|My own experiences, a conversation with a psychologist and the 'Firefly Lane' Netflix series.
|My name is Leilani Purdy. I am into my third year of studying Primary Education. This story was inspired by my own journey with recovering from a traumatic event and how it can make you feel stuck in the past.
Another Night in Last Year
In bed and wide awake, Eve gazed at the ceiling. Her small body was heavy with tiredness, but her mind was buzzing with thoughts. She heard Nick breathing through his sleep, a quiet and comforting whisper in the grey darkness. He never had to say anything. His mere presence made her feel safe. It wasn’t the darkness that was scaring Eve, but the silence which allowed her mind to finally confront her with everything it could possibly worry about. Eve gave up on sleep and walked out to the living room. City lights softly illuminated the room in this beautiful and haunting way. It reminded her that she’s not alone right now, other people are awake too. She sat on the nearest sofa and replayed what happened in her mind again. What she could have done, what she should have done and what everyone will think of her if they find out. Frustration stewed inside of her. She couldn’t believe she was still having sleepless nights over this after a whole year. People always say time is supposed to heal these things, but how much time do they mean? Maybe going back in time and making the right decisions was the only thing that could fix her. Fighting the urge to hit or kick or head-butt a wall, Eve found her journal and scribbled the words out.
The funny thing about remembering the past is we tend to have a negative bias towards every memory we have. That’s why our negative memories can be so much more salient than our positive ones. That messed up traumatic thing that happened to me, I recite it over and over in detail like a mad person. I know the events which built up to it and the horrible impact it had on my life. I could perform a dramatic rendition of it right now. But don’t worry, I won’t make you read the details. I don’t think I’ll ever say it out loud, it’s too much for me and it’d either be too much or too little to other people. Instead, I’ll put my headphones on and listen to something pleasant while I write so maybe my thoughts will be more pleasant. Perhaps I should put more effort into remembering positive things in my present and writing them down. Some good things I have in my life now are this apartment, with a great view and a near perfect relationship. If I told my 13-year-old self about the life I have now she’d think I’m living happily ever after. If only time machines were real, I’d love to go back and tell myself that things get better. Give that sad little girl some hope. Of course, I wasn’t always sad, that’s just the negative bias talking again. I wonder if there’s a way to make your mind more positively biased. It’s probably a lot of effort but surely it can be done. That being said, negative bias is there for a good reason. It’s a primal survival instinct which means to keep us safe. Maybe that’s why my brain must constantly replay and analyse this bad thing that happened, because it’s scared that if I forget what happened it might happen again. It’s like a lion had me in its claws, roaring its deadly teeth at me, and now I’m constantly anticipating the danger of being attacked by another lion. Therefore, I sit here and replaying the tape of what happened in my head again to figure out where I went wrong and prepare myself for an escape when it happens again. For a while after it happened, I didn’t leave my apartment, or eat enough, or see friends, and I definitely didn’t sleep. It was an awful bad thing. But it’s gone and done and there’s nothing I can do to change that it happened. All I can control is what I do now. Perceiving myself as the victim of a lion attack has made me think differently about the way I’ve been overreacting to everyday situations. Maybe I should be a bit more patient with myself the next time I panic, because something has probably made my brain think that I’m going to be attacked again. Next time, I might just remove myself from the situation, find someone I love and make some tea without feeling so guilty. I want to be brave again. I want to see my friends and go out with them at night even though it scares me. Because I want to overcome this, and I deserve to have a fun night without worrying that I’ll die. And yes, I might get anxious again and I might have another sleepless night in the future. But right now, I’m okay. On that note, I have so many, much more enjoyable things I could be doing right now than going down this dark mental rabbit hole again. I have someone I love waiting for me in our bed, right now.
Eve closed her journal. She felt light, as though these thoughts had weighed kilograms and she’d finally lost them. They’ll probably come back, but for now they’re gone. She hugged the journal to her chest. She realised that putting every bad thought down on paper made it all seem so much smaller. Just scribbles of ink on a page. A powerless page that she could close, tear, and scrunch up if she wanted to. She tossed aside the journal and crept back into the bed. Nick stirred but didn’t wake. Eve pulled herself close to his warm and sleepy body. Their figures moulded together perfectly like two pieces of a puzzle. Eve hugged him tight, absorbing his warmth until all the numbness and pain inside of her completely melted away. All she had left was a warm glow in her chest, a profound gratitude for the present and a distant realisation that she’s falling asleep.