What do you do when you have a body flashback?

Roland

Confident
Guys, sometimes seemingly random (I’m sure it’s triggered by something) I have body flashbacks (I know there’s a word for that) but basically I feel in my body and genital region pain of having been molested. I then disassociate so much, I don’t feel safe in my body. Grounding exercises have always made it worse, it helps me to think of myself as a mind or a spirit with no body. When this happens I feel hypersensitive to myself and my body (not wanting to be touched) but numb at the same time, like almost like it scares me to touch myself but I also don’t feel it completely because I’m disassociating and being like “I don’t have a body, I’m not real, this isn’t happening”. My only trick is to wait for it to pass, I was lucky that I was able to sleep it off and feel okay the next day. Sometimes it’s so strong it lasts for days and days. These kind of flashbacks are so weird because I don’t know what all has happened to me. I forgot a lot, so I just have feelings and sensations with no visual or factual memory. Writing helps, but yeah I hate this shit so much.
 

Roland

Confident
This hadn’t even happened in a long time, I think March was the last time. When this happens time moves to slowly and painfully. Everything is like calm panic, like I’m panicking but the slowness and the silence makes it calm. It’s terrifying.
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
"body flashbacks" is as good a name as any i have heard for the phenom. by whatever name, mine vary wildly. when grounding doesn't work, i go for channeling the sensations into a vigorous workout and/or anger channeling. i often get very, very angry about the injustice of having to deal with ^it^, at all.
 

Roland

Confident
The word for it is somatic flashback btw if anyone cares about that

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Roland

Confident
"body flashbacks" is as good a name as any i have heard for the phenom. by whatever name, mine vary wildly. when grounding doesn't work, i go for channeling the sensations into a vigorous workout and/or anger channeling. i often get very, very angry about the injustice of having to deal with ^it^, at all.
Yeah that’s definitely for real, I get nervous about the numbness, like I’m more likely to hurt myself exercising and it being self-harm ish. But generally I think those are great coping skills
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
I’m more likely to hurt myself exercising

there are low impact anger channels. screaming into and/or beating up a pillow are quite effective for the physically disabled, as are dart boards and the like. taping a picture or representation of your perpetrator to a board and throwing things at it is another.

for what it's worth
i've hurt myself, mildly, during anger channeling. the physical pain served as a processing tool for my psychic pain.
 

Roland

Confident
there are low impact anger channels. screaming into and/or beating up a pillow are quite effective for the physically disabled, as are dart boards and the like. taping a picture or representation of your perpetrator to a board and throwing things at it is another.

for what it's worth
i've hurt myself, mildly, during anger channeling. the physical pain served as a processing tool for my psychic pain.
Oh interesting, good ideas
 

Wendell_R

MyPTSD Pro
I've experienced something like this, but I experience pain instead of numbness. Early in my trauma therapy, I tried some somatic stress reduction exercises, and just calling attention to awareness of my body sensations was triggering. Trying EMDR with tappers was triggering. Much of my trauma happened when I was very young, so there are no memories. A lot of the sensitivity is in my left arm.

On how to overcome it ... let's see. First, I think it's important to acknowledge that a lot of "exercises" to release trauma must have been designed for people with relatively minor trauma. Those sorts of things just made things worse by triggering the body memories, and then making me feel like kind of an outcast for not being able to do trauma exercises. But there are things that move more slowly that have helped me a lot.
  • I do something I call "mirrors" with my therapist. We stand near each other, one person moves, and the other person follows. The idea is to put myself in a safe place, and then do something with my body that increases my awareness of my body and my sensations, while maintaining a safe place. There's no touch between me and my therapist, and that's just fine!
  • I imagined being with someone safe and sharing with that person how my arm hurt, and letting her be present in that pain, and learning to trust that she wasn't part of the pain. Here is one of my stories: https://www.myptsd.com/threads/wendells-room-of-transformation.89330/post-1560726
  • As part of my nonbinary self, I've wanted to wear a silver bracelet for many years. Now I wear one on my left arm. It gives me something beautiful to associate with that arm, where I have the sensitivity.
  • Yoga has been useful AFTER I had partially overcome my sensitivity. At the start, it was too triggering.
 

Roland

Confident
Are your grounding exercises primarily used to calm/soothe for UP! symptoms?
What are UP! Symptoms?

I’m referring to the grounding exercises like “Name five things you can see, four things you can touch…. Eh blah blah”. They don’t work for me for multiple reasons 1. Number anxiety 2. I don’t feel safe in my body when disassociated so being aware of my senses makes me panic more 3. I can never remember how many of what, see #1.

Others do things like name dog breeds or some shit, idk it just doesn’t work for me

I've experienced something like this, but I experience pain instead of numbness. Early in my trauma therapy, I tried some somatic stress reduction exercises, and just calling attention to awareness of my body sensations was triggering. Trying EMDR with tappers was triggering. Much of my trauma happened when I was very young, so there are no memories. A lot of the sensitivity is in my left arm.

On how to overcome it ... let's see. First, I think it's important to acknowledge that a lot of "exercises" to release trauma must have been designed for people with relatively minor trauma. Those sorts of things just made things worse by triggering the body memories, and then making me feel like kind of an outcast for not being able to do trauma exercises. But there are things that move more slowly that have helped me a lot.
  • I do something I call "mirrors" with my therapist. We stand near each other, one person moves, and the other person follows. The idea is to put myself in a safe place, and then do something with my body that increases my awareness of my body and my sensations, while maintaining a safe place. There's no touch between me and my therapist, and that's just fine!
  • I imagined being with someone safe and sharing with that person how my arm hurt, and letting her be present in that pain, and learning to trust that she wasn't part of the pain. Here is one of my stories: https://www.myptsd.com/threads/wendells-room-of-transformation.89330/post-1560726
  • As part of my nonbinary self, I've wanted to wear a silver bracelet for many years. Now I wear one on my left arm. It gives me something beautiful to associate with that arm, where I have the sensitivity.
  • Yoga has been useful AFTER I had partially overcome my sensitivity. At the start, it was too triggering.
Wendell, thank you so much for your response. Your comment that a lot of times those exercises are made for minor traumas makes perfect sense, I tend to forget how broad trauma is, and then wonder what is wrong with me that things don’t work. It’s nice to know others experience the same thing.

Your mention of your arm, may I ask if you ever discovered why your body stored pain there? Was it a specific trauma, or just a strange decision your body made to deposit pain there?

Your techniques sound like they would be effective, over the years my relationship to my body has definitely improved, my exercise helps, eating and sleeping well helps, it’s just hard to know what to do in a crisis moment like during a flashback or dissociative episode.
 

Wendell_R

MyPTSD Pro
Your mention of your arm, may I ask if you ever discovered why your body stored pain there?
When I was in elementary school, I was told that as a young child I was at a party with my parents. I reached for some peanuts, my father whacked me, the peanut stuck in my throat, and I got pneumonia. Hearing the story, I always had the impression that I was around 4 or so. But there in my baby book, it describes getting pneumonia at age 1 1/2. We don't know if it was this episode or undocumented episodes. We suspect that there was a lot of age-inappropriate over disciplining that happened when I was very, very young. There's a change in the look in my face in old photos--fear appears that wasn't there at age one. My mom dealt with her fear of my father by emotionally retreating, so it was worse than just getting hit. It was getting hit and then being left very alone.

So, the violence (father) and emotional distance (mother) is documented. The connection to my arm is somewhat conjecture, but it makes sense--reaching out is dangerous!!!

Yes, in crisis mode the list of things that works gets smaller.
 

Friday

Moderator
What are UP! Symptoms?
Sorry for the late response, I thought I’d posted, but must have left it to die in drafts! >.<

UP! = Panic Attacks, Anxiety attacks, Spinning yourself up (often by way of cognitive distortions), Intrusive thoughts, Catastrophizing, Insomnia, Lashing out, Raging out, Crying uncontrollably, Hypervig, Fight/Flight, etc… Plus the explosive types of adrenaline fueled coping mechanisms that aren’t symptoms, but rather how people deal with symptoms, that we still use grounding methods on.

^^^ The types of symptoms/expressions/coping mechanisms where one needs to calm down, slow down, self soothe, allow cool reason to replace hot emotion,

Dooooooooown = Depression, Apathy, Anhedonia, Zoning Out version of Disassociation, Isolating, holed up & hurting, brain fog, numb or numbing, crushed by guilt/ shame/ despair, maladaptive daydreaming, paralysis by analysis, stress sick, Et Cetera.

^^^ The types of symptoms/ expressions/ coping mechanisms where one needs to inject some enthusiasm, energy, focus, drive, oomph!, exercise, activity.

***

The grounding methods for both are attempts to reach the midline, just from 2 very different directions; bringing up things down, and down things up.

Sometimes it can be the same skill/method (like working a heavy bag can blow off steam for Up symptoms, and get the blood moving / clear minds for Down symptoms); but often they’re very different. If one is attempting to use calming/soothing skills when one is already down? That’s not really going to bring you back up, ya know?

Conceptually I tend to think of grounding as a way to peel myself off the ceiling, bring me back down from the stratosphere (and gentle the landing so that I don’t just crash); meanwhile grounding for down symptoms like reaching for the riverbank to pull me up and out of the water I’m just floating bonelessly away on. With both I’m attempting to find solid ground to stand on, find that midline… but one is dealing with explosive energy I have to defuse, and the other tremendous gravity I have to fight against, after the weightlessness of drifting away, or inching my way out from under the mountain of rocks (guilt / shame/ despair/ regret/ remorse) crushing me.
 
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