Flashbacks are very scary, but you can get through them and get some control. Some survivors have later described them as a way of retrieving useful information about the abuse they suffered as a boy.
Consider advice under ‘Self-help for Panic and Sudden Distress’ and the additional advice on coping with sudden memories. Also :
- Develop a good understanding of which triggers cause you to flashback. You won’t be able to avoid them all. It probably wouldn’t be good to block all memories because they are also a useful part of recovery. Some you may not want to avoid because they’re an everyday part of your life or very enjoyable – like making love. But there may be some that you can avoid. Decide which triggers you will avoid. This will give you some control over the number of flashbacks and amount of distress you experience.
- Coping with panic, memories and sudden distress is very hard and there are no easy answers. Many Survivors have experienced them, come through them and established some control. Over time, and with support they’ve seen this distress reduce. As a boy you actually survived the abuse. Then you may have been all on your own. Now, as a man, you can get support and survive the memories of abuse too.
BEGINNING TO FEEL
For Survivors, feelings can seem like problems. Even pleasurable feelings like love and sex can be connected to painful thoughts. In a crisis, you may be experiencing distress such as flashbacks, sudden memories and suicidal thoughts. It’s understandable if all you want to do is to stop feeling all together.
Survivors often get into this habit of not feeling much. They may describe themselves as, ‘spaced out’, ‘numb’, ‘unreal’, ‘not connected’, ‘not all there’. This ‘spacing out’ can take a number of forms :
- Being ‘in your head.’ This means that you split your emotions off. It’s like they don’t exist. You’re able to talk about things but the emotions that go with the thoughts don’t seem to register.
- Not being aware of your body. This can almost feel like you don’t have a body. You may ignore your physical needs and not register pain or when it’s time to eat, drink, sleep.
- Seeming in a different world. Your mind may drift off into a world of daydreams, or you may get the sensation that you’re actually watching yourself from outside your body.
Does any of this ring a bell for you?
Not feeling is a habit formed in childhood. It’s easy to see why, as a boy, you may have worked out that your best way of surviving was not to have feelings :-
- When you were abused it was too scary to cope with. Your mind had to do something to help you through it, so it ‘spaced out’.