I have always been highly anxious and highly dissociative, but I have only met the full criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for about a year and a half. A therapist friend shared with me that it is common for women in their late twenties to develop PTSD because:
- The brain is fully mature and has the ability to understand past trauma
- Many at this age are married and beginning to have children, and either (or both) of these things could cause the brain to recall trauma that has been stored away
- They are safely removed from their trauma and their brains have deemed their new environment as “safe”
Whatever the reason (and possibly all three), within a period of about six months, my memories manifested themselves into visual, tactile, and auditory flashbacks. For a year straight, the only time I was not immersed in this battlefield was when I was actively working with my clients. The battlefield wreaked havoc on my marriage, destroyed two of my closest friendships, deeply injured my faith, and I nearly lost my sanity and my job. With my clinician brain, I constantly questioned my flashbacks as truth, but always returned to the conclusion that everything I was experiencing was in fact a product of real trauma I had experienced. I have only had three flashbacks that were not a part of my conscious memories, and I have one memory that is slightly different than the flashback it turned into. I find flashbacks very interesting, and I find the unfolding of flashbacks to be even more interesting… from a clinical standpoint, not from a victim standpoint.
I was in therapy at the time for general support, but I quickly found a new therapist. I spent a year working endlessly to decrease the intensity of my flashbacks and decrease my emotional reactions using CBT and DBT, but art therapy and writing became my refuges. My flashbacks and spirals decreased to a couple days a week, which I found to be far more manageable than the constant flood of feeling from my past. This is when I sought EMDR, hoping it would further reduce my anxiety and flashbacks, and would improve my current anxious-avoidant attachment style.