Out of the blue

Sometimes we let life guide us, and other times we take life by the horns. But one thing is for sure: no matter how organized we are, or how well we plan, we can always expect the unexpected. Brandon Jenner

Life is ironic. I have not published for a few weeks and was going to publish a new post to say that I had reached the end of my healing journey and that I was “healed” when out of the blue I was struck by an emotional flashback. Suddenly, I was experiencing feelings of anxiety, despair and helplessness. This was highly unexpected.  I thought I would never experience such a thing again and did not recognise it at first. I was stressed and tired and attributed my reaction to these factors. Here I was, an elephant sitting on my chest, butterfly dancing in my stomach, shaking and crying uncontrollably for several hours. It was highly unpleasant and unsettling.

In his book How to Stop an Emotional Flashback, Richard Grannon explains that during an emotional flashback the mind flashes back to the emotions of the original trauma. “An emotional flashback is when we experience intense negative emotions when there is no external trigger or there is an external trigger, but we completely overreact to it. CPTSD is created by ongoing invisible traumas resulting from emotional abuse in a setting where the target cannot escape. Because there is no singular external event, there is no visual or auditory input to be recalled in the flashback. So, the flashback becomes purely emotional. This is uniquely bewildering and confusing to the target because they will not remember and will not know why they are suddenly feeling overwhelmed by feelings of terror, guilt, shame, depression.”

What had triggered this emotional flasback?

It had all started Friday morning. First, I had forgotten my gym kit at home and was annoyed that I would have to go home to get it before meeting with my personal trainer. Then, when I arrived at work, a member of staff greeted me with a snide remark, followed by a mocking comment. I was surprised because we usually get on and she had always been amicable. However, I had complained earlier that week, that a member of her team was upsetting the students during exams by being rude and insensitive and I guess, she was getting back at me.

 I was irritated but went to class as I was covering for a colleague. A few minutes later, one of my students sitting the exam, told me that the groups had changed, and she was not paired with whom she should have been. I tried to find out what had happened. I was polite and courteous, but I was told – in a very uncourteous way – by the member of staff aforementioned that I was upsetting her staff and I had to get out. Now I was starting to get angry. I did not understand her change of demeanour. My students were upset, I was upset and then she went on to blame me for everyone being upset That is when I lost my composure and started shouting at her.

I wanted to go home but I had another lesson in the afternoon.  My students were organising an end of term party, so I did not want to disappoint them.   By then, I was starting to realise now that I may be experiencing an emotional flashback. The belittling, the mocking, the devaluing, the unfair treatment and the unwarranted blaming had transported me right back into the height of narcissistic abuse with all the terrible feelings that went with it. I felt very weepy and anxiety was quickly rising inside me.

I was taken by surprise by my feelings. I knew that the situation was not so severe as to generate such feelings, but I was unable to stop my flashback and therefore suffered the full force of it.

Two days later, I am feeling much calmer. Nonetheless, I am now feeling anxious about going back to work because I am afraid of being triggered again.  Therefore, have decided to apply for another job. It may sound impulsive, but I am merely keeping my options open, so I do not feel trapped. If I decide to stay in my job – which I love, it will be because I want to, not because I must. I do not want to feel powerless. I want to be in control.

It might take me more time than I thought before I am completely “healed” and do not experience such flashbacks. With further understanding of the causes and triggers and some coping techniques, I know it is possible.

In the meantime, my healing journey continues…

32 comments

  1. Excellent post! The thing about triggers is that they are sneaky little critters that come unannounced, unwelcomed, and most times show up at the worst times. They not only affect us emotionally but physically as well.
    I am happy to hear that you are feeling calmer now. Just always remember to breathe during those awful moments.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for this. Our journeys seem so similar at times. I have been triggered too but I am just leaning into it. I figure it’s happening for a reason. It was the worst one I have had in at least a year. Like you, I think I had begun to feel trapped again too.
    I have become interested in something called ACT. It has been helpful.
    I have joined a new social group. I had a lovely time. I have got on with applying for more work and I have been tory ing to get more organised again. I have a post about passengers on a bus, which I found helpful. I am also doing an online course. I am gradually working my way through everything. I knew setbacks were inevitable but this one hit me like a train.
    I became aware how few people were talking nowadays about the early days of recovery and how challenging ithey are, so I decided I would try to reach out more to the people, who still don’t understand what is happening to them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s good that you are finding new ways to cope. Emotional flashbacks are extremely unpleasant and like narcissistic abuse not always easy to identify. That’s why we need to learn more about them and share our experiences. Very often CPTSD is getting confused with BPD and people wrongly diagnosed.

      Like

  3. I don’t think it is just being confused with BPD. I think it is being misdiagnosed as things like depression, anxiety and a whole plethora of other things. In fact I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that there may be an element of trauma in just about every negative event or condition.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on narcissistic truth and commented:
    This blog by Pascale explains that even when we feel that we are stronger and over the trauma we have been through, there are events that can trigger us and send those emotions flowing once again … Another reason I say that we are always in recovery, I’ve yet to meet anyone who has ever fully recovered from Narc Abuse …

    Like

  5. I was just reading back through your blogposts and I was left wondering if you have been overdoing it. Our bodies do find ways to let us know.
    I have been feeling a bit exhausted myself, we sometimes need to remember we are still recovering.

    Liked by 1 person

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