“Flashbacks….oh yeah I know, that’s a bit like in the cha cha slide – reverse reverse! Yes?”

Er. Well, I can see the similarities. Sometimes it feels just as ridiculous!

What do you think flashbacks are? I’ve been doing a secret survey on this to help with my project. Generally people are aware that it’s something to do with going backwards; either drama students reverting to some other part of the play, or a literature technique, or indeed the beauty of the cha cha slide… but not many people know actually what they are.

Wikipedia says: “A flashback, or involuntary recurrent memory, is a psychological phenomenon in which an individual has a sudden, usually powerful, re-experiencing of a past experience or elements of a past experience…The term is used particularly when the memory is recalled involuntarily, and/or when it is so intense that the person “relives” the experience, unable to fully recognize it as memory and not something that is happening in “real time”.

I say: THEY ARE BLOODY TERRIFYING. And a little bit crazy. It feels sometimes like a mental version of an auto-immune disease. I was abused…and thank you brain, let me just re-live that very vividly. It’s not just a case of remembering; I feel it, I can smell, I think it’s happening right at that moment, and they can – for me at least – be quite violent. At their most ridiculous I think they’ve lasted nearly six hours and have taken a group of adults to stop me from hurting myself. I need to emphasise here that I am 5 foot 2 (ish) and just under 7 stone… adrenaline does some powerful things to the body, it would seem.

I try to laugh about them after. It’s the only way to cope. If I actually counted how many nights have been a write-off both for me and my friends I think I’d curl up in a corner and request hibernation and chocolate. So my friends and I try to apply humour as best as we can; the fact alone that the smallest person in the circle of friends develops superhuman strength, for example, has some funny tales. Apparently, also, me trying to stand up on a beanbag, whilst completely “out of it” in a flashback, had its comedy moments. My friend described it as a game of “donkey” (have you ever heard of this? No I hadn’t either) and my friends stood in a circle and  as I fell near them in a state of no-balance, would gently pass me onto the next until I eventually balanced myself).

Humour aside, though, they are very traumatic. The humour is necessary, at least for me, to be able to process the trauma and not keel over. But the important thing is this: they are needed. I spent a long time trying to fight them off, which only made them more powerful. But without my memories I don’t have my true identity, and I can’t start recovering properly. Flashbacks are part of the recovery process, and the important thing to remember is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel…

For friends of anyone experiencing flashbacks, have faith in your ability to hold their hand. I cannot describe how powerful this is. Having gone through the abuse alone, and being shown nothing but hatred and abuse… knowing that someone is prepared to hold my hand when I’m scared fills a very big hole. Just let them know you’re there, and that this time, they don’t need to suffer on their own…

And then turn on the cha cha slide and boogie.



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