Tag Archives: PTSD triggers

Two Types of Flashbacks

The last time I was cleaning 5 days a week (my goal) except for dishes/food clean up was last month. On the 15th, I wrote this blog saying, “I’m doing it!” and started waking up in full panic: heart pounding, palms sweating, shaking, the whole thing. When I have a full, emotional flashback, it’s a two-week readjustment, but not a cleaning flashback. Those take longer, about 4 weeks.

What I’ve done successfully, is to make the routines, at least a minimum of them just habit. So, for the past 4 weeks, I’ve done some laundry, but haven’t put it away consistently. Done some dishes every day, but rarely are all of them done, etc. There aren’t 4 weeks of accumulated laundry and dishes to do. I haven’t gotten much sleep and my stress levels are up, but I’ve dealt with it.

My challenge is to either 1)Try and add to what I can do in the “bad times.” or 2)Lengthen the period when I can clean. The problem with either and this challenge is that if I notice what I’m doing — the panic starts.

I’m really sick of fighting this stuff! I’m in my 60s — I am honestly, truly tired of being affected by things which happened in my childhood. But they gave me PTSD and all of it, the mess to hide in and the other events or adaptations I made to protect myself, are all wrapped together as my flashback. Push on any piece too hard and there I go down the flashback rabbit hole.

The only difference is that when I’m pushed emotionally, I have a successful route I forged back. From something like the movie thing, it takes a day or two. If someone attacks me? It takes two full weeks.

I don’t have such a mechanism for the panic attacks/cleaning flashbacks. What I originally did with the emotional ones was to recreate my growth, one step at a time away from the painful place I used to live. I haven’t managed anything except the very first steps away from the panic/stress.

  1. I understand the root of the panic.
  2. I also understand that the reason it was and is so hard to fight is that when it occurs, I’m in full fight/flight panic mode.
  3. I have realized that the only way I know which might work is to habitualize the cleaning.

That’s worked to some extent or the other.

What hasn’t worked? Finding a way to notice that I’m cleaning and not go into a full-blown panic attack/flashback.


There’s hope. Until I typed what’s above and remembered what I’d done for the emotional attacks, I’d forgotten that I ritualized the steps away from the bad old days. I did that for years until my therapist said, “Do you really have to recreate each step, one after the other these days? Next time, see if you can’t condense some of it.” And I could!

So, hope exists. But it took me 20 years or so to heal enough that I could conceive of  recreating the healing route. Twenty months longer on the cleaning/panic is about 18 months more than I want to spend….

But, of course, the being dictating the rate I can go isn’t my conscious, adult brain, but that wounded little girl, whose body remembers all the trauma. She and the body run the roadways and determine how much I can do and how fast. train image from target

My adult self just has to sit back, be patient, and wait. It sometimes feels as if I’m a passenger on an electric train. I got on, the doors closed and locked. All I can do is patiently wait until it stops!

trolley

 

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People Ask

me these days

  • Do I enjoy knitting?
  • Is the house clean yet? And, am I happy with it?

The answer is no to both. But that’s not specifically what I want to talk about.

There is a perception out there with PTSD ( or maybe other things too?) that if you do a certain amount of work, get to where you can undo a lot if not all of the consequences or symptoms of something — it’s gone.

Yes, I can knit now without a major anxiety attack. No, I don’t know what the trauma was. I did enough knitting last year that it no longer affects me like it did. However, that said, the anxiety does still come up on occasion.

Yes, the house is cleaner. Yes, the living room is mostly decorated. No, it isn’t “clean.” No, I don’t mange to maintain it consistently.

Habits are anathema for PTSD folks. Habits make you predictable and therefore vulnerable. I seem to have this more than a lot of people because of the triple whammy of being emotionally abused (you can’t win in a really dysfunctional situation, by definition) by an alcoholic (where the rules change all the time) and it starting so young. (I only remember a few days before the abuse, although that started when I was almost 4.)

Anyway, no, I’m not having anxiety attacks about either the knitting or the house, but my ability to work on either comes & goes. Why people think that at some point, you just finish the thing as if it’s not the hardest piece? I don’t know. Finishing something is harder for me than not doing it — it’s another whole level of being vulnerable.

There’s one of several reasons that I haven’t touched the memoir retype for months, hadn’t tried to knit for months, haven’t touched my office, etc. Doing a little knitting a little work on the living room, some dishes and other things is about all I can manage right now. If that seems completely ridiculous to you? Well, I’m sorry. You have your anxieties about whatever — I’ve got mine.

Healing isn’t a straight, even line for me. It comes & goes. I think my mind decides I’m going to do something — and I do it, for a while. Then my body kicks in and everything stops until my body decides the new thing is at least not a complete threat. Then I can pick it up again and push ahead.

People say things to me when I’m getting things done like, “You make me tired.” but you see, there are MONTHS where I get damned little done. I numb out, backslide, and hide. Then I get another spurt of productiveness and go like mad, as long as it lasts.

This cycle is irritating, but it’s how I get things done. If I plan to do x or y and z every day? Huh, that may last one day or maybe two — maybe.

Working on long-term projects this way is damned annoying and there doesn’t seem to be a “finish line” (no pun intended) — if I get something done 78%, then I’ll just finish it. It doesn’t work that way — I wish!