Blackouts

One of the symptoms of PTSD is physical, emotional, mental, or time based blackouts.  Physical blackouts you find yourself on the floor wondering what the hell just happened.  You may have injured yourself on the way down.  They can come on slowly or as fast as turning off a light switch.  Trigger induced or just the physical drain of keeping secrets which is often part of the trauma for abuse victims. Feeling compelled to stay quiet about past events takes a toll physically.  Emotional blackouts also called numbing or dissociation.  This is a powerful but ineffective way to cope with emotional pain.  I say ineffective because blocking emotional pain does not process what happens.  Physical pains, such as a broken hand will heal themselves, emotional pain needs our participation in the healing process.  Mental blackouts also known as dissociation but I keep this separate.  A trigger may be so big and so powerful that you mind shuts down.  I jokingly call it my brain taking a vacation without me.  This can be lethal if they occur while driving.  Being aware that you have them is extremely vital to coping with PTSD.  Some people are so frightened by these mental blackouts that the use of drugs or alcohol may be used to cover it up.  From observing others it is easier to blame drugs or alcohol than to admit that their brain just quits processing living.  Time blackouts are a separate category, similar to mental blackouts but not noticeable until a couple of days pass.  Most people experience the sensation of being so involved with a project they don’t realize how much time has passed.  Time blackouts I describe as going to sleep on Monday waking up on Wednesday and wondering what the hell happened to Tuesday and why am I in trouble for what happened then.  This was the symptom that my counselor was most concerned about.  He explained that is difficult to live while cutting out part of your present life.  The first 5 years of counseling were focused on stopping the time blackouts.  Identifying these in your life may require keeping a journal to record frequency, duration, and problems caused by blackouts.  I had to learn to accept that I had them but choose to not keep them in my life.  I needed to acknowledge their existence before I would take the necessary steps to take back responsibility of my life, either PTSD or I was going to run my life.  Counseling helped me to take on these monster symptoms that were munching away 2/3 of my life.

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One thought on “Blackouts

  1. Thank you for the excellent information. I didn’t experience time blackouts and hadn’t heard of them. That had to have been very tough for you on top of everything else.
    Until I began blogging and learned the word ‘dissociation’, I figured I just ‘zoned’ out. I spaced out anywhere but in the present because being ‘here’ was too dangerous, unsafe. And I still find bruises without remembering banging an arm or a leg, so I don’t connect well with my body either. Though in other ways I’m super sensitive about body issues and hurts.

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