CN: PTSD, suicide
When will it end? How do I know when I’ve thrown myself into it, embraced my emotions, and felt it enough?
I understand the Freudian notion of repression, and it being the enemy of all ‘progress’. I get that if I hide my trauma under the bed, I’m still sleeping on it every night – if I shove it in the closet, one unsuspecting day it’s going to tumble out on me as I go to get dressed in the morning. But also, how do I know when mulling it over and over, and what feels like repeatedly re-traumatising myself by thinking about it, is no longer productive?
It’s got to be ready for archive one day. I thought it would be strikingly obvious when this day came – I would feel ‘over it’, and it would just no longer sting me like it did before. I thought that it hinged on lingering feelings, or a backlog of emotions that just needed to be let out in a flood, or silly sharpened memories that would eventually fade to fuzz. I expected that the poisonous thoughts and nightmare-fuel that occupied most of my miserable time would eventually take up less and less space, until eventually I didn’t even realise that it hadn’t crossed my mind in days, weeks even. I hoped that when I reached this stage, even when I brought it to mind and tried to think it all over, tried to relive it, tried to give it a shake, it would just rattle, hollow, like it was empty.
More than a year on, and it is not so. Whenever I even try to pick it up to shake, it’s so fucking heavy that before I know it I’ve dropped it, and it’s floored me with it.
But I’ve never done trauma before, so I really had no idea what to expect. I was trying to apply rules of logic and of normal, everyday human behaviour to what is quite objectively an unfair, illogical, irrational situation. The nature of this beast feels like new territory.
I hate the word PTSD. It seems to rope together concepts of the frantic and the shocking, and the clinical, all at once. It feels like sudden, clear, black and white movie-style flashbacks, and shrinking into the foetal position in tears in the middle of a shopping centre. It feels loud and aggressive, when what happened to me was slow and insidious – it still almost killed me – but it wasn’t wailing or shouting or glass shattering. It was being confused, weak, misdirected, helpless, exploited, prodded and poked until I was suicidal. Do I even qualify? What will my recovery be? What’s my trajectory?
Georgia says that progress isn’t linear, and she’s right. Part of this, for me, is reflected by the fact that the general trend of me feeling better has been undermined by many bumps, major setbacks, and even starting from the beginning again a few times. Sometimes I do go long stretches without it hurting me. But I still have nightmares, and at least every couple of weeks there will be a few days where I can’t do much – can’t get out of bed or wash or feed myself like I’d like to. And they’re always triggered by the same thing: I’ve allowed myself to indulge in thinking about it – really thinking about it – for any longer than a few minutes.
“It’s always triggered by the same thing: I’ve allowed myself to indulge in thinking about it – really thinking about it – for any longer than a few minutes.”
I struggle to conceptualise the way my brain works sometimes, but as you might be able to tell, metaphors help me iron things out. I’ve recently developed a new metaphor for this process that works quite well. I feel like my mind is a bit like a big stretch of space, with a number of big black holes in it. A lot of the time, I’m okay floating around in the expanse, but if I get a thought that is anywhere near any of the black holes, I start down a spiral and before I know it, I get sucked in and can’t seem to climb out. There’s no light in there, in fact there’s nothing good or productive in there at all, but I’m pulled deeper and deeper and resurfacing seems all the more impossible. Some black holes are bigger, and have a bigger pull than others. This one is the strongest.
Sometimes I just want to repress it. I’ve done the therapy and the talking to friends until they tell me it’s time to let it go and grow from this and the crying in the library and the diary entries. I’ve done the I’m an inspiration because of what I’ve been through and still picked myself up on the other side pep talks in the mornings. But I don’t want to be strong anymore. I don’t want to throw myself into my feelings or embrace the pain or be fucking mindful about it. I don’t want to face it. I just want to forget it. There’s nothing at the bottom of any of the black holes; it just keeps going and going until I can’t remember how I got there but it’s all around me. I just want to forget it. Is that really so unhealthy?