I knew there was a chance that this could happen and although it started out in present day, it has now come to me in flashbacks.
Have any of you had flashbacks? Do you know what they are?
Flashbacks are memories of past traumas. They may take the form of pictures, sounds, smells, body sensations, feelings or lack of them (numbness). Many times there is no actual visual or auditory memory. One may have the sense of panic, being trapped, feeling powerless with no memory stimulating it. These experiences can also happen in dreams.
Flashbacks are Normal
Flashbacks feel crazy because the little one doesn’t know that there is an adult survivor available for help.
Below are 14 tips that have been suggested to help with overcoming flashbacks.
- Tell yourself that you are having a flashback
- Remind yourself that the worst is over. That the feelings and sensations you are experiencing are memories of the past. The actual event took place long ago when you were little and YOU SURVIVED. Now it is time to let out the terror, rage, hurt, and/or panic. Now is the time to HONOR YOUR EXPERIENCE.
- Get grounded. This means stamping your feet on the ground so that the little one knows you have feet and can get away now if you need (as a child, you couldn’t get away… now you can).
- Breathe. When we get scared we stop normal breathing. As a result, our body begins to panic from the lack of oxygen. Lack of oxygen in itself causes a great deal of panic feelings; pounding in the head, tightness, sweating, feeling faint, shakiness and dizziness. When we breathe deeply enough, a lot of the panic feeling can decrease. Breathing deeply means putting your hand on your diaphragm and breathing deeply enough so that your diaphragm pushes against your hand and then exhaling so that the diaphragm goes in.
- Reorient to the present. Begin to use your five senses in the present. Look around and see the colors in the room, the shapes of things, the people near, etc. Listen to the sounds in the room: your breathing, traffic, birds, people, cars, etc., the chair or floor supporting you.
- Speak to the little one and reassure her. It is very healing to get your adult in the picture so your little one now knows that she is not alone, that you are not in danger now, that you can get out if you need to and that it is OK to feel the feelings of long ago without reprisal.
- Get in touch with your need for boundaries. Sometimes when we are having a flashback, we lose the sense of where we leave off and the world begins as if we do not have skin. Wrap yourself in a blanket, hold a pillow or stuffed animal, go to bed, sit in a closet…. any way that you can feel yourself truly protected from the outside.
- Getting Support. Depending on your situation, you may need to be alone or may want someone near you. In either case, it is important that your close ones know about flashbacks so they can help with the process (whether that means letting you be by yourself or being there).
- Take the time to recover. Sometimes flashbacks are very powerful. Give yourself the time to make the transition from this powerful experience. Don’t expect yourself to jump into adult activities right away. Take a nap, a warm bath or some quiet time. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Do not beat yourself for having a flashback. Appreciate how much your little one went through as a child.
- Honor your experience. Appreciate yourself for having survived that horrible time as a child. Respect your body’s needs to experience those feelings of long ago.
- Be patient. It takes time to heal the past. It takes time to learn appropriate ways of taking care of self, of being an adult who has feelings and developing effective ways of coping in the here and now.
- Find a competent therapist. Look for a therapist who understands the processes of healing from ***** (insert trauma). A therapist can be a guide, a support, or coach in this healing process. You do not have to do it alone…. ever again.
- Join a self-help group. Survivors are wonderful allies in this process of healing. It is a healing thing to share your process with others who understand so deeply what you are going through.
- Know you are not crazy…. you are healing!
I’ve already started looking into a counselor who will be more specialized in what I need.