I noticed today two triggers that propelled me into flashback mode. Doing some cleaning and tidying up today I hit my head and was immediately in flashback and my system and hormonal/neurotransmitter responses were being activating, flooding my brain and gut. I lay down on the floor and gently head my head and said to myself “You are having a flashback, you feel scared but you are safe”, I then connected on breathing as I practiced self soothing, I did what an earlier body harmony therapist taught me. Looked around the room, connected to something pretty and safe in present time, an embroidered cushion and eventually I was able to stand up and self calm. Part of my PTSD trauma is that I crashed on a pushbike after doing a cranio sacral session to deal with my near death accident at age 17 and was flung over the handlebars, cutting my head open on an iron foundary This occured close to the first anniversary of my husband returning to the UK and telling me he was going to leave me. I also had another accident (more minor) on the second annivesary in 2006 and at that stage I did not know what flashbacks were. I was living totally isolated and alone at the South Coast.
The second trigger prompted sadness over something my friend, was asking me about yesterday concering my ex husband. I shared with her my sorrow over a pregnancy I decided to terminate when I was only 6 months sober from active alcohol addiciton in 1994 and only 8 months married. I made that decision from my own fear of not being able to be a good enough mother and I know it hurt my ex husband as after he left me he quickly got involved with someone new who gave him a child and told my mother before he told me. (Mind you they both bonded over refusal to allow me my therapy to deal with a traumatic neglectful past.)
Today this sadness about children was trigger as when Jasper my dog and I go on one of my favourite walks we pass by a child’s play centre and the kids are behind the fence and often they run down and call out to us saying things like : “look, doggie!!!” So today we went over and then I helped them by throwing back about 6 plastic spades that had been thrown over the fence near to where Jasper and I were standing. After I left the children behind this huge wave of sadness came upon me and I started to cry and feel so guilty with thoughts like “its no wonder your husband left you”, “you were just a hopeless alcoholic” despite the fact that by that stage I was working as hard as I could on my recovery. Anyway we kept walking as I cried to the oval where we threw the ball around and then walked back to sit in our favourite spot by the swings on a bench under the tree and by that stage I had moved through the trigger.
Its good to be able to share about these things, about the sadness I will always carry not only for the 5 children I could not bring to term but also for the inner child in me who never really got to become a proper grown up. My therapist often says that due to the traumas that befell me between age 17 and 23 I never got to properly leave home. She uses the expression “it was like you were flung out of a cannon”… I was also drowning my shame and false sense of inadequacy in booze and drugs from 23 to 31 when so many other expereinces of emotional abandonment and isolation kept replaying. The final two abandonments were my husband and then last partner leaving me while telling me I was damaged goods, something it has been hard to get out from under. But today I can say I think I am making progress. Realising a flashback is a reminder of being so small, powerless and helpless THEN… but not necessarily NOW is so important. As Pete Walker points out some of us who become passive or co-dependent have our fight and flight responses disabled and we have a lot of work to do to beat the inner critic who beats us up or comes at us from others who know fuck all about our real inner history. Learning to fight off and not succumb as much to the flashbacks and to make sense of them is so so important to recovery. It really really is.