When I experienced flashbacks

I’m sorry I’ve been away.  I’ve needed a hiatus for a while.

I went through my drafts folder and found this one I’d been holding onto.  It was hard to talk about during the time I was experiencing PTSD.  I was feeling really badly that I was going a little crazier than usual.

After my husband’s suicide gesture in December of 2012 (I wrote a piece of autobiographical fiction about it here), I started having some serious emotional distress in the months that followed.

I had a pretty high tolerance for trauma, because I never had this kind of emotional distress before.

It seemed like all the file cabinets of my mind have been opened up and dumped out onto the floor of my mind.  Many of the negative experiences in my life had been out on display.  Some good things, too, but mostly negative experiences.

Sometimes I thought of a child’s viewmaster toy, where images would flash before me, one right after another, in succession, reminding me of all the bad things I’d done and should have been ashamed of.  It was kind of frightening, except for the fact that I knew enough to realize that my mind was unable to hold onto the pain of my life any longer.

The way I interpreted what was happening to me, was what I had written during that time period, kind of like coaching myself through it:

My brain is doing whatever it needs to do to purge itself of the burden of having to hold these things back from my awareness.

It’s my opportunity to either be afraid, or be curious as to what this means for me. 

I was always in charge of my emotional state in the past, and yet, never healed.  I was very high functioning – able to compartmentalize and stay detached in order to get on with life.  And my work helped to keep me focus.

I’ve never fully dissociated, but sometimes, partially so.  I believe I’ve had sub-personalities that came forward to help me out in times of extreme stress.  But they never were fully at the helm.  I could recognize inner shifts within me.  I was grateful when one of my stronger parts came forward to deal with conflict. Also, other parts of me came forward too, well, explore some fun things I probably should not have, because they caused more trauma.

Now I’ve been inviting myself to process this stuff, and it’s been kind overwhelming, to say the least.  But, I’m also developing deep self-compassion for what I’m going through, which helps.

I keep telling myself there is no need for my experience to be anything other than what it is.  I have been listening to Tara Brach’s Meditations for Emotional Healing…and it’s been really good for me.  Learning to give up defenses that have worked for so long can feel almost deadly.  I appreciate her gentle voice and tender compassionate treatment of my pain.

Up next will be Jack Kornfield’s Meditations for Difficult Times.  I heard about 15 minutes of his voice and ideas and knew it will be a great comfort to me.

If we treat our pain with tenderness and compassion, we allow it to move through us more quickly than if we try to stop it, judge it, or find ways to avoid it.  Carl Jung said, “what we resist, persists”.  I find that to be true.

The harder part has been accepting the fact that I am still in contact with my abusers – my family of origin, and (to a different degree), my husband.  I can’t say my in-laws are abusive, just really ignorant.  But it’s understandable.  My mother in law was physically abused by my husband’s father, until my husband intervened when he was 14.

As much as I can, I don’t think about what’s going on in my family’s mind, nor my husband’s mind.  It only hurts me more, because then the anger and resentment builds,  following by bad behavior on my part, followed by pain.  The hard part for me, for the longest time was understanding that other people gave practically zero thought to the pain they caused me.  Their own ability to dissociate, deflect, or deny allowed them to have a different history than the one I remembered.

And it is okay.

No, it wasn’t okay for the longest time.  But it is now.  My healing will not be hindered by their lack of acknowledging me or my suffering.

I can’t be too hard on my husband, because I did some things to cope that weren’t really good either.

My husband is growing.  He’s revealed to me secrets I never knew about him, and sometimes apologized for his behavior. I’m grateful for his acknowledgement, even if it’s been slower than I have needed it to be.  And I’ve had to work through more of my own junk, because there’s still a part of me that knows I can’t un-do the damage of the past 17 years.  There’s still a dim part of me that knows my difficulty being emotionally intimate with him now has to do with a part of me wanting him to be punished.  But punishing him, I punish me too, because I choose to stay with him.  I also realize I have a slightly masochistic side, because when I’m feeling ‘off’, I will shut him out or act cold/harsh.

Whether it’s someone’s introjected rage you feel, or your own, does it really matter?  It’s what you feel.  And it’s understandable.  And it’s okay.  There is no need for that experience to be other than what it is.

So that I can learn to deal with my rage and a previously unconscious desire for punishment, I’m reading and listening to nonviolent communication skills from Marshall Rosenberg’s books and cd’s.  I want to learn how, despite my needs not having gotten met for most of my life, and the abuse I received when all I wanted was love and acceptance, how to give up the need for punishment and make my life wonderful for those who I choose to keep in my life.  This is so, so not easy for me, since holding myself emotionally distant from those closest to me has been the only way I could survive for so long.

***

I will come back to this post and talk more about it, perhaps.  I just wanted to share some of my experience.  It’s been over 2 years since I experienced those flashbacks, and I’m happy to say the PTSD and depression I’ve experienced has pretty much gone away.  I still get blue from time to time, but I no longer tell myself everything is hopeless.

This was also before my husband’s accident with his hand…I’ll talk some more about that…and the fact that eventually we will split up.  But for now, I wanted to share this bit of my past, knowing that I’m healing and I’m so glad this doesn’t happen anymore.

I hope all my blog readers are well.  I’m hoping to get back to a regular posting schedule soon.

I miss writing so much.

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About Casey

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ~ Jack Kerouac, On The Road Again
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