I wonder whether it’s possible ever to escape the flashbacks? You’re there, coping with a “normal” situation when BANG. I think there’s something about the way suppressed memories lurk like bottom-dwelling predators shooting to the surface when you’re unprepared, that makes them especially hard to deal with.
I spent a summer in Toronto with a boyfriend when I was 21. It doesn’t begin to compare with more recent events but it was a miserable, soul-crushing period of my life that I’ve tried to forget. Even now, 22 years later there are moments when unbidden a random image from those months will flash through my mind, with its attendant unhappiness.
I have exorcised more efficiently the terrible pictures of losing Juliette but they spring me too, with the right triggers. Like the other night. Raphi got hold of his brother’s Epipen and in the course of messing around managed to give himself a massive shot of adrenaline. The sense of utter helplessness as I watched a frightened Raph being treated by the paramedic hurtled me right back to times with Juliette. Steph followed the ambulance to the hospital, just as he had done the night we learned that Juliette had leukaemia. It’s not rational, I “knew” Raphi was fine, but these triggers tap into a subconscious vein of feelings I can’t control and I’m terrified.
I don’t know what to learn from this. Perhaps it’s simply a case of accepting I will always be vulnerable, but that’s hard to live with. For someone like me that has tried in many ways to intellectualise her grief, maybe I just need to admit that there are parts that can’t be. They’re too deeply embedded within the primal part of my brain, and are immune to my well-meant meddling.