The wonderful and terrible thing about dissociation is the effect it has on your memory.
On any given day, I am in battle with unwelcome scenes from my past. Even the most innocuous memory can morph into something that lives next door to a monster in my mind. Everything is connected.
So, I consciously try to forget as much as possible, and my mind happily goes along with the plan.
Sometimes I’ll stumble across a gap, a whistling smooth-sided chasm that blows up my skirts and makes skittering noises. Come in, it says. Investigate that strange smell. Here, into the corner; into the shadow; under the eaves. That’s where the really interesting stuff lives.
I shudder and skip past. In my wake, I deploy cerebellum-pixies to reinforce the defenses and put up signs: NOTHING TO SEE HERE.
I wipe the faces of the people I meet from an internal Etch-a-Sketch before they have fully left my sight. If I store their images in memory, I have a tendency to focus on them later. Their faces are dredged like bloated remains from inky wet depths. Every negative thought I had during our conversation, every regret or mis-spoken word returns to me and I have a moon-like face floating in front of me to cringe from as I re—live each conversation over and over.
Music is particularly evocative. I’ve learnt to allow myself to skip across a song, like a stone across a pond. If lyrics start to unearth scaly reptilian thoughts from a chapter in my life where I was small, then I pull a switch in my head and focus on the tune. I remember the video that accompanied the track or I make my own video in my head out of favourite film scenes in my huge Hollywood store.
I choose. I change. I control.
Photographs are tricky. I haven’t yet been able to find a way to look at photos without remembering what it had been like to live that moment. It’s a poor memory, a snapshot out of context sometimes, but I can smell the sea salt and feel the scratchy jumper. I feel the hope and I feel the pain from knowing I’m not being the person I could be.
Some photos are ok. I’ve been able to rescue a couple and put them on display in my house. When I look at them my brain only gets as far as the glass. When it tries to dig past that barrier and get to the meat of the image, to burrow into it and taste the metallic bite of it? I have two legs and I use them. I turn away.
Today I woke with a hollow feeling.
I looked at my dog and felt empty. His hopeful tail wag couldn’t raise a smile. I felt like all hope had been syphoned from me in the night, and part of me was angry at the mutt – he’s supposed to be protecting me from all that goes bump.
Inside, I was an empty warehouse in an overgrown lot. Only echoes moved within me, and in the bushes were rats of opportunity and unforgiveness.
I am under-medicated at the moment because I’m having trouble coping with my Lithium at the dose I need. After all these years my body is starting to rebel. The latest anti-depressant also didn’t last long before side-effects invaded the battlefield.
Last night I started a new regime of Sodium Valproate to bolster the small dose of Lithium that continues to provide some small relief. I am hopeful, I guess. But first there are the side effects, and then there is the wait. It is forever until I will be on a dose that does the deed. And in that forever moment of waiting, will I be able to push past the grasping, shouting memories? Will I be able to chase them away from the deadlier black spaces inside me?
Anyway. Back to this morning. I had to walk the dog. Even if the world was going to end at 2pm this afternoon, I had to take him to do his business, sniff for signs of cats, catalogue all the dog poo and wet patches and pull, pull, pull because around the corner might be a juicy steak, a tennis ball, or a pal to play with. Usually his optimism is endearing and infectious. But this morning I couldn’t see past the storm that was dragging my insides across rough and broken ground.
As we trudged along I found a note in the pocket of my coat. It was clearly my handwriting, but I couldn’t remember when I had written it. I’m in the habit of making notes on scraps of paper and I hadn’t worn the coat in quite a while.
This is what it says:
“Am I trying to create my moment? Or gently nudge away from the in-crowd, the popular majority who can live the lives I read about in my Enid Blyton books when I was young?
No. It’s just that I’m trying to do something difficult.
As usual. (That’s a negative pattern of thought – stop it!)
Today was about showing the universe some willing. I am meeting it halfway. Not just waiting at home for a call. I got into the car and made a pilgrimage. Not to any of the places I visited really, but to a part of myself that has decided not to give up.”
I don’t need to remember when it was written in order to respect the hope and faith of the writer. So. I have decided not to give up. I am meeting the universe halfway yet again.
I took Muttley to the fields and we looked for rabbits in the blissful Land of Now.