It sounds like you had a flashback of the attack. You are not going crazy. What you experienced is a symptom of PTSD.
Although your flashback may have seemed to come out of the blue, there usually is a trigger of some kind. If you can recall what you were doing at the time, you may be able to think back and see if you can figure out the trigger. It could have been something you saw, smelled or were thinking about. Once you can identify what set off your flashback, you can find ways to prevent future ones by knowing what triggers them for you.
The best way to prevent a flashback is to ground yourself when you feel one coming on. Use all of your senses to keep yourself present. For example, keep a special stone or marble with you in a pocket. When you begin to feel a flashback come on, touch the stone/marble. Feel it's coldness, texture and it's shape. As you do this, you will be able to focus your mind on what you are feeling and pull yourself back from the flashback.
It is a good idea to contact Linda and Dr. M to let them know what has happened since any new symptom is important to note. They may also be able to provide additional steps you can take to help yourself should one occur again.
Why am I getting new symptoms? Shouldn't I be having FEWER symptoms? I'm telling you -- that was messed up.
I don't recall any sounds or smells or anything I was looking at. I was just looking at my list to see what I needed to do next. I was thinking a lot this afternoon about the idea of being 16 and knowing that in 5 years I would be going through what happened, alone. I have been thinking a lot today about having to deal with it alone after it happened, and how bad it hurt, physically, for a long while after. Could that have triggered it? How can I tell if I was going to have another one? I don't recall any warning. I don't think it lasted long. Can they last a long time? Will I always be able to get out of it?
I'm glad you are feeling better. But I did want to say that what you brought up might have been it. Thinking about yourself at 16 could have triggered it. Or it could have been something else. It is something that needs to be explored. We can talk about it whenever you are ready.
It's ok that you are afraid. Anyone would be. But there are no rights or wrongs in dealing with your emotions.
Flashbacks are a symptom of PTSD. Dr. M might have asked you about whether or not you were having them to see what your symptoms were and to gage where you might be in the process. Flashbacks are a sign that you are trying to cope with what you went through. My guess would be that you were so good at repressing your feelings about what happened to you that you did not experience symptoms besides the nightmares until you sought treatment. Now that you are facing what happened, you are experiencing the reaction you would have had before, if you had not repressed your feelings.
Everyone reacts differently to trauma. There are baseline symptoms, but your experience is your own. You have to account for who you are as a person, your background, how you handle feelings, support systems and other factors in your recovery. And for you, flashback might be part of that recovery. Or they might not. This could be the only one you have. That is why it's important to let Linda and Dr. M know when you feel ready to. They can help you gage how much of an impact this new symptom will have on your situation.
Talking to me is not being needy. You are allowed to need others to help you and you are allowed to feel whatever you feel in your recovery.
I'm glad you got that kind of support from Dr. M and Linda. They gave you good information.
Since you just had one flashback and cannot recall what you were thinking or feeling at the time, then we need to look at preparing you in case you have another one. How about if we do that in two steps-
One, let's have you learn all you can about flashbacks and PTSD so you know what might trigger one for you. Here is a link to get you started:
Two, try working on ways of grounding yourself if you do have another flashback. One person I know keeps a smooth stone in her pocket and she touches it to ground her and remind her she is ok. It's also a favorite color of hers so she can look at it as well for visual grounding. You can buy some small containers of a favorite scent (make sure it's strong like a mint) or carry an IPOD with loud music you can listen to. Anything you feel will bring you back to the present and refocus your attention will help.
If you do have another flashback, try to note what you were thinking and feeling before hand. Look at your surroundings and see if you were looking at anything in particular. Write down what you see and what you were thinking. By keeping a record, you will be able to pinpoint what might trigger your flashbacks.
I usually have my music handy, because I have all of my music on my iphone, and carry headphones in my purse. But that's not something I could instantly do, and would not be appropriate depending on where I was. I can do the rock thing. Or - I always am chewing gum and always have extra pieces in my pocket. I could stick a new piece in if I felt it coming on or I could put a cough drop in or something. ??
But yesterday, I didn't feel weird or anything befre it happened. It seemed sudden. I was sitting at my desk, then I was there with them, then sitting at my desk in a panic. What does it feel like when one is about to happen? If I could know that, I would watch for it. Is there a chance this would happen in a meeting or in court or around other people? If so, what would it look like to them? How would I explain it? Can I avoid it without knowing how to feel when it's coming on? What are the chances I won't have anymore?
Do you think the flashback yesterday was the reason I didn't have a bad nightmare last night? Or do you think it was more that I had a fun and relaxing night? Should I just try not to think about the incident in order to avoid another flashback or will that be counter-productive?
Sorry - a lot of questions. i hope you can answer some of them. :) I will look at the link you sent.
Kate -- this site was helpful:
Chewing gum and/or a piece of candy or cough drop could work too. That addresses one of your senses. As long as the gum or candy is strong enough to get your attention, it would work.
It's not clear how each person experiences a flashback. There is not a lot of research done specifically on this topic that I am aware of. But I have heard that some people experience feelings like being "out of it" or like their thinking is not as clear as usual. I imagine like you would feel if you had a migraine coming on. Just off enough to notice something is wrong.
But some people may just have a trigger without much warning. And that may reduce your chances of having one in a court room or with other people in a controlled environment. If you do not have any triggers, then it most likely would not occur.
Your question about your nightmares and the possiblity that the flashback affected them would be a good one for Dr. M since she is more familiar with the nature of your nightmares. But I imagine that psychologically you would have these symptoms overlap or affect each other in some way.
PS thanks for the extra site.
If it was a thought that "triggered" it yesterday, then it is possible for thoughts to cause one again, right? What if I have to think about certain things in therapy and it happens? That would be the most likely situation, if a thought was the trigger, right? Will Linda be able to tell I'm having one? What will it look like to her? Have you ever seen anyone having one? Will Linda be able to bring me out of it? What if I start behaving like I do when I have dreams sometimes?
Can my being worried about having another one cause me to have another one?
It is very understandable that you would feel upset and anxious over having a flashback. They feel uncontrollable. But by already being in treatment, you are doing the very thing that helps to eliminate flashbacks and PTSD. The more you work on your issues the closer you get to reducing or eliminating all of your symptoms.
Usually it is your senses that trigger a flashback. But since it is different for each person, it is hard to say what triggered the flashback for you. I'm not sure if Linda will be able to tell you are having one but I'm fairly sure that you will not act out while having one. If you did not act out while having the one you did have, it's unlikely you will act out again. You most likely will feel anxiety. But your motor functions and ability to understand what is going on around you will not be hampered. And if you do have one with Linda, she will be able to talk to you as you are having it.
I don't think you can have another one just by thinking about it. That would involve being able to control your memories and how your brain triggers them. It's a complex process and a simple thought would probably not trigger it.
You may want to consider talking to Linda tonight to help cope with your fears. It is very natural that you feel the way you do. But having as much input as possible will help you feel better. And continue to research it. The more you know the better.
Linda called me a little bit ago to move my appointment to Friday, so I told her about the flashback yesterday. She agreed that is what it was. I don't think she totally understood (or maybe she just didn't remember) that I had not had one before. But I explained that I have had the intrusive thoughts and that I see things sometimes in my head that I don't want to see, but that I've never felt like it was happening except in nightmares.
She said she's not sure what to tell me. She doesn't know how I can prevent it from happening again if I don't know what triggered it. But she gave me some good advice. She said if it happens in front of someone, it will just look like I'm distracted or disoriented and I will seem flushed and maybe like I'm having a panic attack. She said when I come out of it, excuse myself to the restroom and then just say I thought I was going to throw up or that I was starting to get a migraine.
I asked her if this meant I was going backwards in my healing process. She said she doesn't think so. She said she thinks this is just more of the symptoms I would have ordinarily had before, coming on now. She said she thought this all was an indication of how deeply buried everything was - that the only symptoms that were coming out until recently were the nightmares, against which I couldn't defend because I was asleep. She said she thinks it might be an indication that it is becoming even more real to me and that my defenses are coming down. She also thinks maybe it has something to do with going back to where it happened. She said it wasn't a bad thing that I went back, but it may be stirring a lot more up than I know.
But she said I might want to get Dr. M's input on it. So I called Dr. M and left a message. She's out of the office until Monday, and I told her it wasn't pressing and told her on the message what happened and what I wanted to know, so I'm sure she'll call me back next week.
Linda said the name of my school today on the phone today, and it made me cringe. I had switched to drinking my coffee from a mug with the school name in it, because the one I have been using for 10 years cracked and the replacement for it was broken when it got here, and let's face it - it's only a matter of time before the super glue wears out and I'll have a cup of coffee down the front of me. Anyway - just bought it at the bookstore when we were on campus last week, and so have only been using it since Monday. Because I had that involuntary cringe when Linda just said the name, I wonder if maybe the mug set me off yesterday? I'm sure my mug was sitting on my desk. (Although I have been drinking from it today with no consequence, but I haven't really been looking at it). Thoughts?
I'm glad you had a chance to talk with Linda, Shay. Her input was exactly what I was thinking as well. You are not going backwards in this process. Your flashback is a good sign that you are getting more in touch with how you feel. You are letting your defenses down and letting more of what happened in. That is why you felt so overwhelmed before (and may still feel). And I agree that going back to the site could have played a part in what happened, but it's hard to tell yet.
The fact that you cringed when Linda mentioned the name of your school is significant. It means that you are letting more of your feelings in about where the attack happened. This is a good sign. Even thinking about the significance of your coffee mug and the name on the side shows progress. The mug could have been a trigger for you, but since a flashback is subjective experience, only you really know what might have made you have the flashback. You may also want to consider it could have been a combination of things as well.
Yeah. It probably was a combination of things. So many things are going on in my head and my heart that it is confusing. I don't think I can possibly identify one little thing that might have set me off yesterday. Is it possible that I am just too overwhelmed with this stuff that it set me off like that?
I'm glad, too, that I talked to Linda. And I am curious to hear what Dr. M has to say about it.
I know you said that only I really know what may have made me have the flashback, but I really don't know.
Not necessarily. I know you feel anxious about another flashback and that is ok. Even if you did have another, you are much more prepared for it. And if you would like, I can help you with finding ways to reduce your anxiety about it so you feel calmer and less worried.
The key to addressing your anxiety is learn how to control it through relaxation and thought changing.
The first step is to understand how anxiety works in your body. When you think about something you feel might be dangerous to you, your body goes into flight or fight mode. This causes many changes in your body so you can most effectively respond to the threat including rapid breathing, tense muscles, and the release of adrenaline. In order to reduce your anxiety, you need to find ways to calm your mind and your body's response.
Guided imagery is a helpful way to get yourself calmer anytime and anywhere you feel anxious. Imagine yourself floating through a cloud or in water. Picture yourself on a tranquil beach. Listen to the sounds of the ocean, taste the salt air and smell the breeze. By imaging yourself in these situations. your thoughts will help you relax and you will be more centered.
Exercise is also an option. Although most people has some trouble considering this option because the thought of exercise sounds so unappealing, exercise serves two purposes: one, it helps you get out your physical energy which gets pent up when you experience strong emotions like anxiety. And two, you promote good chemicals in your brain (endorphines) which automatically lifts your mood and reduces anxiety. You can do anything from take a walk to punching the heck out of a punching bag. Picking an activity that you like and feel you may stick to.
Another very popular technique is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Here is how it works:
Progressive relaxation involves alternately tensing and relaxing the muscles. Start by sitting or lying down in a comfortable position. With your eyes closed, start tensing the muscles in your feet. Tense the muscles for about 10 seconds and relax them for 20 seconds. Do this off and on various parts of the body going from your toes to your head. The whole session should take approximately 30 minutes. This technique will become more effective the more you practice it.
I am still at the seminar but wanted to respond to get your question off the queue until I can answer later tonight. Talk to you then,