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Sexual Assault I had a panic attack during therapy today.

My therapist was showing me "calming" photos to help me find my "safe place" for EMDR since I can't visualize my own. She flashed 5 images in a row and the 4th was a picture of a bright blue sky with clouds in a wispy pattern. It looked exactly like the sky did when I was raped, the clouds and everything. It immediately triggered a flashback. There was only about 10 minutes left in the session and we spent it doing grounding exercises, so I didn't tell get the chance to tell her why I suddenly had a panic attack. As soon as I hung up the video chat, I lost it. I felt like I couldn't breathe, like my lung had collapsed again and my chest was filled with blood. I became paralyzed like when my spine was broken. I could feel the baseball bat being shoved inside me, the splinters ripping apart my cervix. I could feel his hands squeezing my throat, Michael's boots breaking my ribs, Jason's fingers pinning my arms to the ground as I thrashed and fought. My throat became clogged with mud as Jason tried to keep me from screaming. I could smell and taste the earth. And I could hear their laughter and the sound of high fives as they started cleaning up and getting ready to leave me. The blankets I was laying on morphed into dirt and leaves, and I could feel them burying me on the trail. Each pile of mud plopping against my skin like slime.

I knew none of it was real, that what happened was 14 years ago, but I couldn't make myself believe it. I couldn't calm down. I just blacked out and came to 20 minutes later, exhausted.

So much for a calming photo lol.

I've been getting panic attacks a lot lately, but that was the most vivid one of my life. It's been hours and I can still feel it all, their hands and his lips and the cool breeze and the warmth of the sun.

Besides grounding techniques, how do ya'll deal with panic attacks like this? I'm terrified it's going to happen again. I wish I could talk to my therapist about it since I kind of wasted the last 15 minutes of my session trying to ward it off, but I don't see her again until Tuesday. I am so tired of all of this.
 
Can you email her between sessions? Maybe try the AI on this site.

The only thing I’ve found when it’s a HUGE deal like that is just repeating out loud it’s not happening right now, until it stops. Honestly I tried it as a last reward because I thought it was the stupidest idea ever but it works.

Safe space also works for me but clearly that isn’t going to work for you. I got my safe space from TV. There’s a treehouse building show and I made my own from parts of those. Added in sound and smell and color and feel until now it’s a very solid space.

If I just need to clear my head for about 15 minutes for it to clear the panic then talking the dogs for a walk can also help.

Calling a friend and talking about something else entirely, can also work.

That’s what I’ve got. What else works for you, when it isn’t so hard? Sometimes that can help.
 
I feel bad emailing her, especially since (I don’t think?) she works Fridays so it’s technically going to be her weekend. I don’t want to bother her. I did email her after I semi calmed down, though, to apologize for the end of the session.

I like the idea of your safe place. I’m glad it works for you.

Usually, I’d read or hyper focus on something to distract me. Right now, though, I can’t get my brain to stay on one thing for more than a few minutes. I usually also listen to music but it’s making me even more hyper vigilant because my brain keeps panicking that I can’t hear what’s going on around me.
 
I second @Charbella 's suggestion of speaking out loud. Just been doing that to myself and it helps.
It's your adult voice now. It helps to bring you to now.

I just said things like "I like my new tights" and then hearing me say that made me feel better and it helped me then to say more, like "I'm actually ok. It's now and I am ok". And that helped more.

I also get the feeling bad about emailing at the weekend. Going through that myself too! But: you can email anytime you want. And T's decide when they respond. As long as you're ok about your T not responding for a few days, and you make emailing them enough to just have a space to get it out, then why not? Your T managed their time and will decide when to read your email and when to respond.
 
So much for a calming photo lol.
i wouldn't be too quick to write off the calming photo idea. the one which triggered the flashback is probably not the best choice for you, but the fact that ANY photo triggered such an extreme reaction makes me believe visual aides are a good option for you, in general. now for the fine tuning. . .
I’d read or hyper focus on something to distract me.
unfortunately, i can't read much while i am in episode, but the hyper focus makes emotional channeling a good option for me. once i purge enough of the excess emotion, i regain enough calm to be able to focus on something as passive as reading again.

for what it's worth
i learned the technique @Charbella and @Movingforward10 are suggesting as a "grounding technique." grounding techniques help me stay and/or return to the here and now when i am caught up in the surrealism of flashbacks.
 
i wouldn't be too quick to write off the calming photo idea. the one which triggered the flashback is probably not the best choice for you, but the fact that ANY photo triggered such an extreme reaction makes me believe visual aides are a good option for you, in general. now for the fine tuning. . .

unfortunately, i can't read much while i am in episode, but the hyper focus makes emotional channeling a good option for me. once i purge enough of the excess emotion, i regain enough calm to be able to focus on something as passive as reading again.

for what it's worth
i learned the technique @Charbella and @Movingforward10 are suggesting as a "grounding technique." grounding techniques help me stay and/or return to the here and now when i am caught up in the surrealism of flashbacks.
My homework for the week is to find an image or a video of a calming place, so I'm definitely not giving up on the idea.

I didn't consider that hyper focusing on excess emotion is a way of purging it... my therapist asked if I primarily journal with negative prompts, as in trauma-type prompts, when I'm upset and I didn't really know how to explain why I did or how it makes me feel better. But you're right, channeling that excess emotion kind of helps restore a baseline that I can function with.

And I am all for learning new grounding techniques! I will definitely give it a try.
 
I second @Charbella 's suggestion of speaking out loud. Just been doing that to myself and it helps.
It's your adult voice now. It helps to bring you to now.

I just said things like "I like my new tights" and then hearing me say that made me feel better and it helped me then to say more, like "I'm actually ok. It's now and I am ok". And that helped more.

I also get the feeling bad about emailing at the weekend. Going through that myself too! But: you can email anytime you want. And T's decide when they respond. As long as you're ok about your T not responding for a few days, and you make emailing them enough to just have a space to get it out, then why not? Your T managed their time and will decide when to read your email and when to respond.
I'm definitely going to try talking out loud as a grounding technique.

And yeah, I know that it is ultimately up to her when to read it (if she does)... but I feel like I take enough of her emotional bandwidth and energy as it is, and emailing her isn't going to solve anything or help me right now. I also don't want to turn emailing her into a coping mechanism, you know? I want to learn to function on my own outside of sessions since, well let's face it, I am alone 90% of the time and I need to learn to help myself in these situations. In the past, I've always dissociated away from uncomfortable feelings or memories; I need to learn to confront them and to ground myself so that I can stay present and work through the panic and anxiety and suicidal ideation. I guess part of me feels like emailing her would be taking away from her own resources and time while replacing one unhealthy coping mechanism with another for me.

Do you think emailing her about the specific trigger would be okay? Like on Monday, when she's already working and so she has time to read it before my session Tuesday? I'm afraid I'll be too embarrassed to mention it face-to-face during the session, so it might be easier to get it out in writing. Or should I just write it out and then send it to her during the session? Or maybe I should just not mention it at all?

....You can't tell I have anxiety, can you? 😅
 
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