Tag Archive | emotional flashback

I am Grief

It is starting to feel like I am grief, not like I am grieving, not like it is a process, or an emotion that moves through me, but a state of being that is me and completely has consumed me from so many directions.

When I allow myself to feel the sadness, I can’t see to type through the tears, so I need to hold it back to that familiar dull choking feeling that is now my life. That no one wants to see or acknowledge. Yes I am still sad today. Yes it sucks. Yes I need more time. I don’t want to apologize for how I am any more. I don’t want to explain it any more. I want it to be understood. But this is my life – I don’t get what I want.

I do feel moments of happiness with my kids, I do, but it is heavy, weighed down by this sadness, like I have an upper limit, or this shadow turning everything good a bit blurry.

I miss my mom. So much. So many things I want to show her, share with her, apologize for, explain to her. I see her everywhere, the songs she liked, the candy she liked, flowers she liked. I have paintings I started for her

I am also hurting as I realize I have not been treated very well here. I realized I did not receive one sympathy card, no flowers, no casseroles. Not even from my in-laws. Nada nothing. I did get one phone call from an aunt, the wife of my mom’s brother checked on me. That’s it. No one else reached out to me at all. Same for when AF died the year before. I know that was complicated, but everyone pretended it didn’t happen. I have lost both of my parents in the space of a year and a half, both were not even 70.

Then AF declared for the world to see that he never loved me, in his Will.


That broke me. I crumbled. Whatever was holding me together for so many years was shattered then. I lost myself. I became suicidal. I lost my job. I was hospitalized. Then as I was recovering my mom got cancer and didn’t tell me. I had pushed her away while I was healing. I didn’t speak to her during her last year on earth because AF broke me. He stole her from me again. Just like as a child, he kept her from me, creating fear by telling me she hated me and never wanted me.

Hubby is still not understanding. He is not gentle or comforting for me. His volatile moods and rough responses are too much for me to handle right now so I generally avoid him. When I do specifically ask him to do something for me and I think he understands, he does not follow through, leaving me hurt and confused, feeling betrayed all over again. I say please don’t tell ___ to your mom, it will get around to your sisters and come back to torment me and I don’t want to deal with all of that. He agrees. Then an hour later I hear him, he is telling his mom ___ on the phone. (Next day his sisters text me about it…I hate drama, wanted to avoid it, none of their business, didn’t matter, leave me alone, I give vague responses until it settles down) I ask him later why he did that? He yells at me. It is my fault again. How was he supposed to know. Sigh. Do I give up or do I try again?

I don’t understand. I have such little trust as it is, these events don’t help. I am spiraled into emotional flashbacks because he can’t do what he tells me he will do. Did he not agree with me in the first place? Am I not important enough to grant or remember this request? Was he lying to shut me up, make me happy, with no intention of not telling? The doubts flood my brain as I try to make sense of what happened. And he says, Sorry (but he says it so rough like a bark, not sincere), whatever, What’s the big deal.

Then we are trying to plan a party for his parents. It keeps getting more and more complicated, with his one sister coming in from out of state, the one married to the guy I accused of being a creep a few years ago. That plus they are adding more events to the day, a family photo, lunch, dinner, coffee and dessert, all in different locations. I told hubby that I was concerned I may not be able to do all of that. Then he said to his sister on the phone that I may be too tired, not have enough energy to do all of that. My heart sunk. Is he ashamed of me? He can avoid this topic but not the one I asked him to? So I texted his sister after he hung up “Hey I’m not sure he explained it very well, I want to do everything you have planned and it sounds like a great day for everyone and your parents, but I am still struggling with social anxiety and other symptoms of ptsd that may make it difficult for me to do so many events all in one day. I don’t want to let you all down, I will do my best to manage but wanted you to be aware.” She texted back “ok”

So I am trying to be real with the only people in my life. I keep hoping they will one day be more accepting, accommodating, instead of only me being forced to hide my symptoms and smile pretty for them so they aren’t uncomfortable. I have no idea how I married into such an unsupportive group, I suppose some part of me knew this, guaranteeing my isolation and continuation of what was familiar. They aren’t pedophiles and psychopaths, but dysfunction runs rampant.

Maybe a supportive functional family is a myth.

I am trying to manage this grief that keeps trying to swallow me whole. But I noticed I have forgotten how to smile. It is no longer natural. I started practicing in a mirror and those muscles feel so heavy and I can only produce an odd crooked grin.

I am turning 40 very soon. I have no plans. No party. No friends. No extended family, just my kids.They are the only humans I feel safe with, can feel happy with. I hate how much I need them. My daughter is my best friend, we talk about everything. I already fear the day when they grow a bit older and I lose them. Then I will truly be alone on this planet. Until then I will try to cherish the moments and try to make this creepy grin into a real smile and try not to think about how unimportant I am to everyone else.

Danger, right?

My safety switch inside my brain flips too easily thanks to complex ptsd. Sometimes I am unaware it has been flipped and sometimes I know immediately. But each time I find myself in the middle of evasive action, hiding, isolating, protecting myself from dangers that are long gone but my brain and body still feel as current threats.

My counselor explained this as an emotional flashback and referred me to read work by Pete Walker. I have read two of his books, Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, and The Tao of Fully Feeling, Harvesting Forgiveness Out of Blame.



Pete Walker also has a great website to get you or your partner started understanding complex ptsd and emotional flashbacks. This link to Walker’s site is a good place to start. I have found both relief and clarity here, from finally understanding my own reactions. It is helping me to see the unresolved childhood pain and grieve, rather than dig myself deeper into a pit of shame and self loathing.

The emotional flashback is more difficult to recognize because it does not come with imagery. You don’t get to see what has started it, so it can take hours, sometimes even days to recognize, especially for an intense safety trigger, I hide from it.

Walker explains our defenses as more complex than fight or flight by adding freeze or fawn too. I have no fight response. The other three seem fairly equal as a hybrid, flight: explaining my workaholic overachiever tendencies, freeze: my escapes into video games and dissociation, fawn: my codependence on others, my need to please them with no rights of my own.

So what does this look like? The past several days I have felt far away and afraid when Hubby was in the same room. I was avoiding his phone calls and texts, not completely, but delaying my responses. I had a choking feeling when he would kiss me and I would scream “stop!” to myself but say nothing out loud. I would endure his gentle touches knowing I “should” be enjoying it and responding but instead the fear would grow.

After several days of listening to my internal alarm bells, pushing him away, telling myself I am a horrible person, I finally realize I am stuck in an emotional flashback. I tell him I am not feeling safe. Ironically I don’t feel safe saying that, but my adult brain can tell my hurting inner child that she is safe. I am my own parent in these situations, as soon as I shut down the contemptuous inner critic and start some soothing. I feel my heart race and do some deep breathing.

Hubby asks if he can rub my shoulders. I find it helpful to be cared for without affection, so massage without hugs and kisses can help me feel safer.

Then we talk. We are still new at this, so we don’t speak gently to each other. I say what I think is wrong and it sounds like accusations. He gets defensive instead of comforting. I feel ashamed and guilty for bringing it up.

But we keep trying. We both know we both care. I let him rub my shoulders and mindfully tune into that. And then it hits me. I understand the source of this flashback.

I share with him how much time I have been spending with kiddos since school let out and that I have been able to truly connect with them everyday. I feel loved and I feel that I nurture, guide, discipline and protect them. I discover my flashback is from the contrast. When I am there for my kids, I feel the emptiness of what I never had.

Stronger emotional days can bring this on more intensely. A few days ago at the playground I was creating obstacle courses and timing my kids as they went through it, giggling. Our game was so much fun we attracted several other kids asking to join and be timed. Then it started raining a little and my 7 yr old lost his grip on the monkey bars, hitting the ground hard enough to bounce. But the deep mulch did its job and he was not hurt. In fact he layed there and stretched his arms out like a goober and said “Ta Da!” And we all laughed. He was very dirty but fine. I asked him again, and made sure he could get up ok, but then realized he was fine. I also realized that I would have been ridiculed for that, and that I was fighting my inner critic at that moment. My family would not have cared if I was hurt, but would have scolded me for making a scene, being clumsy, always doing something like that why do I even try when all I do is ruin everyone’s fun, I’m such a wimp…

My adult critic was saying I should have known it was slippery, I can’t carry him if he got hurt, I shouldn’t even try to have fun because this always happens, I’m a terrible mom I can’t keep them safe, I’m such a stupid wimp….

So I stopped my critic, but I did not stop the flashback. The feelings of being small and worthless and unsafe stayed with me for days. I was edgy, having more trouble sleeping than usual, almost no appetite, craving candy, and cringing in fear when Hubby displayed affection.

Once I found the source, shared it with Hubby, grieved for the uncared girl stuck inside me…the switch flipped and I began to relax and feel safe again. I started wanting affection and touch. The difference is like night and day and is instant for me, on and off.

I am still tired, dragging a bit, recovering from days of this altered emotional state, but otherwise I am fine as soon as the switch clicks…until it clicks again. And it will click on again. My job is to recognize it as soon as possible and manage my cptsd while living the fullest life I can.