So did you ever experience a time when you did something that should have come back to bite you, but it didn't? (This really does have to do with the title, honestly.)
The time I'm thinking about is when I was in college. I'd burn candles in my bedroom now and then. I'd leave them for a few moments while I was in the kitchen or whatever, and then come back. My favorite candle holder was a heavy, sturdy, thick glass votive holder that gave me a safe sort of feeling. My OCDs were much worse back then, and so I was very, very careful about the sort of candle holder I used and where I put it. It was on my dresser with nothing flammable anywhere near it.
You can see where this is going. One day I forgot. I just forgot - an OCD kind of nightmare. I walked out with the candle burning in my bedroom, and didn't come back all day. Makes me nauseous just typing those words.
Fortunately I had that nice thick candle holder, right? Wrong. While I was out, it apparently got so hot that it shattered. Exploded, really, given that when my boyfriend and I got back there were pieces all over the dresser, all over the carpet, and splashes of dried wax everywhere. I had two immediate reactions at the time. The first was "OMG (except in those days we spelled it out like this - "Oh My God") I can't believe I left that candle burning! The whole place could have burned down!"
The second reaction was "There is glass everywhere!" So while boyfriend tried to get me to calm down, he had to clean up all the glass. (He still has the job of cleaning up all the glass almost twenty years later.) I sat and thought about how in spite of the fact that my room was now contaminated with bits of glass, I still had a room. I'd done something dumb and hadn't had to pay for it.
Right, first thing is what you'd expect from OCD. It is a challenge for me to burn candles. For years I couldn't do it at all. And you can bet when I do light them, I check them like crazy. Checking. Checking. It isn't worth it sometimes ... but sometimes it is, and I'll light them for dinner, but blow them right out afterwards. My husband, who does not want to clean up more glass, is happy to help me keep tabs :)
At least with OCD I know how to push my limits - when I have the emotional resources to burn a candle and when I don't - how to insert positive cognitions, you know the drill. I hate it and it hurts, but I feel like OCD is a beast I am in the process of taming.
The issue is the second thing, I suppose. A beast I have not tamed - I have flashbacks about this candle thing. It is so bizarre. Nothing happened. I flashback to a sort of mush of images all at once, all on top of each other - lighting the candle, not blowing it out, the candle holder shattering, seeing the pieces all over, and knowing I just dodged a bullet. I didn't even see the actual moment of shattering, of course, and yet that is still part of the melange of pictures and feelings. My flashbacks can be intense and instantaneous, one moment I'm making tea, and then next I'm reliving every image I just described, with all the associated feelings, all at once. It is jarring, painful, and upsetting in a manner totally different from a panic attack, say. I confused my flashbacks with anxiety and panic attacks for years, but I can often spot the differences, now. That's assuming I'm not so thrown by having a flashback that I can think rationally at all.
If you don't suffer from CPTSD, it is hard to describe how time can bend. I don't really experience time in a line, ever. Time for me is fluid. It wraps back on itself in a way that allows past events to unfold as if they were happening right now. Sometimes multiple events start playing all at once, with all the associated sounds, smells, and emotions, but no visual. That's my usual - and it is really scary. So you can believe I'm trying hard to make sense of it. Why is it that the past won't stay there?
I don't mean this strictly biologically. I understand about the amygdala, how memories and emotions get stored, why trauma seems to be associated with certain memories in some people and not others, blah blah. I mean this from the position of my daily life. It is almost a spiritual question - why isn't the past, past?
So I think about this candle incident a lot. I have plenty of flashbacks to nasty things that really did happen. Why has this experience, of all things, become one of the experiences I flash back to again and again? How did this non-trauma become a trauma? I wonder if figuring this out might help me figure out other bizarre parts of my psychology.
Wait, wait. I ... just got an idea. I wonder if it isn't really so different after all, the OCDs and the flashbacks. I was thinking of OCDs as a problem with "now" and the flashbacks as a problem with "then" but that's not true, is it? They are both problems with bringing the past into the present. Not the same way ... but every time I light a candle, it's like I'm lighting that same candle from back then. The one that exploded. Hmmm.
This needs more thought. What are yours?
Your Hostess With Neuroses
Image credit/info: Candles by Fotodawg on Flickr via Creative Commons, CC 2.0