I find that traumatic memories are kind of like shadows, or if you believe in the paranormal, ghosts. You aren’t consistently aware of them, even though they’re always around, hovering just a little bit behind you. They wait until your guard is down to make themselves known, appearing only for a brief moment yet long enough to rattle your sense of security. Sometimes they come out of nowhere, sometimes you can anticipate them. Sometimes they’re sinister, sometimes they’re just present. They are a part of your existence, yet separate from it. They’re intangible, yet incredibly real.
Similar to shadows, my memories can envelop me at night. They might wake me from rest, or even prevent it altogether. They tend to find moments where my mind is idle and jump to fill the gaps, unleashing a tidal wave of repressed or forgotten memories. I’m learning to make friends with my shadows, to accept their presence and live alongside them instead of pushing them away.
I don’t think that anybody can go through severe illness and emerge the same human that they were before their world crumbled. Fear changes people. Long term frustration changes people. Losing independence and missing milestones changes people. Frequently, trauma is included in those changes. Memories that you thought were long forgotten begin to haunt you, and new anxieties emerge. You wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat with no clue why; you cry out in your sleep and your partner cannot do anything to comfort you. The ghosts wait until you’re at your most vulnerable to strike you the hardest.
There is no armour strong enough to keep the shadow of traumatic memories out. You can try to keep the proverbial lights on or run away to avoid confronting them; you can distract, you can numb, but they’ll always follow you, until you gather up the courage to sit in the dark and confront them.