I can’t see inside myself but I can feel my stomach roiling, turning the coffee I drank with my breakfast into acid. It sears up-up-up my stomach’s walls, threatening to burst out of my throat.
I try to quell it, but swallowing only makes it worse.
The nausea makes my hands start to shake. Their shaking spreads quickly to the rest of my body, signalling an alarm, and soon afterward my entire being begins to cower. Deep inside, my soul senses the fear and it starts shaking, too. It begins to tremble, crouching small, turning in on itself, becoming a tiny black ball. Its mouth hangs open in a silent scream, its breaths ragged and choking, trying desperately to be still, to be unseen, to not be heard.
To be heard is to be unsafe.
My brain kicks into overdrive now that my soul has reverted back to its former, terrified state; one it existed in for far too long not enough years ago. Defensive walls are thrown up too slowly and the images of days gone by flood in like a raging sea, bringing with them fear, desperation, shame, and grief.
The time he threw the dining room chair clear across the room, only missing me by a fraction of an inch.
The hole he punched in the bedroom door in an all-too-often rage.
The word “no” hanging off my lips, only to be ignored, my body forced down despite my protestations.
The echo of his words; words I can’t stand to hear to this day:
“You fucking idiot.”
“You fucking moron.”
“You fat bitch.”
I’m stuck, assailed by a flotsam of old words and old actions and old fear; real, palpable fear. My legs tread furiously, trying to stay afloat. My hands reach for a solid edge to grasp, to keep me here in the present, something – anything – to hold onto, something solid and strong to keep myself from drowning because I am drowning and I’m going to die if I don’t find purchase. Consciousness fails me for an undeterminable amount of time - minutes? weeks? years? – and I feel my myself drifting down, losing my grasp on reality, giving up.
But suddenly, just as soon as they began, the waves stop crashing. My head bobs above the dark water, gasping air back into my lungs. My body still shakes, but my soul stops, heartened. Determined and regaining strength, it calls out for help.
And help comes.
Warm hands pull me out of the shipwreck of my subconsciousness. A pair of strong arms wrap around me, a chest presses against mine, holding me close. My jagged breaths slow to the rhythm of my saviour’s, in-and-out, in-and-out. His eyes clear the fog of my troubled mind, unexpected, like a glimpse of blue sky in the middle of a thunderstorm.
My body still shakes, but I’m safe.
The man holding me is not that man. This man is not the man who hurt me. This man is not the one I’ve hidden myself away from, purposely blocking him out of my life until he found me again, today. My memories of this man are not traumatizing, are not fear-filled, do not render me unable to breathe. This man is
music turned up loud, windows down, open country roads,
And once again, I become a survivor.