A minor annoying experience suddenly goes haywire with emotions that are over-the-top extreme flashback. I am no longer a confident adult but a cringing terrified/angry/helpless child. I know logically that the event did not warrant the level of emotion that washed over me like tsunami. Several of these stood out in my memory. When I started counseling I finally learned what they are, emotional flashbacks. Sometimes it was excruciating pain for an injury I didn’t remember. These are a specific type of flashback called body memories. My brain forgot but my body did not. These baffled me as to why such pain but no known cause. I enjoyed the luxury of forgetting my past but during counseling I started having vivid memories that I can tell you in detail right down to the color of the linoleum on the floor. My mind finally release those deleted images in technicolor with raw emotions included. I had them for years but was told I was exaggerating overactive imagination. I felt angry and betrayed when I realized I was lied to, I was remembering actual horrific events in my life. Denial/gas-lighting/minimizing were how I was treated. A few of the things that happened were denial that the event never happened. Gas-lighting is a purposeful twisting of events leaving me feeling that their was something terribly wrong with me. Minimizing the event – it was not that bad.
Lily Hope Lucario wrote another article covering this subject. https://healingfromcomplextraumaandptsd.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/emotional-flashbacks-due-to-complex-trauma-lilly-hope-lucario/
I believe that these flashbacks are one of the hallmark symptoms that indicate PTSD/CPTSD. The recurring vivid recall of past horrific events. Mine also came as horrific nightmares from the time I was very young, earliest I remember was when I was 5 years old. My parents told me all children had nightmares and when I grew up they would go away. I used to joke that the nightmares didn’t go away, therefore I didn’t grow up. Which is partially true. I am a very late bloomer finally hit my teenage years in my 50’s. I was 50 going on 15 instead of 13 going on 30. Fortunately, I worked in a high school and was able to blend in with the populace. My counselor spent hours and hours allowing/encouraging me to talk about all these flashbacks that occurred more and more frequently as I healed. It was like my mind and body realized that this overwhelming back log of unprocessed events were going to have their moment on the stage of my life. To say they are difficult would be a gross understatement. Some caused me to collapse completely. Thoroughly embarrassed to find myself cringing on the floor of the audiologist office begging that I would be good. She had put warm wax in my ears to form a mold. The acting out of a past event was a shock to both of us. Others I struggled through with emergency phone calls to my counselor. Now they hit and a stand my ground and let them wash over. I use art and computer games as a way to distract and reassure myself that the feelings will pass and I will struggle on. One of the things that stuck out in my mind that my counselor said, “You survived the original event, you will survive the memory too.” I still have recurring nightmares. I still struggle to sleep at night knowing the nightmares will come again and again. I use sleep deprivation as a fairly unusual was to deal with these nightly waves of emotions. I miss counseling when I could discuss these ad nauseum until my brain finally works through these past events. I don’t understand why people do what they do but I do understand they were real events and I can process the emotions that went with those events. Some of the nightmares still wake me up but I simply acknowledge that they are one of ‘those’ nightmares and go downstairs to sleep on the couch with the light on. Many of my coping strategies are designed to cope with flashbacks.
2 thoughts on “Unruly emotions”
That is a good phrase – “you survived the original event. You’ll survive the memories, too.” I might borrow that during one myself.
Use it as needed. I agree it is a good phrase when memories are tough.