“It happened and I can learn to move on”

I had not done light bar work for three weeks. The last time I broke down. I started sobbing. She’d stopped the session.

I had started work on positive cognition. Reflecting on the trauma – having the image of the trauma in the head as the lights started and trying to believe the words I heard her say “I have worth”, which morphed into “I believe I can have worth” as the session went on.

As the lights flashed left, then right, it jarred. To be back there, again, trying to find worth did not make sense. To have that whisper in the ear. To be there. To be lost.

As I tried to engage with what she said, and have the circumstances in my mind I sloped further down into the seat, raised my heels off the floor. I could feel the tears. I could feel them so I closed my eyes.

I knew the lights were still going because I felt the buzzing pads in each hand. Left, then right. Left, then right.

It wasn’t true. It wasn’t true. How could I have worth? How could I have value? After that. After letting it happen. After letting it happen without a word, without a sound. I felt a wrestling match was going on in my head. There was a rational side reflecting on the “evidence” we’d discussed previously. People who had been pleased to see me again after I’d lost touch for so long. Meantime the other part of my head nagged. They’re overly polite, altruistic. You’d not had a reply to that email.

Suddenly I was overwhelmed by an image. The cover of The Satanic Verses. That dark blue cover with the small figures entwined, wrestling, falling. Mirroring that opening chapter. The plane explosion.

The plane.

They fell, angel and demon spinning, clinging to each other, wrestling. Demon and angel spinning over and over.

Afterwards she told me that she could see my discomfort. That I had closed down, face bowed, tried to become smaller and smaller, to vanish. My voice had become quieter. She handed me a paper handkerchief when the claws of my hands released the buzzers.

We talked for a while that time. And the time after. And the time after that.

I went through everything again. That when going back to the worst, to the very worst, to the thing that was the focus of the light bar work it wasn’t in the middle of what happened. It preceded it. This sense of anticipation. A sense of fear. A time where there might have been a choice. But it was always time travel. Nothing from the past could be changed. Not one fullstop. The moment I was there again it rolled forward. And everything happened again.

I couldn’t make anything positive fit that. How could you make something positive fit?

And I felt I was failing. I had come so far in this process. Had relived what happened time after time. Back and to the left. Back. And to the left. Reliving it. Seeing it. Eyes open. Clockwork Orange like, eyes held open. Knowing what was coming. Knowing what was next. Seeing it again. Seeing it again and again. Hearing each sound. Again. Hearing each word. Again and again. Insidious. Invidious. Invasive. Over and over. Smelling each smell. The sharp stench. Again. Choking the back of the throat. Eyes watering. Tasting. Again. Tasting. Again. Foul tastes. Again and again. Invasive. Feeling. Again. Feeling. The skin hypersensitive. Reliving. Again.


And again.

And I was failing. I had no worth. I had no value. This wasn’t working. I wasn’t fixed. Still damaged goods. Ready for return. Box up. Shut away.


I was broken.

I tried and I tried. The words would not fit. They could not fit. There was no worth in this. No worth in what happened. No value. I. I was nothing. I was nothing. I deserved this. I deserved it.

And the demon and the angel continue to spin.

I had hope once. When things had calmed. When I’d talked. When I was able to place my head in a compartment, lock the door.

But things bleed through. The walls buckle.

Was all of this worthwhile if at the end nothing had changed?

The positive cognition bothered me. I could not make it fit. Whenever I thought back to what had happened, to the way it happened, I rejected the notion that I could find worth in it, the idea that I could find value in it. And as I thought about trying to find something positive, as I thought about trying, nothing would fit. We’d discussed it in the sessions. Aspirations had moved down. Looking for something more neutral, something that might work.

And so on the third week after the first attempt, when she told me – again – not to worry about it, not to stress too much about it, that things would progress, that they would come together, I was back in front of the light bar.

I told her beforehand what was in my head. That reflecting on this for these weeks had left me thinking more and more about what had happened, that I was going over it repeatedly, that I was crying.

– Were you distressed?

– It’s not like the flashbacks. I’ve not had one of those for ages. That sense where you relive, where you are wholly there and wholly here. Schroedinger. Stuck. It’s not got that overwhelming, all-encompassing feeling. It’s. I just.

I could feel her look at me.

– I just feel sad. That when I think about this I feel sad. And everything there. It’s here. It’s in here. All the time. And when I asked you last week what is normal? You know. I had a normal which turned out not to be normal. Most people did not have that. Not have the flashbacks. The intrusion. And the flashbacks have gone. I’ve. Not for ages. Not since. But I’m left with this. It’s in my head. It’s in my head. And I keep thinking about it. And I think it’s what lies at the heart of this negative belief. It negates me. It denies me. It makes me. Me. Who I am, what I am. It makes that nothing. I am nothing. I am. I.

I felt myself slide down the chair.

– And I feel myself here making myself smaller, and you noticing that. And the change in.

– You were much more like you were three sessions ago, before we started the.

– Yes. Yes. Exactly. It’s.

I folded my arms.

– I am finding this so hard. It’s so hard. Coping with distress was hard but this is as bad. It’s different. It’s.

She tilted her head, quizzical.

– The distress. The EMDR it’s in my head  but it’s external. That revisiting. That reliving. I’m a time traveller. Stuck. No control. It’s hard, but I know what’s coming. But this

I crossed my legs, left over right, foot pointing to the door away from her chair.

– It’s inside. It’s hard because it’s about me. It’s about what I think of me. About my perception of me. And I. I don’t like me very much. I don’t think much of me.

– We need to work in small steps. But it’s as if you have a bulletproof vest on regarding this. Any evidence I give you, just bounces off.

I smiled as she mimed bullets ricocheting. I looked back at the table.

– I let it happen.

She stopped.

– I let it happen.

She shook her head. She went through it again.

I stopped listening. I was in my head, replaying it. Hearing. Feeling.



She gestured to the other chair, in front of the light bar.

I moved, sat, asked her to turn off the lights. I felt a draught on my neck from an open window behind the chair.

We had agreed that the positive cognition needed changed. That worth was too strong at this point. She asked what I wanted. We have discussed this. I thought of her words.

– I accept, no – not accept. It’s wrong. I acknowledge what happened. That it happened. And I need to park it. To be able to. To be able to leave it.

There was some adjustment. She asked if I preferred to think about moving on or about learning to move on.

I wanted the more neutral, the less happy. She made a note.

She asked me to bring up the event we were working on.

I was there. Again. Seeing it. Hearing it. Feeling it. Smelling it. Tasting it.

– And when you’re thinking of that I want you to associate this with it. “It happened and I can learn to move on”

The lights started. To the right. To the left. To the right.

I was there again. There. I tried to think of the words. And it was happening again.

“it happened”

I knew. It had. I knew that. I knew that it had happened. I was there. It was happening. I was there. I could see it happening again. I could feel it happening again. I could hear.

“it happened”

I could hear.

I clutched the buzzers harder. I clutched them, feeling my nails in my palms.

The lights stopped. She asked what I noticed. I told her. I noticed it.

I was back in. Back there. The words. I heard the words. I felt the words. “It happened”. I could. I knew. It had. I knew that. I knew. It happened.

I started to cry.

I felt the tears.

I felt them on my cheeks. It had happened.

I was lost.

So much lost. Lost lives. Lives gone. Lives unlived. I was lost.


The lights stopped. She asked what I noticed. I told her. I noticed it.

I closed my eyes. I wasn’t watching the lights. I couldn’t watch the lights. I was feeling the buzzers. Clasping them tight. Nails in my palms. I was feeling them buzz. To the right. To the left. The buzzers. Clasped in my hands. I felt the tears. On my cheeks. I felt them. I sniffed.

The buzzers stopped. She asked what I noticed. I told her. I noticed it.

And again.

And again,

And as my mind moved she took me back. Back to what happened. To think about what happened. To bring it up. And to think of the words. “It happened and I can learn to move on”

And the first part was fine. The first part made sense. It was okay. It happened. I knew that it had happened. It was real. I felt it. I saw it happen. I felt it happen. I felt it.


I felt it.

It happened.

I heard it. I heard.

It happened.

I heard it.

It happened.

I heard.

I heard it. Again and again. I heard it.

It happened.

Buzzers stopped. The question changed. How much did I believe it. How much did I believe it happened and I could move on? To choose a number between one and seven.

I believed it. I believed. I knew. But I could not.

Not yet.

Lost. I was lost.

– Two or three.

– Which?

– Three.

How did you move on? How could you move on?

I looked at who I was. I looked at who I am, and I saw lives unlived, lives lost. Lives gone.

A mess. Just a mess.


I looked at the lights through tears, felt the buzzers.

I concentrated on the words. I felt the words. “I can learn to move on”. Could I? Could I really? There was a lost boy. I saw this lost boy. My lost self. Crying in bed.

“I can’t learn to move on. I can’t. I can’t do it. How can I move on? How can I? How? How can I move on, while he’s lost?”

Lights stopped. Buzzers stopped. What did I think about when I heard “It happened and I can learn to move on”?

– Loss.

And I was back in.

Again and again.

Back. I saw a crow. A black crow. Perched there. Watching what happened. Watching it. Listening to it.

It croaked at me. It croaked.

How could I move on? It sat there, wings folded, beak open. The crow.

A crow?

Lights stopped. Buzzers stopped. What did I think about when I heard “it happened and I can learn to move on”?

– Darkness. Dark.

And I was back in again.

And again

And again.

The crow tilted its head and looked at me. Had there been one outside, a call through the window? It was there: vivid. As vivid as the angel and demon the last time I did the light bar.

It looked at me. It croaked.

“You ca-a-a-an’t move on”

A crow.

Lights stopped. Buzzers stopped. What did I think about when I heard “it happened and I can learn to move on”?

– Whisper. I feel it being whispered in my ear. But I can’t. I can’t.

She stood. Switched off the light bar, released my fingers one at a time, removed the buzzers.

I felt her push a paper handkerchief into my hand.

I lifted it to my face, dabbed at my eyes, my cheeks.

It was wet.

I sat for a while, each breath exhaling for twice as long as I inhaled. An old meditation technique from when I was a student. I opened my eyes.

I went back to the seat by her desk.

– and how do you feel about that?

– There are two parts. And I feel so differently about them. The first part is fine. It’s okay. But moving on. I

She sat.

– I can’t. I can’t yet. I. I need to say goodbye. I need to. Last week. You told me last week that this was grieving. That this being in my head so much was grieving. I need to grieve. I lost. I lost so much. I lost myself. I lost me. I need to.

– Do you need permission? Do you need permission to move on? And who from? You talked about whispering to you? Who needs to tell you to let go?

– I don’t know. I just don’t know. I’ve not told them, never told them. It would break them. But. But maybe I should. Maybe I need to. I feel.

I sighed.

– It’s hard. It’s exhausting. But I feel I’m transparent. That people know. That they look at me and they know. They know what happened. Understand? You can tell. The way I am. The way I react. They know. They must know.

– I’m not sure you’re transparent.

– I feel it. I feel it. Although I told someone. I. I was meeting someone I’d worked with. And I told her not because I had to but because I wanted to. I wanted to explain why I was here, what I was doing.

– And did she know?

I smiled.

– No.

– You’re not transparent.

– She knew.

– Was that different?

– When I told her she knew. I think she’d always known. Damaged people gravitate together.

– But there’d have been cues, tics. People pick up on some things. Micro-gestures. If you spend a lot of time with someone and communicate a lot there are signs you give.

– That night I told her as I left, afterwards as I walked to the bus home I felt everyone knew. I felt illuminated. In a spotlight. Everyone I passed. Everyone could tell. Everyone knew. They could see into my soul. They knew.

– Don’t you think that that sensation, that feeling comes from this being such a big part of you, and a big thing for you, that telling one person about something so tied up with who you are, about something so tied up with your perception of self, that telling one person, one special person, was like telling the world.

– Thank you. I’ve not.  Before. That’s it. I get it. I’ve never seen it like that. But yes.

I looked at the table again.

– Would moving on be easier if I was more open, franker?

– You don’t have to tell anyone you know. You don’t have to. The choice is for you. To do what is right for you. But moving on is not dependent on it. Being able to grieve, to acknowledge the loss, it’s okay.

– I feel stuck.

– It will get there. I don’t want you to feel anxious about it. This is part of a process. There’s more to come. Baby steps.

Baby steps? Yes. Baby steps.

About loveandgarbage

I watch the telly and read when not doing law stuff and plugging my decade and a half old unwatched Edinburgh fringe show.
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1 Response to “It happened and I can learn to move on”

  1. Pingback: Some personal posts | Love and Garbage – some commonplace musings

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