I never used to think of them as flashbacks. For a long time I didn’t really remember my abuse. My parents didn’t believe me and over time I began to question whether it was real. The clear memories started coming back when I was in college. I think maybe it was because I was beginning to have physical relationships.
I began to get the reputation for being a tease. I would be with a boy. We’d be kissing, and then he would take it a step further and I would start to panic. Not every time, and only with certain things. That’s when I started remembering. A hand pushed up my shirt or shoved down my pants would trigger it.
I would be with a boy I liked, who I wanted to be with, and I would be fighting the nausea. I’d be sweating and my heart would be pounding. And I’d start to get mad. Really mad. Part of me knew that was stupid. The boy probably didn’t even recognize my reaction for what it was. It probably seemed like I was into it. And then I’d snap. I’d tell him to stop.
Sometimes they did. Sometimes they didn’t.
I always thought flashbacks were like having a vivid memory. It’s not like that, at least not for me. It’s like a panic attack that for me is followed by a memory. For me the memory comes after I’ve calmed down. The physical reaction is what’s triggered. At least I know what it is now.
Sometimes I wish I could just remember everything. I wish I could rip off the bandaid and remember all the details and just get it over with. My therapist says that might come over time, or it might never happen. He says I need to keep doing the work, either way. Sometimes I get so tired of it, though. It feels like the work will never end, and I might not even get better.
It helps to know other people go through it and do get better, though.