Flashback is a post that I have reposted a couple of times as my readership increases because I feel that it is that important. This is dedicated to anyone who has ever experienced flashbacks or loves someone who has them. I have added an audio recording of this piece to the bottom of the page.
WARNING: This piece could be triggering for readers with a history of trauma
It is the flood of emotion that always makes her flee. The triggers are unpredictable but the reaction is not. It is like someone is ripping her chest open, using a rib spreader, exposing the fragile membranes around her heart to the glare of light. She clutches her hand to her chest, as though she can hold the gaping edges of her body closed the way she would the sides of an unbuttoned shirt.
She gratefully makes it to the sanctuary of her bedroom before the flood of tears. She does not turn on the light. The key is to make herself small. She sits on the floor, back against the bed, feet under the dresser and pulls her knees to her chest, hugging them tight. She pictures the weight containing everything that is threatening to spill out.
For a while she simply sobs, inconsolable, all of her emotions bleeding out onto the floor. It is almost a howl of despair, at least to her own ears. In calmer moments she realizes that she has actually mastered the art of crying almost silently. But the audible expression of this grief, this rage, this tornado of emotion that can hijack her and destroy her careful control is almost unbearable to her ears.
She digs her fingernails hard into the palms of her hands, hoping that the pain will ground her and that she will be able to calm her breathing, quiet these tears, regain some sense of mastery, of ownership of herself. That she will again be more than the worst that was done to her. She does not try to draw blood but sometimes it happens. The pain in her palms does break through the chaotic emotion enough for the pain in her chest to start to ease, for breathing to become easier.
There is a tentative knock on the door. She is not sure how or if to respond. They are new together, he is not familiar with nights when the wolves howl at her door. He does not understand that it is nothing that he said, nothing that he did, but simply the threat presented by their growing emotional intimacy that triggers the flashbacks, sends her body and her mind into this panicked state that it is so hard to come back from.
He slowly opens the door. It takes a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dim after the brightness of the hallway. He is more shape than substance. She thinks he might speak but he instead he lowers himself to the floor. When she remains still, silent, he crawls cautiously over to her. Approaching her as if she is a trapped, wild animal that might bite. She is momentarily panicked but calms when he does nothing but slide next to her, joining her in leaning against the bed, shoulders touching. She allows him to put his arm around her and in a rush of released tension leans her head against his shoulder.