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When a PTSD Flashback Happened in My 'Safe Place'


Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced domestic violence or emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233. You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

When the flashback hit, my mind went blank. I was overcome with self-doubt and insecurities that plagued me most of my life. I saw the one simple equation on the board and froze. My mind shut down. My body shut down.

Words flooded my mind. Images flashed by like a picture reel. I heard the slam of the remote control on the coffee table, the clanking of the bowl being tossed in the sink, the boom of his voice. And I saw the chopsticks come at me in a flash.

I’ve never had such a moment in public before. My flashbacks and memories come typically when I am in therapy, or alone, or with my safe people. Never has it hit me so hard and so fast, like a ton of bricks, especially not when I am doing what I do best: teaching.

The simple math calculation brought me down. Before my eyes, I felt my entire career disappear — everything I worked for just taken away.

“I am inadequate. I am stupid. I am lazy. I am not competent. I am worthless. I am fat. I am lazy. I am ugly. I am not athletic. I am not deserving. I am not worthy of love and belonging. I don’t try hard enough. I am simply… not… enough.” 

“How did you make it this far?”

“I am surprised you even graduated. I didn’t expect that from you.” 

“You are going to fail, so why bother?” 

“You never finish anything you start. You are a quitter. Nobody loves a quitter.” 

I sat down outside on the steps, my boy with me. He stayed close by as I let the tears stream down my cheeks like they haven’t in recent memory. He looked at me longingly with his soulful eyes. I called a dear friend. She listened to my cries. I texted a couple of other ladies who are my safe people and asked for their virtual encouragement and words. I splashed my face with cold water. I tried to compose myself.

We moved from the stairs back to class. I thought I was composed but the tears came flooding back again. We sat in the back room. He laid his noggin’ on my lap like he always does when he senses my hurt. He looked at me. He let me cry.

We walked back into class. I continued to lecture. I put on gloves, a lab coat, and picked up a pipette. I measured the glacial acetic acid behind the glass of the fume hood. I walked, checking answers. I cracked a smile.

My classroom is where I shine. It is where I am meant to be. I had a rough 30 minutes or so of my day. The flashback catapulted me into a world I thought I was free from. With the kindness of my students and their words, the support of my best friends and safe people, my service dog and his care, and the grace of my higher power, I survived. I stood tall and proud and survived.

I survived.

Images via contributor.