I’d told her that I couldn’t sleep. Every night I was fighting to sleep. My head was preoccupied. It would get to two in the morning. I’d put music on, radio shows. And I’d hear them through. I’d lie there, my wife asleep. I’d lie, eyes closed, reliving. I’d open my eyes, and I was reliving. On a loop. Over and over. Stuck. It was stuck in my head.
I didn’t tell her that. Not then. I didn’t need to tell her that it was replaying on a loop and I could hear and I could see and I could feel and I could taste and I could smell and hear and see and feel and taste and smell and hear and see and feel and taste and smell and hear and hear and hear and hear. On a loop. Again. And again.
– Is there anything else?
– I exchanged some messages with a couple of friends. I was thinking about the people I’d been in touch with, the people I’m really friendly with now or was then, that I’m trying to. Well, not the ones I view as people I’ve met, the friends. It’s about vulnerability. They’re people I’m comfortable being vulnerable with. Being open. Admitting frailty and fragility. That’s important to me. To feel I can be myself, no secrets.
I looked towards the door.
– It’s tiring you know? It’s so tiring. Just keeping doors shut.
– Is it that bad?
– I wonder if. Should I be more open about what happened? More frank?
– There’s no need. But it’s your choice. And
– It’s not necessarily the best time to decide. I know. Not the best time.
I felt her look at me.
I folded my arms.
– Being open. It’s. You see, it’s what I’m finding with the people I’ve contacted. It’s either been a case of me having been open before or being comfortable with being open now. I think that even after a time, sometimes years, decades, we resume a role – that level of trust, that level of comfort with being vulnerable. It’s odd. That resumption. I see it sometimes. People that were at school, meeting again. Resuming the roles from then irrespective of what they do now. Power is inverted. Bullies become bullies again. The bullied become prey. It’s odd. I. I’ve avoided that. The people I’ve. They’re all people I liked, liked a lot. People I felt.
I closed my eyes.
– They’re all people I felt safe with. That matters. That really matters. But I. I needed a nudge.
I opened my eyes again, looked to her
– I had one conversation. You remember I’d told you that I’d had a message, not long after I went off? It was from someone I worked with nearly twenty years ago. She got my out of office. It was stark. No detail. Just saying I was off through ill health. No date for return mentioned. Just. Anyway, she contacted me. I. I was really touched. I didn’t expect. And. And she’d guessed what was up, asked if I’d like to meet. And we did. We did.
I scratched my neck.
– We met a couple of times. Lunches. It was really nice. We chatted. And it wasn’t quite like. I mean, we’re older. Married, kids. Life’s moved on. But. It’s that shared history. Picking up. Being able to feel vulnerable, frank. To talk about it. And to listen.
– I wrote to her this week. To thank her. Just to say that she contacted me when I was at my worst. And. Seeing her was so nice. Reconnecting. It’s. It was lovely. That circle, that circle that had contracted for so long. It was nice to reconnect. And if she’d not been in touch I wouldn’t have contacted others, wouldn’t have dreamed of contacting. Well, you know. I’m just really grateful to her. She took the time and I. I got a lovely reply. Where she said that. She said that contacting me had been a bit selfish. She’d liked when we chatted back in the day. About work stuff, life stuff. And knowing who we were. Then. That matters. That acknowledgement that who you were shaped you, even if people you know now are unaware of it. She made me cry. Because I got it. I completely got it. And. And.
I sucked in my lower lip.
– It was nice to feel wanted, but it was nice to feel. It was nice to feel that that thing in my head – that need to reconnect, to find. It’s not just. You know?
I reached down by my chair and lifted a bottle of water, sipped.
– It’s lives unlived, you see. Lives unlived. That reaching out, that need – and it is a need – to meet people I liked and loved. It’s grounding me with who I was. Reconnecting with my past. I need it. That link. That.
– It’s the positive cognition you see. I. You told me not to fixate on it, not to let it get to me.
– But it is.
– It is.
She explained where we’d moved from, that notion of worth, through a notion of having the potential for worth to last week’s acceptance, acknowledgement, that the trauma had happened, that I could move on.
– It’s the potential that matters. Not that you have moved on, but that you can, that you have the ability to move on. And that makes a difference. It might take a long time. You might not realise you’ve moved on until long after you have. But you have the potential. And I’m seeing it every week. The difference from when you first came. You’re much further on. Contacting people. Meeting them. Sending that message. Having that lunch. They’re big steps. They’re all part of the process of moving on. But I worry you think in absolutes. Black or white. You have moved on or you haven’t. It’s a process. You need to concentrate on the potential.
– You’re right.
She tilted her head.
– I found the first part easy last week. “it happened”. I know that. It’s factual. I know it happened. But it was the bit about moving on I struggled with. I feel I should be further on. I should be. I feel I’ve failed, that I’ve failed by not being further on.
– But it’s a process. It takes as long as it needs. Think how long you’ve lived with this.
– I know.
I looked down.
– I know. And what you say makes sense. I feel I’m not ready for it. I’m. You know the other week you talked about grieving. I’m grieving. It’s. I’m lost. I’m still lost. I need to say goodbye.
– The installation of the positive cognition won’t work if you don’t believe it. And you mustn’t get hung up on. It’s only part of this. You’ve come so far. And it’s about the potential. The potential to move on. That you can move on.
– Yes. Yes. But it’s the first bit. It felt fine. But it’s.
I closed my eyes.
– I know it happened. It did happen. I know it. But. It shaped me. And.
I opened my eyes and looked at her.
– I was talking to my wife this week and she. It wasn’t the right word, but I got it. I completely got it. And I understand what she meant.
I scratched my neck.
– Comfort. She said there’s a comfort in it. And it’s not the right word but it’s true. There’s. There’s a. A security. Yes. There’s a security in it. In knowing it happened. That who I am has been shaped by it. That how I am, that who I am, that why I am, that what I am, they’re all shaped by it. Defined even. It made me. It made everything about me. I told you last week. About what my mum said. I changed. Even times where I’m not aware necessarily that I changed.
– I changed. After it happened. And it’s a much bigger deal, it’s a much bigger thing than I imagined, than I realised. All life choices. Everything. It changed me. And so. Well, it happened is more uncomfortable, more upsetting than I’d realised. Would I have chosen different things to do? Acted differently? Would I be me?
– Everything. Everything is up for question. Who I am. How I am. I look at things I’ve done. And I can tie them back. The way I act. I tie it back. Avoiding situations. Avoiding people. Being passive, letting things happen. Feeling I can’t act, can’t do anything. I.
– it’s integrating. It’s moved from that place where it sat and you relived the distress and recalled the distress. And it’s gone. It’s tying in with your memories and you are trying to make things make sense.
– But there are so many unlived lives, paths not taken. Decisions I’ve not taken. Actions I’ve not taken. Choices I made. Did I do them because I hate me, because I did not feel worth anything? Or should I have done things before? I.
– This shows the process is working. You are trying to move on. You are trying to deal with it. And of course there are questions. You’re trying to make sense.
– There is a revolution in my head. Everything is falling apart. I. I’m lost. What could I have been? Who could I have been? Am I what I should be?
– That it happened is true. I know it. It did. It happened. But it’s hard to accept. It’s hard to acknowledge that it closed off all those lives, all those possibilities. It hurts. It hurts knowing that. I can’t. You understand? It’s a revolution. My head is caught in a revolution. Everything is unsettled. Everything about me.
– But if this didn’t unsettle you, if it didn’t upset you I’d be worried. You have lived with this for decades. But it’s not been integrated. You’re integrating it now. That’s good. But it’s unsettling. But you’re still you. You’re more than what happened. Aren’t you?
I thought about it. I thought about it again. Back in my head. Again. Back in my head. What I saw, and what I felt, and what I smelled, and what I tasted, and what I heard. What I heard. Again. Back in my head. What I heard. And I nodded, and started to cry.
I closed my eyes.
I closed them.
– I can’t sleep. It’s in my head.
When I opened my eyes I saw she’d moved the box of tissues nearer to me.
– I can’t get to sleep. I hear it. You know? What I talked about in the light bar. I.
My eyes were wet, my cheeks were wet. I breathed and breathed. Slower and slower.
– I’m thinking about it a lot. I’m scared to go to sleep. It’s in my head. As I’m going to sleep it’s there. I hear it. I hear it over and over. In the middle of what happened.
She flicked through the file.
– If we were to do the work now, going back to the worst, you’d not be.
– When we started. When we did the light bar stuff at the start I was there anticipating it. I was waiting for it to happen. Trapped. Stuck. I was time travelling. Every week I was time travelling, unable to change a line, not a line. I knew what was coming, knew was going to happen. And it did. And that fear. That fear of what was to come. That was the worst.
– It changed. You know? Over time I moved. I moved forward in time. It was later on. It was later, but still beforehand. Still in advance. That anticipation. That fear. The anxiety. Knowing what was to come. Knowing it.
– I’m scared.
– I’m scared. I’m scared to sleep. I’m stuck. It’s there. I’m right in the middle of it. I feel it. And I smell it. And I see it. And I taste it. And I. I hear it. I hear it again and again. I hear it.
– I hear it.
– And this is getting worse?
– Yes. It’s my new normal. It’s. It doesn’t feel like flashbacks. I’m not transported. I don’t get swept away. But. It’s in my head. It’s there. It’s there in my head. On a loop. And it’s getting worse. The more agitated I get about the positive cognition the worse it gets.
– I hear it.
And I heard it again. Again. And again. Quiet. Invasive.
I closed my eyes, and I saw. I heard and I saw.
I opened them and I heard.
She checked something in the file.
– I think we need to go back. It’s your choice, but I think we need to look at moving this. We need to focus on this with the light bar. Are you happy with that?
I closed my eyes and I nodded.