In my much younger years of writing, themes of ‘broken pieces’ littered my books. It is astonishing to me when I stumble upon such old writing that, even though I didn’t know what was going on, I knew.
I relived a new memory in therapy this week, and for the first time, I re-experienced not only the body memory of terror, panic, and pain, but also experienced the visual memory simultaneously. I have experienced flashbacks in body memories for as long as I can remember. The other pieces of those memories were splintered off and filed away in other parts of my brain not accessible to my conscious awareness. I remember in my early days of training in the mental health field that I wasn’t even sure I believed in such a concept…suppressed memories and the like. Well, fuck. I don’t need any goddamn research because I fucking live it. Much like integrating a part, I can’t really describe what it’s like to see fractured pieces of memories coming together. The visual memory was like looking through a pair of binoculars and watching the view slowly come into focus. I thought I could see what was happening, and then I could actually start to see it…and then my body reacted as if it were all actually happening again. I think the clinical word is ‘abreacting’. Fucking awful is my description of it. Sustaining my grip on my present was a huge battle, and I instructed my therapist to talk constantly so I could just hear her voice and keep myself grounded in knowing it wasn’t actually happening to me again…that was incredibly hard work. I could hardly breathe- it was a war just to make myself take in breaths. My memory was of being 2, panicked, and holding my breath from utter fear. I knew I grew up in a violent home; I re-experienced that yet again this week, and it brought my understanding of ‘violent home’ to a more tangible and real understanding than I’ve had before. Or I guess I just remember better what it felt like.
That kind of flashback was much more intense than others I’ve experienced, though shorter-lived as well, likely because my therapist was there helping me process through it in the moment. It reminded me of war veterans and more ‘classic’ presentations of flashbacks. Again, it’s just awful. There is no clinical description that adequately captures the experience of terror. One has to have known it to understand it, much like the feeling of being in love.
Anyway, when I was young, I wrote over and over again about feeling broken, seeing pieces of myself all over the place. And 20 years later, I’m working my ass off to find all those damn broken pieces and put them back together. It’s a frustrating process. My life is simultaneously wonderful AND terrible. It beats just being fucking terrible! ;-)