Thursday, July 19, 2018 - 01:36

Anniversaries come and go without thought. They happen like clockwork, marking that yet another year has passed since a particular event. But not all anniversaries are good, and some can be painful and difficult to process. It only seems right that Nora's anxiety has spiked this week. That the feeling in the pit of her stomach that tells her that she might wretch at any minute now has returned. That her low points this week have seemed especially low. With demons and werewolves and dragons and literal Hell breaking loose on the streets of Boston, was she really surprised?

Not in the least.

She knows deep down that it isn't the demons and demonic possessions that are getting to her. They're not the cause for the stress dreams or the restless sleep. They're not the reason why she flinches at certain sounds or smells and why her hypervigilance has returned with a vengeance.

It is not until she sees the date on the calendar app on her phone that she remembers why she's feeling this way. With the week filled with so many distractions and dire situations, she has hardly had a moment to herself, and this anniversary has eluded her therapist's radar as well.

July 19.

It hits her like another punch to the gut by the Man of Steel himself. July 19.

The house fire. The day she lost her memory.

As if all of the energy drains from her body at once, she sits down at her desk chair and fidgets uncomfortably. She has observed the anniversaries of other traumas before, but this is the first one that hits her directly. She feels unprepared and takes a deep breath before closing her eyes. "One hour at a time," she murmurs. It is the mantra that she reminds patients of during their recovery processes, but she never understood how truly helpful it was until she had put it into practice herself.

Exhausted and unsure of what else to do, Nora gets ready for bed. She washes her face, brushes her teeth, wears a sheet mask as she does a final cursory check of her email, news, and social media accounts. Tonight, she promises to hold space for herself and for her trauma, because right now, it's the best that she can do. She tries not to think too much about the events of one year ago, and (un)fortunately, she still can't. Much to her own chagrin and that of her therapist's, her dissociative amnesia that came along with her PTSD never resolved itself, leaving gaps in Nora's memory of that night. She doesn't remember the fire, how it started, or how she and Sam got out. She doesn't remember the following days afterwards when she had been granted a short leave of absence to get her life together. What she does remember, however, is the look on her program director's face as she had to be told about the fire once again, and that she would be placed on sabbatical for two months while she recovered. It is frustrating as it is infuriating, but it is all the information that she has available to her.

In coming months, as Kara becomes a part of her life and the monthly 'lost weeks' become a regular thing, she wonders how her brain has compartmentalized all of this trauma. Why she can't remember the weeks where Kara is present. Why she still can't remember the night of the fire and the coming days. She feels almost as if her memory has been tampered with in some kind of joke, one so cruel that she can hardly imagine someone laughing at her expense. She tries not to think too much about it; she doesn't need the added anger.

She knows that brains are mysterious organs. Medicine knows so much about them and yet so little, but we know that they are incredibly powerful and can adapt to changes as needed. Neuroplasticity, the way the brain heals and rewires itself to compensate for lost skills. It is the reason that humans are able to regain function after serious accidents and injuries, but there is not much more that we know. How the brain works on a day to day basis versus how the brain reacts to trauma is something else altogether.

Though she's exhausted after a day of searching for and fighting Kal-El, she thumbs through her phone to find a guided meditation to help her fall asleep. It is a practice that she has fallen out of in recent months, but given this week and given the date, she figures that it can only help. It doesn't take long for her to fall asleep while listening to a young Australian woman's voice lead her into sleep.

There's an explosion. It's the last thing she hears before a deafening silence takes over, only to be drowned out by a loud ringing in her ears. She knows that this makes sense as she sits bolt upright in bed and springs into action. She looks around for the source of the sound but comes up empty. She reminds herself to take a deep breath for a moment so that she can think clearly, and then it hits her.

Smoke. It fills her lungs. The thick, black, billowy clouds that quickly filled up the interior their old Beacon Hill brownstone. Touching doorknobs gently to feel for heat while she tried to navigate to Sam's room to make sure that her roommate was awake and ready to run. The rush to grab a few important things before they left the house. The red streak that had caused her to panic because she feared that it was the fire spreading upstairs, leaving them trapped. The realization that they were suddenly outside on the sidewalk as the building burned. The realization that they were safe.

An incoming text message is enough to rouse her from sleep, and as Nora skims its contents, bleary-eyed and half asleep, she stops and nearly drops her phone on the ground.

Finally. She can remember.