Sorry this is so late, but I wanted to thank all of you for your responses to my post. I have been out of commission due to the holiday weekend and my personal struggles. But, I did read the responses as they came in and they all were very helpful to me. It has been a long, hard slog dealing with these flashbacks, but I am still slogging at it. I really appreciate all of the feedback and the suggestions.
Don – Thanks so much for your words of support. You have been a very kind presence on MS, so thanks for that as well.
John – Thanks for the suggestion for the mantra. It is often the simplest things that work, mostly because of their simplicity. I did use the “Here and Now” mantra several times. I also would say “This is not happening” or “This is not real” and those seemed to help as well.
Puffer – Thanks for your assurance that the flashbacks will pass and decrease. I really took that to heart because it came from another survivor who has been through it before me. That is really encouraging to hear. I like the prompts your T gave to you. I have used them several times.
Lee – Thanks for the suggestion. I also used something very similar for panic attacks. My T told me to look at things that are colorful and say the color out loud, because it takes you to a different brain space and can break the panic attack. My problem is the paralysis that you mention. I often get frozen in fear and need something to jog my mind out of the flashback. I will definitely try this going forward.
Dave – Thanks for sharing your past history with these kinds of memories and flashbacks. It was really helpful to hear your story. I get what you are saying about not getting lost in the situation because that happens to me. I also have the really disjointed sense of feeling like it happening to my body, but also watching it like it is happening to someone else. I think pacing like you mention works well for memories, but for these flashbacks, I feel like they are really out of my hands. It is like they just pop up and I am in the movie with no warning whatsoever. So, I don’t know how to put the brakes on that and only let a little out at a time. My memory has always felt like something separate from me. I was amnesiac about it for most of my life, and now it is flooding out whenever it wants to. I guess it is part of me and not this “other” thing. I need to find a way to work on it and control it. Sounds like an assignment to do with my T.
SayItRight – Thanks for sharing your struggles with very similar flashbacks. I have done almost that same thing with walking around my kitchen or apartment trying to convince myself of where I am. I have also been doing a lot of memory work, so maybe it unfurled as in your example. I really identified with what you said about the flashback being all-around sensory experiences. That is what I was experiencing, including the smells, sounds, location, etc. I also had the same feeling you had. I would get these waves of wanting to cry and the tears would not come. I would also get intense waves of fear. You offered a great deal in your response. You offered a sense that I was not alone in this, which is very powerful for me to hear.
Jeff – Thanks for your ideas about how to deal with the flashbacks. I like your suggestions for the grounding techniques. I had started to do some breathing exercises earlier in the year, but they got away from me. I think I saved the links to some of those techniques. Thanks for reminding me about that. It is good to hear from you.
Mountainous Buck – I definitely have had very similar experiences with night terrors and night paralysis. That is how most of my memories have come back. I also thought it was my mind’s way of releasing all the stored up abuse that was locked away in my mind when I was young. I am going to write down what you said about courage and honesty in expressing fears in my journal so I can read it when I need to remember the end goal of all of this work. Thanks for that!
Catfish86 – What you said about your flashbacks really resonated with me. After I had these intense flashbacks for a couple of days, I had a sore shoulder joint that prevented me from lifting my hand above my head. Since there was no incident that caused me to have the injury, it made me examine what I remembered. It all came down to remembering that my biological father used to hook his hand under my shoulder and take me to where he wanted me to go. I was never able to keep up, so he essentially dragged me. I remember being dragged across the kitchen floor crying. So, I think the pain was surfacing body memories of that. Thanks also for the tip about using all 5 senses in the grounding techniques. That really makes sense to me.
Surivivinguy – Thanks for your input on this also. It was really helpful to hear not to fight the flashback. I think I am still doing that. I need to heed your advice and let the memory come and focus on integrating it and not getting rid of it. It is interesting you say that about body memories. That is how my abuse first came back to me years ago. I had these intense body memories with no context or memories about the abuse. They would just take over my body and I thought I was going crazy. I guess in a way I was. It was that breakdown that led me to where I am today. Also, I like the idea about the smelling. A friend of mine gave me a bottle of lavender oil to help with stress. I am going to hunt for that and start carrying that around for when I need it.
Again, thanks so much for the suggestions and repsonses. As survivinguy said, I am not alone. These responses prove it. It is great to be part of such a community like MS where people go out of their way to help others in need. I was surely in need and all of these responses have really had an impact on how I handle my flashbacks and just manage the abuse memories in general.
"Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds."