This will probably be a bit of a disjointed post, so sorry about this in advance.
I have PTSD. It doesn’t matter what it’s from but, effectively, it’s been with me for most of my teenage years and all of my adult life. As a result of it, I am both more sensitive to traumas which are similar to my original trauma, and have memory problems.
For “similar”, consider it like this:
There is a small, blue vase with a smooth glaze and a painting of a hummingbird on it. Things which are similar to it are things which are blue, vases, hummingbirds, smooth textures, things of a similar size, hollow things, things which make the same noise when set on a surface, other ornaments which might be in the same place as a vase.
I have memory problems: My long-term memory is fragmentary at best, and there are stories within it (Usually ones which I’ve either had to repeat a few times, or which other people have told back to me) where I remember them oddly. It’s like the Princess and the Frog – The story remains the same, but it could be in the city or the country, and it could be a witch’s curse or a self-imposed exile, and the girl could be a princess already or a commoner, and she might have kept her promise or broken it, or found the golden bauble, or had it brought back to her as proof. As I’m telling a story, I’ll often have to hunt around to find out who it was with, or when it was, or where. Sometimes I’ll start telling a story which I think happened after I’d left university, then realise that it happened when I was a child, or one which I think was in Tokyo and was actually in Berlin, or which I think was with Dearest but, logically, was before I met him.
And I have flashbacks. Usually brief, usually brought about by something that reminds me of a trauma (Some physical sensations, the smell of a certain brand of industrial cleaner, a certain turn of phrase). Sometimes it’s just a bad dream. Most of the time, in fact, it’s bad dreams. Not as bad as night terrors, but they feel almost like night terrors, and I end up screaming or lashing out or sleepwalking.
Sometimes, because of it, I lose track of what day it is, or what year. Just a nagging sensation that I have to do something – Go to my Grandparents’ house for tea (Not a regular occurrence since 2003), wake up in time for work, meet someone at the club (which closed in 2010), press my uniform for school.
I actively avoid nostalgia. There is nothing for me back there, only forwards. When I feel like there’s a chance of worse episodes, I don’t listen to music at all, since the chance of getting a line stuck in my head, and it feeling a bit like an intrusive thought (Like in the vase analogy) is too much of a risk, since it can set off a full-blown episode, if not of flashbacks, then at least of depression and self-harm.
Last week, I fell asleep at Best Friend’s house in the usual fashion. The next bit that I clearly remember is being curled up with my head on his shoulder, crying uncontrollably, and whenever I raised my head for a second, seeing him looking terrified.
From his accounts;
I was “gone” for nearly an hour.
I seemed to be in my late teens, knowing what he knew of my past and the people in it.
I was freshly grieving someone who has been dead for more than ten years.
I didn’t know that I had EDS – He had to keep explaining to me that my back pain wasn’t from a climbing accident, and that my hands weren’t hurt from sparring.
I didn’t know where I was.
I wasn’t answering to my own name.
I kept looping back as if I wasn’t making new memories within that hour – Having to re-establish where I was, when I was, what was happening.
By the time I returned to myself, I was just upset, exhausted, tense all over and shaking. He relayed back to me what had happened – My screaming waking him up, him taking a few minutes to work out that this wasn’t just a nightmare, then putting the lights on and listening to what I was saying whilst reassuring me where I was, when it was, and that I was safe, reminding me of my dog, my partner, my house, my bike, the swimming pool that I loved, the things that I’d made and done since the last year that I remembered. I asked if I’d hurt him, and he said no – That I’d not even tried, I’d just been frightened and sad. I was relieved. If he’d said that I’d even made an attempt to hurt him, I’d have put on my boots and gone home.
Suitably caught up, he offered me my diazepam, both to release the spasms that had taken hold whilst I wasn’t protecting my movements and to settle my mind far enough that I could move forwards, and we talked about inconsequential things in the present – Casting plaster, painting with nail varnish, production lines, cricket balls, archaeology, cats. I had to sleep with the light on, and he agreed that it was wise.
I went back to sleep, and thankfully didn’t dream.