A Trigger. Boom. A Flashback.

Childhood Memories Catch Me Off Guard

Trigger warning: child abuse, physical discipline, flashback

Photo by Petr Kratochvil

I’ve recently experienced a hellish episode of flashback. It is a shortened psychiatric term for flashback hallucinosis: a recurrent and abnormally vivid recollection of a traumatic experience.

I was beaten by my mother for discipline when I was young, and flashback is one of several ways this experience of violence affects me today. Once a trigger takes place (for example, a person raising their voice at me out of anger or frustration), my brain slows down, my body shrinks, my feet carry me backward to the farthest corner, my eyes well up with tears, and my voice trembles and strutters. When the condition worsens, my heart fastens, my breath shortens, my fingers curl in, my vision blurs, and I start wailing. Destructive thoughts play on repeat, and I incessantly talk trying to push them away.

In the last episode of flashback, I went through all of these symptoms over the course of 30 minutes. Afterward, I wiped my tears, ate ice cream, and took a walk. Later I wrote this poem.


“Boom”

boom

it hits

my skull

like a clap

of thunder

boom

it hits

sound

loud

against

my eardrum

boom

it hits

and bounces

off of

surrounding

walls, of the air

in the space

boom

a wave

of fear

washes

in

die!

I don’t want to

die!

I don’t want to

die!

I don’t want to

sticks strike

all over

my skin

the sensation

stuns me

stop sorry

please sorry

I scream

and gasp

my body

shrinks, air

thick pressure

all over

my chest

breathe!

I can’t

breathe!

I want to

sorry

I don’t want to

sorry

be this way

I don’t want to

be beaten

I don’t want to

be beaten

I don’t want to

be beaten

boom

boom

thunder

in my ears

darkness

in my eyes

boom

boom

when does this end?

when does this end?

I search

for an anchor

flowers forty feet ahead

flowers yellow and orange

flowers yellow and orange

flowers yellow and orange

breathe

yellow and orange

breathe

yellow and orange


Flashback is a terrifying experience. It continuously connects the person to the traumatic event that happened in their past, no matter how long ago it was. Some people even experience implicit flashbacks of an event that they have no memory of because they were too young at the time of the event. Such a flashback can overtake and confound them.

If you or a loved one experiences flashbacks, educate yourself. Knowledge can help you recognize symptoms, avoid triggers, and develop coping skills. Also, seek treatments. You cannot avoid all the triggers throughout your life. You must get to the source of the problem by working through the memories and damage of your traumatic experience with the help of a trained therapist. It can get better. It will get better.

Love,

Linda

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