Rumour has it you can hear whilst still in the womb, therefore, when you finally enter the world you can recognise significant people straight away. (http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/fetal-hearing/ ) It's real science and everything! And your senses can play a massive role in your emotional memory in a positive as well as negative way. This is an interesting read. (http://www.livescience.com/8426-brain-link-sounds-smells-memory-revealed.html)
So why am I talking about this today? Well it was parents evening at school. I am a grown up. I don't go to school anymore. Education in England no longer practices violence against children if they speak out of turn. Bullying, although still happening, is dealt with in a much more dynamic and useful way. I know all of this, but as soon as I set foot in the building and smell the floor detergent, the waft of shared toilets, school dinners and sweaty teenagers and I immediately feel anxious and distressed. In my mind I regress to a place of powerlessness and fear, and even when I speak to the teachers about my son, I will feel as though I have been caught out doing something I shouldn't and experience non specific guilt. For all of you out there who say, "School days were the best days of my life" quite frankly, in my personal experience, if all schools were fire bombed it would be a blessing.
It isn't only smell that does it. Sounds and taste do it too. Songs, animal sounds, mashed potatoes and swede to name a few. These sounds, smells and tastes can also generate happy memories and whip you up into a joyous frenzy. Just give me the edge of a silky blanket and I'll love you for ever. But I suppose what I am saying is that the mind is a very powerful thing and memory for me plays a great part in my wellness. How I respond to those triggers is essential to managing my mood. Some things are really manageable for me now as they are quite common to hear. They no longer trigger fear or hideous discomfort that comes, but it brings no pictorial memory with it, just a sense of fear and total powerlessness. Those sounds now register, pass through, and I float above them on a wave of acceptance. Others catch me out.
Recently we went to the Black Country museum. There was a garage area and a man was restoring and polishing old cars. The smell was incredibly strong and distinctive, and out of nowhere I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach and couldn't breathe. I had to walk off and let it move through me. I had been jettisoned temporarily back to the large garage at the house where my parents used to work. As a grown up, I am able to hold the inner child as the terror passes through. I am grateful for this skill, as if I cannot do that, I will be in constant fear and my mood will drop off a cliff. Also, what I need to remember is that the past has gone, and unless I give my permission for it to hang around, it does not need to have a grip on me. It does not need to take me hostage with fear and it does not define who I am as an adult. I am a grown up and I am safe.
Also the things that terrify you as a child are not necessarily actually scary in adult reality. Spiders is one of those. My childhood home and the shed used to have massive Victorian house spiders. When I was 4 they looked like dinosaurs that moved with lightening speed and had a monstrous quality that put the fear of God in me. Dark cupboards, dust, the smell of damp, cobwebs..... That's me in full jitters. In this country spiders cannot do anything monstrous; well other than accidentally fall in your mouth whilst asleep! The fear is in my head.
And that is the point of this for me. Although there are genuinely things that are scary and you ought to have a healthy fear of, in my mental illness journey, some of my fears have been projections of my mind. They have no basis in truth and reality. Some of my fears, of things no longer happening to me, I need to let go of and dissolve their power over me. The recovery journey shows me the nuances of the volume of fear, what triggers it, when it is more noisy. I need to be aware that I am a physical person, with senses, but also a mind that are intrinsically linked. Sometimes, they gang up up and try to fool me into thinking I am a victim of my past and circumstance, that I am powerless and have no choice.
That's bollocks. Yes I have a mental illness, over that I have no control. Yes, I have experience all kinds of weirdness and distress in my life. But what I do have is a choice about my response to all of those things. On a day to day basis, I can show up to the game of life, and live in the solution, work on being emotionally and spiritually free and embrace the challenge of living. Sometimes, out of what you think is a mistake, or slightly broken or not good enough, can change the world. I think there is always a greater good at work even in the darkest moments when we think there is no way.
A case in point:
"Often described as a careless lab technician, Fleming returned from a two-week vacation to find that a mold had developed on an accidentally contaminated staphylococcus culture plate."