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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5809
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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Kate. Would you mind helping me with yet another problem

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Kate. Would you mind helping me with yet another problem please?
I went to group therapy last week, despite my reservations, but I was triggered there and don't know how to cope. I need to find some coping mechanism please.
Someone at the group started talking about something that happened to her and got quite upset. I couldn't sit there and let her think we all felt disgusted with her when I knew exactly how I felt, so I admitted that I had been through a similar experience too. The admission left me feeling vulnerable.
Maybe I should explain. I have mentioned to you that I was abused as a child by my brother. The trigger took me back to being 6 years old which was when I first remember being raped by him. Whenever I think about that time I feel so dirty, ashamed and disgusted with myself. This weekend I have had all those feelings again. I have sat in the bath and scrubbed myself so hard that I began to make my legs bleed. I feel that I can smell him and I can't shift that feeling. I feel like a little child again.
If I am going to continue with group work then I need to learn how to manage these feelings. Nothing was offered at the end of the session except that they hope in time that we will learn that others aren't disgusted with us ... but I am disgusted with me!
Any hints or tips please because I don't want to be that little girl again, but that's exactly how I feel.
Thanks Kate.

Hi Sue,

What you are experiencing are flashbacks. Any type of abuse you suffer, especially as a child, can cause PTSD. When you have PTSD, flashbacks of the event is common. It can be triggered by a smell, a place or even just a thought.

One of the key ways to address flashbacks is to identify what triggers them for you. Everyone is different so learning your own particular triggers helps. You may be able to control them such as when a certain place triggers your feelings, or you may not have any control over them in certain circumstances such as a sudden familiar smell or an unexpected memory. So learning what triggers your flashbacks can help you be more prepared to respond.

Grounding yourself can help. Flashbacks can cause you to feel you have moved away from present time into the past. Pulling yourself back through use of your senses can help. Try bringing something with you that you enjoy feeling, like a smooth stone. Keep it in your pocket and touch it next time you are reminded of what happened to you. You can also try something strong to smell, such as a sachet or a sample of your favorite perfume. When you experience a flashback, try to engage all of your senses to bring you back to the present.

When you experience a flashback, contact someone you trust and talk about it. By getting it out into the open, you give the memory less power over you. If you feel you can trust anyone in your group, talk to them. Also, try talking about how you feel about yourself to the group. Turning the abuse on you instead of on your brother, the perpetrator of the abuse, is harmful only to you. Learning to put the blame where it belongs takes time, but it can be done. Practice changing your thoughts about the abuse with the help of friends, trusted members of your group and also work on it yourself. Each time you think of blaming yourself, stop and think that it was not your fault. If a child came to you and told you she was being abused by her brother, would you blame her? You should treat the child in you the same way. She deserves to be cared for, not blamed for what happened.


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Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Kate, I know I am only punishing myself right now and I guess that I hadn't really identified what happened was a flashback, as mine are mostly triggered by smells, whereas this time it was a memory (the smell came later).

Talking to someone when a flashback occurs isn't an option for me as nobody knows what happened in my childhood except my mental health team. Ringing them when I come out if I have had a flashback also isn't an option as they are closed by then, so I have to deal with it over the weekend. Nobody knows because I have bottled the whole lot up, which is why opening up in the group was such a milestone for me.

I know this will probably get worse before it gets any better which is why I need to deal with it as I go. I struggle to accept that 'little Sue' is a part of me because that way it's easier to block it all out ... until something like what happened Friday affects me and then I feel out of control.



I understand. It is hard when dealing with something like this because there can be a lot of strong feelings connected to what happened to you. Sharing something like abuse can cause you to feel ashamed, alone and depressed.

If you feel you have no one to share with, you may want to try writing down how you feel. The idea is to express your feelings, get out of your thoughts and get them onto paper so you can see it and read them. It makes the feelings real and gives you something tangible to work with. This may temporarily make you feel worse, but once you confront the feelings and work through them, you will feel better.

You can also call a hotline to talk with a counselor. They will spend time with you working through your feelings until you feel better.

An on line support group may also be an option. That way, you can be anonymous yet still get support anytime you experience a flashback.


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