Wikipedia describes flashbacks as: " [an] involuntary recurrent memory, is a psychological phenomenon in which an individual has a sudden, usually powerful, re-experiencing of a past experience or elements of a past experience. These experiences can be happy, sad, exciting, or any other emotion one can consider. The term is used particularly when the memory is recalled involuntarily, and/or when it is so intense that the person "relives" the experience, unable to fully recognize it as memory and not something that is happening in 'real time'."
Truely, flashbacks are snippets of memory that jar you at the worst possible time, making you relive something you have been trying to supress for years. Okay, so maybe they aren't always that bad, but over the course of the past four days that's what I have been experiencing: horribly jarring flashbacks of sexual and physical abuse. I have had them before, but never so vivid. And now I am getting physical flashbacks- pain in my arm, my back, my hips. It's all very jarring. So much so that I really just want to give up. I look at all the people this affects (my wife, my therapist, my co-workers, et cetera) and I think "wow, I am really messing them up and I'm so messed up, why keep going?'
The truth is, I keep going because there are others like me. If I give up, then I am giving them the okay to give up. And if all of us give up there would be so many lives affected in a much worse manner than just having to deal with someone anxious and irritated from flashbacks. Giving up is never an option. This is something I was reminded of a couple of weeks ago when I helped to crew The Overnight Walk in NYC (check out theovernight.org for more info). I saw thousands of people walking from seven pm until five am throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, raising funds to help those who need psychological services and the families/friends of those who have died from suicide.
I know this post may not be as well thought out as some others and perhaps it seems to jump from subject to subject, but the point I am getting at is: nothing is bad enough to want to kill yourself. And you are NOT a freak for thinking about suicide. A lot of us have gone through it, and continue to go through it, and are able to become productive, happy members of society. Flashbacks are one of those events that feel like the world is ending, especially if you are reliving abuse or rape. The important thing to remember is the hard part is over- you have already live through the actual experience. You are not truly "reliving" it, you are just remembering it.
Let's all take a few minutes today to breathe, forget all the bad things, and be thankful for having another day to live, heal, and love.
Flashback (psychology). (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved June 20, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flashback_(psychology)
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Okay, perhaps I'm judging a bit too much, but I really do find it amusing that there are several ways to get in touch with my therapist, only two of which require face-to-face or voice-to-voice connections. It used to startle me to see a text message from my therapist. In the beginning of my sessions with her, the texts would often be appointment confirmations. "Holly, you're appointment is at 5pm, right?" Since then she has moved on to keeping a planner. That first introduction to out-of-office contact, however, changed my views on therapy, and human connectivity, forever. Since those early days, much has changed. Now I also have the option to email her when something out of the ordinary has happened and there is no time for either one of us to connect via phone.
I'll give you a recent example. After a particularly hard session I went home to experience a vivid and frightening flashback of abuse I experienced in college. My wife, thankfully, was home and helped with the post-flashback emotions. Knowing my therapist still had sessions going on I sent her a text giving a brief explanation of what went on and asking if we could connect via phone the next day. Turns out, the next day she did not have time where she'd have the privacy to be on the phone and I realized that my schedule didn't allow for much phone time either. So I sent off a long-winded email. This morning I woke to a reply back (typed on her iphone, which was pretty impressive considering the length). Rather than playing phone tag, or having to wait a week for my next session, I was able to get some advice in less than 24 hours.
This, to me, is amazing. I realize not all therapists have the need/want/drive for this type of dedication and that it takes someone who can tell the difference between crises and panic and who has strong enough boundaries to say "sorry, I haven't got the time to talk on the phone." It seems a great compromise between traditional therapy and online therapy, which seems just a bit too cold for my taste (I enjoy being able to actually see my therapist's reactions from time to time).
Does all of this make my therapist an internet junkie? By all no means, no. What does is the fact that often when I am checking the "People I may know" suggestions on Facebook and various Facebook groups I'm a part of, I see my therapist's name pop-up. It's amusing to see we follow the same stuff and also a bit nerve-wracking, because it means she can also see me on those lists. Has this affected therapy? Not in the least. I treat it as a non-issue, the same as if I saw a friend-of-a-friend on some website I'm on. It registered in my brain for all of a second, then I'm off in cyberland once again, searching for whatever info I was looking for.
Of course, this also means I'm an internet junkie. But I guess we all knew that.