I would guess about everyone has heard of flashbacks, but I don’t think all that many people realize there are different types of flashbacks. This post is going to explain them.
The first flashback is the type everyone knows. It’s where the person having the flashback feels as if they are reliving a traumatic event. It’s much like you’re watching a movie in your mind, but it seems so real, it can be very hard to differentiate between reality & the flashback as it’s happening.
There are also emotional flashbacks. Instead of feeling as if you’re reliving a traumatic event, you feel the emotions of a traumatic event flooding back to you. Something seemingly unrelated can trigger this, such as someone using a phrase your abuser used during the traumatic event or speaking to you in a similar manner to your abuser.
Both types of flashbacks also can trigger a sort of body flashback where you feel physical pain that you felt during a traumatic event. As an example, I’ve told the story before of how my mother threw me into a wall when I was 19. I had back pain for 10 years after that, then God healed me. Although God healed me over 18 years ago at this time I’m writing this, if I have a flashback of the night that happened, or sometimes if I just think about it, my back starts to hurt.
Having had all three types of flashbacks, I’ve learned some ways to cope with them that help me, & I hope will help you too.
During the flashback, I find it extremely important to keep myself grounded. People do all kinds of things to make that happen. Some clap their hands loudly, stomp their feet hard or hold an ice cube. I prefer touching something with either a very coarse or very soft texture. Smelling something with a strong scent is helpful too, such as lavender essential oil. A bonus of lavender is it has anti-anxiety properties to it, so not only does it smell lovely but it helps calm you naturally. I actually keep a small vial of lavender essential oil near me at all times just in case I need it. Whatever you choose to do, it needs to be something that basically “assaults” your senses to override the flashback & keep you grounded in reality.
It’s also a very good idea to remind yourself that this is only a flashback. It isn’t real. There is nothing that can hurt you happening right now. You’re completely safe.
Also try not to focus on anything else as the flashback is happening. Instead, focus only on getting yourself through it. Nothing else.
Once the flashback has subsided, chances are you’re going to feel tired. They take a lot of energy, physically & emotionally. That is totally normal. Try to take it easy if you can, & get some rest.
When you have recovered & feel able, I really recommend thinking about the topic of your flashback. If it was reliving a traumatic event, what was the event about? If it was an emotional one, do you know why this flashback was triggered? What happened that made you feel the way this event did?
From there, you can begin to deal with the event however works best for you. Pray, journal, talk to a close friend, a pastor or therapist or a combination of these things. Don’t forget to really feel the emotions connected to this event. You’re allowed to cry or get angry about it! In fact, you need to do so. Feeling the emotions will help to get the out of you & help you to heal.
A wonderful thing will happen as you heal from this painful & traumatic event. It will lose much of its power over you. It won’t hurt so much to remember it anymore, & it’s likely you won’t have a flashback about that particular event again.
As I’ve mentioned a few times, I have a wonderful kitty by the name of Punkin who has feline PTSD. Here is his picture.. is he not incredibly handsome!?
A few months after adopting him in 2014, one morning out of the blue, he attacked our little American Eskimo dog, Dixie. She wasn’t even looking at him when he suddenly jumped her. My husband & I both hollered Punkin’s name, which got his attention fast. He looked almost as if he woke up. He looked at us & Dixie, then ran off & hid. We checked on Dixie & thankfully she was fine, just very shaken up. While consoling her, my husband & I talked about what happened, & I told him that the way Punkin looked reminded me of how I felt after a flashback. I knew animals could be traumatized of course, but I was unsure if it could develop into PTSD. I did some research & learned it absolutely can. Since I have C-PTSD, I felt somewhat equipped to deal with the situation. It’s been quite the learning experience to say the least! But, my husband & I have learned & I wanted to share it for you other cat parents out there in case you too have a traumatized furbaby on your hands.
In all fairness, I’m not positive how the symptoms show up in other animals, but I believe they’re rather similar. Our late dog, Bear, had been abused & once in a while he acted quite a bit like Punkin does. I believe he had a milder case of PTSD than Punkin has. That leads me to believe the symptoms are probably quite similar among animals, not just among cats.
PTSD symptoms in cats are quite similar to humans. They have an extremely sensitive startle reflex, so they sometimes react inappropriately to situations. If they get scared, fight or flight instincts may take over. Punkin tends to freeze- his pupils dilate & he won’t move. They can be very anxious too, which means they may be skittish, hide or potty outside the litter box. Separation anxiety can happen too. They’re hyper vigilant, always extremely aware of their surroundings. Getting angry easily can be another symptom. as can being depressed. Signs of depression can mean losing interest in things they normally enjoy such as food, playing or snuggles, They may have nightmares, which you can see by how they sleep. Most cats twitch a bit in their sleep, but a cat with PTSD will do so more often & violently. Another big clue is they avoid things that can be similar to the traumatic event. I believe due to how Punkin attacked Dixie his trauma was related to a dog. She was the only animal or person in our home he ever attacked. And yes, they can have flashbacks. If you haven’t seen someone have a flashback or if you don’t have them, it can be hard to identify. When Punkin has had them, he doesn’t look quite like himself. His eyes get huge & you see fear written all over his face. He also acts completely out of character, like when he attacked Dixie, then suddenly stops. The first time it happened, he hid for quite a while, but after that, he returns to normal in a few hours. They also make him very tired.
There are some ways to cope with feline PTSD that I have found to be pretty successful.
I talk to Punkin. I tell him I understand what he’s going through, & it stinks. It’ll be ok, though, there is no one or nothing here that will hurt him. He’s safe & surrounded by other cats & people who adore him.
I also follow his lead. Punkin is very loving, but not particularly snuggly. Sometimes when the PTSD flares up, he wants to be left alone & other times he wants me to hold him. I do whichever he wants.
When Punkin has bad days, I do my best to remain completely calm in his presence. Cats pick up on the energy of their humans, so if I’m calm, he’ll be calmer. I don’t tell him “calm down”. Instead, my energy says everything is fine, & there is nothing to be upset about.
Catnip is a life saver! I started giving it to him to try to help his anxiety levels. It didn’t take him long to learn that it helps, so he goes to it often & voluntarily when his symptoms flare up. I got some very soft, fuzzy socks from the dollar store for this purpose. I put some catnip in a small rag, tie it up, & put it in the sock. Punkin also likes jingle bells so I have some with bells inside, some without. He picks whatever he likes as he needs his ‘nip. Since it doesn’t work for dogs, I used to give Bear valerian root pills. The smell is very strong & it tastes pretty yukky, so it wasn’t easy to get him to take it at first. It didn’t take him long to realize that it helped though, so he began going to where I stored it to let me know when he needed some valerian.
Some pet parents also get tranquilizers for their pet from the vet or use other calming aids that are readily available.
If you too have a pet with PTSD, following these steps really can help. I’m happy to say that Bear turned into a very loving, gentle dog from an aggressive one & Punkin’s symptoms are managed very well. He rarely has flashbacks anymore, & his anxiety levels are much lower in general.
I have a knack for remembering dates, including kinda obscure ones, that even having brain damage hasn’t affected. I graduated high school on May 13, 1989, for example.
Two other dates I remember are August 23, 1990 & November 24, 1990. Those were the dates I met & then broke up with a man I was involved with. He made me feel so guilty for breaking up with him that ever year for many years, I dreaded those dates because I’d feel such guilt. Although he was only in my life briefly, the dysfunctional relationship had quite an impact on me.
January 31, 2014, I learned that he shot & killed his boyfriend & then himself two days before. The news came as a complete shock to me since I had absolutely no clue of his orientation or capacity for murder. Keeping in mind my knack for remembering dates, all those dates bring him to mind & every time, make me sad for him, his family, his victim & his victim’s family.
A few times, I’ve mentioned the date in passing conversation & the person I was speaking with told me, “Just don’t think about it.” It sat very wrong with me, even when I knew the person had good intentions, & I’ll tell you why.
“Just don’t think about it” is invalidating. You’re thinking about something that bothers you & are trying to talk it out, yet the other person shuts you down. That is invalidation. Why they do it doesn’t change that fact.
If you “just don’t think about it”, how are you supposed to heal from the incident? If you want to heal, you have to think about it & process the emotions connected to it. Not thinking about it is no help at all!
Not thinking about it also contributes to mental & physical problems. It can create anxiety, depression, anger, high blood pressure, heart disease, & kidney disease. It also reduces the effectiveness of your immune system, leaving you open to sickness.
Obviously, “just don’t think about it” is not good advice & you should NOT follow it!
I’m not saying you should think of nothing but the traumatic event you were told not to think about. Instead, I’m saying work with it. Realize you feel as you do for a reason. Maybe it’s there to let you know now is the time you should face this issue. If so, face it. No, it isn’t easy to face past trauma, but do it anyway! If you face it, it will lose much maybe even all of the negative effect it has over you. It also won’t affect your physical health.
If it’s something you’ve already dealt with like I have dealt with my situation, maybe it’s a reminder to pray for the people involved. I know, praying for a person who has abused you, especially one with no remorse or who has made you out to be the abusive one is tough, but do it anyway. Do it not because this person deserves your prayers, but because God wants you to do it & because it really can help you. Praying for those who use & abuse you is incredibly helpful at releasing the anger & even bitterness you feel towards them. Carrying such things around isn’t good for your health, so why do it? You can maintain boundaries or even no contact while not carrying around anger.
Whatever you feel when something traumatic comes to mind, honor those feelings & know they are there for a valid reason. Accept them without judgement. Face them however you feel you need to do in order to heal. Pray for the abusive person if you can too. Whatever you do though, remember that “just don’t think about it” is terrible advice. Ignore the advice, & take good care of yourself!
Recently I read an article about symptoms of PTSD. I didn’t think much more about it at first, but it kinda bopped around the back of my mind a bit for a few days.
A couple of days later, my husband & I had to go to the doctor for our health insurance. His appointment was first, & we texted periodically. He mentioned the doctor was concerned about his depression. When I saw the doctor, I asked him about it & he said, “I see a lot of people day after day. He has the look many have who have been depressed for years.” I thought it was an interesting statement- he’s very observant!
A couple of days later, something hit me. Our doctor didn’t say a word about my mental health. Not a comment one about me looking like someone who’s been depressed for years, even though I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t depressed. Somehow, my lazy Susan-esque brain connected that with the article I read about PTSD symptoms. In that moment I realized just how much I have been ignoring my C-PTSD symptoms. I’m so good at it that even my observant doctor had no idea I struggle with C-PTSD.
Yes, I’m hyper-vigilant, but you probably wouldn’t know it to look at me. Rather than upset people by startling easy, I am on constant guard, surveying my environment so not much surprises me.
I also get very quiet when I have flashbacks. Naturally I’m quiet anyway so that isn’t a huge red flag My husband has seen me have many flashbacks, but hasn’t noticed a lot of them because of that. I don’t even tell him most of the time when I have flashbacks. I just recover & go on the best I can.
These are just two examples, but there are others.
Thinking of such things I realized how incredibly unhealthy this is that I ignore so many of my symptoms. On the outside, I look like I’m managing the C-PTSD just fine, but on the inside is a very different story.
In considering all of this, I think this happens simply out of habit. Growing up with narcissistic parents, I learned early never to “bother” my parents with my problems. My purpose was to take care of them, not the other way around. As a result, like most children of narcissistic parents, I learned to hide or even ignore anything that didn’t please them. I ignored emotions, illness, thoughts, wants, & needs. Now here I am, an adult in my 40’s with my own life, still hiding & ignoring important things that I shouldn’t be hiding or ignoring.
No doubt I’m not the only person in this position, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on the issue with you, Dear Reader.
It’s important with PTSD & C-PTSD to manage your symptoms. Ignoring them isn’t the same thing. Managing them means you have some control over your symptoms. Ignoring them means you’re working hard to pretend they don’t exist, which shows they have control over you.
Ignoring symptoms also means the problem won’t get fixed or at least controlled. It also can mean you face health problems because emotions that are ignored can cause stress & we all know stress is terrible for your physical & emotional health.
With both PTSD & C-PTSD, there are some symptoms that are just a part of life but others that can be managed. Flashbacks come to mind. Rather than ignoring them or simply accepting them, why not make them work for you whenever possible? Flashbacks can be a sign of a particular issue that you need to work on. I’ve learned that if I deal with the issue my flashback was about, I don’t have another about that particular issue. The same goes for nightmares. This also can work with anxiety. Figure out what is the root of this anxiety. Ask God to help you if need be. Once you know the root, you can face the problem & eliminate one cause of your anxiety. Chipping away at it one issue at a time can help make it more manageable.
Maybe your symptoms are flaring up because you’ve been pushing yourself too hard lately or it’s near the anniversary of some traumatic event. If that is the case, your brain is trying to tell you to slow down & do some good self care. Listen to the symptoms! They’re trying to get your attention for a reason!
Remember, PTSD & C-PTSD are potentially life threatening disorders. They should be taken very seriously. Ignoring your symptoms isn’t going to help you & can hurt you. Pay attention to your symptoms- your brain is trying to tell you something, so listen to it!
I realized something recently that has been a big help to me, & I believe it can be to you too.
When remembering some of the traumatic & abusive events I’ve been through in my life recently, suddenly I started seeing just how wrong those things were. Oddly, doing that small gesture has helped loosen the hold the damage from such events had over me. I think that happens because I never really questioned these things before.
If you’re reading my blog, chances are you too have experience with narcissists, so you probably know just what I’m talking about. Narcissists don’t allow you to question anything. Whatever they say or do, that is the end of the matter. They’re right, according to them, & you aren’t allowed to think otherwise. Especially with parents, when this happens often as a child, you learn not to question things, just accept them as fact. Seeing clearly that they were wrong & accepting that is a big step in breaking the hold this abuse has over you.
I recently had a flashback about something that happened to me in late 1989 when I was 18. My current ex husband & I were dating, & I hadn’t moved out of my parents’ home at that time. I forget why, but he wanted to use my car one day, so we swapped cars. I was off work that day & my mother insisted I go to the grocery store with her. I said before I went, I wanted to put gas in the car since it was low, as usual. I’d do that then meet her at the store. I did, & on my way to the store, I lost control of the car & landed in a ditch around a turn. It was raining, & the ex’s car had bald tires, so it’s no surprise this happened in spite of me being very careful. Thankfully I wasn’t hurt, & his car only had minimal damage. This happened close to my ex’s parents’ house so I went there. A nice man driving a dump truck took pity on me walking in the rain & gave me a ride. When I got there, I told the ex’s dad what happened. He arranged to get the car towed & I called my mother at the grocery store (pre-cell phones, obviously).
You’d think ditching the car was the trauma, but it wasn’t. When I called my mother, she yelled at me, telling me she knew when I didn’t show up, I’d been in an accident & it served me right for driving that piece of junk car. The ex’s father was furious at what happened, blaming me for driving recklessly. The ex’s mother also blamed me but was at least nicer about it. The ex, believe it or not, was glad it happened, because it meant his parents would finally buy him the new tires he wanted. Later that evening, the ex & I visited my (narcissistic) grandmother who wouldn’t have cared less what I had went through that day.
For years, I accepted that this accident was my fault & I deserved what I got. It simply hadn’t crossed my mind to question that until my recent flashback. Suddenly it hit me how incredibly wrong this whole event was! I didn’t know just how bad the tires were- all I heard was they were wearing out so be careful. I never thought to check for myself. It wasn’t my car, so why would I, especially when my ex was a mechanic? Also, this could’ve been avoided if I’d had my own car- it was ridiculous my ex wanted to have mine as often as he did at that time. Granted, mine was the better of our two cars, but if he wanted better, he should have got his own better car! My ex’s parents should have replaced the tires, too, since they knew just how bad the tires were. And lastly my mother.. that is how she treated her own daughter after her first car wreck?! No “Are you ok?” or any sign of concern, just yelling at & blaming me. Considering her mother didn’t care either, it’s obvious where she got her lack of compassion.
For the first time, I finally realized how wrong all of this was. Every single person in this scenario was wrong except me, the one who got all the blame! I realized how wrong it is that the only person who was nice to me in that incident was the dump truck driver- a total stranger! This entire situation was wrong- every single thing about it!
Looking at the situation differently reminded me of turning a kaleidoscope. One small turn & the scene inside looks entirely different. At least kaleidoscopes give a pretty picture. This was far from pretty, but at least it helped me to release the guilt I felt for almost 29 years!
Since this happened, I’ve been looking at other situations in a new light, & having the same type of results. The slight turn of the kaleidoscope gave me a new perspective, & enabled me to release guilt, shame, & false beliefs while accepting the truth in their place.
Dear Reader, I urge you to try this too. Think about a specific trauma in your life from a more objective perspective. Try to look at it as if you’re watching a movie, for example, or as if it’s happening to someone else, so your emotions are not so involved. Chances are, you’ll see how wrong & unfair it was as I have. Did it help you to release any guilt or false beliefs you had received as a result of that awful experience? If not, ask God to tell you the truth about it, & I have no doubt He will help you to release those things!
Recently, seemingly out of nowhere, I suddenly felt as if a ton of bricks landed on me. I have had one very hard, painful year & currently have quite a bit going on. The intensity of it all hit at once. I really felt overwhelmed for a while & couldn’t stop crying.
Eventually I did though, & realized what was happening. I hadn’t really dealt with things very well. In fact, I avoided thinking about some things, stuffing my emotions like I always used to do. Old habits die hard, & apparently that one resurrected briefly without me realizing it. I think my old habit returned because I had so much happening at once. I didn’t have time to cope with one thing when three more bad things happened.
Upon realizing all of this, I have formed a plan. I will take things one issue at a time. When I first realized I had problems stemming from my childhood, I thought I could deal with everything at once. Forgive my parents, accept the fact they were abusive, face being depressed & anxious, think positive, & all would be fine. Naive? Oh yes.. but truthfully, I didn’t realize how deep my issues went or have any grip on this emotional healing stuff. Now I know better, & I have learned that a lot of times, it’s best to face one issue at a time, as it arises.
What I mean is this…
As an example from my life, part of my issue is the fact that when my father was dying, so called “family” came out of the woodwork to tell me what I needed to do regarding my parents,what a horrible person I was for not obeying them or “forgiving & forgetting” & not “honoring” my parents. Mind you, this is on top of the death of my father. Instead of lumping this all into one thing to deal with, I’m dissecting it, & dealing with each issue as I am able. Here are the issues:
I think it’s healthier to deal with things this way because the events of that time are very distinct & complex, not to mention overwhelming to face all at once. Even just the one part with family is difficult because there were two very different dynamics at play. My relationships with these people were very different, so naturally that means I must deal with the situations differently. Plus, doing this also gives me smaller things to cope with rather than trying to tackle one huge issue. Smaller bits will be easier to cope with, which is especially important since I have C-PTSD. Having the disorder means my brain is broken. I have to treat myself gentler than a person without C-PTSD treats themselves.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed too, Dear Reader, I’m sorry. It happens sometimes & it’s rough, I know. Just try to remember to approach the situation in small doses, especially if you too have C-PTSD. Break it down into manageable parts, & deal with those however works best for you rather than tackling the big picture all at once. The little things will add up to form the big picture. Also remember, Psalm 23:4 says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (KJV) Sometimes when you’re facing your pain, it feels like you are all alone. People don’t understand, & may avoid or even abandon you during your darkest hours. God isn’t that way though. He loves you & is with you no matter how bad things may be. xoxo
If you have PTSD or C-PTSD, you know about nightmares. You have them so often, they aren’t a surprise. They’re just a way of life. Yet, little is mentioned about the nightmares.
I’d always had frequent nightmares, but it got much worse in 2012 which is when I realized I had C-PTSD. I began having several almost every night, which of course led to a lot of fatigue. The nightmares also became even more vivid than usual, which is saying something since I’ve always had very vivid dreams. They became so vivid in fact, that often I would wake up feeling as if I’d just done whatever I did in the dream. If I dreamed I ran a marathon, for example, I woke up physically tired & achy.
After learning about C-PTSD, I assumed the nightmares would be about reliving traumatic events, which does happen, but only rarely. Most of my nightmares are about strange things- being an adult yet having to repeat high school & relying on my mother to take me rather than driving my own car; while repeating high school as an adult, being unable to find or remember the combination to my locker; my car being stolen &/or totaled; my husband mocking me when I was obviously upset or rejecting me somehow; or someone letting my cats outside & they ran away. Strange stuff! I finally asked God about it after waking up for yet one more bizarre nightmare. What He shared made a lot of sense & I think it will if you too suffer with odd nightmares like I do.
The brain constantly processes information, whether the information is good, bad or indifferent. Our dreams are often a result of that processing, because the brain doesn’t take breaks. Sometimes we don’t remember dreams because they weren’t important- the brain simply processed something unimportant. Other times, it tries to make sense of horrible things that have happened, which is where nightmares come into it. Sometimes the brain relives those awful, traumatic events in an attempt to understand it, but not always. Sometimes nightmares look as if they have nothing to do with traumatic events on the surface, yet they actually have a lot to do with them.
While the circumstances of the dreams may be different, the emotions they stir up feel exactly like some trauma you have experienced. My nightmare of my car being stolen & totaled? It caused a huge amount of anxiety & fear, & I felt completely helpless. Eventually I realized it triggered the exact same emotions of my seventeenth birthday. That day, my mother took my gifts from my then boyfriend/now ex husband & destroyed them on the way home from school. She blamed me for making her do that & making her car messy. The event caused me so much anxiety (knowing I’d have to tell my ex what happened to his gifts), fear (wondering what she was going to do next) & I felt helpless (she destroyed the gifts as I was picking up her Avon order & gone for maybe 3 minutes- I couldn’t have known what she was going to do or stop her from doing it)
When these nightmares happen, the good news is that they have a purpose. They show you that there is an area in which you need more healing. It can be hard to figure out, so I highly recommend asking God about it. He loves you & wants to help you, so let Him! Ask Him what did that dream mean? If you like, you also can look up symbols on a dream dictionary website- I’ve done this. I write down everything I can from my dream- items, colors, feelings- then look up what each means & write it down beside each item. Sometimes things make more sense to me when I see them in writing so that can be a helpful tool.
Once you realize what the dream was trying to make sense of, you can heal. Work on coping with the traumatic event however works for you- pray, talk to a therapist, talk to a close friend, write in your diary. What you do doesn’t matter, so long as it works for you.
I know nightmares are a very difficult part of C-PTSD & PTSD, but they are also unavoidable. Why not make them work in your favor by learning what they’re trying to help you cope with? Once you do, the nightmares often go away or at the very least don’t happen nearly as often. I haven’t had a dream about my car being stolen or totaled in a couple of years. 🙂
Good morning, Dear Readers!
Today’s post is about PTSD & Complex PTSD. I think most people are pretty familiar with PTSD, but not necessarily Complex PTSD. To give you some insight into this awful problem, the criteria for diagnosis can be found at this link:
I have a couple of questions to pose to you today…
I’m asking because I have C-PTSD, & I have only recently learned that was my problem. I’ve always had to be “the strong one,” & the one not allowed to be upset for fear of upsetting others in my life. I am trying to embrace the fact that I am not as strong as I once was, while still trying to get healthier & break the dysfunctional old thinking habits. I’m also trying to rid myself of the “lazy” label I’ve heard all my life & accept the fact that self-care isn’t being lazy, it’s a matter of being mentally healthy.
So far, I have learned it’s time to remind myself that I am ok! I have had normal reactions to extremely abnormal & abusive situations I’ve experienced. But, I have to remind myself of this constantly. It just seems like there must be something else to do. And, as for self-care, I love knitting & spending time with my wonderful furkids, but I’m looking for other ideas just for variety.
I apologize for not offering advice today & instead seeking it. I’m just tired- yesterday was a very stressful day, so today I’m not feeling up to par. I’m just tired of feeling like this & while I know there is no easy fix, any different approach to it would be worth a try in my book! Besides, maybe your suggestions could help others with these horrible disorders.
Thank you in advance for your input! Have a wonderful day! 🙂
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..
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!