That One Flashback

I don’t tell this story often. And even so, I’ve only told it to three people: bartender #3 ((Bartender #1 was my high school counselor, who betrayed me; and #2 during the years of Zorn and Tharn unfortunately didn’t study counseling the deeply traumatized.)), the candyman, an bartender #4 (current bartender).

This is the flashback that sent me into serious therapy.

You’d think I would have gotten there before, but after the betrayal of three separate friends (and various minor betrayals, if you can call $4000 minor. Or was it $6000? I forget), and what I can only think of as my own betrayal of a friend… after that, and with the paranoia feeding on itself, I didn’t make friends anymore.

Except there was this one guy at work. He wasn’t handsome, he was tubby and short, if charismatic and down-to-earth, and a greybeard in the making at that. But he was the only person who seemed to understand what I was going through. Sort of. He knew that I was likely manic-depressive or something like it. He was kind when others wouldn’t have been, when he didn’t know the full extent of my history.

I betrayed him, of course. Like I said in a previous post: there was a time when I equated relationships as being akin to coinage and debts. You pay attention here and there, they are required to do the same. It was the wrong thing to have learned during the Years of Zorn and Tharn, and I almost lost my only friendship over it.

He explained the basics to me, after a very difficult point, when he realized I didn’t know. And after that… well, I made him laugh. I was Dory to his Marlin as much as possible. And I knew now that you don’t expect anything in a real friendship. If there’s any trading or suchlike, it happens naturally, without accounting sums and balances. And if it doesn’t happen, well, it doesn’t.

Expecting things in return is bad. It’s why I don’t expect nor take things in return for donations, not even tax deductions.

But I wasn’t seeing a therapist yet. I should have, but like I said, I learned a lot of wrong things during the Years of Zorn and Tharn.

My friend (and by now you can see the single point of failure in my support network) invited me to Thanksgiving at his family’s place. His wife was also my friend at this point. Their kids were good kids, their dogs were good dogs. I should have felt safe. I should have felt fine. And I did. For the most part.

Thanksgiving is a bit stressful for everyone, really. So when my friends had a little scuffle, as couples do, I lost it.

It was a full flashback. I only remember crying the next morning at home. I called my friends, who sounded reluctant to talk to me, which was understandable, and my friend was quite standoffish. I called up a local bartender and sat in a waiting room at his office. For half a day. It was a holiday, but I sure as hell didn’t want to wait at home.

And over the next days, my friend didn’t talk to me. I didn’t understand, but left it at that. You don’t ask for things in return.

A few days later, when we were riding the ferry home together, he asked me if I remembered what had happened after I left their house on Thanksiving. I said I didn’t, and his sigh sounded a bit relieved, but not entirely.

“You called us repeatedly that night with death threats.”

I was horrified. Horrified at what I’d done. Horrified that I could do that, or even would in the first place. Horrified at how little sense such an action was. Horrified that I could do that and not remember one moment.

We’re still friends. But not so close anymore.

I’m lucky I didn’t hurt anyone, or, gods forbid, kill anybody. I don’t think I would have held back. I don’t remember any of it, so I don’t know what I would have done or wouldn’t.

The insanity plea… maybe it works for others, but I don’t apply it to me. No matter what I was riding out that night, no matter what excuses I had, even without determing the morality of anything that happened, I still hurt people. Emotionally, sure, but that can be pretty bad. And it could have gone farther.

The gods do not approve of attempting to moralize anything. Bad things happen to good people, and supposedly good people can do bad things. That’s just the way of the world.

I do penance, and every once on a while I check delicately to see of the status quo has changed, but I don’t expect it to. Nor can I really judge my friend.

I live my life as well as possible. Even if there’s no reward and no forgiveness that can ever be obtained. That boat sailed when I made my first death threat. Hell. It may not even have been my first.

I’m in therapy to do what I can to repair my sanity for the sake of others, and for myself.

It’s enough to live and try to help others. I can’t ask for any more. It doesn’t make sense for me to. Perhaps it makes sense for others, but it doesn’t to me.

And that’s why I don’t deserve help from friends.

6 thoughts on “That One Flashback

  1. I see the point your want to make. Not knowing ahead of time would make that very scary. Now that it is out in the open it can be lived with.

    I’m not saying if you made death threats I would not take them seriously. I would and be concerned that you could hurt me or yourself. But I would not take it personally.

    At a time like that you are in so much pain you cannot allow yourself to remember it. Even if you are threatening me it’s your father that is the source.

    If an epileptic friend has a seizure and hits my nose while I’m trying to put a wallet in her mouth it’s not a betrayal. Doesn’t hurt any less But it’s not something you can control right then.

    I’m very glad you were able to talk about this. You need to let face to face friends know.

  2. You hurt your friends. It wasn’t your fault, but it was not under your control. It happened because you have been broken in ways that no one should ever have to endure. But I cannot see how you might have prevented it; you were not sane, for lack of a better term, at the time. It is heartbreaking when a flashback occurs that causes harm to befall others, but there is nothing that either you or any other PTSD sufferer can do about it when it takes over except survive it.

    Hurting one friend does not in any way make you undeserving of help from others. Nor make you undeserving of friendship, for that matter.

    Let me repeat: You deserve help.

    Helping you may not be easy, it may be occasionally fraught with danger. You’d freak me out if you threatened me, but if I knew ahead of time that it was a possibility (as is the case), I could shrug it off. I know it’s not you.

    The betrayals you’ve suffered must make trusting anyone or their help an nearly impossible task. But the same reasons and compassion that drives you to do things for others and give to charity, also drive other people. It’s not a give-and-take. People don’t give you help because you helped someone else or even necessarily them; people help because they want to help, because they believe the person who needs help deserves it.

    We all deserve help. We all need a helping hand. What you’ve done is done. You can’t change it. One flashback does not make you undeserving. It does not mean you can’t have friends or help from them, but that your friends must know first and be willing to take that challenge on.

    And what else are these comments here, like those from Paul, Pericat and Wogglebug, to name but a few, but help from friends who think you deserve it? You could threaten any of us, scream, block us from commenting or close your mind.. I know you could say any number of things via Twitter, IM and email to me at the very least. So? Still gonna help in my tiny little ways because you need it and you deserve it.

  3. Paul and Cori R. and pericat and everybody still around:

    Thank you so much. My bartender made the same points in this afternoon’s session, too. Well. I don’t know if he likes me. I’m funny sometimes.

    I don’t make F2F friends anymore. I would warn them if I could bear to try making friends in real life, but the possible rejection both at the point of warning and after the point where I go across the line, my fault or not… it’s horrible to think about.

    The top things I fear, in no order because I can’t think of an ordering to them: my parents finding me, having an episode in the presence of someone I know, and having an episode in a place with lots of people (whether I know them or not).

    At the moment I’m also kind of freaking out more than usual—not to anything here, just in general—so it’s going to take me a little while to process everything plus the session.

  4. I think what you express as not deserving help, I would phrase as ‘not having grounds to demand help’. People do generally deserve help and happiness and prosperity; we just don’t always get what we deserve.

    Indeed you can’t demand stuff; friendship is not an owing situation. But your friends get to decide what they think you deserve, and also decide what they feel willing or able to give; those are three separate decisions.

  5. Wogglebug,

    Aaah, okay. I understand better now.

    Sorry I didn’t see your comment earlier. Life has been rocky.

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