A couple of weeks ago, I put a post up asking for people to fill in a questionnaire for me (seen here). I’m not sure if anyone would be interested but this is the responses from 65 people on their most common symptoms – remember you are not alone in this!
Tag Archives: flashbacks
I am writing this on my phone so apologies in advance for any spelling/grammar mistakes! Also this could be triggering for some so please be careful if reading.
The end of next week is the anniversary of the first trauma when I was initially kidnapped and raped and so things are very bad right now.
I read a question somewhere that someone who hadn’t suffered from any trauma asked, “why do people celebrate their anniversaries? Why don’t they just ignore them?” And so I’m going to try and answer that from my perspective.
Firstly, recognising an anniversary is completely different to ‘celebrating’ it. Don’t get me wrong, I do know some people who celebrate it, in recognition of how strong they are and how far they’ve come. To show that they survived and want to celebrate that fact. All credit to these people, but currently I’m not in that place.
In all honesty, I want to hide away; pretend it never happened. However, my brain has other ideas! Whether its sub-consciously or something else, I have no idea but for the last couple of weeks I’ve really gone downhill (my last post was a show of this). My flashbacks have increased in intensity and frequency as well as throwing up some new stuff to try and deal with. My sleep is practically non-existent (writing this at 4.30am shows this!) and if I do manage to drop off, I’m woken up by a recurring nightmare that leaves me with a fast beating heart, sweat, anxiety and bad memories to ruminate on. I’ve also starting to grind my teeth so I also wake up with a tense jaw and headaches.
When I’m awake, I’m barely functional. I can’t be bothered to open my mouth to talk even though I have thoughts running through my head that I want to get out. So in answer to the original question, I don’t mark the anniversary, it marks me.
I had my weekly visit from my care co-ordinator today (well yesterday now) and I managed to get up to open the door to her and sit with her briefly in the living room. But I couldn’t speak and whenever I tried to, I just cried and the voice that came out was barely a whisper.
She asked me if I wanted sleeping tablets – I said I don’t know.
She asked if I wanted the home treatment team to come in – I said I don’t know.
She asked if I wanted to look at respite care – I said I don’t know.
I think you can get the gist of it, I just don’t know. I don’t know what’s best for me right now. My cc said that when I use isolation as a coping strategy that she can understand that and work with it. But she said it doesn’t feel like that right now – it doesn’t feel like I’m using it to cope and she’s right, I’m not coping.
She told me she felt like she was stabbing me every time she asked me to speak as it looked so painful and I looked like I needed a big hug and did I want one? Again she was right but I knew if I accepted a hug, I would completely break, so I said no thanks. When she got up to leave tears were streaming down my face and I’ve never seen her out in that state. If I’ve been crying in the session, I usually compose myself enough and we chit chat at the end to ground me, but not today.
My cc said she will call on Monday to see what decision I’ve made about treatment. I just wish sometimes someone would say, “here, this is best for you right now” and I wouldn’t have to decide because in all honesty, I just don’t know!!
Nightmares and night terrors in PTSD are really common and although I’m not too sure on the difference between a nightmare and a night terror, I tend to use my own language when describing what happens.
For me, it is like having a flashback in my sleep with the main difference being the fact that I have no control over it and the first I know is when I have woken up screaming, in tears and sometimes out of bed. They are so bad that I have become fearful of actually going to sleep and so my nights are very much my worst time. It is when, trying to stay awake, I think too much and my mood dips a lot!
So, knowing I don’t have many therapy sessions left, this was an area I knew needed addressing. My main concern was that I would open a can of worms and in the short time left, wouldn’t be able to close it again and would be left with no therapy sessions left and in the middle of something I couldn’t cope with.
Me and my therapist spoke about it at length and we decided we were going to give it a go. We were to use graded exposure to help with them and the plan was for me to write down the nightmare the day before my next therapy session. Then in session I was to read it (either to myself or out loud) and deal with emotions it brought up. Once the emotions settled down, I would read again and again until the fear associated with the nightmare was diminished enough for it not to be a problem.
This was the plan, but firstly the task of writing it down took a lot more effort than I thought! The first week I tried, I failed spectacularly. I just couldn’t get the words on to paper and I ended up dissociating really badly. I did go to therapy that week but only managed to stay for 30 mins as I just felt so unreal, I needed to get back to my apartment to be safe again.
The next week, I managed to write it down but if I’m being honest, part of me was scared of having the conversation with my therapist. I had never spoken about any details that had happened and I didn’t know how to. What language would I use? How would I get over the feeling of being judged? Or the disgust and shame behind my words?
I explained this to my therapist and told her although I knew it was her job not to judge me, I was still scared. On top of that fear was the fear that the actual nightmare made me feel. But we pushed through, with her reading it herself so I didn’t have to say it out loud.
I’m not going to lie, it was one of the hardest things I have done. Reliving a tiny part of my trauma elicited so many emotions I can’t begin to list them. But yet again, in session, I started to become detached and feeling like I wasn’t really sure where I was. I remember looking round the room and there was one of those springy door stops attached to the skirting board and that was all I could see, everything else seemed to just disappear. I am aware that this sounds absolutely ridiculous but it’s the only way I can describe it.
I managed to read through my nightmare 3 times in the session before it got too much. I have therapy tomorrow and already I am really scared. I haven’t looked at the nightmare since and I’m not supposed to but just thinking of reading those words again scares me so much!
Yesterday saw me continuing with therapy and emdr. I think to understand where my emotions went, I need to explain the process a bit more.
In the past we had spent a long time doing my timeline (essentially looking at significant events in life) and from this me and my therapist extracted bits that she thought I needed to process.
So beginning with the earliest traumatic memory, she asks me to remember it and how distressed it makes me feel in the now. This is given a mark out of 10 (10 being extremely distressed). Next she asks me what the memory makes me feel. As an example I said ‘I am worthless’ – that is then given a mark from 0-7 on how much I feel that to be true (7 being very true). Lastly, she asks how I would like to feel in that memory. Mine was ‘I am ok and worthwhile’ and again this is rated from 0-7 on how much I believe that to be true.
Once those 3 marks have been given, my therapist asks me to imagine that memory again and how worthless I feel and then she begins the finger movement. I literally follow her fingers back and forth a number of times with my eyes. She then asks what feelings that has brought up and she does the finger movement again. We keep going until I don’t really know what I’m feeling (this happens a lot more than I thought!) and then she asks me to revisit the memory and do the 3 ratings again.
So yesterday I started with I’m worthless and believed it was a 7. The emotions that were brought up were:
It was my fault
Should never have been born
I should be dead
I want to kill myself
I’ve never felt suicidal in an actual session before and it really shocked me and made me see where the suicidal thoughts were originating from. The problem with emdr is the feelings that come up aren’t really discussed. They are attempted to be processed and then use mindfulness and safe place techniques to manage the emotion and so it can leave me feeling a bit lost in my own thoughts.
At the end, we revisited the original memory and for me non of the ratings had changed. I’m not sure if that means its not working or I’m expecting too much from one session. The feelings/emotions that were brought up were very powerful ones and as they were coming up I was crying more and more. So when the session was over I was exhausted and I can’t seem to shake them off – even 24 hours later!
For those that follow me on twitter, writing this is number 5 out of 10 on distraction technique.
This time yesterday I had pretty much woken up from my day of dozing after my EMDR session. I felt horrid when I got back in the morning and so I took some of my sleeping tablets and after sleeping on it, I felt like I needed to be a bit easier on myself and give it chance to work.
I tried to do something for me and so took a long bath to try to relax and get rid of some of the emotions that had been brought up by the earlier session. I then wrote a couple of blog posts whilst I had some concentration and spent the night on twitter. It was at this point that I began to feel my emotions coming back about my dad and so I took another lot of sleeping meds to knock me out (about 2am).
I woke up at 4.30am curled up on the floor at the side of bed screaming – yet another night terror. No matter how many of these I have, I never get used to the feeling of waking up and for few seconds not knowing where I am and adrenaline pumping round body!! I went and made myself a hot water bottle, went back to bed and just lay crying for the next hour or so.
I was scared of going back to sleep again so I just lay, no reading etc watching my room get lighter and lighter. I couldn’t get up, I had no want to so I just carried on lying there. I tried going on twitter but every time I tried catching up on tweets, I got frustrated because I had to re-read too many times, so I gave up on that as well.
I’m often asked (by cc and psychiatrist), if I am in bed all day what do I do? And to be honest the answer is I don’t know! Time goes by and I’m still lying there. If you can remember the times when you are driving along and before you know it you are at your destination but for the life of you can’t remember the journey – that’s the best way I can describe it. my journey is the time and when I look at it I have no idea how I got from previous time to this one.
This afternoon I got a text from my local car garage saying my MOT had cost £410 and that was it. Such a small thing which normally I would work out a way to deal with it (I don’t have that money at min due to lack of work), turned out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I was supposed to pick up medication today (I’m still on weekly scripts), but there is no way I can leave my bed at the minute and I’m not sure having tablets here is a good idea right now!
And that’s the past 24 hours, nothing majorly significant but a number of small issues that I have completely lost the coping ability for. So here I am, working through my distraction technique plan! Number 5 done and still feel the same!!
A lot has happened over the past week including the outcome of the work situation I posted about last time. However for this post I’m going to concentrate on two things; one that has really affected me and another that scares me.
The first thing is about what I have now learnt to be called body flashbacks. So far in my PTSD, I have suffered bad flashbacks, memories and nightmares and this has been the main area we have tried to sort out with medication. Unfortunately everything I’ve tried has been unsuccessful in one way or another and so we (me, my cc and psychiatrist) put all hope into psychotherapy services which I have just started. My experiences of flashbacks are always horrendous but I’ve kind of come to accept them as part of my life (plz don’t interpret that as finding them easy to deal with as I don’t, but just something I have accepted will happen).
Towards the end of last week I had an experience I’d never had before which included feeling actual pain that I had during the assault. I really don’t know how to describe it, the pain was very real and is something I’d never felt before so I knew exactly what is was from.
I turned to twitter to ask about this and found that flashbacks can be physical as well as the audio and visual ones I normally have (thanks to the people that replied on twitter by the way). This, for me, has been the worst thing yet and I’m not sure if its because it is something new or because the physical pain is very interlinked with the emotional after effects of the assault.
Luckily as I write this, I haven’t had one since but from what other people have said, I should be expecting more!!
The second thing I want to touch on is something I am struggling to put in to words and I can’t find any info on google because I don’t have a name for it. Maybe someone who reads this might be able to help?
I’ve noticed that I am convinced that something has happened that hasn’t. Let me give an example and hopefully it will make more sense. I have a little niece who needs a hernia operation & obviously everyone is worried about it and was apprehensive about when the date of the op would be (they live in America so system is a lot quicker than here in the uk).
I was speaking to my mum about it and saying I was going to call my sister-in-law to see how things were doing. My mum asked me to find out how the docs appointment had gone on to find out when the op would be. I told her the op was the 10th of December and went in to great detail about when my s-i-l told me this. The problem is, I didn’t have that conversation with her (I actually last spoke to her before the appointment with doc had even happened) and no-one had told me the 10th dec – I’d completely imagined the whole thing. Now if this was a one off, then I could put it down to some kind of reason (not sure what), but it isn’t. This is just an example of many things – down to small silly things like sending an email only to find out I hadn’t sent it – even though I vividly remember the words I wrote and everything.
And this is what scares me. I am starting to get mixed up between what has actually happened and what I think has happened. How do I know what is the actual reality?
Does any of that make any sense to anyone? There is nothing malicious about the thoughts – they fit in with what is happening in my life (eg my niece and her op is real). It’s really freaking me out!!
Yesterday my cc (care co-ordinator) approached the subject of getting tested for STI’s. I knew it was something I had to face but someone else saying it really hit a nerve with me. I have been up most of the night thinking about it and I decided to just go and do it. I found a local drop in centre and went. I wrote a little note basically saying I was raped in the past and please can you take this in to account as this is a very stressful thing for me to be doing.
I thought it would be bad, I was nervous and scared but it was worse than I thought. I really shouldn’t have gone alone – I was stupid to think I could deal with such a huge thing by myself. During the internal, I just lay and cried. The nurse was really nice but it was so triggering for me. I left in a complete daze and when I got back to my car I just broke down in huge sobs. I have never cried properly over what has happened and it seemed to just come out in that moment. I felt like I was having flashback after flashback with no break and had no idea how I was going to drive home.
When I first started with the CMHT (community mental health team) I was given the contact number and told if I needed help at any point to call this and speak to the on duty worker, I never in a million years thought I would use it as I have issues with calling for help. But I didn’t feel I had a choice, I felt frozen tot he spot and needed to speak to someone so I called.
It was a complete waste of time, he obviously had no idea of my case and I felt uncomfortable telling a strange man that I had been to the gum clinic and I guess there was nothing they could do anyway and so I hung up. I was totally on my own and have never felt it more than at that point. It took me 4 hours to get home – a car journey that is no more than 20 minutes at the most.
Now I am home, I feel horrid. I have some strong prescription pain killers from an accident a couple of weeks ago and so I am going to take enough to knock me out so I can get some peace.