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Recollecting memories is one thing. Reliving those memories so vividly that I cut ties with reality is a whole other dimension of experience; these are called flashbacks.

It’s stressful to remember things so vibrantly. The good times are beautiful & I enjoy reliving them, but they are extremely rare & infrequent compared to the negative memories striking me in flashbacks. Living in a moment that no longer exists, I am swept away in emotions from long ago. It wears me down, draining my spirit of all its strength & identity. How can I fight something that no longer exists? It’s only a memory. How can I avoid gunfire from an invisible enemy?

Returning to a negative moment from my past, I am flooded with desperation, loneliness, betrayal, anger, hatred. The overload of emotions devastates all sense of logic & reason. It draws out the very worst in me & overloads my mind with emotions to the point where I don’t know what to do with myself. I grow anxious, depressed, & irritable.

At age sixteen, I wrote to my best friend, “It’s exciting to reminisce because reading stuff I wrote awhile ago is the only way to remember it & recall how I felt; otherwise, I forget nearly everything, which scares me.”

As Elizabeth Wurtzel wrote in Prozac Nation, “No one will ever understand the potency of my memories, which are so solid & vivid that I don’t need a psychiatrist to tell me they are driving me crazy.”

“Flashbacks may include vivid dreams, sounds, smells, images, body sensations, or overwhelming emotions. This re-experience of the trauma often seems to come from nowhere, & therefore blurs the lines between past & present, leaving the individual feeling anxious, scared, or powerless. It can also trigger any other emotions that were felt at the time of the trauma.

“Sometimes survivors experience a sudden painful emotional breakdown. These can involve crying, anger, or fear for no apparent reason. Sometimes a flashback can involve just having feelings that are far more intense than a situation calls for but would have been appropriate in the original traumatic situation. Flashback experiences can make you feel as afraid, helpless, & out of control as you were during the actual trauma, even if you don’t consciously remember it. Others have the experience of losing their sense of where the flashback stops & reality begins” (American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress;

The intensity of flashbacks can be disabling, particularly when there is a disconnect with reality. Sometimes, mid-activity, such as when I’m washing my hands, I will look at something, whether it be myself in the mirror or my hands as I scrub them together, & I will remember a very specific & identical moment in time from my past, & the thoughts I would’ve been thinking during that time period of my life flood to my mind. I think about something that no longer exists in my life, such as seeing friends that I was best friends with but no longer speak to, & I am back in that moment, forgetting whatever “the present” is, forgetting what year it is & where I live & what my goals are & who I spend my time with.

I stand up. The memory ends, but the moment lingers. I stare, unsure of where I am now; I feel as if I exist in a void, a blank space, a black hole, a lingering whisper of the winds, rather than in an exist day & time like the rest of the human race. Confused, my mind goes foggy. I attempt to see through the mist, but all I can make out are clocks without hands, signs without messages, faces without expression. I exist in Nowhere Land. I glance around & nothing seems familiar. This feeling sometimes lasts only a minute, but, other times, it lingers for days on end. I forget where I am in the timeline of my life. It makes functioning impossible, if only for a moment.

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