I am not a fanciful person. I love to read fantasy and fiction. I like to imagine things. But I'm very certain what is real and what is not. As least...I used to be.
I don't know what it's like when other people have flashbacks. I've heard some say there's a lead up--they can feel it coming. I don't have that luxury. They just happen. I've heard some people say there's a frightening, dreamlike quality to their flashbacks. Mine are not like that. When they happen, I'm there. They only last a few seconds, I'm guessing. But it feels that in those tiny moments I've just relived hours of agony. If you're with me, you won't know. The only outward sign I give anymore, is that if I'm walking, I might pause and seem disoriented for a moment. If we're talking, I might be silent. I like the camouflage of being in a small group. It simply seems as if I'm listening, or thinking about what someone else just said. It truth, I'm regrouping, reminding myself where I am, who I'm with, telling my body the hurt isn't real, taking deep breaths, waiting for fear to subside.
But at night it's a different story. I've been lucky to have Darrin with me because I have difficulty returning to reality when the nightmares occur. In truth, they're no different from the flashbacks. Same subject matter, same after effects. But the difference is that I wake to darkness, disoriented, unable to figure out where I am or who I'm with. I'm usually combative, but if Darrin talks to me, within about five minutes I understand that I'm in the here and now. The tremors that follow are more severe and last longer than those I get in daytime flashbacks. But I usually don't cry. It's difficult to get back to sleep, too. I don't want to have another nightmare. Sleep is not restful at that point, it's terrifying.
But now Darrin is gone. And he'll be gone for a long time. I had hoped, maybe, I'd be able to use the process I once relied on to direct my dreams--but I can't seem to. At this point I'm doubting that it ever worked at all--although I know it did, I'm just discouraged. Last night I awoke from a nightmare. It took me nearly half an hour to become cognizant of my surroundings and then I was still very afraid. I tried to call Darrin (it was about 11:00 p.m.). He was sleeping, probably, because he didn't answer his phone. I felt silly for trying to bother him, and tried to sleep again. Miraculously, I did fall asleep, only to have an encore session of the nightmare. This time, when I finally became coherent, it was 11:30 p.m. That's not very much time between scenes of terror. I should learn to space them better.
I couldn't go back to sleep. I waited to calm down. It didn't happen. I tried to read, walked on my treadmill, folded laundry--all the while haunted by the things I see in my sleep. Finally, around 12:45 a.m. I thought I'd see if anyone was awake. I texted a couple of people in a different time zone, hoping they might still be up. No answer. Then I sat down and felt thoroughly sorry for myself because they were all getting the kind of rest I needed, but I couldn't go back to sleep. I knew what was lurking there.
So...I worked. I'm still working now. And even though I'm very aware that nothing that presents itself in my head is real, that doesn't mean I want to look at it again. So I'm not sure that I'll sleep tonight, either. Darrin gets back on January 30th. I'm thinking I'll go to sleep then.