Nature likes to work in cycles. Processes aren’t linear, it circles back around so each event can happen over and over again. Life is a cycle. You’re born, reproduce and die. And that life is made up of many cycles. These cycles are passed on to your children. Everything goes in a circle. I never realised how much my life was entwined around this process.
I have this one distinct memory from when I was a child. It’s one that encompasses every fear I have, and every negative trait I’ve developed. I close my eyes and I can remember it. I was lying in bed, I hear a banshee. My mother produced a sound that I never thought was possible from her mouth. I lay there longer, waiting, listening. The screams didn’t stop, they only changed pitch. It was distorted and I couldn’t make out the words. I got up out of bed and peeked my tiny head around the corner. There was a shadow. She was arguing with a large shadow. Only growls escaped its mouth. Loud thunderous growls. And in terror I hurried back to bed. I lay there a while. Eventually, footsteps approached and I could feel it’s eyes on me. I didn’t look. I just lay still, pretending to sleep until it left. This is the memory of terror. Anything that terrified my mother was scary to me. Whatever demon that was would plague me in the shadows. I wish I could say it was the last time I encountered it as a child, but it wasn’t. It did eventually stop, though not until the damage was done.
I wish the story of what haunted me ended there. For years it was quiet, then it suddenly returned, a beast stalking its prey. It started when my mother came to live with me. At first she was okay, then she got sicker and her mind faded. And I awoke to her screaming in the middle of the night again. The banshee had re-awoken. I comforted her and put her back in bed. I know the precise moment it happened. The exact point in which the haunting started again. When I put her back to bed a large shadow appeared in my peripherals. I froze. My heart dropped and my heart rate rose simultaneously. I turned on the lamp, and with the presence of light it diminished. I returned to bed and that night. I was young and afraid again.
The next morning my mother was herself again and remembered nothing of the night before. I however, was stuck in thought and doing my best to avoid shadows. The light stayed on in my house most nights until I became comfortable enough to turn them off again. The issue with comfort is that one becomes too comfortable eventually. As my mother’s illness progressed, strange things started to happen. Objects started to disappear and then I started to see the shadow again. It only progressively got worse. My mind was scattered and I began to lose time.
It took me a while, to discover why I was losing time. At first I just started noticing the time was later than I expected it to be. My mother didn’t notice anything because she was slowly losing her mind. I brushed it off and thought I was just bad at keeping time. Then slowly I started to realise I’d be in a completely different room than I was the first time. At this point I becoming scared. No matter how much I tried, it wouldn’t stop. So I would mark the room I was in for a while with tape to try and make sense of everything. I even considered seeing someone, but I was terrified at the idea of speaking about it. Eventually, I began to remember snippets of my lost time. Those minutes or hours were spent elsewhere. I couldn’t explain it at the time, but I was transported into what seemed like the past. Into a memory. Both traumatic and beautiful. Yet, one always stood out. The one with my mother and the shadow. The banshee and beast.
Soon after I made this discovery, my mother passed and the blackouts stopped. The dark figure was gone and all was peaceful. Years went by, I met someone and soon discovered I was pregnant. We named her Isobel and for the first time in my life, it felt as though I had a true purpose. It was my job to raise this beautiful child and make sure I did great. It was going fantastically. I enjoyed every second of every day. Then, the hormones wore off and the depression kicked in. That was fine, I could deal with that. I could. That was until my grandmother on my fathers side fell ill and needed to be cared for. Of course, I offered. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I was home with the baby anyway. Plus, I’ve always felt guilt because her only son died and I am her only grandchild.
She came and life was okay. I was still suffering from postpartum depression but she wasn’t a burden. However, around a month in was when the shadows started again. The same way as they did with my mother. Always in the corner of my eye. At first, I was scared, but it got easier as time went on. I blamed it on the depression. Then around two months later, the blackouts started again, in the exact same pattern as before. My grandma didn’t notice at first, but eventually she couldn’t ignore Isobel crying. She described me as being in a trance like state. Unresponsive, yet my eyes were open. I battled this for months and only seeked help when it got so bad I couldn’t care for Isobel anymore. See, the entire time, I didn’t seek help wasn’t because I was scared. I didn’t because each blackout I started to remember. I started to realise I was inside my mind, and that it was telling me something. It was much like lucid dreaming. I realised I wasn’t entirely awake. All because I didn’t remember it happening this way. Each new bit of information would allow me to begin lucid dreaming. Which brings me to the memory I was so afraid of. The one that influenced every fear. See, my mother was never screaming at a shadowy beast. She was screaming at my father. He had asked her for money to fuel his addiction and she was starting to fight back. My brain suppressed this memory. It wanted to protect me and keep the rest of the memories away.
The brain can be quite foolish at times. Repressing the memories did me no favours. I thought I was haunted because of them. The reality was that the trauma was brought back to cycle within my mind until I could make sense of it. The cycle of abuse that I thought me and my mother escaped was still trapped within. Every fibre of me effected. I am eternally thankful that I realised after my daughter was born. The toxicity I could’ve caused would’ve driven her away. The abusive behaviours that were engrained into me had the potential to be fuelled by the anger within. But I broke the cycle. I am free. The cycle of abuse ends with me.
I just wanted to add that I’ve created a science blog called That Hipster Scientist. Please check it out if you have time! It’s a science blog I created because I love science.
Thanks so much for reading!