I think of a flashback as a scene of past trauma replaying in my head along with all the emotions from that time, and sometimes physical sensations, smells, tastes, and sounds. I usually say that I don’t really experience flashbacks because they’re never a full scene.
Wikipedia define a flashback as ‘a psychological phenomenon in which an individual has a sudden, usually powerful, re-experiencing of a past experience or elements of a past experience.’ It goes on to explain that it can be of any experience, happy or sad, although we tend to think of flashbacks of being negative and of a traumatic origin.
Last night I struggled to fall asleep. I’d taken my medication, and followed my usual sleep routine. Once the light was off the fear and panic kept increasing. I turned the light back on and played a game on my phone to distract myself before trying to sleep again.
Then it started. The terror. The panic. Not knowing where I was. Not being able to see anything. The urge to curl up under the covers to stay hidden. No full scenes of abuse or traumatic experience were being replayed in my head, just one tiny moment of fear and terror as a child. I turned our night light on which helped. I could open my eyes, see where we were, remind us that we’re safe, and try to sleep again.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. Sometimes we’ll be triggered by small things – a word, a smell, the sight of specific jewellery that a relative wore, nearly anything. Sometimes it’s someone touching us, which could just be a work colleague tapping our shoulder to get our attention. So many different triggers.
Being an adult, and being scared of the dark is embarrassing. Explaining that you need to keep your bedroom door open, or a light on in order to sleep is embarrassing. I’m hoping everything will settle, and falling asleep tonight will go more smoothly.