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I Never Knew I Was Having an Emotional Flashback, Until Now

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I am hesitant to write this, mostly because I still tend to invalidate myself. I find myself leaning towards gaslighting myself by going through this daily inner battle of me versus me; one side of me says that I know my truth, while the other part of me invalidates, screaming that I am “going crazy” and could never be right.

• What is PTSD?

For years I have been having these rather intense emotional episodes of crying and sadness, shame, guilt, fear and even anger (the anger is mostly geared towards myself in these instances). These episodes usually went hand in hand with wanting to take out the pain on myself through various forms of self-harm, including eating disorders.

The guilt and shame are the part I tend to understand the least. I am currently in intensive trauma therapy on an outpatient level, and I learned something the other day that really hit home for me:

I never had a name for these episodes. I just figured they were a part of having borderline personality disorder (which they may be; it is complicated when one has multiple conditions) or that I am simply “over-emotional” and “sensitive.”

So, what is it exactly?

According to my outpatient program, I periodically may be experiencing something known as an emotional flashback.

Essentially, an emotional flashback is like a regular one, although with less of a visual and may seem “random.” The randomness of it is typically due to having complex trauma or trauma one cannot recall the details of. A trigger (either in the environment or internally) will set a person off into one of these episodes without true awareness.

Now that I have the awareness, I am using my coping skills to get through these moments! It was always so troubling to not be able to put words to the experience, making it all that much scarier for me.

Further, an emotional flashback involves an overflow of emotions within the brain and body, causing someone to feel as though they are back in the trauma, even if they have no specific memory or image attached to it.

I know I am not alone in this experience, and that is why I want to share it here. For coping skills for dealing with complex trauma, see my article here.

It is terrifying to find yourself feeling so vulnerable and fearful once again, especially when you are unsure of why. It is also through trauma therapy sessions that I am slowly uncovering this so that these emotional flashbacks will hopefully happen less and I can move forward further in life. I also have the skills to cope, as I know there is a chance it may always be a part of my life, and that’s OK.

I am accepting my past, present and future, one day at a time.

Getty image by agsandrew

Originally published: December 3, 2021
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