Flashbacks are when memories of past traumas feel as if they are taking place in the current moment. This re-experience of the trauma often seems to come from nowhere blurring the lines between past and present. The individual often feels anxious, scared, powerless, and is engulfed in many other emotions that were present at the time of trauma.
Some flashbacks are mild and brief like a passing moment while others may be powerful and last for a long time. Many times, the individual does not even realize that s/he is having a flashback. They may feel faint and they might even begin to dissociate.
If You Are Experiencing A Flashback:
- Tell yourself you are having a flashback.
- Remind yourself that the actual event is over.
- Take slow, deep breaths. The lack of oxygen that happens with short quick breathing prolongs the panicked state.
- Use your body and five senses to help return your mind to the present. Where are you now? What color is the wall? What is the temperature in the room you are in? What does the room smell like?
- Ask yourself what would make you feel safer. Things like wrapping yourself in a blanket, going to a smaller room or putting something hot or cold in your hands might help. Find what works for you.
- If you have a computer, find some benign YouTube videos that you can watch when experiencing a flashback. Videos of animals or pets are good options that can help you return to a neutral state. Try Shaun the Sheep or Maru the cat.
- Seek support from people you trust. It can be hard to express in the moment what your needs are so plan with them on how to support you if you should have a flashback while with them so they can best support you.
- Take time to recover. This might take awhile, and that is okay. Allow yourself to have time to get back to the present and feel more comfortable.
- Be good to yourself. You are not crazy and you are not doing anything wrong.
It takes time to heal from traumatic events. Experiencing a flashback is re-experiencing trauma. Allow room for yourself and your emotions.
Body Memories: A body memory (also referred to as a somatic memory) is the belief that the body itself is capable of storing memories, as opposed to only the brain. These memories are often characterized with phantom pain in a part or parts of the body– the body appearing to remember the past trauma.
Symptoms for this syndrome are:
- Recurrent behavior patterns, flashbacks, emotional responses physical pain or other sensations generally associated with certain triggers such as events, people, colors, sounds or skin pressure. Recurrent emotional responses can be positive or negative.
- Physical reactions/responses may include:
- Stomach difficulties
- Hot/cold flashes
- Grinding of teeth
- Sleep disorders
A person who suffered past traumas continues to link present day ailments to the past trauma. There is seen to be no particular time limit or quantity limit to body memories.
These maladies can often be frustrating for the survivor of sexual assault who is experiencing them, as they are difficult to diagnose and cure. They may add to the difficult experience of recovery.