Post-traumatic stress disorder: Anxiety affecting individuals who have experienced profound emotional trauma. Symptoms include recurrent flashbacks, eating disorders, fatigue, forgetfulness and social withdrawal. The affected person may re-experience the event in their thoughts or dreams.

It is a very isolating thing being sucked into a world that nobody else can see. I'm lost in my own mind conversing with the past and when I emerge, I'm alone.

My past intrudes on my present at inopportune times. One word, a whisper or glance, a slight touch on my skin and I'm not here anymore. I'm a girl of three or six or eight and I'm struggling under the weight of my attacker. I'm not in this room, not even in this state…and I'm terrified. Instead of my calm and loyal husband, I see black-brown eyes and sneering lips. I don't hear the gentle words telling me I'm okay, reassuring me. I feel pain and heaviness and I hear my own young voice, a conflicted, deafening roar in my ears. RUN! He'll kill you. No, don't move. Think about something else. School. Books. If Mom comes home this will ruin her life. He's right, you're a leach. A fucking leach. A leach, a leach. A spineless leach.

And then I'm back here, slowly unclenching my fists and unhiding my face, struggling to find a blanket, clothes, something that will cover my hideous body. I'm sad as I realize that what I find here in front of me is my fault. I'm guilty for involving Nate in this. For being stupid enough to think I could lead some semblance of a normal life.

The strangest part is that this intruding man is a stranger to me. He's imparted his essence into every fiber of my being but I've left no mark on his life. I don't want revenge or retribution. I want peace. I want it to stop. I feel his angry hand tightening on my throat when in fact, he's strolling through a grocery store or turning on the television. Normal things. Why does he get to live a normal life when I'm trapped? I don't know what he thinks or feels but he's ALL I can think about. I don't know where he lives yet I'm cemented in place, breath caught in my throat, petrified that it's him when I hear the front screen rattle.

That's how the past is for everyone, I suppose. We cling to it fervently but it has no regard for us. The bonds we made are our enduring companions. The lessons we learned are meant to bring warmth into an otherwise cold corner of our minds.

I only learned to be afraid.

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