The excerpts below are from my book “DIY Therapy: Trauma” – they provide practical help for one of the worst symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: flashbacks.
From Part Two: PTSD Symptoms (Flashbacks).
Flashbacks are more prevalent amongst those who have endured Abuse Trauma. However, watching a loved one die (or anyone, for that matter) is also traumatic and does not necessarily involve any kind of victimization. This kind of recollection is extremely disturbing especially when you are recalling events that you have no conscious awareness of ever experiencing (i.e. repressed memories). Flashbacks are usually accompanied by insane levels of anxiety which manifest physically via panic attacks. When such memories rise to the surface you are ready to deal with them – here are a few tips to help you stay as centered as possible:
⦁ Rescue Remedy
⦁ The woody aromatherapy oils
⦁ Peppermint oil
⦁ Hands-on techniques, specifically frontal-occipital holding
⦁ Self-soothing techniques: positive self-talk (e.g. ‘I’m OK’; ‘I’m safe now’; ‘It’s all over now’)
From Part One: Tips, Tools and Techniques (this part contains explanations of the suggestions listed via the bullet points above – those relevant for flashbacks are in green type).
Bach Flower Essences
These flower essences come prepared in (oral) dosage form and are available from health food stores and New Age shops. The recommended dosage is two drops for all but the Rescue Remedy which is four drops. On occasion, you may feel worse after taking the essences because they will bring to the surface whatever needs healing – however, this is temporary. The remedies also help to keep you balanced during the experience.
Clematis: use this essence whenever you are unhappy about living in the present moment. This was helpful to me when I had difficulty getting out of bed in the morning. I often combined it with the Rescue Remedy (below).
Rescue Remedy: this is an amazing multi-purpose elixir. Even though it is used primarily to treat extreme stress and shock it may also be taken to create balance during extreme emotional states such as rage, depression, profound grief, guilt, suicidal thoughts etc. I often used this remedy with the others because it brought about speedier relief.
Star of Bethlehem: emotional support during times of grief.
White Chestnut: alleviates worry or obsessive thinking which makes it a great remedy for insomnia.
Most of these oils can be applied directly onto the skin. You may also smell them either directly from the bottle or by placing a drop or two of the relevant oil on a tissue (they work faster this way).
Cedarwood (or any woody oil such as rosewood and sandalwood): these oils help to keep you grounded – that is, calm, centered and settled.
Lavender: great for headaches, insomnia (a few drops on your pillow) and nervousness.
Rose: this one comes in a carrier (i.e. massage) oil. It is very comforting during grief. Rub it onto your wrists and heart for soothing emotional relief.
Peppermint: you cannot rub this on your skin for it will burn…however, inhaling the oil when you are in shock or experiencing indigestion will alleviate your discomfort.
You can give yourself a helping hand(s) by using the following techniques that relieve stress and panic attacks:
⦁ Place one hand on your forehead and the other on the back of your head where your skull protrudes slightly (also known as frontal-occipital holding). Hold for three minutes.
⦁ Put your right hand over your heart and hold for five minutes.
⦁ Place one hand on each knee for a minimum of five minutes.
These self-soothing techniques will help you during panic attacks or nightmares: hug yourself to stop the shaking and to feel safe; tell yourself that everything is going to be alright – my favorite phrase for the latter is, “This too shall pass.” A warm bath is also very soothing.