Most people are unaware that like war veterans, many rape and sexual assault survivors suffer from PTSD. We experience flashbacks, too. They can be anything that reminds us about the assaults. As I mentioned before, although I can’t remember most of my childhood, I remember enough to know my father did horrible things to me that no child should ever endure.
Last fall, a flashback caught me off guard. Don’t they all? After shopping at a mall in Chicago, I walked across the street near a park where I remembered we used to go as kids. Nostalgic, warm feelings came over me. Yet, when I tried recalling a single, happy memory, I couldn’t. They were all buried underneath the horrific traumas I experienced. I couldn’t remember them no matter how hard I tried, so I cried like a baby.
It took a while, but I calmed myself down. While it’s important to release my emotions, fears, and anxieties, it’s critical I ground myself in the present moment. I’ll usually start by taking long, deep breaths and repeat something like "Jesus, I trust in you." When experiencing overwhelming feelings or flashbacks, I suggest you try taking deep breaths and keep inhaling for a count of three and exhaling for a count of three while seeing yourself in a safe and peaceful place. Remember, you’re in control of your surroundings now, and you can take control of your flashback. It’s not easy, but it’s worse if you don’t even try. Believe me.
Sometimes it feels like I’m playing tug-o-war with the heavyweight champion of the world. Then, I remember I have the most powerful weapon to go with my tenacity: prayer. Like biblical King David, before I know it, my adversary is history.
Recovering from it takes a lot of TLC, but that’s okay. I won, and you can, too. That’s what matters, and you’ll get better at it over time.
Whenever flashbacks persist, tell yourself they are like scary movies. They are not real and do not have any control over you. Remind yourself that you are in control of your body and surroundings. Then, focus on funny and happy thoughts helping you return to the present and stay there.
Please ask your therapist for their recommendations. Here are mine. Try writing about how you felt after doing this and taking back your control and consider sharing this with your therapist or someone else you trust.
Remember, you are loved. You are precious. You are remarkable, and you’re still here for a reason. Belong to the truth.