Taking care after a flashback
November 6, 2014 10:41 AM   Subscribe

I had a PTSD flashback today after not having issues with PTSD for a year. How do I stabilize?

I was triggered by something innocuous this morning - my boyfriend wanted my attention, forgot that banging on doors is a trigger for me, and his banging on the door while I was in the shower made me flip out. I lost it and started crying hysterically and forgot where I was. My abusive ex boyfriend slammed down a door and broke it on me during an argument years ago and I had ptsd for a long time both from that and from the abuse in general. I did EMDR and I have been stable for 1.5 years. My boyfriend handled it tremendously and I snapped out of the flashback pretty quickly but that was three hours ago and I have not been able to function since.

I have a pile of high priority work that needs done asap that is taller than me to get through today. What do I do to stabilize myself so I can get on with my day? I took a Valium and a hot shower and ate some food. That didnt help as much as I'd hoped. I feel hung over and keep crying. I am so angry at my abuser for ruining me like this. It's embarrassing and humiliating to react this way and I don't like not having control over my emotions. I feel so bad for my current boyfriend because he would never hurt a fly and it was a mistake and he feels awful and I don't want him to feel like he has to walk on eggshells around me. Also a similar situation with banging on a bathroom door partially ended my last relationship because the PTSD was too much for that guy to handle and I am afraid that's going to happen again with my current boyfriend.

I feel bad because today was supposed to be a good productive day and now I'm just a puddle of exhausted fear. How can I feel better so that I can get to work?
posted by sockermom to Human Relations (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 1. Sometimes, people get sick. How does your work handle sick days? Can you call in sick for the afternoon?
2. Breathing. I do inhale 4 count and exhale 6 count for myself, if there's a calming breathing technique you like try that.
3. Do you remember any stabilizing techniques you used in emdr? Did you create a safe space for your body to come home to? Imagine a home or place or person that makes you feel very safe and comforted. Let your body relax into that. Imagine what sorts of comforting things someone you love would be doing for you. Holding your hand? Listening? Feel the parts of your body that do feel calm and ok. You are safe now.
4. If it is sunny, go sit in the sun, or thing of a warming activity and let yourself do it for a little while until you feel more calm. Gardening, walking, stretches, movement or knitting or reading. Something that will take you out of your head a little bit. Warm tea, bath, warm light music. Things are better now.
5. Obviously if you need to try to get an appointment with your therapist or see if there are any staff in the practice that handle talking you through things by phone. If you need to, you can even call an abuse crisis center and just let them know you just need someone to talk you through some calming activities, many places will do this on crisis lines and it doesn't hurt to ask.
posted by xarnop at 10:57 AM on November 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

I feel hung over and keep crying.

"PTSD is associated with an excess of inflammatory immune activities."

So I would say try some aspirin, tylenol, ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory.
posted by jamjam at 11:44 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Fill up the sink - or a large bowl - with ice-cold water. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and dunk your face in. This will slow your heart rate, slow your breathing, and make you relax. It's an involuntary response that all mammals have, so it is guaranteed to work.
posted by desjardins at 12:08 PM on November 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

(I don't mean it's guaranteed to cure PTSD - I meant it is guaranteed to slow your heart rate and your breathing.)
posted by desjardins at 12:09 PM on November 6, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks all. I just punted on my day and crawled into bed with my cat and slept it off. It happens. Tomorrow will be better.
posted by sockermom at 2:27 PM on November 6, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: It will be better tomorrow and, I have to say it breaks my heart to see you use the words "ruined me". You are not ruined. You are so far from ruined. You are amazing and a nearly daily inspiration to me and, I am quite sure, many other internet strangers. So.

I don't in any way mean to minimize your pain or subjective experience of ruination, or to suggest that others' experience of you trumps your own. Nuh uh. Not at all. Just saying you're great is all. Just saying.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 4:31 PM on November 6, 2014 [11 favorites]

If you're still feeling badly tomorrow, try some intense physical exercise like running or hitting/kicking a heavy bag. It does something to your brain chemistry that helps burn off negative emotions quickly.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:14 PM on November 6, 2014

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