Catapulted Back in Time – The Reality of a Flashback

Catapulted Back in Time – The Reality of a Flashback

 

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There are times when it feels as if the past comes hurtling up behind me with the pure intention of side swiping me off my feet. Earlier this week was one of those times and it took all of my inner strength to prevent a full scale melt down or as I sometimes refer to it operation overload attack.

A few weeks back I encountered a body memory style flashback, a point when my body remembered just a small snapshot of the past. It was enough for me to feel terrified and yet insufficient in detail to be fully understood,though if I am honest I comprehended the general basics of the memory. At the time once I had regained my composure and calmed my senses down I tried very hard to shut out all I had recalled, in the hope that it would go away.

I guess I realised that I wasn’t really ready emotionally to deal with this and so it was a safety mechanism to try and block out all the emotions that I felt at that time. I went into my automative non-feeling personae to try and safeguard myself and in some way eradicate the memory which I hope beyond all hope to not be true.

Flashbacks are like that they creep up on you when you least except them and they overwhelm, they seep into my conscious awareness from the depths of the past hidden inside my brain and create chaos and havoc.

Well I truly felt I had boxed this particular one away, it felt as if I had scored a victorious goal, sending this memory reverberating back into the deepest depths of the past. How wrong was I though, flashbacks are never so easily dealt with in my experience and they seem to have the upper hand in this battle between the past and the present.

At the start of this week I had travelled to a conference with my daughter, we checked into our hotel and I felt fine that was until my daughter went to bring up the cases from he car. Sat alone inside this ordinary standard looking hotel room my mind instantly began to whirr and it was soon in overdrive. The images contained in that flashback flew into the forefront of my mind and I began to feel terrified.

My daughter’s return bringing me back to full awareness and in a way grounding me in 2014, and yet I knew the room was triggering me and I kept thinking why. I tried to bat it all away, telling myself internally that we were safe, my daughter was with us, nothing bad was going to happen. I didn’t want to tell my daughter I was having a problem for whilst I knew she would understand I didn’t want to start our time away like this. There was also a genuine fear that I would have to face the flashback and I really felt as if I couldn’t cope with that.

We made an excuse to leave the room and head to the conference centre and yet all the time I was having an internal conversation and trying to reassure myself and all the parts of me. We managed to avoid the room for a few hours but of course the inevitable happened and at the end of the day we had to return to the room.

Instantly I felt panic and fear welling up inside and my mind was racing at what felt like 100mph, yet I had limited control over any of this fear or dread. My daughter asked if I was ok and I had to tell her the truth we were far from being ok in fact we were struggling. Of course she asked why and it was difficult to tell her the room was triggering when her response was why? I tried to be very limited with what I said, I mean how can you share such a memory with a loved one, a memory filled with pain and anguish. All I have are fragments of an incident of trauma, one I do not doubt but at the same time wish it would evaporate and disappear.

I tweeted a few times about the fact I was struggling, and of course people were supportive, they were offering advice. I was grateful for the advice it was generally well intentioned and it was well received but it was difficult none the less.

I mean how can you tell your alters the other parts of me that you, that we are safe, if you don’t believe that yourself and that was my problem. I knew it was 2014, I knew the memory was of a time in the past but I still felt scared witless in that hotel room as I couldn’t be certain something similar wouldn’t happen to me now in 2014.

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The past was shaking my firm foundations today and it was winning well it sure felt like it anyway, and I was unable to rationalise my thoughts sensibly. I truly felt like this event, this traumatic incident could happen today and I wasn’t safe at all. No matter how much I tried to ground myself it wasn’t helping, but then I realised I didn’t need grounding I needed reassurances. Yes it was not just my parts but ME, that needed reassuring I needed to know I was safe. I needed to understand we were safe and I also needed to understand we could still box up this memory until we are ready to process it. The truth being I needed to comprehend that the control over this turmoil was still mine and I was equipped to box it away for a future time when we are more able to face it and the pain that it evokes.

I wasn’t able to sleep very well that night and at points I had recall of the snapshots of the memory which flooded my senses and overloaded me. I kept thinking that if this is true; which I believe it is, I will not be able to face it, to live with the emotional turmoil and aftermath. There were times in the night I has negative thoughts that I so wish I hadn’t experienced, those thoughts scared me so it felt like a bit of a double whammy attack.

Of course time doesn’t stand still and the night passed and as morning broke and my daughter woke I knew we had been safe there, nothing bad, nothing similar to our original flashback had occurred.
I have never been so glad to see dawn break and yet I feel guilty for the negative thoughts we had during the night too.

I haven’t had a therapy session this week as my psychologist was off on our regular day due to the Easter Holidays, of course I could have emailed him but how do you explain in an email this fear or anguish.

So for now we are living in this temporary state of limbo waiting to deal with this memory and the fear it invokes whilst also trying to contain the emotions of myself and all the other parts of me. I guess we are like many other survivors of trauma living life one step at a time currently and hoping we can deal with all the confusion and chaos that reigns in our life at the moment, one day soon.

 

Copyright :DID Dispatches 2014

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Making my journey with D.I.D bear-able

Making my journey with D.I.D bear-able

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My Little parts are keen for us to introduce our special friend

Ever since my melt down point a decade ago I have had the company of a cuddly creature to keep me feeling safe. Initially this was a rather large creature who filled my arms and to be fair wasn’t so easy to carry. After 2 years my children and I chose a new creature whose size made it easier for me to carry and to discretely transport around.

Now my cuddly creatures are not live animals, no there are teddy bears called Cuddles and Ted, between the they have been with me throughout my journey through the mental health system. Now cuddles was rather cumbersome due to her size, it made it difficult to carry her around and so she is now retired to safe storage but Ted she has been with me for 8 years now and is a daily part of my life.

I’m not afraid to admit I have her, in fact until a couple of years ago I couldn’t leave her at any point in the day. Ted was carried in my arms daily, at home and when we went out she has been a source of comfort and in many ways has given my little alters a sense of grounding and security which has been significantly helpful.

Ted has been with me in all bar two of my acute hospitalisations, she’s been locked in a forensic secure unit and a non-forensic one too, she’s endured being detained by the police when we were repatriated to hospital in the cage of a police van. She’s been with me when I have tried to end my suffering and when I have self harmed, in fact Ted has been through every step of the journey since 2006. She has spent some 130 plus weeks in hospital, her predecessor cuddles spent approximately 65 weeks in hospital.

I guess when I carried her everywhere I stood out, she and I were a partnership and yes she was my security blanket if you like and some patients and certainly some staff found it difficult to deal with this women and her bear. I was unable to cope with life, with the memories and the flashbacks which filled me with dread and fear, with the confusion and anxiety I felt I just wanted the ground to swallow me whole to stop my anguish and my pain.

I can recall being verbally attacked by a stranger who took offence to me and my bear, he said ‘people like you should be locked away’ and I guess that was easy for him to say but I wasn’t always this wreck. I am a mum and I was once a wife, I worked hard and contributed to society I never expected to find myself in a mental hospital nor carrying a bear and yet it happened. I knew I had a tough start in life but I hoped I’d managed to leave it all behind, I thought I had, but then the reality was that it was just hidden away. You see in truth much pain and anguish from my past was hidden deep inside of me waiting to reveal itself when I was least expecting it. I didn’t need a random stranger attacking me for carrying a bear I felt bad enough about myself who I was and the fact I couldn’t cope.

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Ted has been a comfort that I needed through the darkest of days she has been there and I am not ashamed that I needed her. She has kept me grounded at times especially when I have suffered flashbacks and memories. I could keep telling myself & all my alters, all the parts of me that when bad happened we didn’t have Ted and yet now we did and that meant we were safe.

As a child I only recall one teddy bear he came from a bad person as a reward for being ‘a good girl’ for not telling when the person hurt me and yet I loved that bear. I remember coming home from school and my bear being gone, my mother had decided I had to be punished for something and taking that bear away was my punishment. I didn’t have another bear, unlike most children for me toys were rare and they came and they went as a form of control.

When my children bought me Cuddles I was elated and so grateful and yes she served me well when I first hit melt down, but her size made her harder to carry. But like Ted she took so many of my tears as I could hold her and let out the pain that ripped deep into me at that time, I find emotions so hard that it’s impossible for me to explain them to others easily, to express them and yet I needed to.

My cuddly friends have been a part of each day now for a decade and I doubt I could have managed without them, it felt like they were attached to me, it probably looked like that to the world. We were this person who went everywhere with her bear and people became used to that, some became so accustomed to her they no longer saw her.

About two years ago I made the decision to put Ted inside my bag when I went out, she was still with me 24/7 but she was no longer a visual constant in my day to day life. I remember the first time I placed her in my bag I felt bereft, but I knew it was the right time to stop carrying her in my arms all the time. Part of my decision was based upon the fact that my constantly carrying this bear had caused me significant muscular issues which required physiotherapy treatment. For years I had held her in my arm so had held my arm in a bent position this had caused muscle weakness and tension and when I realised that all this pain and discomfort was a result of my needing Ted I knew I had to take action.

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For a further year Ted was still a constant, she was carried around everywhere I went, the doctors, the shops, even for a McDonalds. Then one day I forgot her she was left sat at home on my bed and I ventured off to an appointment, by the time I realised we didn’t have time to return to get her. I had to face the fact that we would have to survive without her for these few hours and of course we did, we managed and it led to more and more organised opportunities where Ted stayed home. I had some control over this so if I was struggling or facing a difficult time Ted came along, but if I felt we could manage well then she stayed home.

Now Ted lives on my bed and there are times she comes with us, so every time we attend psychology she comes along too. When I face Care plan meetings Ted comes too, holidays and other times away from home involving overnight stays she is part of my luggage. But I can now manage without her when I am shopping, or attending the GP’s, visiting friends or going for a coffee. Ted probably spends 50% of her time on my bed and 50% of her time in my bag or on the sofa, it’s a far cry from my carrying her 24/7.

This week I’m attending an event which means I’m away from home, so Ted comes too she will stay part of her time on my hotel bed but I know she’ll be with me when I need her. There will be times when I do need her, times when I feel vulnerable or I am switching more and I need to try and ground myself.

Now it maybe hard for people to understand why I a grown women need a bear but of course parts of me are little and need the comfort a bear gives. She also allows me to know that the past is over and that is so important to me. I am fortunate that my family accept her as a necessary part of my life currently, they don’t nor have they ever judged us. In fact my children who are adults themselves will often say hello to her and they occasionally buy a new outfit for her. It’s as if they understand the role she has and continues to play in our life.

I never expected this small bear Ted would become so important to me and obviously carrying her everywhere day in and day out she has weathered quite a lot, but I can’t imagine replacing her she will just age and become more loved as time progresses. She may not come out with me as often and one day she may just live on my bed, but for now Ted will keep playing whatever role I and all my parts need her too. Be that grounder, comforter or as a sign of reassurance Ted is a significant part of my healing journey and I’m glad she is part of our life.

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Copyright: DID Dispatches 2014