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The Difference Between Flashbacks & Repressed Memories

Not everyone realizes the differences between flashbacks & repressed memories returning, so I thought today I would explain them.

 

Repressed memories are memories of events so traumatic, you were unable to deal with them at the time they happened.  To cope, almost immediately, you unconsciously pushed it to the dark recesses of your mind, & forgot about it.  Then some time later (could be months, could be years later), something triggered a reminder of the event.  The trigger could be anything- a facial expression, a scent, the sight of something that resembles an item that was there when the event happened or a sound.  When the trigger forces the memory back to your conscious mind, suddenly you remember what happened.  It feels the same as remembering anything else you forgot in the sense that you are well aware it is simply a memory.

 

Flashbacks are quite different.  Flashbacks aren’t necessarily something you forgot.  You may or may not remember the event before the flashback.  The main difference between repressed memories & flashbacks is flashbacks feel like you’re reliving the event.  For me, this is what makes flashbacks so much worse than repressed memories- the feeling of reliving a traumatic event while trying to stay in reality.  Flashbacks can be triggered by something, such as the soldier who has flashbacks when he hears fireworks, but sometimes they simply happen without an obvious trigger.  Also different than repressed memories are the physical symptoms that can accompany flashbacks, such as elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, sweating or chills, & trembling.  My husband has seen me have flashbacks many times, & even so, he can’t always tell when it happens.  I tend to get very quiet & still.  Sometimes I cry, sometimes not.  Flashbacks aren’t always obvious to those witnessing someone have them.  Not everyone having a flashback is vocal or shows obvious physical signs when they happen.

 

If you’re having a flashback, it is vital for you to know how to ground yourself so you stay in reality rather than get lost in the awful memory, which obviously is different than having a repressed memory return to the forefront of your mind.  Grounding techniques basically assault your senses, which forces your mind to focus on them instead of the flashback.  Touching something with an extreme texture such as a soft fuzzy blanket, silk or even burlap can help.  Some people swear by holding ice cubes or stomping their feet hard on the ground.  Smelling something with a strong scent can help too.  Lavender is good because not only is it strong, it has anti-anxiety properties.  A strongly scented cologne, perfume or soap can help.

 

I’ve found that pets can be very helpful while having a flashback, even if they aren’t specifically trained to be service animals.  While taking my cat, Sabrina, to the vet when she was a baby, I drove us past a place I used to work when I was a teenager.  Looking at the building, I immediately had a flashback to a time when my mother screamed at & berated me in the parking lot.  (Thankfully, I was stopping at a red light when it began- I can’t imagine having to deal with a flashback while driving!)  As I sat there & tried to ground myself, Sabrina reached over & scratched my hand.  Not bad, but it was enough to jolt me out of the flashback.  She’s never scratched me before or since, but I’m grateful she did that day. Her brother, Zippy, will get in my face & head bonk me to get my attention.  Neither are trained service animals, but they instinctively know what their mommy needs.

 

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

Don’t Ignore Your Breakthroughs

Many of us who are healing from narcissistic abuse are more focused on how far we have to go instead of how far we have come in our healing journey.  I think this is because when raised by a narcissistic parent (or two), we learned early on to focus on our flaws.  Being harshly criticized constantly will do that to a person.

 

This is a bad habit though & needs to end!

 

I realized how guilty I am of this behavior just recently.

 

My father called one evening to let me know one of my favorite movies was coming on TV, “Christine.”  He’s never done this before, which struck me odd.  My mother has always been the one to do that.  After only a few moments of conversation, he said “Did you hear that?  The call waiting beeped.  I have to go.”  We said our good byes & hung up.  I realized that he lied about his call waiting- I know because when it’s beeped before when we were on the phone, I always heard a second or two of silence each time it beeped.  This time?  Nothing.

 

I thought about this call after hanging up.  Obviously he’s angry with me.  He’ll never say that since he wants to look like the good parent at all times.  He avoids me instead.  Not a full fledged silent treatment, but when we speak, it’s less frequently & the conversations are much shorter.   That’s why he lied about the call waiting- to get rid of me without blatantly stating he wanted to get rid of me.

 

As for him calling about the movie, that was a first.  Usually my mother calls to let me  know when it’s coming on.  She loves to tell me how “crazy”, “weird” or other nasty things I am for liking it & other Stephen King movies.  “Christine” is a bonus for her because Christine is a ’58 Plymouth Fury.  Since I drive a ’69 Fury, this opens the door for her to insult my car.  They’re too big, ugly, destroy the roads, no one needs a car that big, etc.  For her to pass up all that nastiness, she must still be very angry with me due to our argument on May 5.

 

Rather than being upset like I once would’ve been with my revelations, I found this situation funny (probably inappropriately so).  My parents would rather be wrong, pretend to be right, & act like I’m messed up for not tolerating them being hateful with me than admit they were cruel to me.  And, they’re so passive/aggressive, they won’t try to work things out.  Instead they use immature, silly ways to punish me.  The ridiculousness of the situation struck me funny.

 

God also used this situation to show me something very valuable.  Not so long ago, I would’ve been upset.  I would’ve been enjoying the silent treatment, yet wondering if I should do something.  Should I apologize?  Should I “be the bigger person” & try to work things out?  This time though, those thoughts never even crossed my mind!  Realizing that as well as that I could laugh at the ridiculousness of it all made me see just how far I’ve come.  I’m quite proud  of myself!  I’ve come a long way!

 

I also saw clearly how little I usually celebrate such victories.  Instead, I tend to focus way more on how far I have to go, which is depressing.  That isn’t happening anymore.  I realized the value of having balance, & am working on doing that.

 

Looking at how far you have to go is necessary.  It shows you what you need to work on, & when you get frustrated with being a certain way, you get motivated to change.  However, looking at how far you’ve come is equally valuable.  It helps to encourage you.  You realize that if you could improve that much, then you can continue to improve.  Only looking at how far you have to go discourages you, & only looking at how far you’ve come can make you stagnant.  Maintaining a balance & looking at both is vital to your healing journey being successful, I believe.

 

I want to encourage you today, Dear Reader, to start focusing just as much on how far you’ve come as you do on how far you have to go.  Try to maintain that healthy balance.  It will bring you more peace & joy, & you deserve that!!  xoxo

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

July 15, 2012

Recently, I’ve been having a tough time.  Lots of flashbacks.  It’s been really tough, dealing with these hateful memories of being abused.  I’ve learned some ways to cope, though, & I’d like to share them..

  • When they happen, let them.  Remember.  Focus on the memory that is fighting to be remembered.
  • Talk to God about it.  Tell him everything you remember.  Get the negativity out of you!  He can handle it.
  • Then, listen for His response.  He will tell you what you need to know about it, & reassure you.
  • Be gentle & understanding with yourself.  Yes, this is an abnormal thing, having flashbacks.  But, it doesn’t mean YOU are abnormal!  You have a normal reaction to very abnormal circumstances.  You were abused, & it wasn’t your fault!
  • Create a “Joy List.”  My dearest friend told me this one just the other day- create a list of things that bring you joy.  Big & small things.  I’ve been working on mine.  Some things on there are: spending time with my furkids, spending time with those I love & who love me, knitting, buying yarn,  lightening bugs, stargazing, listening to the rain or gentle thunderstorms, watching snow fall, & buying a cool new purse.
  • Today, I had another flashback, but this time instead of it being from my childhood as usual, it was a bad incident with my ex-husband.  In the midst of it, I halfway asked God why?  I thought that marriage & all of the baggage was behind me.  He told me that while I’ve forgiven him & moved on, I haven’t forgiven myself.  That was the root of the flashback- I am still  angry with myself for ignoring the signs that told me he wasn’t the man for me.

I hope this helps some of you who are also suffering with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (very common among abuse victims), or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  God bless you, Dear Reader.  Have a wonderful day!

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Mental Health