Anniversaries come around every year. Some of them bring the opportunity to re-visit happy memories, or make new ones, like a birthday, or a wedding. Others, bring something else.
It’s 9 years ago today that an anniversary I would rather not remember was created for me. I think I might have been able to forget the date, if not the time of year, if I hadn’t been forced to remember it when I was reporting it to the police. They needed the ‘facts’ of the case, that included the date. And so, the date became etched in my mind.
The first anniversary, I went away with my friend to visit her family in Brussels. I remember her telling me I woke her screaming.
Those first few years of anniversaries, I used to get myself wound up far in advance, really from January, always at least from February, anticipating it’s coming. I was preparing myself for the flashbacks and the panic attacks that would be my reality for the weeks leading up, and the days after. And so, of course, the flashbacks and the panic attacks were my reality. I vaguely knew that by anticipating the date, I was opening myself up to re-experiencing those fears, but I couldn’t help it. The date was etched, branded into my consciousness.
Some years I tried to gift myself new, positive memories. Other years, I let myself be still, be safe, be home.
As the years went by, the lead-in time became shorter.
Last year I hardly noticed that April was arriving.
I have kept a ritual of honouring the date with a blog post about how I am doing that year, it’s been a way I used of noting that I was getting better, a measurement tool, year on year on year. Those blogs, among others, can be found contained in my book It Gets Better, available as a free download here, or now for your Kindle on Amazon. There’s something immensely satisfying in knowing that 9 years later I’ve officially become an author, turning those bad memories into something that other survivors might get hope from.
And it’s not true that the anniversary doesn’t trigger.
Recovery doesn’t mean the triggers go away entirely; merely that when they happen we know that they aren’t our everyday, and they don’t have the hold that they did.
This year, it wasn’t until 4 days ago that I realised today was approaching. I was being interviewed for a podcast about my recovery. And I observed that 9 years was coming. So I am not surprised that the next day I felt those old-familiar waves of anxiousness and overwhelm and fragility descend upon me. I’m ok with that. These 9 years have been a series of battles, but I’ve won the war. Sometimes, there are still some minor skirmishes to be fought, but I’ve won the war. The feelings now aren’t of fear but of grief for the me that was, of sadness for the me that’s had to be fighting, and of awe for the me that’s now doing what I’m doing.
Anniversaries can be so difficult to traverse safely.
They have the power, more than any other time of the recovery process, to pull us back down to the depths of the abyss. If you’re going through yours, it’s the time to really over-dose on the self-care. If you’re experiencing panic; ground yourself – you are here, you are not there, you are safe. If you’re experiencing anxiety: distract yourself – a boxset of your favourite TV show, a soothing playlist. Prioritise your sleep (for tips on how to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep, see here). Reach out for support, from those close to you, and within the Community group. Notice that you have come a long way already, there might seem to be far to go, but you’ve come a long way already. You’re not alone, we’ve got you.
In solidarity and love, xx
(And if you want a whole heap of tips and tools that will help you ground yourself, and rescue yourself, then of course Taste of Recovery has it all in one place).