Shifting flashbacks. Sorting through a messy history.

I have noticed something since starting therapy. Previously all the flashbacks I suffered were fixed. The same images the same points in time thrown into my present thought. And historically I treated them all the same…pushed them aside, literally shook them off, distracted myself and tried to crack on with stuff. They weren’t relevant or helpful and frankly I wanted them gone.

I think I hoped if I ignored them just like your parents tell you to ignore a bully, one day they would give up and leave me alone.

When I started therapy Chris explained that flashbacks were often like a reminder. Our brains trying to sign post there was some work to do in sorting through and processing what ever the event might be. This theory is holding very much true for me. Many of the flashbacks I had have dissipated, some stopped entirely especially those ones we have focused on in processing work.

I have noticed something else recently. They change… take for example the one I am currently struggling with most. All my life the flash back has been the same point in time, a fairly neutral part of this horrific memory, me siting on the floor with my back against the door.

The flashback relates to one of the few occasions I tried to stay awake all night against the bedroom door, afraid of what would happen if I fell asleep.

That remained the focus of the flashback for a good while. Then in an email to Chris I flagged it was probably something we should cover in the future (aware that sleep has always been my Achilles heel and sleep was so relevant to that flashback) so I started trying to unpack the memory a little. If I want to speak to Chris about it I often feel like I need to do more than explain a single static imagine, that involves me remembering, reconstructing the before and after, being able to articulate the context within which the memory exists.

Once I started doing that the flashback shifted. No longer was I sat against the door but now the flashback shifted forward to the part of that night where I woke up sprawled across the floor. Fear rushing through me as I realised I had fallen asleep. Once a while had passed where that part of the memory kept forcing itself forward. As I allowed it some space and tried to understand what I had been feeling and why it mattered. Probably over analysing it, the opposite of pushing it away the memory shifted again.

It was like the memory kept playing, pausing on a tricky part, then moving forward to settle on another part of that night. Now it has settled on the part I think I was probably avoiding all along. A part that even now I find it hard to write about. But honestly it does not really matter where it landed. It is more the process of this work I find fascinating.

Chris sometimes talks about a green amber and red zone. It feels like my brain is following that path, sitting against the door was actually the most neutral part of that memory, not green but the easiest part of this memory, it seams once I was past that part, my head volunteered the next tricky part, and now probably the real crux of the memory. The part that was far too red to ever go near. That part which hopefully once I process it will release me from that haunting night for good. I hope.


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