Monday I had the perfect example of what the freeze response does in a person with (C)PTSD. Whether other people notice or not, I noticed my behaviour. I noticed how my body felt as if there was a threat. And to be honest, there was. The only problem is that my body reacts to it like I’m still a child and I can’t respond like the adult that I am. My Instagram poll showed a 100% of other (child)abuse survivors react with the freeze response too.
My earliest memory of the freeze response is from when I was 11 years old (but I have most likely frozen a lot before that time too). This response came after the flight response. Freeze and flight are part of the Fight-Flight-Freeze response when our bodies go in to survival mode, which is a natural thing to occur when we are in danger. With PTSD these responses stay in our bodies even after the threat has gone. I will write about Flight and Fight in the next posts.
So, I was 11 years old. What happened? I don’t even remember what I had or hadn’t done. My mother gets upset over every single thing. I say get, because even though I haven’t seen her in the last 11 years I know she hasn’t changed one. single. bit. People change, except for (hidden) narcissists. All that matters is, I was a child. My mother started screaming in my face, with those angry penetrating eyes I can’t seem to forget. I turned around and wanted to run away (flight response), she pushed me in the upper back, hard and I fell to the ground. Trying to break the fall with my hands, it was so hard my whole body literally smacked in to the ground (my body still feels this when I have flashbacks). Thanks to exposure therapy I now remember how I ended up in the corner of my bedroom, because that part was blocked from my memory before. After my mother pushed me, I was able to get up, open the door to the hallway and run up to my room (I probably felt safe there as it would have been easier to run outside in to the street). My room was two stairs up and whilst I ran upstairs my mother ran after me still screaming. I tried to hide in my bedroom but it was impossible, she literally cornered me in a corner of my bedroom, still screaming with that look on her face. This is where I froze, fearing for my life. I managed to get away but she got me and pushed me on to the old sofa that I could have in my bedroom. She’d beat the crap out of me and all I could do was try not to move and pray she would stop (freeze response). This wasn’t the last time something similar happened.
The reason why I can write about this now is because I worked on this trauma in exposure therapy. It hasn’t made the fear disappear but it has made me ready to tackle my traumas and start to write about them. How does this correlate to what happened on Monday? I bumped into a person similar to my mother, who I tried to avoid but she blocked my way. I couldn’t get away and I was back in the same situation I was in when I was 11 (flashback). This person has tried to emotionally abuse me and manipulate me, ignored me and gave me dirty looks. The day before she actively showed me how unworthy she thought I was. And here she was blocking my way, acting nice like she hasn’t done anything wrong. I guess ignoring her behaviour, worked. I wanted to tell her what I thought of her behaviour, I wanted to stand up for myself. But I couldn’t. I managed to talk to her and brush her off with closed answers that didn’t reveal any information about myself. She said: “Hey, we still need to meet up again sometime.” After months of the behaviour I just wrote about. I wasn’t able to say no. I was however able to say I don’t have time because I’m hardly home. Which is, compared to a few months ago, true. She was surprised and it helped me to see that look on her face. She obviously didn’t expect that. I did not fall for her manipulations even though I was frozen, which is great progress in my recovery.
I turned to Instagram to talk about what just happened, which helped me get back in 2018 and remember I know good people who can help me. When I was home I texted my mentor, in case I dissociated and forget to tell her 3 days later, who was happy I did. My body went in to flight response which I only noticed later that day. I had blown up my Instagram stories, my friend’s message box, forgot about another friend’s struggles that day, went crazy making plans for my art room before I realised what was going on. Reading this (and perhaps if you saw this in person), it probably sounds like I had a manic episode. My flight responses often look like manic episodes but I only realise this when I get out of that response.
Flight response will be my next Wednesday topic. I have planned a blog post in between about my experience with my first 3D movie by myself, and also my first time back at the cinema by myself in 5 years. I want to explain what this type of movie does to my body regarding PTSD.
Love & Light, Sandra