I’m not looking forward to March. Well, I sort of am glad spring is coming, but March is full of negative associations I’m barely conscious of. Even though I’m trying my best to push these old memories and feelings aside and focus on the good in life, that’s not the way the brain works. Especially the PTSD brain.
It’s normal for the brain to retrieve memories when there are similarities between the present and the past events. Like, every so often the air in Chicago on a warm early morning in summer smells like Albuquerque mornings, and that reminds me of shopping in the Old Town and browsing the Native-American-made jewelry laid on blankets along a boardwalk. And sometimes Chicago smells like mouldering dog shit that’s been frozen in the snow and ice in the back yard too long so that when it thaws all the smells release at once, which reminds me of some neighborhoods I’ve been in in my old hometown.
The memory-retrievers can also be influenced by light, sound, and so on–the angle of the sun, the particular sequence of background noise, and similar can also elicit memories that share these elements.
I suspect the PTSD brain is more sensitive to these memory-retrievers. And the memories retrieved have so much negative things associated with them it’s like re-living it again. Even when we don’t exactly realize it.
See, in trauma, the brain can repress memories for our own safety, but the body remembers. Even when the memories are in a jumble and chaotic and we can’t make sense of it, every fiber in the body will remember and tense up or react accordingly.
I’ve been having more anxiety lately, about nothing in particular. My dreams are chaotic, unsettling, and tinged with fear about encountering my father and trying to protect my siblings from him. I can’t remember the details, but I remember the feelings. If it’s not about my family, then it’s some sort of weird, unsettling dream where I need to get out of a “trapped” situation, generally like a cultic thing, but I can’t remember much in the way of details either.
The anxiety plays out in the dreams making it harder to feel rested when I wake up in the morning, which makes me tired during the day, which leaves me more prone to additional anxiety and triggerish things, and it’s sort of making a nice little self-perpetuating circle.
And it probably has something to do with March. Nothing against the month, but it’s not been the greatest month in the world. Four years ago in March, shit went down, and I got that first email from dad that was a precursor to disowning.
Good things happened, too, four years ago. My husband and I got engaged, and I was able to take my littlest sister on a girls day out on her 7th birthday, but that was quickly overshadowed a few days later.
I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m still feeling the residual emotions from that time: the confusion, the bewilderment, the disappointment.
Right now, I’m more reactive to various things. This morning, the bus driver was overseeing a trainee driver, and he was guiding her verbally and talked a little bit and cracked a joke or two–but I was on edge because when the trainer was talking, it sounded like my dad in a loud, forceful mood, like he’s in the midst of one of his blow-ups. I’m still feeling on edge.
When I was telling my therapist about the dreams, I remembered something I had forgotten about for a while. I told her about when dad instituted more stringent rules about where we could go grocery shopping. Don’t go to the one less than a mile away. It’s too dangerous because they have cops hanging around entrances/exits during the afternoons, and the Section 8 apartments were nearby. My mom went to the Super Walmart very close by, and she loved it because she could buy all the food we needed AND a few extras AND get clothes/shoes/other stuff AND stay under budget. But there was an incidence of a purse snatching, and dad felt like there were too many black people hanging around and being dangerous. So mom went to the other Super Walmart that was about 5 miles away, but dad still thought it was too dangerous. So we went to the grocery store a little over 5 miles away instead, and had to cut back on what food we bought.
And this reminded me about dad instituting a ban on going to playgrounds because one of my siblings scraped their knee on the sidewalk. One day, it was fairly warm out in the very early spring and we were all going stir crazy being stuck at home, and dad was at work, so we snuck out to a playground, knowing full well that we would all get into trouble if dad found out.
More memories just arise in weird ways. March’s imminent arrival and my associated general, vague anxiety reminded me about dad controlling my mom’s grocery shopping decisions. And that, coupled with the weird, coldish wettish weather reminded me about the playground ban because dad thought it was safer for us all to just stay at home. I still remember the anxiety and fear that was part of every day life, growing up. My body remembers that. And that made me more sensitive to perceived anger and disappointment–even the bus driver talking to the trainee this morning.
I’m tired of feeling reactive.
Filed under: Abuse