How I Was Taught to Deal with Flashbacks When in the Middle of One
PTSD can really knock the wind out of you at times.
I was in a year and a half, yes you read that right, of specialized trauma therapy when I lived in Florida. Every Tuesday at 11 am Amy and I would be in her office working on a variety of issues. At one point I began having major flashbacks. Not the fleeting thought kind. The kind that could last for hours. “Thankfully”, they seemed to happen more at night while I was trying to sleep. Being knocked out is usually the best way for your brain to get some much-needed work done while you’re out of your own way. Amy had a tapestry hanging on the way in her office. She had me stand in front of it and describe it in detail. It went something like this.
I see a silver chicken’s foot.
I see a dark-colored vaping pen.
I see a blue ink pen.
I see several seashells — one yellow, one blue, one clear.
I see the triangle from an Ouija board.
I see a pincushion.
I see a clear glass pitcher.
I see an old fashioned shaving razor.
I see a hearing aid.
You get the drift. You refocus your mind on something other than the flashback. Then you describe it in detail. If memory serves, which it often doesn’t, the tapestry had a boat scene in it. So I counted the number of boats, describes each, described the water, the sky, the people, etc. until the flashback had passed. Redirect your focus. Your brain can’t concentrate on two things at once.
According to PsychCentral:
Similarly, grounding techniques are often used for helping cope with flashbacks or dissociation. Common grounding techniques include learning awareness of the flashback as it is occurring and then choosing a grounding strategy to help redirect and refocus awareness. Grounding strategies often use the five senses to help redirect attention, such as holding an ice cube in your hand, turning on sounds of nature, sitting in a warm bath, lighting scented candles, or chewing mint or cinnamon gum. Since the effects of PTSD can differ for everyone, it is important to speak with a trained professional who can help with what works best for you.
This has helped me on more than one occasion. I hope it helps you too.
Originally published on Medium
A writing prompt
Once Again, I Was Late For…
…my own funeral. Yes, mine. Yes, again. The first time was a fluke. Not me being late, but me being dead.
Let me explain.
Ya see I had been in the ICU for three weeks. I had been given last rites on day two. Took me a long time to die. Those idiots couldn’t find a heartbeat and pronounced me dead at 12:14 pm.
The only problem with that was that my heart rate was really low because of the infection and fever coursing through my body. Imagine the poor doc’s face when I came to in the morgue. So, I never made it to my funeral. A lot of lost deposits that day.
But this time was different though.
I was zipping along in my little blue Ford Mustang. I had the top down. It wasn’t like it was nice out or anything. Driving was my thing. That’s how I relaxed. A long winding road, my mind not 100% on my driving, a very deep curve, and…over the guard rail I went. That’s the last thing I remember.
Since then, I’ve been wandering around trying to figure out what the hell is going on. I see friends and family huddle in small groups whispering and crying. Flowers that would be any florist green with envy. And food? My God, who’s feeding what army around here?
No one will listen to me. I jump up and down. Talk loudly. Hell, I even scream. I hit people. Shove them. And nothing. No response whatsoever. If they’re trying to punish me for driving like an idiot — okay I get it. I should have been going slower. I should have been paying attention. But look at me. I’m fine.
Suddenly, everyone was staring at me. FINALLY. As I open my mouth to speak, everyone has a seat. I don’t recognize the room we’re in.
Just then a man in a suit and tie walked right through me and kept going. He stopped at the front of the room and turned around to face the crowd. He then began giving my eulogy.
The whole time I keep saying, “No, this is a mistake! Listen to me!” but no one does. I see the open casket behind the suited man. I figure if I walk up there and show them that it’s empty maybe they will snap out of it. I walk past the suited man and peer inside. If I hadn’t already been dead, I would have no doubt fainted.
It was me lying in the box looking better than I had ever looked alive.
Just then I let out a scream that shook the walls of hell, but no one heard.
Originally published in Illumination