Flashback (revisited)

This prose piece could be triggering for readers with a history of trauma and flashbacks.

It is the flood of emotion that always makes me flee.  I am scared, angry, unsafe, fighting panic and the need to flee like a wounded gazelle being chased by a lion.  The triggers are unpredictable but the reaction is not.  It is like someone is ripping my chest open, using a rib spreader, exposing the fragile membranes around my heart to the glare of light.  I clutch my hand to my chest, as though I can hold the gaping edges of my body closed the way one would the sides of an unbuttoned shirt.

Gratefully, I make it to the sanctuary of the bedroom before the tears start to escape.  I do not turn on the light.  The key is to make myself small.  I sit on the floor, back against the bed, feet under the dresser and pull my knees to chest, hugging them tight.  I envision the weight containing everything that is currently threatening to spill out.

For a while I simply sob, inconsolable, all of my emotions bleeding out onto the floor.  It is almost a howl of despair, at least to my ears.  In calmer moments I realize that I have mastered the art of crying almost silently.  But this audible expression of this grief,  this raging tsunami that can hijack me and destroy my careful control is almost unbearable to my ears.

I dig fingernails hard into the palms of my hands, hoping that pain will be grounding, try to calm my breathing, quiet tears, regain some sense of mastery, of ownership.  I don’t try to draw blood but sometimes it happens.  The pain does break through chaotic emotion enough for chest pain to start to ease, for breathing to become easier.

There is a tentative knock on the door.  I am not sure how or if to respond.  We are new together and he is not familiar with nights when the wolves howl and throw themselves at my door.  He does not understand that it is nothing that he said, nothing that he did, but simply the threat of our growing intimacy that leaves me emotionally open, vulnerable, that triggers the flashbacks, sends body and 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.  I think he might speak but instead lowers himself to the floor.  When I remain still, silent, he crawls cautiously over.  Approaching me as if I am a trapped, wild animal that might bite.  I am momentarily panicked but I calm when he does nothing but slide next to me, joining in leaning against the bed, our shoulders lightly touching.  I allow him to put his arm around me and in a rush of released tension lean my head against his shoulder.


© 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved

12 thoughts on “Flashback (revisited)

    1. I am almost embarrassed to admit that the ending is fictional. mostly because I have never let anyone in the room with me when I was having a flashback. I like to think of it as the ideal response when a partner of a survivor asks what they can do to help.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Indeed! and if it encourages one partner/friend of a survivor reading this piece to try to quietly bear witness, just be present, then I am very pleased. My primary goal was to be as accurate as possible and give an idea of how visceral this all is

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Reblogged this on lyncrain and commented:
    This short story is a great tribute for people who have suffered. I thought the demonstration of how to help a person regain safety was encouraging. One step at a time from a person who has been there. I’m very lucky to have found my Vic, he has encouraged me to grow beyond the dark times with loving kindness.

    Liked by 1 person

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