not been able to do at the time.
As a little child, everyone denied the abuse: I couldn’t even be sure it happened, let alone understad that my flashbacks were connected to those events. Later, as an adult, I never had that context of why we have flashbacks. I think an understanding of flashbacks as a necessary part of integrating an overwhelming experience didn’t exist.
On the one hand, flashbacks were seen as this kind of terrible burden that survivors have. Flashback don’t really have a function. They are just a wound, or they are a sign you haven’t “worked through” the trauma and you need to stop suppressing the need to remember and process it. If memories were coming up, it must be because you instinctively knew it was time to address that memory—not that your neighbours have taken it into their heads to build a house this year, and there is no longer any way to avoid the reminders of it. It’s true I am taking time to process the memory because I am on vacation just now, but if I didn’t have time, I would just be wound up and stressed and sleepless.
On the other hand, flashbacks were seen as an attempt to gain “mastery” over the event. You were trying to write a different ending. You either needed to let go of the desire for mastery, or you needed to recognize you had already accomplished a mastery. It depended on who you asked.
No one was saying narrative memory is associative. Whenever anything happens, you recall other similar events and compare them. We remember very graphic images better. We also remember very emotionally laden experiences better. So these kinds of events will come to mind first. If you have not formed normal, integrated memories of those events, they will come to you like flashbacks. They will come in pieces that make no sense.
No one was saying you will always be reminded of traumatic events by other events: life is always connected. But it will be easier to cope with them once you have normal, narrative memories of them and once they are no longer coming at you in pieces. No one was saying there is a way to cope with memories and you need not look forward to the rest of your life as a person who has been made permanently “less-than” by things you had no control over.
They seemed to be saying if you still have flashbacks of having the worth of a cubesteak, you have failed at healing. You need to resist less. You need to try harder. Maybe you don’t want to get better anyway, because seeing yourself as a “victim” is easier for you. It’s easier to not take responsibility.
Maybe this is happening to you because you like it.
Kind of like the abuse.