Trigger Warning: Suicide and Self Harm

I have not posted since last Wednesday due to the fact that I took a major overdose of Diazepam and ended up in ICU in Campbelltown Hospital a few hours from where I live. I was intent on ending my life. I could no longer cope with the flashbacks of the abuse when I was a child nor the associated extreme anxiety that I was experiencing as a result.

I use Webster packs for my medication and they are given to me by my husband and locked in a safe otherwise. However, he had cleaned out our medicine cabinet in case there was any medications which would be dangerous for me and put them in the side pocket of the drivers door of the car to bring to the Chemist for disposal.

Unfortunately he asked me to get his wallet out of the car and I saw the Diazepam bottle and immediately slipped it into my pocket. I then went in and said I wanted to have a shower and took the medication. It was an unopened bottle so there were about fifty tablets in it. I was in ICU for five days and then on the Medical Ward two days. Now I’m in St John of Gods in Burwood, Sydney. I’m not safe to go home.

I know what is causing the extreme anxiety. It is related to abuse by a Priest when I was sixteen years old that went on for four days. The sixteen year old has come out as an alter (I have Dissociative Identity Disorder) and talked of her trauma with my psychotherapist. It is good that she can talk about it but it is awful that it is causing me such extreme anxiety.

I am seeing my psychotherapist on Friday and she’ll do EMDR on the sixteen year old and me myself to try to alleviate the anxiety and process the memories which are obviously very traumatic.

I am also experiencing horrible flashbacks.

Many people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) struggle in coping  with flashbacks and dissociation, which may occur as a result of encountering triggers, that is, reminders of a traumatic event. To the extent that people are not aware of their triggers, flashbacks and dissociation can be incredibly disruptive and unpredictable events that are difficult to manage. However, you can take steps to better manage and prevent flashbacks and dissociation and stay in the present.

Using sense to cope with flashbacks
Illustration by Brianna Gilmartin, Verywell 

Understanding Flashbacks

Flashbacks are considered one of the re-experiencing symptoms of PTSD. In a flashback, you may feel or act as though a traumatic event is happening again. A flashback may be temporary and you may maintain some connection with the present moment or you may lose all awareness of what’s going on around you, being taken completely back to your traumatic event. For example, a rape survivor, when triggered, may begin to smell certain scents or feel pain in her body similar to that which was experienced during her assault.

Understanding Dissociation

People with PTSD may also experience dissociation. Dissociation is an experience where you may feel disconnected from yourself and/or your surroundings. Similar to flashbacks, dissociation may range from temporarily losing touch with things that are going on around you, kind of like what happens when you daydream, to having no memories for a prolonged period of time and/or feeling as though you are outside of your body.

Know Your Triggers

In coping with flashbacks and dissociation, prevention is key. Flashbacks and dissociation are often triggered or cued by some kind of reminder of a traumatic event, for example, encountering certain people, or going to specific places, or some other stressful experience. Therefore, it’s important to identify the specific things that trigger flashbacks or dissociation.

By knowing what your triggers are, you can either try to limit your exposure to those triggers or, if that isn’t possible (which is often the case), you can prepare for them by devising devising ways to cope with your reaction to those triggers.

In addition to reducing flashbacks and dissociation, knowing your triggers may also help with other symptoms of PTSD, such as intrusive thoughts and memories of a traumatic event.

Identify Early Warning Signs

Flashbacks and dissociation may feel as though they come out of the blue and they may feel unpredictable and uncontrollable. However, there are often some early signs that you may be slipping into a flashback or a dissociative state. For example, your surroundings may begin to look fuzzy or you may feel as though you’re separating from or losing touch with your surroundings, other people, or even yourself.

Flashbacks and dissociation are easier to cope with and prevent if you can catch them early on. Therefore, it’s important to try to increase your awareness of their early symptoms. Next time you experience an episode, revisit what you were feeling and thinking just before the flashback or dissociation occurred. Try to identify as many early symptoms as possible. The more ​early warning signs you can come up with, the better able you will be to prevent future episodes.

Learn Grounding Techniques

As the name implies, grounding is a particular way of coping that is designed to “ground” you in the present moment. In doing so, you can retain your connection with the present moment and reduce the likelihood that you slip into a flashback or dissociation. In this way, grounding may be considered to be very similar to mindfulness.

To use grounding techniques, you want to use the five senses (sound, touch, smell, taste, and sight). To connect with the here and now, do something that will bring all your attention to the present moment. Here are a few grounding techniques you can try:

  • Sound: Turn on loud music. Loud, jarring music will be hard to ignore. And as a result, your attention will be directed to that noise, bringing you into the present moment.
  • Touch: Grip a piece of ice. If you notice that you’re slipping into a flashback or a dissociative state, hold onto a piece of ice. It will be difficult to direct your attention away from the extreme coldness of the ice, forcing you to stay in touch with the present moment.
  • Smell: Sniff some strong peppermint. When you smell something strong, it’s very hard to focus on anything else. In this way, smelling peppermint can bring you into the present moment, slowing down or stopping altogether a flashback or an episode of dissociation.
  • Taste: Bite into a lemon. The sourness of a lemon and the strong sensation it produces in your mouth when you bite into it can force you to stay in the present moment.
  • Sight: Take an inventory of everything around you. Connect with the present moment by listing everything around you. Identify all the colors you see. Count all the pieces of furniture around you. List off all the noises you hear. Taking an inventory of your immediate environment can directly connect you with the present moment.

Grounding Techniques for PTSD

Enlist the Help of Others

If you know that you may be at risk for a flashback or dissociation by going into a certain situation, bring along some trusted support. Make sure that the person you bring with you is also aware of your triggers and knows how to tell and what to do when you are entering a flashback or dissociative state.

I understand my triggers and my flashbacks and mostly I am able to apply the strategies above which work really well for me but unfortunately they didn’t last week. I’m not going to give up trying to cope with my CPTSD. I’m not going to let it defeat me.

For more information on CPTSD and other issues visit our YouTube Channel

If you need support or would like to connect with like-minded people join our Private and Closed online Facebook Group for Child Abuse Survivors and those with CPTSD. Click here to join

The Memoir You Will Bear Witness is available on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback

7 comments

    • Thanks for your comment. I appreciate your words of encouragement. All the best Erin.

      • I cannot fathom the pain you feel which leads you to make that choice. My mum tried on a few occasions – unsuccessfully, thank goodness. I’m glad you are blessed with a loving partner. Have a wonderful evening Erin … PS: I’m up the road from you in Brisbane; looks like we might get a little rain tonight 😊☮️

  1. Wow. So, 1) I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through in your life. This past week, but also, throughout your life. I can’t imagine how hard it must’ve been. You truly are a fighter.

    Also, thank you for sharing your story. It means a lot when I read stories like these because I feel like, people being willing to share these types of stories helps to end the stigma and helps to let people know they don’t have to hide, they don’t have to keep it inside of them.

    Sending you love and hugs <3 and health. Definitely sending you healthy thoughts as you look to overcome and recover.

    • Thank you so much for commenting. I totally agree with you about reducing the stigma by talking out. That is the purpose of my blog. Thanks for ‘getting it’. Hope all is good with you. All the best Erin

  2. I’m really sorry for what you have been through in your life and that it has left you with so many difficulties. I can relate to you in many ways having suffered abuse myself. I’m sad that you got to that horrible ‘place’ where all you want to do is escape from it all and I’m really glad you came out the other side and hope that with more therapy and help you will find more peace within yourself. Love to you X

    • Hi Ellory, thank you so much for your kind and generous words. I was saddened to read that you too have been through a similar experience so you understand. It is true that I just wanted to escape the falshbacks and re-experiening. My anxiety went through the roof and I could see no way out. Thanks to good intervention at ICU I pulled through. They said I was lucky!!!

      I am in therapy so hopefully will continue to make progress there. Take care of yourself too. Best wishes Erin.

I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment. All feedback is much appreciated. Thank you. Erin

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