November 8, 2012 1 Comment
Buddy-child has come really far over the past two years. She used to be horribly depressed and occasionally suicidal. She had all kinds of abusive people in her life and was kind of stuck in a bad place. She was unmotivated and didn’t want to put forth any effort into anything because she didn’t care. She once said to me that if she could just smoke dope everyday and not ever actually do anything, she would be happy.
She graduated from therapy; she joined the cheer leading squad, she got her G-1 (learner’s permit), she graduated from school, she’s made plans to go to University. She’s going to be a doctor so that she can help other teenagers who are struggling. She’s as much of a normal kid as you can possibly get.
One day, early this fall, she was at a football game in her role as a cheerleader and a former friend texted her to let her know that someone who hurt her was there in the stands watching.
Buddy essentially collapsed. She began crying, hyperventilating, shaking, and I brought the car around and took her home. She crawled into bed with a comforter.
Buddy had a panic attack. She’s had to face this person before in the past but it was under some very controlled circumstances and she had time to prepare herself emotionally. This was a surprise and it triggered a flashback.
Flashbacks are something that happen to many people but are often not very well understood. What essentially happens is that something (often a sensory input like a smell or a taste or the touch of something, seeing something or hearing something) reminds your brain of whatever traumatic or scary or hurtful or emotionally charged event in your past and suddenly, your brain transports you back to that moment. It happens instantaneously and you have no idea what is going on at first. You feel the same feelings and have the same sense of panic and fear that you felt when the hurtful or traumatic event was just happening right then. It’s pretty overwhelming. This happens so fast that often, people don’t know what is going on until they are in a full-blown panic attack. Some people have to spend time learning how to recognize and deal with triggers and learn how to ground themselves and regain a semblance of control of their brains so that they can carry on.
Buddy actually recovered fairly quickly considering the circumstances. She did very well. I told her that I would not be okay with her hiding in her room all night and she voluntarily ventured out and joined me before I had to come get her. By the next day, she was back to normal. She did learn one thing from this; that she needs time to prepare herself emotionally before facing the people who have hurt her so that this doesn’t happen again.