Archive for March 12th, 2012

Before experiencing flashbacks myself, I thought they would all be the same. I actually have several different ways that I experience flashbacks/recover memories, and I suspect that may be true for others as well. I am going to share the different ways that I experience flashbacks and would also like to hear from you if there are additional ways to experience them.
Sickening Awareness
My healing process began with what I call a sickening awareness. I just “knew” that I had been sexually abused by my mother. I had no other information than the weight of knowing in my heart of hearts that it had happened. I also experienced this as the first step in working through being raped by men.
Body Memories
These are my least favorite kind of flashback. After the first sickening awareness, I could feel my body being abused. I had no other information, just that it felt like someone was hurting my body right then. I have come to recognize these flashbacks as my body releasing its own memories of being abused.
Reliving the Abuse
This is the most common form of flashback for me. While a part of me is fully aware that I am an adult lying safely in my bed, another part of myself relives the abuse. I feel and experience the event as the child I was when the abuse happened. The memory unfolds in a linear fashion just as it did when I was a child.
I suspect this form of flashback is what put the “flash” in the term “flashback.” I will see a split-second snippet of what happened. For me, this is most common with recovering ritual abuse memories. I don’t know if the different ties into the heightened terror and/or use of drugs during the abuse or not. I’ll see a “flash” of one part of what happened and then a “flash” of another. Because most of my memories were recovered through reliving the abuse, it took me a while to recognize that these were also flashbacks, just recovered differently.
I have never heard anyone else talk about this form of flashback, but I had this happen when I was dealing with being forced to abuse my sibling. I had been dealing with the sickening awareness that I had been forced to abuse my younger sister, and I had also recovered a piece of one memory involving sexual abuse. I was so sick to my stomach that I wanted to die, and the shame was unbearable. My mind released a montage of flashes of my sister being forced to sexually abuse me. I felt such relief because I knew that she was not responsible, which gave me the courage to talk with her about this form of abuse, apologize, and accept her response that she did not hold me responsible for what our abusers forced me to do to her.

I suspect there are other types of flashbacks as well. I’d love to hear about the different ways that others recover memories.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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