Tag Archives: flashback

A Little About Flashbacks & Repressed Memories

Recently, I’ve been having a lot of repressed memories return to the surface along with a flashback.  I had a total of 6 repressed memories & 1 flashback in a period of 2 days.  Not a fun 2 days for sure!  However, I realized something.  They all had reasons for happening.

 

Flashbacks & repressed memories show you what areas you need healing in.  If you’ve dealt with events properly, you won’t have flashbacks about them.  You’ll also remember them, so they won’t be repressed memories returning to the surface.  Although they’re rough, at least flashbacks & repressed memories can help you see what you need to work on.

 

They also can enable you to feel emotions that you couldn’t feel, let alone process, at the time of the trauma.  When I experienced mine recently, for the first time, I felt all the pain, anger & fear I was unable to feel at the time because I was simply trying to survive.  Feeling those emotions enabled me to release the pain.  Finally!

 

Flashbacks & repressed memories also are a good validation for why you’re low or no contact with your narcissistic parent.  I only recently blocked my parents’ phone number after months of no contact from them.  My father apparently called, & couldn’t reach me so he sent his flying monkeys after me to tell me to call him.  Considering his age & failing health, I honestly had a tough time not calling him at first.  Thank God I have a loving God & good friends who reminded me why I blocked his number in the first place to get me through the worst of it.  A bit later is when the flashback & repressed memories happened.  They really helped drive home the fact that I need to stay away from my parents.  They showed me exactly how abusive & dysfunctional they are.

 

I know flashbacks & repressed memories are extremely painful to deal with, but if you allow yourself to learn & heal from them, at least that pain won’t be in vain.  If you’re unsure what you’re supposed to learn or do after a flashback or a repressed memory returns, then pray.  God will show you what the purpose of it coming to your mind at this time is.  I also suggest keeping a journal.  Writing things down gives you something to look back on.  It reminds you of things you may have forgotten, & offers you strength when you see how far you’ve come.  A written record can be a wonderful thing!  I use an online, password protected diary so my journal is completely private.  No one reads it but God & I.  There are plenty to choose from, so you might want to do the same.

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God Truly Wants To Help You Heal

God gave me yet another experience last night on just how badly He wants to help His children.  I realized I needed to write it out but rather than simply write it all in my journal, I thought I would share here in the hopes of blessing you, Dear Reader.  I apologize in advance- this probably will be long.

 

A few weeks back, I developed psoriasis on my face, surrounding my mouth.  Never had it before-I’ve always had clear, healthy skin- so it’s been rather upsetting feeling like I resemble Freddy Krueger.  Immediately I looked up what causes this awful skin condition & how to treat it.  For some odd reason, I never thought to ask God about it (not proud of this!).  I chalked it up to stress since it started not long after I lost one of my precious cats plus a few days later had the big fight with my parents, & hormone imbalances.  But, my husband kept saying how odd the location was.  Most people get psoriasis on their arms or backs or chests, but not me.  I agreed, it was odd, but had no answers & for whatever reason, didn’t think to ask God about it.

 

Last night, I went into the bathroom to put cream on my face.  I looked in the mirror & was glad to see the psoriasis is improving, slowly but surely.  I began to wonder why it was where it was, & suddenly, God spoke to my heart, & I knew the answer!

 

When I had that fight with my parents, I broke their rules- I yelled at them & even used some bad language.  I had been so caught up in feeling the pain of my loss plus the anger & hurt at my parents, I didn’t even realize I felt guilty for breaking the rules.  I also felt guilty for  feeling nothing for my parents.  Any emotions died for them during that argument- it was my final straw with them.  So while yes, stress & hormones played a part in why I got the psoriasis in the first place, my own guilt was why it’s around my mouth- because my mouth was the “problem.”  Kind of punishing myself for what I did.  The body is a strange yet interesting thing.  It can take out its own feelings on itself in very unusual ways, which is what happened to me.

 

Once I put the cream on, I returned to the other room, & got into prayer.  Years ago, I read Craig Hill’s book “Ancient Paths” about emotional healing.  I used one of his techniques that I’ve found extremely helpful.  I asked God if I should feel guilty for how I spoke to my parents.  Was I wrong?  Was I overreacting?  Before I could even finish what I was asking Him, immediately, He said I absolutely was NOT wrong- this was exactly what they needed.  They may disagree with me, but they needed to know that they really hurt me with their selfish ways.  They also wouldn’t have listened to me if I had spoken in a reasonable way about the topic- they wouldn’t have realized how devastated I was by their behavior.  They needed to see their reasonable, normally calm daughter so upset, that she acted totally out of character to understand the depths of how badly they hurt me.  Basically, they don’t understand or empathize with my feelings, but they know they hurt me.  Apparently that is something God wanted them to know.

 

As I was thinking about this after praying, I had a flashback..thankfully, it was the “mildest” one I’ve ever had.  I remembered back to 10th grade.  The boyfriend of one of my friends was hit by a car while riding his bike.  The day after the accident, everyone in school was talking about it.. in all the gory details.  Although I didn’t know this boy well, it was still horrific hearing about what happened.  I lost my appetite so I just took my lunch back home after the school day.  Later, my mother asked why I didn’t eat my lunch, so I told her.  Her response was awful.  Rather than show concern for this boy who happened to be the son of one of her friends, or show concern for me being obviously upset, she attacked me.  In an extremely shaming tone, she said things like, “You must really like him to be so affected by this.”  She shamed me for being romantically interested in this boy when the truth was I was simply upset someone I knew might die from a horrific accident.  The flashback reminded me of all the shame I felt that day.  Shame for doing nothing wrong!

 

After that, I remembered a similar incident.  Also in 10th grade, I took driver’s ed.  They showed what were known as “blood & gut” films- footage of the aftermath of car accidents.  The premise was to scare us enough to be careful drivers.  The films gave me nightmares.  One of which involved a fellow student from my economics class dead on the hood my grandfather’s Oldsmobile.  I still remember the nightmare- it was very vivid & terrible.  Strange too- I barely knew him, so I have no idea why he was even in my dream.  When I told my mother of this, her only concern was whether or not I thought this boy was “cute.”  Again, I was shamed for being interested in a boy that I had no interest in as my feelings were ignored.

 

As I pondered these awful memories, I asked God what this was all about.  He showed me why my mother has acted so outrageously in these instances.  She doesn’t genuinely care about other people, she hasn’t the ability to, & is jealous that I do.  Also, when I skipped lunch that day, it was proof I don’t have her issues with food (she’s an emotional eater), which was another reason for her to be angry with me.  Basically I reminded her of a flaw she has.  And lastly, my mother didn’t want me to be interested in boys because that would mean she was losing control of me.  If she could shame me for being interested in them, that would prevent me from being interested, & I would remain under her control.

 

Interestingly, by the way, as difficult as this all should have been remembering such nasty things, it wasn’t too bad.  I’m a bit tired today & have some mild body aches, but not bad compared to when other flashbacks have happened.  God strengthened me & enabled me to handle these things.  It was as if He was somehow  holding my hand as I faced things.   I’m not sure how else to explain it, but  I’m truly grateful He enabled me to do this!

 

The reason God reminded me of these instances was to show me that I have no reason to feel guilty.  There is no reasoning with my mother.  In her eyes, I am nothing but a tool to be used.  I mean absolutely nothing to her beyond what I can do for her.  Why should I feel any guilt or shame for not being willing to tolerate being treated as such?  And, in both of those instances, she was completely unreasonable & she put the weight of her issues on me.  This is not a safe person, nor is this someone I should feel bad for standing up to, mother or not.

 

As for my father, he did nothing to defend me to my mother after those instances.  He didn’t speak one word to her about her ridiculous behavior.  This was typical of him.  In fact, he even told me how hard it was for him watching me go through what I did with her when her abuse hit its peak in my late teens.  I ended up comforting him when he said that, when should have been comforting & protecting me.

 

All of this really got to the root of some problems, which is awesome.  Admittedly, it’s not fun, but to deal properly with problems, you need to get to the root of them.  As hard as remembering such things was, I am truly grateful God showed me such things because now I can heal & ditch the guilt & shame I have felt the past two months.  Hopefully the psoriasis will heal quicker now too.

 

If God did this for me, He certainly will do the same for you, Dear Reader.  He wants you to be healed & enjoy your life!  If you allow Him, He will gently guide you on the right road for your healing & strengthen you to face whatever you need to face!  And, once you face those demons, you can be set free!

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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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Emotional Flashbacks- January 10, 2014

Yesterday started out as any other day.. nice, laid back, snuggle time with my kitties.. then I ended up verbally attacked over a difference of opinion on a trivial matter.  While difference in opinions don’t matter to me (everyone is entitled to their opinions), the way it was said triggered a child-like reaction in me.  As a child, if I disagreed with my mother, she acted like I was stupid, my opinion was wrong, I didn’t even deserve to have an opinion & a cause of great embarrassment & shame to her.  (Actually, this still happens even though I’m now in my forties.)  My reaction was to feel deep shame, even panic & wanting to make what I said never have happened.  This is what I felt yesterday.

This is what is known as an emotional flashback, & is a part of having C-PTSD, or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They are different from a visual flashback.  Visual flashbacks make you feel as if you are reliving the event.  Emotional flashbacks are when extremely intense emotions from the past are triggered, such as panic, anxiety, shame, guilt, depression & are not proportionate to the situation, yet you know you aren’t reliving any situation.  They can last for a few minutes or hours.  Invalidating comments, nastiness, dirty looks can all trigger an emotional flashback.  

With God’s help yesterday, I learned how to handle emotional flashbacks.  These tips may help you during this distressing time as well.

  • Get alone & get quiet.  Calm yourself down, maybe with deep breathing or whatever relaxes you.  Remind yourself that you are safe, nothing can hurt you.
  • Once calm, try to look at the situation objectively.  Pretend it happened to a friend rather than it happened to you, if that helps.  Ask yourself if your reaction was appropriate or not.  
  • If not, identify your feelings.  For me yesterday shame, panic & wanting to fix things were the prominent emotions.
  • I immediately knew that these emotions were what I felt so often as a child when dealing with my mother.  If you are unsure about your emotions, ask God where is the origin of what you feel.
  • Focus on what He says, & that you know you’re only having a flashback.  You can’t be hurt by it!  You are fine!  Also, you aren’t crazy- you have been though abuse & mind games which is why you’re having the emotional flashback- so don’t worry about being crazy!!
  • In some cases, like mine yesterday, I also had to remember that the person who attacked me isn’t entirely mentally stable.  I’m not sure what is wrong, but something isn’t quite right, if that makes sense.  She acts odd sometimes because of that, I just have to remember to keep a distance, & keep strict boundaries in place with her.  Does this also describe the person who triggered your emotional flashback?

Emotional flashbacks are annoying & very tiresome, but they can be managed.  You can handle them!

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December 10, 2013

Good afternoon, Dear Readers!

I’m sorry for not posting lately.  I had a nasty flashback last Friday night, then had to go out twice on Saturday which set the agoraphobia off like mad.   That left me extremely frustrated since I used to be very independent, in addition to the anxiety & depression that this was happening.  I’ve been recovering since.  I am exhausted, physically & mentally, as usual.  Makes it hard to focus on writing anything.  

Apparently it also makes reading more challenging than normal.  I’ve had a tough time reading for a while now- after a while, the words pretty much blur together on the page.  But after flashbacks or bad days, it’s even harder.  From what I’ve read, that is a normal part of C-PTSD & PTSD.  This is so frustrating since I love books.  And, I just got Stephen King’s sequel to “The Shining”, “Dr. Sleep.”  You have no idea how much I want to finish this book & find out what happens!  

I’m trying different things to deal with these common problems with C-PTSD.  As for recovery after flashbacks, I think rest is the best thing.  Being lazy- watching movies, gardening, knitting.  Activities that I enjoy but don’t require a lot of effort on my part help me.  Avoiding stressful activities, such as going to a crowded store are also important.  

As for the reading problem, I’m having to learn to take it in small steps.  I used to read an entire book in an afternoon.  Now?  A while, then take a break, read some more, take a break.  It makes it less frustrating if I stop as soon as the “blurring” starts.  

I’ve learned something else.  This is the most important thing- I saved the best for last.  When symptoms flare up, whatever the symptoms are, it is best to get quiet.  During those quiet times, God gives me creative ways to deal with the symptoms.  He taught me about ways to ground myself during a flashback before I read anything about grounding techniques.  

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October 31, 2012

Good afternoon everyone!  I hope this finds you well today.

What a day.. I had to take sweet little Sabrina to the vet for a follow up check for her ear infection.  As I was driving down the highway, I passed the library where I worked in my teens.  Immediately, I had a flashback to my mother screaming at me in that parking lot when I was 17.  I never had one behind the wheel before, & I hope I never do again.  Thank God, there was a red light, so I could sit still to regroup.  As I was trying to focus on staying reality, thankfully, Sabrina scratched my finger a little, barely breaking the skin.  The sensation helped tremendously to ground me.  Such a bizarre experience, but even so, I could feel God’s love around me.  He also helped me to drive while it was happening since I didn’t have a place to pull over. 

On the good side of today, Miss Sabrina is doing pretty well with the nasty infection.  She still has a bit of vertigo, & slight partial facial paralysis, but the infection is improving.  God willing, another 2 weeks of antibiotics & a few days of steroids will knock it out.  She was wonderful for the vet, & has charmed every single person she saw at the hospital this morning.. 🙂 

 

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July 18, 2012

Good morning, Dear Readers!

I wanted to let you know that I have learned some very interesting things about flashbacks in the last few days.  I had a flashback on Sunday, & had a strong urge to do something to keep me focused on reality.  I was near this computer, so I just started looking up old teachers on facebook.  It was all I could think of at the moment.  It was so odd- the urge to cling to reality was so very strong.  I believe God put that urge in me.  Later,  I did some research on coping with flashbacks, & learned that is a good thing.  It’s called grounding.  It is a really good idea to have something you can see, hear, touch or smell that keeps you in reality when the bad memory is trying to take over.  It helps you to keep in mind that while yes, the memory is terrible, it is still only a memory- it isn’t happening, nor can it hurt you again.  I read some interesting grounding techniques:

  • Hold an icecube in your hand.
  • Smell something with a very strong scent (I have some tiny vials like are used with giving out samples of perfume & cologne.  I put in some perfume my late Grandmom gave me.  It is rather strong, but is also attached to a very good time spent with her)
  • Touch something extremely soft- silk, fleece, anything soft & snuggly.
  • Wrap yourself in something very soft, like a special blanket or sweater.  (I have some gorgeous, very soft pale pink yarn- I’m knitting myself an afghan.  I started to knit it just for fun, but I think it will help with the flashbacks as well).  It is kind of like receiving a hug.

I’m sure you get the idea & can add to this list.  I pray it helps those of you suffering with flashbacks!  God bless you!  🙂

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