The truth is, in the original experience of that moment during my trauma, I didn’t want to come back. I wanted to keep going into the tunnel and abandon my body forever. Later, then, it was a strange flashback in which to be stuck. Non-violent and peaceful, the memory stole over me at odd moments without a definitive trigger and the next thing I knew, I was back in that place, hovering ½ way between my physical body and a black tunnel, reliving the panic and fear of the moments prior to my escape, and then lingering in the peace of that ultimate disconnection from the world around me. Suspended there, my mind shut down and I sank into the deep, despondent wish that I could get back to the tunnel and leave behind the rest of the PTSD hell in which I lived.
Not easy, as we all know, to cope and carry on when intense moments of the past overwhelm us. I’ve been thinking, lately, how much we all struggle to control the flashback experience – or not control it. Since my PTSD experience was undiagnosed for 25 years, I just accepted that this memory would bowl me over weekly, would, itself, hover over me on a daily basis and that was just the way things would be. I didn’t develop strategies or coping mechanisms for it. I let it wash over me, felt myself float away, and knew at some point I’d come back. It was easy to live like this since the flashback wasn’t violent in nature.
But for many survivors flashbacks are a big issue that becomes physiological and destructive in its experience. We need a ‘To Do’ list for interrupting the flow; a list of strategies to reconnect us to the present moment.
This week, I’ve been on the task. I’ve polled some PTSD friends. Today, I give you a collective list of what ten PTSDers do to stop a flashback in its tracks:
1. Count 1 – 10 slowly; repeat until the flashback ends.
5. Snap an elastic band around your wrist.
11. Journal. “Put it in a box” and put the box away.
What tips, tricks and strategies do you use? Add to this community resource by leaving a comment.