It does not end when the lights stop. It does not end when the rhythm of inhaling and exhaling has calmed. It does not end when you open your eyes.
You’d been told, of course. Warned. But it is still unsettling when it happens. When in full widescreen glorious technicolor and surround sound that trailer (carefully selected by the projectionist as age appropriate for the intended audience) during the session becomes something more substantial.
A relived experience from the session can haunt you through the week. You are not aware of it all the time – but it is a glass prism in your consciousness refracting certain day to day actions. So you glimpse a memory from decades before the reflection on the freezer cabinet, recollect the tone of voice and what was said when the checkout assistant asks if you’ve a loyalty card. But there is more than simple momentary flashbacks. Some of it is sustained. That half remembered event becoming something more vivid. And as it does the weight increases on your chest and your shoulders tense and you are – physically, emotionally, mentally – simultaneously absent and present watching you watching you.
And it’s unpredictable.
A day can pass with nothing.
The next can begin to relive the session, roll the film past the reel you saw while the lights flashed. Begin to explain.
But while the time before the lights nudges these memories from experiencing to experienced there is collateral damage, some related, much unrelated. Some makes no sense. Why remember the accountant with the curled fair hair sitting crying in the office where you had the summer job? Why is she there? Why remember the next door neighbour from four decades ago – brown haired, moustache, checked shirt?
Your therapist tells you that too long thinking about rationales is unproductive, anxiety inducing. You know this. You know that it is best not to scrabble around in the memory dump between sessions. What matters will be there next time, or the time after, or the time after that, when the lights start. It does not end.