Hi Lisa, thank you for the inquiry and I am more than happy to help. When I had (very extreme) flashbacks, I had issues feeling like I could not even keep my feet on the floor. For instance, I would walk into a grocery store and feel so overwhelmed (I'm assuming due to hyper-vigilance and not being able to 'see/size up' everything going on because there was too much stimuli), and I'd immediately feel like I was going to faint. One of the main practices I was taught during my trauma therapy was that, while making certain there were no shoes/socks involved, taking my feet and pressing them into the floor as hard as I could to feel balanced. I struggled a lot with the yoga due to my inability to concentrate whatsoever. The first time I did Tree Pose (a yoga pose), my therapist actually cried because I was able to actually hold the pose and stay balanced, which meant my concentration had improved enough to actually stay focused. Moreover, I learned a ton about breathing excersices, which were critical (and continue to be, even as so recent as today) I get triggered and find that a lot of these feelings/emotions stem from me not breathing properly. This has been crucial to my recovery, as the more oxygen my body keeps in, the more CO2 I have, which is desperately needed for our brain to function properly. I found that I was either holding my breath (I think my body just overtime 'adapted' to this type of breathing from feeling a sense of constant fear – or that something bad was going to happy, and that I was not breathing properly into my abdomen. During both my EMDR and my yoga therapy, we'd either put bricks on my abdomen or sand bags as a weight. I went to the Juniper Center in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, and the people I worked with were absolutely phenomenal. Basically I would lay down flat and with either the brick or sand bag on my abdomen, the point was to breathe into my abdomen so deep I could actually see the brick/sandbag move up and down when taking deep breaths, which was telling me I was breathing properly. I actually still do yoga often when I am feeling stressed, anxious, or triggered. I have also began Tai Chi – which, as strangely as it sounds, has helped me tremendously to calm my brain down from anxious thoughts and be able to clear my mind and focus. Tai Chi has been phenomenal in helping me. I was prescribed several anti anxiety medications for my PTSD, but I try and be as holistic as possible. I took Klonopin, Effexor, and a number of other pharmaceuticals within the past several years to try and combat the PTSD. I am actually very proud to say I am no longer taking any of these meds. In my opinion, and this is only my opinion, the meds seem to mask the underlying problem, so to speak. To put it differently, we are not really dealing with the root of the problem because the meds are blocking them out and masking the feelings we need to be experiencing and identifying with to learn how to get over the past and move on, if that makes any sense. Instead of meds, I drink a ton of teas to relax (Chamomile, Wild Sweet Orange, Kava (Stress Relief), Lemon Zinger, etc. I wholeheartedly believe we can combat our PTSD/anxiety/depression through natural remedies such as exercise, brisk walks, natural teas, yoga, Tai Chi, Cardio, Pilates, etc – basically whatever works for a person and fits their particular lifestyle best. I try to do a blend of all of it to keep a healthy mind/body balance, especially due to having extremely anxiety. (For instance, if I'm feeling super anxious, brisk walk. If I'm feeling stressed, a double bag of chamomile tea, If I feel like I can't focus, I will stop and do some Tai Chi or yoga (when possible). I also recommend just charting whatever small steps a person has made on a calendar, to show their progress and chart it on a calendar. For instance, (and as an example), "On the 30th I felt anxious at a level of 8 out of 10. I drank some chamomile tea and did 15 minutes of yoga poses. Afterwards, I felt like a 3 out of 10 with respect to my anxiety." I think charting our progress really helps keep us motivated and also aids in not feeling helpless – showing that there is something that helps. The more we chart with our progress, the more focused we become on tweaking our own remedies and allowing ourselves to understand the PTSD does not control us if we do not let it. This, in itself, is very empowering and healing.
I have a 7 year anniversary coming up as to when my trauma happened – it will be the 23rd of February. Let me just say it has been EXTREMELY ROUGH (…understatement of the century). I have lost SEVERAL 3 figure jobs due to flashbacks coming out of the woodwork (stress makes worse/exasperates PTSD symptoms) and been literally left immobile, unable to move. If there is anyway I can help someone NOT loose so many years of their lives in the event they are continuing to have flashbacks, immobility, etc, I am happy to help in whatever way I can. I'd like to send you a couple of links/reference materials to share to whomever may be able to be benefit from this, but I'm going to need some time to locate them. One book that really helped me was Yoga for Emotional Trauma. Recently, I've been reading a book called A Morning Cup of Tia Chi (very easy, simple and cool read). While, as I mentioned, Tai Chis is 'out there,' Give it a chance! (It's not very known/'normal' to Western culture – it is practiced religiously in other parts of the world (Japan, China, etc) for a more balanced mind/body unity). I cannot tell you how much it helps me tap into my non-emotional (and therefore rational) part of my brain to combat what my emotional part of my brain is telling me. I've learned that emotions will take us over, but only if we choose to let them. Emotions are reactional – but if we know what triggers these emotions, we are able to tell ourselves that we are reacting based on a false feeling of fear based on something that happened long ago. We know we are being triggered from the past and therefore know that what we are feeling (although very strongly) is not actually real, as much as it feels like it. The rational parts of our brain know and understand that although we may be FEELING a certain way (afraid, anxious, etc), our emotions are not actually realistic (they are resorting to an 'autopilot' feeling they've adapted to overtime. Moreover, they are still very powerful if we do not know how to put them in check. However, and as mentioned before, until we can identify what makes us feel a way, we cannot put them into check. This is where EMDR and Nuerofeedback helped me the most. Please don't hesitate to contact me with any and all questions.