It is no secret that I have been on fire. Me, a home-made sheep costume and a tea-light. Third degree burns, 9% of my body, two months to heal. For the first few months afterwards, I smiled so hard, I’m surprised my teeth didn’t crack: look at me, look at how fine I am!
And while I was forcing my life to flow forward, I didn’t realise that the only reason I was floating was because I was on a raft made of survival instincts, and I had oars made of sweet denial.
You see, by acting like a Carebear, by joking about my accident, by mentioning it constantly, no one would realise that I wasn’t actually dealing with it. Good job, id, you clever bastard!
As time rolled by, I kept smiling, not noticing that my raft was filling up with holes. And as the water of reality started swishing in, I just tightened my grip on those damn oars. No, I’m fine! It’s been so long, I’m not going to react now!
Think again, Alexia.
I said, ‘Why? Why now? This whole time I’ve been fine.’
She said, ‘Did you suffer from panic attacks before the accident?’
I said, ‘Well, maybe one or two.’
She said, ‘And how many have you had since?’
I said, ‘They’re too many to count.’
I said, ‘But I was never scared of fire! Remember the first day out of hospital, I sat right next to the fire’
She said, ‘I thought you were brave for other reasons: because you kept smiling, because you didn’t complain. But when I walked in and saw you sitting next to the fire, I thought, uh oh, something’s not right.’
I said, ‘You knew that back then?’
She said, ‘Yup.’
I said, ‘Oh.’
This is frustrating. I have been patient so far. And I thought I would be okay by now.
Instead I am often anxious for no reason. I am uneasy near a fire. Sudden movements startle me. I am grateful for winter because I can cover up my scars compared to summer when I wore them with pride.
She said, ‘We’re going to have to start talking about the accident.’
I said, ‘…’
She said, ‘This week, sit by the fire for as long as you can. When you start feeling anxious, move. But do this again and again until you feel a bit more comfortable.’
I started writing this instead.
My own therapeutic exercise is going to be to write about the accident. Consider this Chapter One.