The brain is an amazing organ it carries my memories in ways I find difficult at times to conceptualise. This week for instance a simple smell triggered me and sent my brain into overdrive, it was yet another example of the way my memories are stored away, hidden from my consciousness.
I had no idea time travel could be so sudden, but sudden it was and yes it does feel like time travel, as in my mind I was catapulted back to an age long ago. The simple smell of a workmen was just too much for my brain to bear and so it kicked into overdrive and protection mode. I’m told that the brain stores memories in many ways, smell being just one of them. In this case the workman triggered a memory that wasn’t pleasant, a memory that evoked fear and a sense of heightened risk.
Triggered by the smell my brain reacted and suddenly fear gripped me, fear of a man long dead but who still can send me into a spiral of terror. The reality of course is my body faces the flight or fight response and then in heightened alertness reacts to the memory that is evoked. Not long ago such a trigger would instantly send me hiding under a desk, or squeezing into a tiny safe space though thankfully not as often anymore. Now at times I am able to ground myself and reverse the time travel, the hyper vigilance and the fear.
On this occasion a part of me was back in 1970 and she was gripped by fear, but I was able to reassure myself and that part of me, that we were safe. I was able to explain that the risk we feared was only a memory and thankfully not real, we were just remembering a time from long ago. However it wasn’t easy as at first I was taken by surprise, I didn’t even know what had triggered me into feeling so terrified.
So unsure was I of the reason for this overwhelming fear that I had to ask internally for help, as I tried to rationalise the situation. The fact was nothing except having a workman in our home had changed, so it was quite easy to establish it was something relating to him. I soon realised his odour stood out and an inside part was able to make me aware that this was what was causing them such fear.
As my mind raced with memories of the man who I feared back in 1970, flashes of memories overwhelmed. I recalled his actions which I feared then and sadly fear now, I recalled the abuse he inflicted upon me as a small little girl. I recalled him, his shouting, his aggression, his awful actions which he inflicted upon me despite my protests.
The poor workman had no idea he had caused me such distress, but in truth he hadn’t, all he had done was kick my brain into overdrive. Now hyper vigilant I realised I needed to act so I opened windows, lit fragrant candles and tried desperately to reduce the odour. I did my best to avoid the workman and when he had finished I grabbed the room freshener and sprayed it around everywhere. All the time I was internally communicating to those parts who were frightened, offering reassuring and trying desperately to ground us into 2015.
As the odour dissipated my brain reactions slowed and began to get back on an even keel, the time travel that had gone on in my mind stopped and I was firmly stood in today. I was able to settle myself down and resolve the fears by thinking logically and yet also acknowledging the past.
The reality of life with Dissociative Identity Disorder though is that there will be times when I am triggered, by smells, sounds, objects of one kind or another and by people who just so happen to remind me of others. These triggers will occur without warning and they are all around me, it’s impossible to avoid them all. I’m aware of some of the more frequent ones, but not all of them and yes there will be new triggers that I unearth,
The truth is my brain stored those things as being dangerous, and associates those triggers with risk, with pain and fear and so today the brain reacts accordingly when it senses the danger. My brain goes into overdrive yet by doing so it keeps me safe too, it instantly sounds the alarm that risk and danger may be around and I have time to react. It may at times be inconvenient, it maybe difficult to deal with and yet it demonstrates my brain is functioning and doing it’s job of warning me of protecting me.
Today I just need to be able to establish what risk there really is and act accordingly, I know overtime I will get better at doing that and my time travelling will lessen. I’ll be grateful when that happens, till then I best keep my tardis close to hand.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2015