I don’t particularly like scary movies
I mean they’re SCARY, right!?! But the kids do. And every once in a while someone will declare ‘scary movie night’ and we’ll all head down to the basement and pick out the most messed-up movie we can find. Grab some chips, snuggle under a blanket and turn all the lights off. Even Mr. President, the dog, joins in on scary movie night, but I think it’s mostly because of the chips. We all watch our movie together, and it scares the shit out of everyone. But we all know it’s just a movie. It’s not even real, and you are in complete control the whole time. The movie can be stopped at any point, volume adjusted, resolution changed. And when the movie is over; it’s over. That’s that. All done. The TV is off, the lights on, and everyone heads off to bed. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
Where the real battle lines of PTSD are drawn
So what happens if what you’re seeing is not just a scary movie? It does not pretend, and you can’t just turn it off or press pause. You have absolutely no control, and the images ARE real not pretend. And attached to all those images are the memories of the sights and smells and FEELINGS that you experienced with that memory. And it isn’t just one memory, but maybe many at a time, over and over again, involuntary and recurrent. You don’t want to be awake because of these flashbacks, but you don’t want to sleep either because they just turn into nightmares. Nothing you do can make them stop.
PTSD flashbacks were not my thing
Now I personally didn’t experience flashbacks in the true sense before seeing Dr. Jane. I experienced more what I refer to as bad reminders or negative association. For example, to this day if I catch a whiff of hydraulic oil I’m reminded of a particularly bad extrication, or I avoid a specific street because of a fatality I attended there years ago. But as I mentioned, they weren’t really ‘flashbacks.’ I’ll admit they had somewhat of a bearing on my actions (like avoiding an intersection) but didn’t particularly impact my day-to- day life THAT much.
May I have your ticket? Enjoy the show!
And then after a few weeks of seeing Dr. Storrie, all of these forgotten images and memories began flooding in. I don’t even really know why or how, but they just did. In hindsight, I believe it had something to do with one specific incident that she and I had discussed earlier that day. It was weird in the sense that we didn’t even really talk about it THAT much, to be honest… If I could describe it at all, it would be like a Stephen King/Clive Barker/Quentin Tarantino movie all mashed together. Image after image after image; and what shocked me the most was the number of calls that I had totally forgotten about that were now coming back to me. And there were some real bangers. Not only that, I remembered different details that I hadn’t recalled before. For example, I can specifically remember attending my first infant death. The police had arrived just before we did and were first on the scene. I can recall in great detail the exact look of panic and bewilderment on that poor cops face as he ran towards me with the baby girl in his hands. He handed her to me with a frantic ‘Do something!’ look in his eyes, but it was already too late. Not something I want to re-live. I sometimes even wonder how that cop is doing; it was so long ago…
You would be crazy not to have second thoughts about doing this
After I started having these flashbacks, I pretty much spent the next two weeks hiding in my bathroom. I’m not going to lie; there was lots of crying and whining. I was trying to process all these memories that were dumping in. It was overwhelming. I remember thinking that perhaps I had made a mistake with this whole therapy thing; maybe I should have just left it alone. It was horrible.
Understand the science
But how it was explained to me was this: all of these flashbacks were simply the effect of my mind digging up all the misfiled memories and putting them away properly, pretty cool if you think about it. When all this passed, I felt a weird sense of control, one I have not felt in many, many years. Everything else seemed clearer and calmer; I had almost forgotten the feeling of calm.
As the saying goes, no two are alike
Now this is not saying everyone will have the same experience; everyone is different. I’m going, being honest; it was very difficult, probably the most difficult two weeks of my entire life. That is why I stress throughout my blog the importance of building up your personal support network. Get as many people on your side as possible. It’s fucking hard, but you CAN do it. Oh, and by the way, I still don’t like scary movies.