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PTSD And Me (Flashbacks)

Mental Health and Trauma Blog | Noisy

For me the worst part of PTSD/C-PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder/complex post-traumatic stress disorder) are the flashbacks. Short films you're forced to not just watch, but experience in your head, they show the most traumatic parts of your past that you'd much rather forget. You're helpless when you're reliving these moments, there's nothing you can do. They happen so suddenly that by the time you realise what's happening they're pretty much over. They're always graphic in detail, and although most of the time they don't last long at all, when you're in one, it can feel like a lifetime. There's more to a flashback that what you experience. There's the moment you come back to reality and need a few minutes to figure out where you are and how much time you've lost. Your body goes into autopilot while you're reliving the trauma. You don't know what time you've lost or what you did, if anything, while your brain took you on a trip down memory lane. It's a heart sinking panic as you make sure nobody was caught in the crossfire. I have a long list of triggers, some more extreme than others but most of the time the trigger can be so small that it's barely noticeable. But noticeable enough that my brain drags me back to a time I'd rather forget. The severity of the flashback plays a huge part in my mood after. Sometimes I can shake it off and carry on with my day, other times it'll stay with me, I'll try to forget about it, but it'll keep replaying in my head, although I'm still pretty much able to function. On some occasions they can be so severe that it can induce a panic attack. My brain goes into fight or flight mode, my heart races, my anxiety rockets, and as a result I can barely function. Flashbacks aren't just something you see, and I think that's what many people don't realise. It's fully immersive. You can smell, feel, hear all the things you could then, as if you're back in that very moment. That's what makes them so difficult, they're so realistic. It's as if you're reliving the same trauma over again, they're much more graphic than any nightmare could be. A traumatic experience relived repeatedly, inflicting torture each time. They're not something you can be aware of when you're in them, you can't stop them, you just go through it and hold on the best you can. Unlike the nightmares, which I can become desensitised to if I experience them enough, the PTSD flashbacks don't offer the same relief. It's something that's traumatic no matter how many times I experience it. No matter what progress I make, a flashback can set me back weeks, even months. I find myself shaking my head and closing my eyes tightly as I come back to reality, trying to shake off what I saw. It's not something I'm conscious of, it's more of an automatic response. They're distressing, whether you're the person experiencing them, or you're there with someone who is. This is the fight of your life. - Noisy

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