Just as I have shared in part 1 post, I shared my worries about the flashbacks with my counsellor. It seemed alien at first to be sharing such dark moments of my life with a stranger, and here I am now sharing it with hundreds of strangers! She expressed to me how that little room was our safe space – and at first, I was a bit dubious – but today I go in there and sometimes I’ve started crying before I get to sit down.
She told me about a technique in which, when I feel anxious, out of control, my mind flooding with traumatic memories I simply hold on to my thumb – to feel grounded, to know that I am not back there, but I am in the present. For those of you who want to try this technique, it does take a lot of practice, so give it a chance. When you hold your thumb, try and think of a safe and calming space. This could be a place that you imagine, like a beach with the sound of the waves, or it could be a memory where you remember feel particularly calm. For me it is lying back on the trampoline, feeling warm by the evening sun, at about 12 years old.
Next, you can take your index finger, and you can attach a memory to it. Again, I was a bit sceptical of this too, but the mind is a powerful thing, and this is a powerful technique. While holding your index finger, think of the memory you want to attach to it. Really visualise it:
- Who were you with?
- What were you doing?
- Where were you?
- When did this memory take place?
- What time of year?
- What time of the day?
- What was the weather like?
- How did you feel in that moment?
- What was said?
You have to be really thorough here. Photos can help too!
My memory here was when Evee and I took Mum for an afternoon tea for her 53rd birthday. We were all so happy. I can remember what we were all wearing, the room where we sat on, the really comfy and luxurious sofas, and that the views were overlooking the beautiful grounds. I remember what we had to eat as well because Mum ordered a champagne high tea, and I nearly choked when I saw the price. But it was her birthday treat, so…
To really help associate this memory, I found that drawing it was a great way to remember little details. But if you’re not much of an artist, you could always write these points as I have bullet pointed them.
You can do this with each finger. And when you feel yourself getting anxious, you can take hold of your finger. This helps take control of the situation you are in by replacing those chaotic feelings/flashbacks with the happier calmer ones you literally have at the end of your fingertips! This is a really subtle and discrete tool that people don’t even consider out of the ordinary, which is a bonus.
I also did this once with Evee when she was having a panic attack. I told her to hold on to my thumb to let her know where she was and that I was still with her. I think it helped a little.
This is a gradual process, I only have two memories attached to my index finger and middle finger so far, but it’s working for me. So I thought I would share it with you.
In my last entry of this 3-part blog post, I will tell about memory boxes and how I created mine.