Preparing For The Worst Of It

This awful time is looming. I have a couple of days off work – at last and thank goodness! I want to relax and chill. I have decided to do all I can to prepare myself for a pleasant few days – buying foodie treats and some half-price champagne (no tennis to watch this year – except replays but I am not missing out on strawberries and champagne).

I have been putting together a playlist on YouTube with happy songs, not sad songs, and I have a couple of books that always cheer me up at the ready. I am going to chat with everyone who is very close to me. At least Jack is here in England. I have decided I don’t want to travel up there just yet. It will bring me a stone’s throw from where a security guard found my battered body.

Summer, Poolside, Red Hat, Strawberries

Hopefully on my own I will push the awful memories out of my head. One thing that I am struggling with is the heat. The night I was attacked was the hottest day of the year…(and it was hot during the night too) – record breaking hot. I have been waking up repeatedly at night convinced I was lying in the undergrowth on Hampstead Heath – it fills my chest with a traumatic shock and takes me some time to recover from.

 

The Rough And The Ready

Close-Up, Eye, Eyelashes, See, WomanLast Friday I was struggling. I was on edge all day. On the verge of panic. Unable to cope with all the multi-tasking I have to do at work. I became tearful at work when I thought of weeks more of this intense pace stretching out in front of us, without the chance to break away and go and visit Goldfinch in Australia. I wanted to run. I didn’t know who from or why. But I wanted to escape.

This is how I felt five years ago. I was cornered. I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know who was safe, who I could trust. Friends and colleague were talking about me and Jack. I had no idea exactly who was saying what, except for those who blazenly taunted me to my face. Every aspect of my life was touched by the slanderous gossip, name-calling, accusations, undermining of me as a person and my sincerity or integrity.

Ambulance, Wear, Interior ViewYou know where it led me. I went to a park after a night out with friends because I did not want to go home. I was the victim of a crime that night and woke up the next morning in an ambulance.

But around a month before that night, I remember a small incident. I escaped my part of London and travelled to the other side of London for a social event. My sister Milly was there. I met some new people who had been working with her on a project. There were some deaf volunteers there too. Milly and I both learnt British Sign Language when we were teenagers.

I remember saying goodbye to Milly and her husband when they dropped me off at the train station. Somebody had given me a gift. Two bottles of wine, one red and one white, I recall. As I walked towards the train, the gift bag gave way and the wine bottle smashed on the concrete floor. There were glass and wine everywhere.

fdshhgdhsvMy main concern was that glass was a hazard to other people. I searched for a member of staff asking if they had any cleaning equipment to clear the glass. I would have done it myself. I asked if they had a hazard sign or cone or tape, to warn other people. The station employee said just to leave it and they would sort it out. I was so anxious. It was my fault. It was my fault there was dangerous glass on the station floor. It was hazardous to other members of the public. I wanted to fix it. I stood rooted to the spot, determined to be a warning to other people that there was broken glass and they must be careful. I became unreasonably emotional and ended up in tears.

It wasn’t really the glass that was upsetting me. It was the situation in my personal life that was overwhelming and was completely taking all the joy out of life. The effects of tiredness and stress can accumulate. If you become isolated with a challenge and do not know who to trust you can become desperate in your thinking. Its as if you are cornered, they are coming at you from all directions, you want to escape. I wanted to fix it. I was ready to accept some responsibility for the situation between Jack and I. But the relationship between us was so strained back then…he would not speak to me.

annie disappointedSo, when the wine bottles smashed, I just fell apart. You know the expression “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. I was in a flood of tears. I didn’t know what to do. A guy came over to ask if I was alright. When I explained I had dropped the bottles and now there was broken glass all over the floor, he responded by kicking the glass to the side of the wall (so it was less hazardous I suppose) and telling me not to worry, accidents happen.

Well…last week, those feelings were coming back. Every summer since I was attacked I have a rough few weeks. I have flashbacks of events from that night. But I also seem to relive all the stress and anguish that led me to go to the park that night. I had wondered if having made peace with Jack things might be different this year. They don’t seem to be. I am having waves of panic, sleepless nights, dreams recalling some of the most stressful situations I was in five years ago, those same feelings of being cornered, under attack, needing to escape.

I actually think I might be having a worse time so far this year. Perhaps that is because I am cut off from friends and family socially. Perhaps the accrual of tiredness because of work has made it hard. Normally my life is graced with variety. I am involved in different work, different projects, I work with different people, in different locations. The past few months have been the same…every day the same. The feeling of wanting to escape is growing.

Fear, Woman, StopAt the end of this month it will be five years since that night. It is still the night that took me away from my chosen career, my chosen home, my world, my purpose. It is still the night that left me with severe injuries, blackouts, headaches, nightmares and fear of whom I could trust.

People say such silly things. Someone said to me again the other day “everything happens for a reason”. If only I could sent fire to that expression. Do people think about what they are saying? It was also recommended to me that I focus on the positive and what I can do to help others. Yes yes, I know that having experienced a traumatic event myself and gone on to do marvellous things, I may be able to be of assistance, inspiration, a source of practical advice to someone else. I do realize that we learn things when we go through challenging experiences and we can develop precious qualities and we may be able to help others. But really!

The truth is my life has been like broken glass ever since that night. My life is in pieces. But I am a positive person and I do make the most of my situation. I keep going. I keep smiling. I keep singing.

Hooded Man, Mystery, Scary, Hood, HorrorBut still…it’s back again. The waves of panic, feeling cornered, feeling overpowered, under attack, nowhere to run to, noone to turn to, nobody to trust…it comes back. I ended up on my own at that park because for so long I had put a brave face on, I had kept going, kept working, kept smiling and kept singing until I shattered like broken glass.

The brain is powerful. The things that cause flashbacks are varied…the smell of grass, the smell of men, the warm weather, feeling dehydrated, feeling there are excessive demands on me.

When I was on my way home after work last Friday night there was a man walking towards me. He was carrying a grocery bag. As I neared him, his bag burst open and glass bottles of beer smashed onto the road and beer began running down the hill. It took my brain back to that night I dropped the wine bottles at the station just a few weeks before I was attacked.

I watched the guy. He shrugged and laughed and carried on walking.

jhvbdkjxhfbIs that what people want me to do I wonder? Shrug, laugh and carry on. These past couple of weeks have made me realize that despite it being five years, despite being busy, despite having the longed for peace with Jack, despite so much else that has happened on a positive note…the memories of despair and the memories of trauma are still there. They leap out at me from the shadows of my mind.

I think I am in for a rough few weeks.

 

Perfect Days Versus Flashbacks

It has been a perfect weekend. Glorious! It’s still a little on the chilly side of course. Certainly not picnic weather yet! But I am sure the weather will be kinder to us soon. Perfect days ahead.

sunms

Nonetheless somebody kept me warm and snug throughout the weekend. It was a great weekend. Perfect. I needed that so much. Jack could tell I was tired though.

He also seemed a little anxious about my decision to go to Australia while he is Africa for a couple of months. I told him it’s a time of year I dread because I have vivid flashbacks of what happened to me just after my birthday. I told him that last year was the first time it really felt different. Being on the opposite side of the planet was a huge relief to me. There were so many different things to distract me. Perfect days.

Koala, Animals, Mammals, AustralianI explained how upset I was to have come back without any photographs. ALl my pictures and videos of kangaroos, koalas and kookaburras lost. This time I am taking a cheap digital camera out with me instead of my tablet, in the hopes that this time I will have some evidence of my trip.

Jack obviously made the connection to me wanting to see Goldfinch. I acknowledged that I want to see him very much, but I told him about the conversations Goldfinch and I have had about accommodation etc. I also want to see a friend I made when I was out there last year and whom I have been emailing ever since.

Anyway…I need to reassure Jack. He seemed anxious in case there was something wrong with him and I. I said the only thing I am finding hard is his absence. I would have loved to spend that difficult time around the summer with him.

I had a strange situation recently. I was over with some friends in rainy Chelsea. When I was walking to meet them I found my mind flooding with memories that distressed me. I was walking along having to fight the horrible images from that night that were running through my mind. It was overwhelming. Within a short time I had tears streaming down my mouth and I had to bite my scarf because of the sensation I had to scream. Very strange for it to happen at this time of year in an area that does not remind me of the park where it happened.

But flashbacks are a weird thing. You don’t know when they are going to creep up on you and what might trigger them.

I am going to Australia because I had a wonderful time there last year. It was very helpful to be far away from London. I am going because Goldfinch is an amazing friend. I will have to be careful because I know my heart is still split between Goldfinch and Jack. It’s good that Jack raised the issue and we were able to discuss it. I would not want any issue to come between the two of us.

 

Wormholes In My Mind

brain.jpgI mentioned the other day that this time of year I seem to be plagued with powerful memories and flashbacks. The human brain – a mystery and yet hailed as the most remarkable thing yet discovered in the universe. Mine had a bit of a shaking – quite literally – when I received head injuries on the night I was the victim of a crime.

This is the fourth summer I am finding that the weather, the grass, trees, noises of animals, darkness, benches…all sorts of daft things seem to be triggers – thoughts go racing through the wormholes of my mind and take me back to an awful event in my life.

Sigh. It is tiring, very tiring. And I feel unreasonable fears. I can’t specify what I am frightened of…it’s more a recurrence of the dread I felt that night when I realized what was happening.

Most of the time I am fine, everything is fine, and the trauma of what happened does not effect me too much. But these flashbacks make me feel just a tad crazy at times. It really stretches me. I should not have to put this much effort into taming my mind. But my mind is wild and raw right now.

Which reminds me…I was singing a song to myself the other day which I have not heard for ages! But it is definitely worth a spin! I remember one of my friends giving me an Eternal album as a gift. I was not a huge fan of them myself, but I loved that album. Here is the odd thing about memory…I know a school friend gave me that album, but I don’t know who. I remember primary school clearly, high school is a vague recollection.

When I received my head injuries, it did effect my memory. My family and friends have noticed more than I have. But every now and then I have identified that there are missing memories – periods in my life where I just cannot remember people. I can remember some things, but cannot connect them to a bigger picture – I hope that makes sense. Maybe it is all there…somewhere through the wormholes of my mind.

Anyway…this was one of the songs that I liked from that Eternal album…there were some other great tracks – perhaps I will use them in future posts. If my memory does not fail me!

Memory – All Alone In The Moonlight

HH.jpgI have been having flashbacks. For anyone who has experienced a hugely traumatic event – that sentence will mean a great deal. It is almost four years since an event occurred that was, well, dreadful. Memories – so powerful. All alone in the moonlight.

I have not been back to the Heath for a long time. I did intend to go and remind myself of how lovely it is. But I just have not. And now I find it’s all these horrid memories that are pummelling me.

I am at work, I am on the bus, I am cleaning my kitchen when suddenly…I am back there, lying in the grass. All alone in the moonlight.

I recall sitting on the bench. The moment I became disturbed because I suddenly knew there was something wrong. I became aware that this was not safe. I should not be there. It was now dark. There was nobody else around whichever direction I looked. Only him. I was on my feet I was moving quickly. I remember the force that I felt upon my shoulders pushing me down.

night sky through treesI remember a lot more. Although I choose not to think about it, the flashbacks defeat my willpower. Moments of horror and fear and disgust and fear and outrage and fear fill me.

It must have been hours that I was lying there afterwards. It did not feel like hours. I must have been unconscious for a long time. There are moments that come back to my mind though of seeing the leafy branches above me and the sky. All alone in the moonlight. “Keep breathing” are the words that swim around my mind.

Then there was Gary. It was Gary who found me. It was Gary who called the ambulance.

This year I have had moments when the memories come…and I then as they fade, I feel so much anger. I think towards Jack, but I know it is not his fault. But I don’t know who else to be angry with.

I know it will settle. It is just this time of year. It’s been the same the last three summers. Lots of flashbacks. But I love summer. I am so glad I have my Australia trip to look forward. I am so glad I will be with Goldfinch exactly four years after it happened.