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This thing we do • View topic - PTSD & Flashbacks

PTSD & Flashbacks

In a perfect world, discipline would cure all ills. But in the real world, not so much. How do we deal with those diagnoses that spanking just can't make go away. (You know, depression, ADD, DID/MPD. The thing a therapist would put on your medical record to convince the insurance company that they have to pay up, if you had a therapist and health insurance.)

PTSD & Flashbacks

Postby Meg » Tue May 24, 2011 11:33 pm

One of the issues that I have talked about on the Board on a few occasions is that Obsidian has PTSD and has some rather severe flashbacks. She has given me permission to talk about it here, and knows that I am writing this now. I get triggered too, but my triggers work a bit different. Anyways, *if* I recognize the flashback and am not triggered myself, I generally know how to help her through them...so, that is not really the issue here.

The issue is that there are times that the flashbacks can be *really* scary for me, particularly when she has angry ones and I am not in a space to handle them well. On an intellectual level I understand them and accept that this is part of who she is, like seizures, in a sense. On a more visceral level, though, they can really mess with my trust of her in ttwd, particularly if things have been going well, and I am starting to relax in her leadership, a flashback comes along and I start getting tense and have trouble with bottoming to her on a kneejerk level. It makes for a very choppy journey through ttwd. I know that there are those here with triggers and PTSD. Has anyone found any strategies for getting back on track *after* a flashback (particularly of a Top)?

There is other difficulty/dilemma. We have discovered through long experience that the best way to help Obsidian through the flashbacks is to be very gentle and keep a rather submissive posture. I can do this *if* I am doing ok and in a good place emotionally...but, frankly, even then it is pretty difficult...and if I get triggered, well, it becomes well nigh impossible to do (well, sort of). We have gone back and forth with this many times, but the rules for me stay in effect even during flashbacks, i.e., I can get punished for going off (after the flashback is over....of course). The reason for this is that it actually *helps* me, so I remember a punishment, and it gives me a moment or two to think rather than react, which in turn helps me to do what I need to do in terms of handling the flashback. On the other hand, it sometimes goes badly with me in that if I have been handling it for a long time (sometimes her flashbacks last hours), unless I am doing *really* well, I, well, can't handle it any more and break down and start going off. In those cases, getting punished feels rather oppressive to me, and I know that Obsidian feels really guilty giving me one in those instances. Honestly, whether I *do* get punished then is, well, sometimes I do and sometimes I don't...which is not the best solution.

Oh...I guess there is one more issue, which came up today. I procrastinated on something, which created a big emergency and time crisis. One of Obsidian's triggers is time crises. Anyways, she had a pretty major, very angry flashback. Later, I was quite justly punished for the procrastination. On the other hand, on a visceral level, what I am experiencing is the angry flashback as a consequence, not the punishment. Here is the thing, sure I can say that I *know* that time crises are triggers for Obsidian so that this should be one of the consequences...but on a practical level, that creates fear in me, bad fear, the paralyzing kind that exacerbates the behavior, not the good fear, i.e., the fear of a punishment, that helps me to work on the behavior.

Does anyone have any strategies that they have used to handle these type of situations?
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Re: PTSD & Flashbacks

Postby Lady Governess » Wed May 25, 2011 1:29 am

Cripes - that is one big long questions with so many parts to it I don't know where to start.

For now,can I just say that I sympathise with the two of you. My own flashbacks are more related to my powerlessness to help people in life or death situations (I have the Harrison Ford in Bodyguard syndrome'........I could wish I had 'Whitney Houston loves me syndrome' 'the way he did too.....very disappointing!). Anyway, this means that most of my flashbacks see me crying a lot. And they are improving with time and practise. This is very different from anger-manifesting flashbacks and I need some time to think through whether any of my own experiences could be useful to either of you.

And one question for you Amethyst; for you personally, is badly executed / poorly judged punishment better for you OR worse for you than no punishment at all? For me, it has to be right and if it's done badly it leaves me reeling. For some people they would rather have anything than have nothing. Which side of that fence are you on?

Thinking about you both.
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Re: PTSD & Flashbacks

Postby Meg » Wed May 25, 2011 7:33 am

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Re: PTSD & Flashbacks

Postby Meg » Wed May 25, 2011 8:59 am

I do want to add that, yes, even though I am allowed to refuse to submit during flashbacks by agreement, it DOES in fact create problems on more global level for us, in that it hurts Obsidian's confidence and it sometimes gives me the sense that punishments are optional. Ideally, I would have to be respectful about it, but IF I am triggered and/or angry enough that Obsidian is ordering me to submit to a punishment during an angry flashback, I am in no frame of mind to be all that respectful. On the other hand, when I have managed to submit during those times, the explosion that happened afterwards is increased sevenfold, which also is extremely damaging to confidence and trust, so the benefit outweighs the cost.
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Re: PTSD & Flashbacks

Postby JigsawAnalogy » Wed May 25, 2011 12:25 pm

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Re: PTSD & Flashbacks

Postby Meg » Wed May 25, 2011 1:39 pm

In terms of defusing things, the apology structure that we worked out here on the Board has worked in a modified form for flashbacks and triggers. I have learned to leave the room until I am calm enough and in a place where I can handle Obsidian in whatever shape she is in. This time it was not possible because we were in the car.

As to the rest, regarding therapy, learning each others triggers and the like...I could write an entire novel, or even series of novels around that...so, well...I'll leave it alone for the moment :).

As far as reframing things, it does look like I was going into the black/white, only two options type of thinking, doesn't it? :) One of the problems is that in the moment, even if I can somehow muster the energy to phrase things in a respectful manner, it will still *feel* like a refusal to Obsidian...and actually probably to me as well. Reframing things intellectually is all well and good in a rational conversation...but it does not always translate to what it will feel like in the moment.
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Re: PTSD & Flashbacks

Postby JigsawAnalogy » Wed May 25, 2011 2:05 pm

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Re: PTSD & Flashbacks

Postby Meg » Thu May 26, 2011 12:43 pm

Well, looking back at all of this a couple of days later, after an adequate amount of sleep, yes, Jigsaw, reframing things is probably the answer. Reframing things in the light of day, in a calm, rational frame of mind does in fact help, I think, in particular, with the long term confidence and trust in ttwd and in each other.

Looking back at the other day, actually, things did not go all that badly, and in fact, went MUCH, MUCH better than they could have gone particularly under the circumstances. It is not surprising that Obsidian had a bad flashback under the circumstances, given that at least three or four major triggering factors were going on all at once. Frankly, it would have been miraculous had she *not* had a flashback. Given the fact that many of my triggering factors were also going on, including feeling extreme guilt and being hungry and exhausted, the fact that I only went off briefly for a few minutes was pretty good as well. I worked on staying with my guilt, rather than letting it manifest into anger...and it helped for a LONG time. The fact that we were both able to calm down, and even have a somewhat effective disciplinary session that night was actually pretty impressive for us. In addition, despite everything, when I needed more severity between Obsidian prompting me and me being able to communicate it, Obsidian was able to deliver, and it went ok. At one point, I was crying on the bed, with multiple "I'm sorry"s, and Obsidian was feeling bad for me, I was able to communicate to her that I thought that this was ok, and that more spanking would probably help...and Obsidian did spank me more, and it did help.

This situation could have easily turned into an all night or even multi-day battle royal (at *many* different points), and it didn't. So, all in all, I think that this could easily be put in the category of a success rather than a failure.

I also need to remember that the flashbacks are nothing new. We have been dealing with each other's flashbacks and triggers through our whole lives together. Today is the 15th Anniversary of our first commitment ceremony, btw. Heck, the first couple of years, we had no real idea of what was going on. We *have* gone through therapy, 12 step groups, pastoral type counseling, etc., etc....some helpful, some quite unhelpful, and some even quite harmful....but through all of it, we actually *do* know how to handle each others flashbacks/triggers. If only one of us is triggered, and doesn't manage to set of the other one's triggers, it generally is ok, because when she is ok, Obsidian knows how to handle my triggers, and when I am ok, I know how to handle hers. The main problem is when we are both triggered at once...but we are working on strategies to deal with that, too.

As to my "refusing" discipline, in looking at that, it can certainly be reframed as well. I really don't "refuse" just because I don't want discipline...I think that I get WAY too guilty for that. Most of the times that this has happened, looking later, we both have agreed that it was probably the best thing that I could have done. Most of the times, I do get a severe punishment later...because, if it has gotten to that point, well, I have already behaved atrociously...otherwise, Obsidian would not have even had the idea of punishing me. A few times, I haven't, because of circumstances that would make it seem *really* unfair (but that is rare).

While I may not be able to see these things at the moment...looking back rationally *does* help in regaining confidence and trust afterwards. Thank you, Jigsaw.

And, btw...in the days since, my mind has been MUCH more focused on the discipline than the flashback, especially while sitting :drop: Obsidian can be *quite* thorough when she choses to be :blush:
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Re: PTSD & Flashbacks

Postby JigsawAnalogy » Thu May 26, 2011 1:41 pm

I'm glad you were able to look back and see the successes.

For me, one of the hardest things, when I'm in the middle of feeling bad, is to realize that even feeling not-so-great can still demonstrate progress. It takes practice, and I sometimes stumble, but the more I practice, the better I get. I hope the same happens for you.
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Re: PTSD & Flashbacks

Postby Lady Governess » Thu May 26, 2011 3:29 pm



So glad things look better looking back.....for the flashbacks and TTWD that is - I didn't mean for your marriage!
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Re: PTSD & Flashbacks

Postby Meg » Thu May 26, 2011 10:19 pm

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Re: PTSD & Flashbacks

Postby JigsawAnalogy » Fri May 27, 2011 12:16 am

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Re: PTSD & Flashbacks

Postby Meg » Fri May 27, 2011 8:23 am

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Re: PTSD & Flashbacks

Postby Mucker » Sat Jul 09, 2011 12:37 pm

Folks, do please tell me if I am butting in here where not wanted; also if the whole subject of therapy for PTSD has already been discussed ad nauseam. Reason I am writing is that I have seen very good results with the Ehlers/Clark cognitive therapy routine for PTSD---in particular, it has been used in N Ireland for people traumatised in sectarian bombings, shootings, assaults etc. But I have some friends with serious mental illness in a support group I belong to, some of them have very severe PTSD and are getting various other treatments which don't seem to be working. Happy to discuss, here or privately, but once again, tell me if I am sticking my nose in where not wanted.
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Re: PTSD & Flashbacks

Postby LadyShriver1 » Sun Sep 04, 2011 1:58 pm

I'm coming a little late to this post "party" but still wanted to add a little something. Many of the clients I work with have PTSD and expereicne flaskbacks. We do a lot of couples therapy too, and mainly for the person who isn't expereincing the flaskback to deal with it. It can be disconcerting to watch someone go through that, and it can make you feel helpless, but responsible all at the same time.

The best luck I've had is to work on grounding excersizes that another person can help with... (i.e. Ok, tell me five things that you see in the room right now....yes the couch is here...no the knife isn't here, pick a different one.)
It can give you something to do while still keeping the person who is having the flashback or PTSD reaction ultimately responsible for their own mental status.

Maybe this could play into a dom/sub relationship by pre-planning. The Top picks a certain excersize that the sub will work through with him/her, long before the incident happens.

If anyone wants any grounding excersizes, I literally know thousands, so i'd be happy to share.

On a personal level, I feel like submitting when its going to damage the relationship isn't good, and may not even be healthy. I would trust my Top to realize that when he came out of a flashback, and not expect me to have put myself or him in a situation where our relationship was hurt. I hope I don't ever have to make that choice, but I'm sure eventually it will come up. Hope you all are here to talk me through it when the time comes!!
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