After decades of disassociation from the effects of my childhood abuse, I started having flashbacks. That was nine months ago. At first, they were just images, memories that I saw but didn’t actually remember, then they became physical. I could feel them; sense them
I talked about them a little with my therapist, I mentioned them in passing to my family, and one friend saw me break down. In general, though, I have just dealt with them silently.
There is really no way to explain a flashback, its hold, or the aftermath, unless you have experienced it.
I wrote about my flashbacks for the first time this week, you can see my post here; since then, the mental and physical price I have paid for facing that part of my past has been intense.
It began that day as I was writing, re-reading, and proofing, I kept losing my breath. My throat would tighten and I would gasp for air. Tears fell easily and often for the majority of the day, and while they are lessening, they still flow. The headaches are insane, a throbbing that no amount of pain reliever can overcome. Finally, I’ve started having nightmares.
I don’t dream much anymore, once since I began therapy. In the past when I have dreamt, however, they are often reoccurring dreams. So far, I have had four nightmares, all conceptually similar to my reoccurring dreams, about both death and impending doom – which makes sense, given my abuse, and my grandfather’s suicide.
Therapy, recovery, healing – none of it is easy. There is no agenda, it is chaos and confusion, ups and downs, pain, reflection, realization, and growth. Sometimes acceptance shows up, sometimes not. I’ve come to realize acceptance is more than just admitting I was molested; it has to do with realizing there is no getting over this, that as strong as I am and as much as I want to never think about this again – healing means integration. It means learning to cope and balancing happiness with the loss. It means remembering and taking back control.
One of my biggest struggles as I face my childhood has been keeping up with all the curve balls my mind and body keep throwing at me. And I’m finding that the reality of dealing with trauma, the reality of living with complex PTSD, is that it hurts, a lot. It is hard, and it just is not fair
I am also realizing that this recent cycle of grief that I have just experienced only lasted 6 weeks before lightening up enough for me to gain perspective. That may seem like a long time to someone who has never experienced trauma, or symptoms of CPTSD, but for me, it is a major improvement. My crisis stage was 4 months long.
Healing is cyclical. It’s more than sitting with a therapist once a week, writing in a journal, or sharing my story. It is about learning how to feel again, reconnecting to my body, recognizing, listening to, and comforting my inner self, leaning to cope with triggers, flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety. It is about learning who I am.
I did not ask to be this strong.
Some days are such a struggle.
This will not be for nothing.
I will overcome this.
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