Trigger warning: sexual assault
Most people know that the body goes into “fight or flight” mode when in a dangerous and stressful situation. What many people don’t know is that there are more possible responses, one of which is to freeze. A person can literally be involuntarily, temporarily paralyzed with fear. This is called tonic immobility.
According to recent research, the majority of female rape survivors do not fight back or yell for help because of tonic immobility. Another study found that half of people who survived childhood sexual abuse also experienced tonic immobility. Continue reading Tonic Immobility
13 Steps for Managing Flashbacks by Pete Walker, MA, MFT
- Say to yourself: “I am having a flashback”. Flashbacks take us into a timeless part of the psyche that feels as helpless, hopeless and surrounded by danger as we were in childhood. The feelings and sensations you are experiencing are past memories that cannot hurt you now.
- Remind yourself: “I feel afraid but I am not in danger! I am safe now, here in the present.” Remember you are now in the safety of the present, far from the danger of the past.
Click here for the full list.
Last fall, I saw sexually assaulted while swing dancing by a guy we’ll call L. He doesn’t dance much anymore, but it still shouldn’t have been a surprise when I ran into him yesterday. Luckily, I was able to keep my cool for the most part. I was shocked and uncomfortable when I first saw him. I even considered leaving. But why let him steal my joy? So I stayed and tried to stay on the opposite end of the room whenever possible. He seemed to be avoiding me as well.
My first few dances after he arrived were detached and the smile I had on my face was very fake. I tried to stay in the moment, think happy thoughts (such as putting the image in my head of A on one knee) and remind myself that L can’t harm me anymore. I hope I don’t see him again ever… but at least it was bearable to run into him. I’m so thankful that my PTSD has been giving me a break these last couple months.
I like to talk about mental illness on this blog and my personal struggles with mental health. But let’s be clear: I’m not technically mentally ill. I’m in a weird gray area, because I have symptoms of PTSD but it’s not serious enough for a diagnosis. Recently I found out that there’s an unofficial name for this: subthreshold PTSD. Continue reading Subthreshold PTSD
I got so used to always having a low level of anxiety that it feels really weird (in a good way) to have that almost entirely gone. For the first time in months, I feel very “me” again. I’m relaxed. I’m taking joy in the little things. I’m overly excited about learning anything new. I’m laughing a lot. I don’t take as long to calm down. I’m not thinking about the past much anymore. I’m not getting triggered often or experiencing many intrusive thoughts… I wish this could last forever. Continue reading So This is What “Normal” Feels Like