Londo patiently waits for kitty treats.

Sometimes, I wonder if what I write here is worthwhile and if anyone cares. Other times, I think, “this is my blog. I’ll write whatever I want,” but there is always a nagging thought at the back of my head wondering if what I do matters.

On a recent day out exploring northwest Nebraska, my friend and I were chatting and he told me he was thankful for the writing I do here. He does not have PTSD or experience depression. He said he was once the type of person who would wonder why people who are depressed don’t just snap out of it and get on with things, but through my writings, he has come to learn it isn’t so easy.

On September 28, 2021, I had a flashback. I wrote about it the next morning, but didn’t really know what to do with it until last night.

Let this sentence serve as a trigger warning for anyone who might need one when reading about child sexual abuse.

The flashback takes place in 1984. Unfortunately, at this point in my life, from the summer until the end of the year, I experienced several incidents, including rapes, being sick, a trip to the hospital, abortion, and lots of judgment. Sometimes, I can stop the flashbacks. Sometimes, the events are in the order in which they occurred. Other times, it’s bits and pieces here and there. Sometimes, if I can stop one, I can stop them all. On this day, as I tried to stop one, another started.

During the second half of 1984, my cousin had raped me and I became pregnant. I eventually had an abortion. My grandmother took care of me until I was taken to the hospital because the doctors in 1984 did not know what was wrong with me. Londo is my cat who lives with me today.

I still experience nausea almost every day. From mid-August to Christmas Eve, the nausea heightens. Six days after the following flashback, I agreed to take medication to help ease the stomach pains.

The nausea is almost unbearable now. It has awakened me from a dead sleep and triggered a flashback before I was fully conscious. My mind is back on Gram’s couch and 14-year old me is having a hard time focusing on anything else except the pain. I hurl day and night, but receive no relief. My mind tries to focus on the present. I can feel the bottom of my rib cage sticking out like it did then, and I feel sick again. My temperature rises and falls with the nausea and my heart joins in on the cacophony of torment.

I try to focus on something – anything – else, but my mind shifts to the hospital masks and the memories they bring. I feel my breath shorten and I begin breathing shallow. The exam produces another kind of tension, sickness, and shame. I look away as I did then. The room is bright, distant. The wall is bare, off-white and sterile.

Londo darts back and forth across the living room floor, a feline shadow in the darkness. I feel the warm liquid flowing from my eyes and I no longer see my home. I am back in the stirrups with cold, clinical eyes judging me. I look at the ceiling as the shame sets in.

The nausea is an overriding connection between two worlds. I can’t quell it and I can’t make it go away. Londo runs toward me, squeaking when he arrives. He puts a paw upon my cheek, not to reassure me, but to ask for treats. He always wants treats. I stare into his yellow eyes and try to focus on the now.

I sit up. My stomach aches. I am tired despite being on the couch for nine hours. I don’t know why, but the clock almost always pulls me back to the present. I don’t question why it works, it just does. More than a third of a day has been spent cycling between two worlds.

I’ve got to get up, get moving, and hope the nauseous pain abates for a little while so I can pretend to be human again.

When people ask how I’m doing, the usual response is, “I’m tired.” How do you explain a constant battle raging in your head they cannot see? How does one explain the battle rages during every waking moment and you have become an expert at pretending things are fine because, honestly, no one can understand the constant torture of trying to focus on what is happening in this very moment while also fighting overly vivid memories of the past?

Most people assume tired means lack of sleep, which is partially true, but not the whole story. Many understand a flashback is a recollection of a past, traumatic event, but they don’t fully understand what it means and how it affects a person’s daily life.

My flashbacks happen when I am asleep and awake. I’m more successful in stopping them if I’m already awake. The flashback I wrote about was only about 15 minutes long. It took most of my energy and I got nothing accomplished after it stopped.

When I am awake, writing helps keep my focus here. So does jigsaw puzzles, hiking, and building Star Wars LEGOS. When I sit down to write, it’s not because I’ve suddenly received inspiration. I have hundreds of stories to tell. At least 90% of the time, I can’t write. I sit down and the thoughts flood in. I’m overwhelmed by flashbacks. They are always there waiting.

In the briefest of moments it takes to switch from what I was doing to writing, an eternity passes in my mind. If I can’t make a smooth switch, the flashback takes over. Once it’s over, exhaustion takes away any energy stored for writing.

I end up making a lame excuse about why I didn’t finish whatever writing I was going to do because others don’t understand. I know how it makes me look. I know people give me more chances than I probably deserve because they do understand there is some unexplainable shit going on. I hate it, but I haven’t found a better way of fighting yet.

I still have hope things will be better one day. I’m not there yet. For now, I’m still caught between two worlds.