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Date of last update: 8/24/2017.

Forum Name: Antidepressants

Question: Flashbacks from 15 years ago - why now

 Flashback - Wed May 14, 2008 12:06 pm

I was sexually abused by my brother at the age of 12. I could not wait until I completed high school and left home. My parents did nothing about the abuse - I was told to keep quiet as it was a small town.
At the age of 17 I moved to the city and found a job and allowed a man to move in with me. I was looking for love. I continued to live with this man until the age of 25. During this time - the man was physically, mentally, and sexually abusive to me. Many times I seen my life pass before me - I was attacked in my car with an axe, he set the house on fire and I awoke surrounded by fire - I seen him physically severlely beat his brother who later died from head trauma - I was raped by his drug dealer friends to pay back his debt. I was physically, mentally, and sexually abused daily. I left the relationship in 1993 and lived in a womens shelter as I could not live at my home. I was constantly stalked. I began having panic attacks in 1993 and I passed out and had to be hospitalized. I told the medical staff of the abuse I suffered and was told to go to counselling and was put on meds. I stopped the counselling and meds when my doctor told me to.
I was fine or thought I was fine.
Now its 2008 and my dad died in February and I was having trouble coping so I broke down and went to my husbands doctor as I did not have one. He was great he was not taking patients but I said I need your help. He listened to me for one hour - and prescribed me celexa 10 mg and zopiclone. What a lifesaver - I have been on celexa for six weeks and feel so much better. However, this week I started getting flashbacks of my past abuse - not being molested by my brother but the relationship. I see these visual flashbacks daily, nightly, they are constantly there. I get all panicky and it feels like I cant breathe. It does not happen for too long but its happening more often than I want. I don't want to have them at all. Is it because of the celexa that I am having the flashbacks. I am seeing my doctor in two months, and I am scared to tell him about the flashbacks, I was doing so good on the meds. My mind was so unorganized before and I could not function, could not sleep. Now my mind is too clear that I am remembering so much from the past. WHY NOW! I am in a great relationship with my husband and have a good job and like my life. So why am I getting so many flashbacks and why after 15 years. I am not understanding this at all. If I tell my doctor about the flashbacks I am scared that he may commit me, it sounds so crazy. And am so scared to tell him about the past abuse...
I am not sleeping only with the help of zopiclone by my doctor does not want me on it too long. I don't know what else to do. I want the flashbacks to stop. We had a fire this past weekend to roast hot dogs and I could not be there, I had flashbacks of waking up in a burning house. And I have had fires years ago, but I had no flashnacks, only while being on celexa. Or is it because my dad died and this was traumatic for me. He had a massive heart attack at age 95 and was put on life support but the hospital removed it, after consulting with the family. I saw him gasping for breath and though he had suffered, but my doctor told me that he did not suffer, so I feel better knowing that. CAN SOMEONE HELP ME!!!!!
 Dr. E. Seigle - Sun May 18, 2008 10:02 pm

Dear Flashback,

You are exactly right, in that your Dad's death, which had some traumatic elements aside from that inherent in losing a Dad, has rekindled your brain's "emergencies and danger" system. This system is now on autopilot, known as a recurrence of your PTSD, and is likely causing your flashbacks and panic and other symptoms. People who have experienced trauma, especially the severe, repetitive, life-threatening traumas as you have, have their "emergency/danger response systems" to be highly sensitve and once triggered, the alarm bells keep ringing and need special treatment to be able to turn them off. It's not under your control, so don't get down on yourself for that.

As your case is complex and severe, you probably need providers expert in PTSD, both a psychiatrist who can give you psychotherapy plus medication, or a psychiatrist for the medication and a psychologist or other psychotherapist trained in treating PTSD for specialized psychotherapy, designed for treating PTSD. You would likely need to go weekly for several months or more.

You might consider explaining to your husband what is happening for you, even if you omit the specific nature of your traumas and just refer to some " childhood trauma". this is your call, or one to make with your providers.

Your doctor may wish to use another agent for sleep if you will need this long-term, or maybe not, but you may need some aid for sleep or awhile.

I applaud you as a couraeous survivor of abuse who did not give up and from the sound of it, have kept living life in full and saisfying ways, the best that you can!

Good luck, Eliot Seigle MD
 Flashback - Wed May 21, 2008 4:44 pm

Thank you so much for responding. I understand what you are saying - so its my father's death that caused the flashbacks, I was thinking it was the celexa and was going to stop taking it. I will try and see my doctor before my two month visit but I don't know how to tell him, I fear facing him and telling him that I am like a basket case right now. Maybe I will just write it out and give it to him. Just talking about it gives me the panic feeling.
I don't know of any psychologist or therapist, is this someone that my doctor can recommend. Is there any meds that I can take to help me, other than celexa? I don't think I have the strength in me right now to start talking to someone about my issues. I remember back in 1993 talking to a counsellor and I was so physically and emotionally drained. And you are saying that if Idont get counselling or help that I will not get better...
I was anticipating my fathers death for the last ten years that he was sick that I did not think when he passed away that it would hit me so hard, but it is.
Maybe the reason I am not dealing well with it, is because of all the trauma that I experienced in my past. Maybe if all the abuse did not happen that I would not have any problem in dealing with his death. I don't know.
You mentioned specialized treatment for PTSD, what can I expect from this. Is it like talking to a counsellor, like dealing with the inner child issue,as when I was in counselling before this is all that was basically talked about.
I appreciate any comments, that you may have.

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