TW: Assault Memories
Three hundred and sixty-five days.
Five hundred, twenty-five-thousand, and six hundred minutes.
One breath per moment.
Sixteen breaths per minute.
Nine hundred and sixty breaths per hour.
Eight million, four hundred thousand, and six hundred breaths per year.
One year survived.
“It is a sad song.
It is an old song.
But we’re going to sing it again.”
Today is June 28, 2022.
We humans are funny creatures.
Days hold remembrance for us.
We live such short, and fragile lives upon this world; we have learned to mark our days with reverent significance. Society has even selected certain days to celebrate annually and remember moments of its history. It’s almost as if we can’t help it.
As creatures of the sun, we mark each day that it rises, and we record every day that if falls.
I have watched the sun rise, and I have watched the sun fall for 365 days now.
Three hundred and sixty-five days since my first flashback.
Eight million, four hundred thousand, and six hundred breaths since the moment my life reincarnated into the cavernous healing procedure it has become.
I started this blog in the fall when the thoughts of healing became too big to contain within small words attached to a picture on Instagram or Facebook.
It has become the place that I come to let my grief dance.
For it is in these words that I type, that healing leaks out one character at a time.
I morph the words to transmute the pain.
I allow my mind to stop thinking, and for my fingers to speak the whispers of my soul.
Today holds significance for me.
My mind knows it.
My heart knows it.
My soul knows it.
And my body keeps the score.
How does one create a Nebuchadnezzar of a fallen Tower?
I have no bow to button this year up with the civility of society.
So, I come to this page with raw, animalistic pain.
I walk amongst the rubble of this fallen life today, and together we will find the light.
I write this as the sun sets upon my day.
My fingers scramble to find meaning.
But my soul remembers to simply do as we have each moment since the first:
Breathe, and find the light.
June 28, 2021, was a normal day for me.
I worked a normal Friday at my normal job, and then I went home and did normal people things.
I got home from work.
I went on a walk.
My partner came over and we started watching a movie.
It was a normal day.
Partway through the movie, my mind began to work in a way I didn’t recognize.
I started to loop conversations, and I could not keep up with the racing thoughts within my own brain. As a creature of control, to lose the joy pad to your mind was and is a terrifying experience.
I decided to go to bed.
My partner came to check on me.
He crawled in beside me to comfort me.
And his face changed.
Looming above me was a face.
A face my body and soul recognized from the stored subconscious vaults of my memory.
The salmon sheets were now a vivid dark green.
And I was afraid.
My terrified body flung itself from the bed, and I cowered back against the wall like a wounded animal facing its persecutor.
“Please don’t hurt me”, a voice I barely recognized screamed from me.
My rational brain tried to take over the moment, to bring reality back within reach.
But as I was crawling on the floor, a voice within me that I have come to recognize as my strongest self; she spoke as I heaved my body across the floor:
“This is real. I need you to hold on, because this is real.”
It was that self that pleaded halfway through this first flashback for my partner to call Katie, my therapist at the time.
Katie answered the phone at 10pm on a Friday evening.
She then spent two hours on the phone helping get me to a hospital.
She helped us know what to say so the doctors could take me to the right facility.
They got me to somewhere safe.
Katie and Mark saved my life that night.
And I will forever be grateful for that.
That night, in the coldly lit hospital room, nurses and doctors monitored me until my body and mind was ready to process what quickly became my new and only reality.
When a therapist finally arrived, he could see my reality splitting within my own head.
And he gave me the advice I have held every moment since that first.
“We are going to take this one moment at a time Kasey.
So in this moment, just breathe for me”
I have been breathing through the pain ever since.
The next few weeks were a blur.
My body went into what I now know is hypo-arousal.
I lost the ability to do anything beyond moving from one chair to the next.
I lost my life three-hundred and sixty-five days ago.
And it is okay to grieve that. One can reach for the light but still honor the imprint of darkness.
Those first few months are still a blur to me.
Psychiatrists put me on medications that they didn’t explain.
My workplace barred me from work after I admitted having an “episode of psychosis from unknown origin”. I had to fight to be let back into work, and I had to fight to be treated kindly within a workplace that did not know how to handle a mental health crisis.
I lived within a waking nightmare. I cut myself off from most people in my life because who do you trust when it feels like you can’t even trust your past life?
The thing is, is that flashbacks aren’t what they seem in movies.
You do not receive a Christopher Nolan approved, cinematic experience to highlight all your life’s worst moments in a chronological order.
A flashback is a moment caught in time within the brain that it has not fully processed. This is why trauma resides in the right side of our brain. Within the right side of the brain, we think in images, sounds, smells, and experiences. Our left side takes the memory that has been processed and safely stores it in a hard-drive file where it can be accessed, examined, and put back into the filing cabinet.
However, trauma memory is fragmented into sounds, smells, images, and experiences; and these fragments inhabits the right side of your brain. During a flashback, your mind finds one of those fragments and you experience the memory in a myriad of ways.
In the first memory, the face is blurred. I see green sheets. I feel intense pain sometimes. I see the light fixture that was on the ceiling. I can’t breathe sometimes.
Add a few body shakes and you have a typical flashback.
This is dark stuff. I don’t speak it to ruin your day or to relish in pain.
But this was the real-life nightmare I lived through.
I want to honor it by not sugarcoating the darkest bits.
A survivor should never have to wear the badge of survivor. But we do.
And I now have reached a point in my personal journey to wear it with pride.
For I know the darkness I have seen.
I am a survivor.
Four months later, I had very few answers still.
Weekly therapy sessions helped us access only this information:
1. This was a trauma-related.
2. The official diagnosis was PTSD.
3. This assault happened at a young age; 3-4 years old, to be exact.
4. The variance in memory led us to believe it was a repeated offense. My body held multiple instances of this abuse.
This is a lot of information to receive in four months’ time. Me and my “normal person life” were not handling the influx of this life-altering information.
So, I did what any rational 27-year-old millennial would do in the middle of a life crisis; I bought a plane ticket to Europe.
It was there in the hills of Laragh, Ireland this October that I finally received the flashback that l tied the reality of mind (that I questioned) into full and heartbreaking reality. While hiking, my mind connected the dots.
I reached out. Did some digging.
I was a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
The flashbacks were real.
The pain was real.
The life explosion, in all its magnitude was real.
That long day.
That long day in the mountains. damn
The day it all became real.
Like all the days that have followed, I took it one breath at a time.
The last few breaths of that day led me to the pub where I met my community I live with now.
I met souls and people who have become dear to my heart and Spirit.
And that is the beauty of this dark tale.
Wherever there has been darkness, it ultimately became only shadows of the light.
I have been handed an extra-ordinary life.
I was sexually abused when I was a child.
My wise mind and my powerful body kept the score for me for twenty-four years.
But repressed trauma is still trauma.
Trauma is a poignant spirit within the lives of those she haunts.
She morphs family dynamics without even being seen.
She teaches a child’s mind to fear.
She teaches an adult’s body to ache.
She is a silent, and insipient poison that carves her name into every memory left to her victims.
It is for this reason, that I allow myself to mourn.
Yesterday, I walked the same hike that unleashed the memory that became my key.
The key to this tricky and haunting spirit.
And on this walk, I mourned.
I mourned the “normal” life that I lost.
I mourned the relationships I forever altered whether purposefully or not.
I mourned the “before” time.
I mourned for the life that I had been planning.
I mourned the lives that this haunting spirit has permanently altered.
I mourned for 3-year-old Kasey.
She is so strong.
I am so proud of her. She lived through a nightmare; and she still chose to be kind.
These words are the adult mourning.
My life has been torn asunder.
What was became what is.
And what is became almost too hard to bear.
And that is when I come back to the breaths.
When a moment becomes too much, I go back to my breath.
I breathe in.
I breathe out.
I breathe until a moment just becomes a moment.
I wish I could wrap this story up with a beautiful bow and present myself to society as a wise sage woman with all the answers and nothing but a happy ending to a harrowing tale.
But that is not how healing works.
Yes, I walk in this world with new wisdom.
But I would not have chosen this wisdom.
I would not have chosen the path it took to get here.
And that is the beauty of this life. We do not know the paths we have been chosen to walk.
It is the beautifully raw terror of being human.
I come to you today with no bow in hand. I am still healing from a lifetime’s walk with trauma. I make mistakes every single day. I fumble blindly with wordless prayers streaming from my soul every single day.
I do not know how this story ends.
But one year ago,
8 million breaths…
The story changed forever.
Today, after 8 million breaths, I choose to accept this.
This is my story and this is my song.
I have been shaped by darkness and yet each day I choose to fight for the light.
And that is something to be proud of.
Whatever your story is, and whatever dark places it may take you:
Know you are loved.
Know you are strong.
And remember dear friend…
Eight million, four hundred thousand, six hundred and one BREATHS.