Here I stand, staring off into the distance, lost in a sea of unwelcome images that have embedded themselves deep into my brain. Images of my father flash before my eyes over and over again. I see a large man, tall with a round, protruding stomach sitting with his right leg bent at the knee and his ankle resting on his left thigh. I can see him sitting on his lazy boy throne with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, a toothless smirk plastered on his face as he sits comfortably in his underwear. Every time I start to have flashbacks, that image is always the first to appear, it’s like the opening scene of a horror film, a reoccurring nightmare that begins the same way every single time and it is sure to end in tragedy. Each flashback is like being hit by a lightening bolt, sending a surge of energy coursing through my veins and I become paralyzed by the visions that flash before me.
Stuck in a trance, I can hear the muffled sounds of talk and laughter dancing around me. I can hear my husband repeating himself and the increasing frustration in his voice. I can feel myself going through the motions of everyday life but, its as if I am standing in the middle of a carousal, life circling around me as I stand frozen in time. It feels like I’m in an alternate dimension, my mind is in another world but my body remains stationary, trapped in the eye of a hurricane while unwanted images swirl around my encapsulated body.
When my mind is being sucked into a maelstrom of memories it feels like I am reliving every second of torture. On the outside I appear calm and even relaxed but, on the inside I am screaming and desperately trying to claw my way out of the quick sand that just keeps pulling me deeper and deeper into the twilight zone. A flashback can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes, drawing me into the unreal nightmare that feels like I am actually experiencing what I am seeing. I can suddenly feel every touch, smell every smell, and see every detail from a single moment in time that should be long forgotten. When I do finally snap back to reality, I feel as though I missed a lifetime of noteworthy conversations and monumental moments. My short term memory has been clouded by horrific images and I am left with only tidbits of information.
I can understand how frustrating it must be for my husband when he is constantly repeating himself or feeling as though I am not listening to him. I feel an incredible amount of guilt and I’m ashamed at how forgetful I can be. In a matter of minutes I can easily forget what I was doing or where I was going and why. Usually it is little things such as, not being able to remember what I was going into the kitchen for or, what it was that my husband wanted me to add to the grocery list. After awhile I start to feel useless, if I am incapable of remembering such simplicities, how can I be trusted to remember things of actual importance. In a sense it makes me feel like I am irresponsible and that leads to a feeling of hopelessness. How can I ever truly be a good wife or mother if I am incapable of being fully present at all times. My inability to control the images that flash before me seems like a poor excuse for my imagined shortcomings. I feel utterly worthless.
Have you ever watched the waves moving across the ocean, crashing into the shore and rolling across the sand, that is what a flashback is like for me. An object, a touch or a smell can trigger me and suddenly several memories and images wash over me, sending a tidal wave of emotions throughout my body. In an instant I can start to shiver with fear and I can feel my body tense up. I feel jumpy and irritable and I can become so lost in the memory that I am easily startled. Sometimes when my husband comes into the room and I have been alone for a while, I may not hear him right away, he could be right behind me and when he speaks or touches my shoulder to make it known he is there, I panic and my heart sinks as it takes a minute for my brain register that it’s not my father, tragedy isn’t about to strike and I am indeed safe.
I am beyond grateful for my husband. I sometimes forget how challenging my struggles can be for him. He is patient, kind and incredibly supportive and sometimes I take that for granted. If it wasn’t for him, I fear I could have headed down a much different path in life, a path of destruction that was certain to lead to eventual death. It sounds dramatic but, living with the memories and scars that remain from my tortured past is incredibly difficult, I carry a lot of baggage and my mental state is fragile. Depression and anxiety go hand in hand with my post traumatic stress disorder and everyday I have to work hard to find the strength to persevere. I will continue on my journey of healing, one day at a time. I refuse to let what happened to me control me. I will prevail!