Lost in Time
Twenty minutes until my appointment. I held my purse close to my chest while I stared at the clock hanging in the lobby of my therapist’s office. The ticking sound of the clock was the only thing keeping me grounded. Keeping me sane really. At the time I would have moments where I was no longer in the present; moments where I would be taken captive by my own mind, lost in painful memories where I had no power over my life. No one else could see my troubling visits to the past. Only I could. I would feel like I was reliving the traumatizing events that forced me into a constant state of panic and depression… those stupid moments where all I could do was stand there and let everything happen.
But I could always fall back on the steady ticking of the clock. I was still in the lobby, and he wasn’t there. No one could hurt me. I bit at the dry skin on my lips while I sat thinking. All I could think of in that moment was how tired I was. I was tired of talking. Talking about what happened to me only made me feel like I was there again. I was this small, weak little girl who couldn’t save herself. I was also tired of medications. No one ever knew whether or not a certain medication would actually stabilize my mental state. I felt like a guinea pig; forced to “test out” all of these drugs that might work, or might make my condition worse. Most of all, I was tired of everyone trying to fix something that was just too broken.
After a few minutes of quietly staring at the clock, the door leading into the office swung open and a mother with her two children came into the lobby, most likely preparing to leave. The older of the two children was a boy who had his arm hung around his younger sister’s shoulder. I shuddered at the sight of the two siblings. I was reminded how not all of the people in your life who are meant to protect you, will. I violently tore at my lips, and tried not to stare at the little family. The door behind them fell slowly, reaching to a close. But once the door finally shut, the loud slamming noise sent my mind into another time.
The sound was no longer coming from the door. It was a hand slamming the wall right by my ear. I felt a rush of emotions come over me as I realized where I was. I was pinned up against the wall, with only the sight of him screaming in my face. I was completely helpless… useless. Anyone else would have fought back, or tried to escape, but instead all I could do was let him hurt me. Every emotion I felt that day came running back into my mind. I was so afraid. I already knew what he was capable of. This was not the first time he did something like this. I looked at his face and I couldn’t find a spec of guilt. Not one bit of regret. He truly believed I deserved this. I felt like I couldn’t breath, but maybe he was right. I brought this on myself. That’s what happened every single time I challenged him… I lost.
Suddenly I once again became aware of the ticking noise. The clock. The ticking. I was in the lobby. There was no clock that day, and even if there was, I couldn’t hear it over the screaming. My heart was beating rapidly, and all I wanted to do was cry. What I saw was real. It may have been years since it happened, but it still happened. For some reason, I felt as though he never left. He was still there somehow. He was that small voice in my head reminding me that I could never be good enough. He was the monster from my nightmares keeping me awake at night. He was a part of me that I could never be rid of. Ten minutes until my appointment. My eyes stung, but I had to keep myself in the moment. At least until I saw my therapist. I took a deep breath and remembered a grounding technique that I had learned a few months back. Five things I could see, four things I could hear, three things I could feel, two things I could smell, and one thing I could taste. Five, four, three, two, one.
Five things I see. I could see the clock. The hands were rhythmically shifting around the circle. I could see the TV in the children’s area of the lobby. A cartoon was playing with the subtitles displayed on the screen. I could see a sloth drawing on a whiteboard. The sloth was hanging on a branch with pink flowers. Beside it was written, “Hang in there.” I smiled at the drawing while I continued to choke back my tears. I could see the magazines on a small table beside me. The one on top had a photograph of a man on a mountain bike. Finally, I could see the window. I saw the trees gently swaying outside. I closed my eyes momentarily and allowed a tear to fall from the corner of my eye, which I quickly wiped away.
Four things I hear. I could hear the ticking of the clock. The repetitive sound tapping at my ears. I could hear the muffled noise of the air vents, and I shivered once I thought about the cool air reaching my skin. I could hear myself. I was quietly sniffling and my fast pace heartbeat rang in my ears. Finally, I could hear footsteps shuffling behind the door. My throat was tight. All I felt like doing was screaming. Even when the visions ended it still felt like everything happened all over again. People always told me things would get better, but every moment throughout my life seemed to only get worse. I breathed deeply and glanced up at the clock. Five more minutes.
Three things I feel. I could feel my leather purse in my hands, and I gently moved my fingers around to feel the texture of the purse. I could feel the stinging of my dry lips. I couldn’t stop tearing at the loose skin hanging from them. I could feel my heartbeat. It was still fast. My mind began racing and I started to talk to myself inside of my head.
Why am I still stressed out? My heart began to feel slightly faster every second. I moved my purse down to my feet and anxiously rubbed my thighs.
I’m in the lobby! The clock is ticking! He’s not here! He’s not… I squeezed my hands into fists before slowly relaxing my muscles.
Two things I smell. I could smell the ink from the magazines sitting next to me, as well as the air freshener plugged in across from me. It seemed to be a lavender scent. I couldn’t keep calm any longer. I let my emotions go, and began to sob uncontrollably, while I tore the skin from my lips. I buried my hands in my face for a few moments before I slowly wiped the tears from my eyes. I took one last deep breath before looking at the clock. One minute. My breathing slowed, and I practiced a smile before completing my grounding exercise.
One thing I taste. I pressed my lips together and felt the intense sting of my now split lips. I tasted the metallic flavor of blood dripping out of my open wound. I swallowed hard just before the door opened, and my therapist peeked his head out with a giddy smile on his face.
“You ready?” I licked my lips and smiled back at him before reaching down to grab my purse.
“Yes sir.” No one else could see. Only I could. Where he saw an average girl coming in for a weekly session, I saw a broken victim constantly being followed by the demons of her past. The same demons who influenced a young boy to prey on the weak, and take all power and control from someone with no way to defend herself.
This story is dedicated to all victims of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, as well as those who suffer from PTSD. This story is meant to be relatable, and remind you that you are not alone. No one else can see what happens inside your head, but I’d like you to know that you are still recognized. What happened was real, and you have every right to struggle, to cry, and to ask for help. I wrote about my favorite grounding technique in this story, and I hope you will give it a try and let me know if it’s helpful in any way. Also remember that any level of trauma is still trauma. Even if someone just said something that was incredibly triggering to you in a difficult time, it’s still ok to struggle! I poured my heart into this story and I see it almost as a reflection of myself at some of my lower moments. IT DOES GET BETTER. I don’t think it really sunk into my head until after things started looking up. I don’t want to give my whole story but let’s just say it took a long time, with a lot of support in order for me to get back on my feet. You are beautiful, you are worthy, you are capable, and you have control! I hope this helps even just a little bit!
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