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Coping with Flashbacks

If you are finding flashbacks or intrusive thoughts and images difficult to deal with here are some practical steps to help you deal with and cope a little more effectively.

1. Tell yourself you are having a flashback and that this is okay and very normal in people who were traumatised as children (or as adults).

2. Remind yourself that the worst is over - it happened in the past, but it is not happening now. The' child' inside you who was abused is giving you these memories to use in your healing and, however terrible you feel, you survived the awfulness then, which means you can survive and get through what you are remembering now.

3. Call on the 'adult' part of yourself to tell your 'child' that they are not alone, not in any danger now and that you will help them to get through this. Let your child self know it's okay to remember and to feel what they feel and that this will help them in healing from what had happened to them. However hard it is for you, your child is communicating in the only way he or she can.

4. Imagine that the images that you see are on a TV screen. Turn the sound down, turn it up again, turn the TV off so that the images fade away. Remember that you can choose whether to remember and re-feel.

5. Try some of these ways of 'grounding' yourself and becoming more aware of the present:

6. Take care of your breathing: breathe deeply down to your diaphragm; put your hand there just above your navel and breathe so that your hand gets pushed up and down. You can also count - to 5 - as you breathe out and in. When we get scared we breathe too quickly and shallowly and our body begins to panic because we're not getting enough oxygen. This causes dizziness, shakiness and more panic. Breathing slowly and deeply will stop the panic.

7. If you have lost a sense of where you end and the rest of the world begins, rub your body so you can feel its edges, the boundary of you. Wrap yourself in a blanket, feel it around you.

8. Get support if you would like it. Let people close to you know about flashbacks so they can help if you want them to. That might mean holding you, talking to you, helping you to reconnect with the present, to remember you are safe and cared for now

9. Flashbacks are powerful experiences, which drain your energy. Take time to look after yourself when you have had a flashback. You could have a warm, relaxing bath or a sleep, a warm drink, play some soothing music or just take some quiet time for yourself. Your child, and you deserve being taken care of, given all you went through in the past.

10. When you feel ready, write down all you remember about the flashback and how you got through it. This will help you to remember information for your healing and to remind you that you did get through it and can again.

11. Remember you are not crazy - flashbacks are normal and you are healing.


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