With the help and support of a good friend, I faced my past over the weekend. After some discussion, we decided it was time for me to go back to the bar/restaurant where my nightmare began that night in January of 2006. After nearly 10 years, I had yet to set foot in that bar again. Part of me wasn’t sure I ever would… but, I realized I had to… and I did. However, it was certainly not without repercussions.
I cannot express in words how grateful I am to have someone so supportive in my life, a friend so willing to hold my hand when I took that first step. And it was a terrifying step. In the days leading up to it, I was constantly at war with myself… deciding I couldn’t do it, then telling myself I had to do it. Back and forth countless times. And the drive there was no different! With each bar/restaurant we passed, I kept thinking, “We should just go there instead…” One thing about a true friend is they won’t let you back down… and this friend is no different. His support was crucial to me getting through the evening.
Upon reaching our destination, I found myself walking at a snail’s pace through the parking lot… unsure of my own strength or whether my legs would, in fact, take me all the way through the doors. Much to my displeasure, they did… through the doors, beyond the hostess stand, and into the bar area. The moment I realized nothing had changed, I would have been perfectly content to leave. Once seated, I found myself staring at the tables… remembering the bar-goers milling about… drinks being served… music in the background. I vividly recalled the glass of wine I held in my hand… down to the color of the wine within it.
Dwelling was not something on the agenda for the evening, so I forced the memories away and focused on having a good evening with a good friend. A couple beers later, I glanced up and saw a feature of the bar so precisely as it was all those years ago that I suddenly felt as if I couldn’t breathe. Grabbing for my friend as fear gripped me, I took the necessary deep breaths and reminded myself of the man sitting next to me calming me… bringing me back to the present while still asking me to acknowledge the trigger. To be honest, I could not have made it through that evening with anyone else. Why him, I don’t know… but, there’s a level of trust and comfort there that I have not found in a friend until him. I’ve always believed the people and friends who come into our lives are there for a reason… and maybe this is the reason. Regardless, I’m forever indebted to him for protecting me… making me feel safe… while still giving me the opportunity to remember, to feel, and to be strong.
I’ve always hidden my anxiety… my panic attacks are rarely noticed in the eyes of others. Over the years, I’ve excelled at internalizing the fear, the racing heart, the walls closing in, the inability to breathe. Truth be told, I hid all of those things far more during dinner than I care to admit… until we left, and I thought I could face the hotel across the parking lot. Giving him directions, I followed my gut… and then we reached a corner, and looking out the window of his truck, I remembered. I remembered waking up the next morning and running out of the hotel room… looking around and frantically trying to figure out where I was. That memory was my breaking point for the evening. All I could do was ask my friend to get me out of there. And he did.
Unfortunately, the empowerment I briefly felt for the rest of that night was limited to just that night. By the following evening, memories began coming at me in brief flashes. Things I had chosen to completely suppress… until I suddenly became so cognitively aware of them. Over the last few days, I’ve been trying to sort through these recollections… and in some ways, push them back… lock them away once again. I don’t want to remember. I don’t want to feel the immense shame and guilt all over again. I don’t want to feel utterly worthless and used again. I just don’t want to feel any of it… feeling it means accepting it happened. Feeling it means acknowledging it. I don’t want to speak the words and feel at the same time.
I know one day I will need to accept it and allow myself to feel it at the same time. I just don’t know how to do it. My brain is so trained to turn off one or the other… I have no idea how to do both together. What I do know is I can’t do it alone. Although I know I won’t have to… I’m just unsure of whether I can bring myself to ask of my friend the one thing I know will force that hand…
One step at a time.
“Some people are afraid of what they might find if they try to analyze themselves too much, but you have to crawl into your wounds to discover where your fears are. Once the bleeding starts, the cleansing can begin.” – Tori Amos