Smile into the fear and let it play

I hesitate to write this, but as I’ve said, this is my journal and this is what I need to talk about.  I haven’t discussed it with anyone in “real life” yet.  I don’t even know if I want to.  I probably should talk to Crazy Bruce about it when I see him tomorrow, but…I don’t know.

My memories of the car accident from 2005 are starting to come back.  I’ve always been very fortunate in that my memory “shut off” for the first ten minutes after impact.  My last cognitive memory (until recently) was of the grill of the SUV that hit us bearing down, too close.  After that, my brain went into shock and just shut down.  I was conscious the whole time, according to my mother and the paramedics at the scene, but I don’t remember about 10 minutes of time, during which the accident occurred, the paramedics and fire were called, etc.  I just didn’t remember anything until the EMTs were already there and in the car with me.

A few years ago, when I was working at Best Buy, someone hit me in my right hip (the point of impact) with a TV set that was on a cart.  When that happened, I experienced my first real flashback, and I’ve never had one quite so real or vivid of the accident ever since.  My vision blanked out and was replaced by a tree line, swaying over my head.  I couldn’t hear anything, I couldn’t see anything but that treeline.  It took me a minute to realize that my supervisor was yelling my name, that the woman who hit me with the cart was apologizing, that I was at Best Buy and not in the car.

There have been other moments when things have come back.  My face will itch on the side of my face where the scars are, and I’ll reach up to rub it absently, and then I’ll get flashes of memories back.  When I first was in the hospital, the doctors told me that memory is a delicate thing; that my brain had “chosen” to shut off in order to shield me from those worst moments, but that it might not be permanent, and I might very well get those memories back some day.  After nearly eight years, I thought I was in the clear.  On August 27th, it will be eight years since the accident.  I thought, really, that I had lost those ten minutes of my life forever, and truth be told, I was fine with that.  There are some memories you just don’t need to have, you know?

But in the last week, that memory, of the car grill, is becoming more vivid.  And there’s more to the memory than just the grill.  I can remember the point of impact now.  I can remember the car slamming into the passenger side door.  And then my brain shuts off again.  I don’t want to remember this.  I don’t know why, after eight years, those memories are suddenly available to me.

I’ve been reading about repressed memories and post-traumatic memory loss, and it’s weird, because even though I’ve been doing extensive reading on PTSD ever since I was diagnosed back in 2008, I always skipped over those sections, because I felt they didn’t apply to me.  After all this time, why should they?  But something I read made a lot of sense to me:

“a traumatic memory will not surface until that person has developed sufficiently to manage the intensity of that information and to have capacity to process it and build a resolve so that the traumatic memories can be put on a shelf along with all the other memories of a lifetime.” 

In other words…I couldn’t remember these things until my brain and body decided that I was mentally ready to handle them.  Which is a comforting thought, really, when you think about it.  It’s like my body has finally decided that I’m strong enough to handle the intensity.  And where my first inclination is to run away, hide, get as far away from those memories as possible…it’s somewhat comforting to feel that my body and brain think that I am capable of it, that even though I wasn’t in the past seven and a half years, I am now.

DS asked me yesterday how long it’s been since I started seeing Crazy Bruce.  It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years…I started seeing him in early 2010, when I was still living in Bristol.  Three years we’ve been together, chipping away at the demons inside of me, trying to make me into the best person I can possibly be.  Sometimes it feels like a Sisyphan effort, like I’m working so hard on self-improvement but it never gets anywhere.  But when I look back at what I was, and what I could have been, and compare it to now…compare the way I would have handled myself five years ago, pre-medication, pre-Crazy Bruce…then I can see the results.  I can see how it has all been worth it.

I’m a work in progress, but the outline is starting to make sense, you can see where this is going.  It’s like trying to look at a Monet painting up close.  You can’t see the delicate outlines, the way the colors compliment each other perfectly.  You only see the blobs, the shapeless flowers, the way everything runs together like a mess.  It’s only when you stand back far enough, that you can see that it really does all make sense.