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I'm sorry that you had to go through another flashback. Do you remember what you saw? Was there anything you felt triggered it this time?
No. I have no idea. I was trying to remember, but I don't know. I called Linda and left her a message and she just called right back. She asked me the same thing, but I don't have any idea. Whatever it was, it is not anything obvious that I can look around now and see. I mean, as I said, I felt it come on this time. I just thought it was something else. I think it lasted a little longer this time - but I'm not sure, and I still think it was pretty short. But how can what I feel like I'm in seem to last longer than the time it lasts in reality. Do you understand what I'm asking? I can't think of how to word it. Like, the stuff that I thought was "happening" would have taken more time to happen than it seems like I was "away." Does that make sense? I don't understand how that can be.
Flashbacks are a way for your mind to say you are ready to heal from the trauma. At this point in your recovery, you are doing very well. You are open to getting better and you are working hard at getting in touch with your feelings everyday. Having flashbacks is your minds way of letting the trauma in now that you are ready to face it, like a door slowly opening. In the past, you repressed what happened. But now that you are safe, your mind is opening the door to what happened and letting you process the feelings and memories.
The flashbacks are a play back of what you went through when you were attacked. Your mind may be "playing" the incident at a rate that you can accept. It may also be that the feelings associated with what you are seeing are affecting how your mind processes what you are seeing. Either way, your mind is letting these experiences come through in the form of flashbacks and at the rate you can process them. It is your brain's way of protecting you while you integrate the trauma back into your mind.
How are you feeling now? Have you been able to feel calmer?
It doesn't FEEL like my brain is protecting me right now. Why can't it give me a little break? I was feeling so positive about my progress and where this was going.
I am feeling calmer. Talking to Linda helped a little bit, then I sat in my office for a while with the door closed, and I did that thing you had told me with the toe-to-head muscle relaxing, and that helped. But it took me a while for the shaking to calm down. That few minutes took so much energy out of me. I was tired already, but this is ridiculous. I felt like I wanted to lie down and sleep. And I was freezing. I threw up, which helped (glad I keep a toothbrush and toothpaste at the office :) ) but I still have a headache that feels like it's going to go into a migraine. I'll give it a little more time, then I will take some migraine pills, but I'm trying to avoid that because they make me sleepy and I have a meeting out of the office in a half hour.
It doesn't feel good right now, I know. Dealing with such strong emotions can feel overwhelming. You deal with it day and night. Is it possible for you do something you feel engrossed in tonight, like playing your drums (if you don't have a migraine, that is!)? It might give you the break you need. Or you can try wrapping yourself in a blanket with a favorite CD playing and a teddy bear. It may sound silly, but getting in touch with your need to be comforted will help you feel better.
If it's possible, you might want to leave a little early today to get some rest and try to reduce the intensity of your migraine, if you get one. If not, try to get some extra rest when you have the chance, like going to bed early. Dealing with this while you are so tired is a lot. You don't want to try to process the flashback and all the feelings that went with it when you are too tired to think. You will just end up feeling overwhelmed and more upset.
It's good that you tried the progressive muscle relaxation exercise we talked about. It's a great way to get yourself focused and to relax after feeling upset. Try to remind yourself to take deep breaths to keep yourself relaxed and grounded. And keep in mind, the worst is over. The flashback has passed and you handled it well, despite your doubts that you would.
I have praise band practice tonight. I'm not playing the drums this week, I'm singing. But that will be kind of a distraction.
If the headache progresses, I won't go to praise band because even when the migraine isn't full-blown yet, the lights and singing make me sick. So we'll see. The whole cuddling up with a blanket and stuffed animal (and my dog :) ... and probably P's dog, too ) sounds appealing right now. I may do that even if my headache goes away or stays where it is. I just want to go to sleep.
Anyhow - if I go to praise team, I probably can't go to bed early, because I won't get home until 9 or after, and then I eat dinner and take my sleeping pills, and I won't get to sleep until kind of late.
I got back from my meeting and took some migraine pills. The headache is just kind of hanging there, but I can tell it's the pre-migraine kind, so hopefully this will head it off. I just didn't want to take it earlier, when I had to drive and talk at a meeting, because I am already so tired.
I have a lot of work to do today, but no meetings or anything for the rest of the day, so if my headache gets worse, I will go home early. If not, I won't leave early, because there's no reason if I'm going to go to PT at 7. It is easier just to work till then.
For some reason, since this morning, my jaw is totally tight and painful. It's weird. It's hard to even chew gum. It seemed to happen the same time as everything else. Maybe it's related to the migraine. Or maybe to the flashback?? Could I be remembering how it felt when I was trying to clench my mouth shut and when he hit me and tried to pry it open? Is that possible? Is it possible that the onset of the migraine stuff could be caused by the flashback?
Thanks for reminding me to take deep breaths. I will try. Linda is always trying to get me to take deep breaths. She said that when I am focused or upset, I almost quit breathing and it is so shallow and silent. She said that is why she sits so close to me sometimes - she has to roll her chair over to see if I'm breathing. :)
I'm feeling really sad right now. (I looked at the list for a more specific feeling word, but sad is the one that fits). :)
It sounds like you have a plan on how to take care of yourself, Shay. Migraines can really take you down and give you no choice but to lay low until they pass. I've had them and they are nothing to fool with.
It is very possible that you are manifesting your emotional pain through your body by clinching your jaw. I have worked with many people who are in great pain because of how they feel. It happens when the tension from what you are feeling has no other outlet or it's overwhelming to the point you have no other way to express it. I'm sure you have noticed how tense you can feel after a particularly bad day at work. Headaches are an example of how some people manifest their emotional pain as well, though your migraine might just be physical in nature.
It is also likely you are expressing your feelings about the deeper trauma you feel through your jaw. Your memory of what happened when the guy tried to pry your jaw open may be the way your body is remembering the trauma, almost like you are reliving it, which ties in with your flashbacks as well. It would be worth exploring this further if you continue to have pain in your jaw.
It is very hard to remember to breathe when you feel upset. But if you can, try to find ways to remind yourself to breathe, even if you have to write notes to yourself. Also, keep practicing the progressive muscle relaxation. As you get better at it, you will find that you only need to have the thought of doing the exercise to become more relaxed.
If you can, stay with your sadness. It's alright to feel, especially after what you have gone through today. Just the memories alone through the flashback is probably helping you connect with how you feel.
My head is actually feeling a lot better. I think the meds worked. I also took some naproxen and my jaw is feeling better. However, now my stomach is killing me, probably because I threw up then took all those pills on an empty stomach. And thinking about it, I have taken an awful lot of medication over the past several days, because I took migraine pills on Sunday to head off a migraine as well. Several years ago, I went through this period when my stomach bled a lot and I threw up blood for a couple weeks. I asked the gastrointerologist, after they did the endoscopy and found the sores or whatever, if it was aggravated by stress or my migraine pills or anything else, and he said just aspirin - that I had to stop taking the aspirin my neurologist had me taking every day and never take aspirin again. But I think that's bunk. I think stress does aggravate it, and I know that certain medications or meds under certain circumstances make me vomit blood, so I think my stomach hurts from the medication and what's gone on today. But it's better than a migraine!
I just need to relax, I think. I am becoming overwhelmed as the day progresses.
I'm glad you are feeling better! But the stomach pain sounds awful. Relaxing is a good way to head off the stomach upset and other symptoms you might be experiencing as a result of the stress. It can't hurt.
If you are willing to share what you saw in the flashback, I would like to hear it. It might also be very helpful to write it down so you can share it with Linda when you see her. Keeping a journal is a good idea as well, but it's up to you if you want to or not.
Good night, Shay. I hope you get some rest tonight and feel better soon,
Hey Kate. Well, I have been so tired all day, but it's after midnight and I still can't fall asleep, despite the sleeping pills. Oh well. But since I'm up, I thought I would tell you about the flashback. It was kind of similar to the first one, and this one started when he was using the bottle the second time. It hurt - I could feel it making my stomach cramp like it did then, but I couldn't feel the actual cutting. But I could feel the cold bottle on my leg when he took it out -- I could feel it so clearly. And I was freezing and shaking like crazy, it felt like. And then he was having sex with me and it was like I could feel it, and I could hear him and I was trying not to listen, but then he was telling me to do stuff, and I tried not to but knew I would. And I did. He was telling me to move and stuff. I had my eyes closed, but I could hear everything so clearly. It's like that in my dreams, too --- I can hear everything, and I want him to shut up and me to shut up. P said that a lot of times when she has heard me have bad dreams, when she tries to wake me up, I have my hands over my ears. I'm sure that's why. I can't stand listening to him or to me. I think even now, I could pick his voice out of a thousand people. Probably not the other guy, but the mean one. I can't stand it. And I was saying what he wanted me to say, and he was saying he could tell I liked it and I kind of "came back" in the middle of that. I don't know how to describe how it felt, except that I thought it was happening right then, but when it ended, it felt like I had been gone from the room. I know I'm not describing it well. It was just weird. And I can't believe how much of my energy seemed to have been used up in such a short time.
Okay, I'm going to try to go to sleep again...
Thank you for letting me know about what the flashback was about, Shay. It cannot be easy to write about it.
Your energy is gone when you come back to the present because of the intensity of the flashback. Flashbacks are like being in the actual situation. The trauma occurred to your whole body. You were involved physically, mentally and emotionally in trying to survive what was happening to you. That involves an enormous amount of energy. When you have the flashbacks, it is like being there all over again and using that energy again.
Flashbacks are your mind's way of replaying the trauma to help you cope with it. One way you can work on eliminating the flashbacks is to acknowledge and accept what happened. This involves resolving yourself of blame. You did not cause this and you could not stop it. Realizing that and accepting that you survived because you were smart and resourceful will help the flashbacks go away.
Your mind keeps bringing the attack up to put the incident in front of you and say "this needs your attention." By fully acknowledging it and exploring your feelings around it, you pay it the attention it needs and your mind can let go.
You may want to consider a journal about the flashbacks and nightmares. It makes it easier to put what happens on paper so it seems more real and you can go back and work with what you wrote. It may also help you pick out details that you may forget about but are important to your recovery.
Talk to you later,
I am glad to be here for you, Shay. What you are doing through is difficult and overwhelming. And it's great that you have surrounded yourself with people like Linda, Dr. M and P to be there for you. It may be a good time to lean heavily on those around you.
I think your nightmares and flashbacks are accentuating the humiliating parts of your attack because of how you feel about it. There is a part of you that keeps intellectualizing your actions in the attack. You have thought it through and determined that the mean one convinced you to willingly give yourself in the attack. No matter what is said to you or the arguments against that, you are determined to believe the facts as you see them. So your mind keeps bringing you back again and again. You are locked in a "blame" box that your mind can't accept.
If you look at the attack in an intellectual and emotional way, you can see how this was not your fault at all, even if you decided to give in:
1. You did not want to be hurt. No matter if you listened to the mean one and did everything he said, you still would have chose to leave that situation if you were allowed. That says that you did not do any of those things willingly, no matter how much you want to believe that you did.
2. You were faced with a life and death situation. At the time, you had no idea if you would live or not. Self preservation is strong. You will do anything to live. And you did. And if that took cooperating, then that is what it took. You do not blame a child abuse victim for trying to reason with the parents that are hurting her and following all the dysfunctional rules they set for her to avoid abuse, right? Why would you blame yourself for doing what the mean one said so you could survive?
3. Emotionally, you were being severely traumatized. You were in survival mode. You cooperated because you felt it would increase your chances of survival. You did not willingly give yourself to the mean one. You did what was needed to survive. If that took cooperating, then that is what was needed. That is why you are strong and smart.
4. Yes, this cost you. Every trauma cost the survivor something. That is why it's a trauma. Being angry, hurt, sad and full of rage at what it cost you is normal. And being angry that the mean one took a huge payment from you is also very normal. But instead you turn the anger on yourself. That could by why you are stuck.
5. You can mourn what you lost in the attack. But in order to do that, you need to see that the cost of the attack was not your fault. Blaming yourself is part of a trauma, yes. But letting go of that is part of the healing process.
The attackers did not gain from what they did. They are mentally ill. They did it because they either are sociopaths or they are so deeply hurt themselves that the only way for them to deal with their pain is to hurt someone else. Yes, they took that from you. But look at it this way, a child who is abused can let the abuse define her or she can take what she can from what happened and become stronger. You can do the same.
I don't want it to define me. I'm not trying to do this on purpose. I want to become stronger. I'm sorry. I don't want to be a perpetual "victim." I know I am dwelling on this, but I am finding it difficult not to.
This is not about blame, Shay. No one can say that how you feel should not be your focus for as long as it takes to work it out. You are not a victim but a survivor. But how you process being a survivor matters as to whether or not you recover from this or end up letting it take over your life. Blaming yourself is one way to keep this trauma with you for the rest of your life. Blame happens to almost all trauma survivors. It's working through it that is important.
I wanted to share something with you that might help. This is from a blog by a therapist named Dr. XXXXX XXXXX that treats trauma survivors:
"Traumatic events violate the autonomy of the person at the level of bodily integrity. The body is invaded, injured, defiled. …Shame is a response to helplessness, the violation of bodily integrity, and the indignity suffered in the eyes of another person. (p. 53)In my experience, trauma survivors also at times describe feeling that their minds and spirits have been violated.Abuse begets shame, the felt sense that one is innately bad. It can take the form of believing that you are defective, broken, unlovable, unworthy, stupid, ugly, worthless. In the case of trauma survivors it can also be expressed as blaming yourself for the abuse. In reality it is exactly the reverse! Abuse creates this sense of being bad.So often survivors of childhood abuse and neglect (or trauma) grow into adulthood with the entrenched belief that they are to blame for what they have endured.I want to say right now and very clearly that this is never the case. No child (or trauma survivor) (yes, that includes you reading this!) is ever to blame for the abuse inflicted upon them by others. Period.So why do so many feel this, on a gut level, with such certainty? I believe there are a number of factors and dynamics that contribute to self-blame.1. Abuse is by its nature a humiliating, dehumanizing, experience. As described above, the natural reaction to such experiences is a feeling of shame.2. The illusion of control: believing you are to blame can give survivors a sense of control, however illusory, over the abuse. If you believe it happened because of something you are doing you can maintain hope for change. If only you just figure out the right things to do/avoid doing the abuse (or attack) will stop."
It is terrifying to realize that at the time of the attack, you had no control over what was happening. Blaming yourself can be a form of control. But by letting go, you can face your fears and move on.
This is not about fault, this is about choice and what is healthy for you. You can choose to keep this with you or to work through it. You can choose to blame yourself or find out why you blame yourself so you can work through it.
And you have made a choice, to work this through. You are responding in a very healthy way emotionally by doing that. But your parents insistence to make everything about blame and guilt when you were a child has trapped you in looking at what happened in only one way. There are other ways to see this Shay. You can see yourself as not at fault, as not to blame. You can see what happened as horrible not because of what you did to survive, but because of what those guys did to hurt you. Everything about the attack is their fault.
And the fact that this is in every part of your life now is normal. You are not to blame for that either. It has taken over your life because it needs addressed and worked through. It would be that way even if you didn't blame yourself. But it would be easier to heal if you did not have to tackle what your parents did to you at the same time.
I have known people who were horribly abused as children. You can take two people from one family and see the paths their lives took based on how they view what happened to them. One took several years to work through therapy and put the loss and trauma behind her. She still feels pain and has some symptoms from what happened, and she no longer sees her parents because the trauma she feels when she is with them, but she has moved on for the most part. The other thinks she is unlovable and refuses help to see it any other way. She is still in pain. She won't let go of the fact that she was at least partially to blame. No matter what she is told or how much help she gets, holding onto the self blame is keeping her stuck. That is what we are working on here. Not letting you get stuck. The flashbacks and nightmares are bringing you to the point of the attack when you feel the worst because it needs worked through. You can do this, Shay. It's hard and it's not fair, but you are strong and resilient. You will be able to get through this and move on.
It sounds like you need some time to process how you feel. That is ok. This is overwhelming, Shay. Anyone who has gone through a trauma will tell you that it is very hard. But you are doing so well. I do not think you would have even thought about what we are talking about just a few months ago. And you might not have even cried about it. This is good.
I'm sorry that you are feeling so upset. I wish I could be there to sit with you and offer you a hug. But I will say a prayer for you. And know that you are in my thoughts.
I'm sorry that you are feeling so bad right now. Keep in mind that this will pass. Try to hang in there and relax as much as possible. Use the techniques you know. And try to focus on things that are intellectual. It will at least help you get through until you can get home.
I calmed down enough to meet with my clients, but I don't know if I can hold it together for the rest of the day. I can't go home until around 9:00 because I have to go to choir tonight because we're practicing for a Palm Sunday program and I'm singing a stupid solo and duet and we have to do mic check, and we've never practiced it. I made the commitment and so I have to go, or it will stress C. out. Maybe I'll ask him if we can do that first and I can leave early, but I have a feeling he's doing it in order of the program, which means I will be there a long time. I am so over choir and praise band. But every time I try to pull back and become less involved, C. Says he understands, gives me a short grace period, then tries to pull me in even more.
I am trying to relax, but am finding it difficult. I am very worked up (which I guess is better than crying all day). I wonder if taking several wellbutrin or zoloft would help make me feel better? I'm not sure I'm allowed to do that, though, and the last thing I want to do is make myself sick. Dr. M still hasn't returned my call form last week (which reminds me that the sleep clinic never called, either). I wish Dr. M would call. I could use her input (and perhaps prescriptions :) ).
I am trying to take deep breaths, though.
I'm glad you are feeling somewhat better, although it would be nice if you could go home tonight and have some rest. Hopefully, C will allow you to go home early and you can settle in for the night and get some rest.
I'm not sure that taking extra medication is a good idea. There is no way to know how that would affect you and both medications are strong. I would try Dr. M again. If you cannot get her, maybe Linda could contact her for you, if they work at the same facility or at least work closely together. If not, you may want to try your primary care doctor just to get her/his input about taking extra medications.
C had to go out of town at the last minute because his wife's dad had a stroke. So P is directing rehearsal tonight, and I told her I wnated to leave early, after we work on my song. She's cool with that.
Dr. M called me back and left me a voice mail message. She said that she had received my sleep report and it had a lot of data and that Dr. Krakow was very thorough and knew what he was doing. He must have sent her a note or something with her copy, because she said he said that he sees some serious sleep disordered breathing problems and also some movement issues, but wanted to try to control the breathing issues first to see if the movement issues were helped by that. She said that she was glad I had agreed to go in for the test and thought that the PAP titration was the first thing I needed to do. She said she knows I don't want to do it, but it shouldn't be so hard now that I've been through the sleep study once.
But I think she must have been talking about the first report, and I don't think she has seen the second report, because I don't think she knows that I went in for the titration already on Saturday night. So I called back and left a message asking her to call me when she gets the 2nd report, because they directed me to come to her for some meds and to review some stuff I'm already on. I explained that they were able to get more info, apparently, on the movements and stuff because I had 2 nightmares and I had more rem sleep and they could tell for sure I was having my nightmares during rem and was moving a lot, so .... Hopefully she'll call back and we can make an appointment. If she thinks the last study shows problems, she should see the new report :) She should feel pretty proud of herself for having suspected the issues immediately.
She also said that's probably why none of the sleep meds are working or are only working at certain times. She said I'm basically waking up because I am not getting enough air, and that no sleep med can help that, because it is an anatomical problem. (Although this doesn't explain not being able to fall asleep). She said that some meds actually make it worse. So basically, she is saying there's nothing she can do about the sleeping but thinks resolution of the breathing issues may help it.
She said that as for the flashback (because had only had the one when I left her the message last week), she thinks it was triggered by the fact that I had gone back to the place in Ohio. She said that it had to effect me a lot, even if I don't recognize it, that it was a big deal and should evoke strong emotion one way or another. She said that regardless of what I might have been doing at the time or thinking or whatever at the time of the flashback, she thinks the fact that I went back there is what made me have a flashback, along with any other triggers that might be coming from the work Linda and I have been doing. She said she wouldn't be too concerned about it, and that it sounds like Linda and I are doing good work and making progress.
I didn't get to ask her if I could take more of the Wellbutrin or Zoloft to feel better, because I didn't talk to her directly. I won't take any more than I'm supposed to without her telling me it's okay. As I said, all I need is to get sick or have some negative effects from taking too much of something. Btw -- she and Linda don't work at the same facility and actually have never met each other in person. They had a few clients in common, and Linda liked her and they communicated well, so that's why she wanted me to see her. She doesn't work with her very often now, because Dr. M can't take on many new cases. And Dr. M specializes in geriatric psychiatry. But she is the right fit for me. Wow. Come to think of it, I may be her youngest patient. :)
Thanks for the update, Shay. It's good to know that Dr. M is going to be helping you sort all the sleep data out. It is pretty involved!
I hope you have a chance to get some rest and to recover. It was a tough day for you. You deserve some time to recoup.
Talk to you tomorrow,
Oh, I was really hoping you'd get some down time and have a chance to unwind and sleep better. Maybe tonight?
Talk to you soon,
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