Flashbacks and memories can sometimes be powerful, emotional and overwhelming. But they can also be part of the recovery process and the most important thing to know firstly is that it is OK that you are having these – it is part of the healing and you do not need to punish yourself or the child within you for what happened or the fact that you are having these memories.
Firstly take a moment, breath slowly and evenly and remind yourself that you are having a flashback and that this is not happening again – the feelings and sensations that you are having are memories about the past.
Keep breathing – sometimes when we get frightened or anxious and begin to panic then we don’t breath properly and that means that we are not getting enough oxygen. This can make panic worse by heightening symptoms such as dizziness, feeling faint, nausea, sweats. Slowly and evenly breath through the nose and out of the mouth concentrating only on that breath in and out.
When you feel a little calmer, get in touch with your immediate surroundings – ground yourself in where you are at so that you are clear that you are not back in that dark place. You might stamp your feet or perhaps touch the walls or furniture around you, observing how each thing feels to your touch. Listen to the sounds around you, what can you smell in the air. What are you wearing, how does the fabric feel. What can you see around you.
Often with flashbacks and memories some people feel like a child again and if this is the case for you then talk to the child in you and remind them that you are OK. Tell the child that it is safe to experience the feelings but that it is not happening again and that you will both work through it together.
Be kind to yourself in a safe way – make sure that you are warm, wrap a favourite blanket around you, hold a pillow or soft toy. This is also a great way to make sure that you are aware of where you are.
Get help – this can be a friend or family member who understands about your flashbacks and memories or other useful helpline. You might like to have a plan of action worked out with someone you trust that will mean that you are supported in a way that works for you.
A plan of action might include soothing music, a safety, soothing phrase that you repeat, having someone be with you or not – your choice – using a familiar cuddly toy to hold, watching a favourite movie or children’s programme. If you have a pet it might be interacting with them, stroking your dog or cat or talking to hamsters etc.
You can take back the control when you are ready – you can remind yourself that the memories are real but that it is not happening again; if this is something that has happened before then you can remind yourself that this will pass, be kind to yourself when you are re-grounded and look after yourself.
* Remember H A L T – hungry, angry, lonely, tired. Make sure that each of these areas are taken care of before during and after.
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