Trauma (present tense)

child in vest

I’ve been thinking about the hippocampus lately. I did a web search and found Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s tesimony. I’m pasting it below.

“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter,” Ford says, her voice cracking. “The uproarious laughter between the two. They’re having fun at my expense.”

“You’ve never forgotten them laughing at you,” Leahy says.

“They were laughing with each other,” Ford replies.

“And you were the object of the laughter?” Leahy asks.

“I was underneath one of them, while the two laughed,” Ford says.

In an essay I wrote about my childhood sexual abuse, as I shaped and shaped the narrative, it became clear that most of the piece should be told in the present tense. I did this to replicate how trauma works in the memory.

The brain stem, the so-called lizard brain—the part of the brain that registers trauma—has no sense of time. The lizard-brain is the part that keeps us alive, eliciting a fight, flight, or freeze response. Because of the lack of time involved with the lizard brain, when long-ago trauma is triggered, it is remembered outside of time. The sensation is as if it is happening now.

Dr. Ford was questioned 36 years after she claims to have been assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh, but on September 27, 2018, when questioned, she says, “They’re having fun at my expense.”

Present tense.

A grammatical slip. But also true.

Because that’s how it feels.

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