I am not a therapist, Medical Doctor or Psychiatrist the tips I share came from years of intense therapy and are my own experience
So I have been talking about PTSD Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One of the things my therapist did when I went through therapy for PTSD and the effects it was having on me, was to use imagery. Creating a “safe place” is quite simple to do. In my book “Scar Wars Forged In Fright” (release date January 3, 2015) I reveal the damage that I lived with and terror I went through because of the flashbacks and suicidal thoughts. I came to therapy so upset one day we took time from therapy and used guided imagery to create my safe place. A safe place is like a resting spot inside your mind. My therapist just asked questions about my creation of my resting spot as I created it with my own mind. First you decide on focusing on a visual place in your mind. This place should be comforting to you. My safe place was on a small hill in a large meadow that was wide and open and had trees standing tall all around my safe place. I used the trees to be “guards” so no one else could come in. In my safe place it was a Sunny Day but the cool breeze that i imagined flowing over my body kept me from getting hot. I felt the heat of the sun and the breeze as if they were real. I focused on the blue sky with puffy white clouds at first, then I realized I was sitting on a red and white checkered blanket atop the hill and had a picnic basket that had the same checkered cloth lining it. Inside the basket I Had napkins in that same checkered pattern and a set of silverware and plates and a cup. I created my safe place where I would be alone, because this was my very own place. But I could have also added a comforting loved one in my safe place. But in the beginning it was just me I had a radio and really beautiful calming music was playing on it more like Angels singing than regular radio music. Their words were soft and comforting. I had food in the picnic basket of course because it was such a beautiful day it was perfect for a picnic. I chose to have fried chicken and potato salad and my favorite cake. To drink I had lemonade and it had ice in it and I could here the ice clinking together as I poured the lemonade in my cup. Except for the Angelic singing there was no other noise. I studied the forest and realized it was clear ground under the trees no scrub brush only grass that carpeted the forest floor. So these were the things in my safe place I created in my mind. To bring me comfort. Then you seal the safe place so only you or someone you choose can enter it. This was my vision of peace. Being from Florida some might ask why did you not just have a beach scene? I love the beach but I have bad memories attached to it so it could not be used as a safe place. I had always wanted to go on a picnic with a fancy basket and linens to match it. The food was the perfect picnic food in my world. Everything in my safe place was something I personally found comfort in
To create a safe place it first, cannot be linked to any trauma areas in your life. A safe place can be another planet of your very own. But when you are creating it remember every detail. Make everything comforting and soothing to your mind. Bring into YOUR SAFE PLACE only things that bring you comfort. If you cannot think of safe things create them, name them call them your own.
When I was not in therapy but out living my life is when I would use my safe place the most. When the pain in my head or heart became too much for my mind to bear I would close my eyes and visualize this safe place with all my comforting things around me.
As I have never been in a battle where my life was in danger I know that for a veteran a comfort object can be quite different from a picnic basket. But if that object does not trigger bad memories then use it.
It is not easy to slip into a mindset of comfort when you are in the middle of a flashback but it can be done. The best time to slip into your safe place is when you feel like one may be coming on. little tell tale signs like a sound that makes you feel “off”” or jittery. A smell that you hate the odor of. Find a quiet place or just bow your head at your desk. Create your safe place immediately and then bring your entire focus on your comfort objects do not think anymore about the odor, the sound whatever triggered you. FOCUS on on your safe place and the comfort objects in it.
It is hard at first and it may seem “stupid” or too “childish” but when you finally create the safe place and focus only on the comfort objects. Your mind detracts from other thoughts. It will begin to work if you give it your entire focus. Practice this when you have time to Focus on your safe place Hypervigilance comes from being put into positions where you constantly feel you are unsafe. The definition of Hypervigilance, is where you are in an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors whose purpose is to detect threats. This can cause anxiety, arousal, a HIGH responsiveness to stimuli, and constantly scanning for threats. This is how it can also intensify the Flashback. That is why it is so important when that first state of heightened “awareness” comes upon you to immediately go to your safe place in your mind and use the hypervigilance to keep your focus on comfort objects and where you are. Tell yourself over and over I am in my safe place.
Unfortunately if most of us work or attend social activities. Flashbacks can occur at any time and getting somewhere that you can have a private moment becomes hard to do. If your Flashbacks are intense and you are having many during a day. Seek professional help immediately. You may need in-patient treatment and you may even be declared disabled.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255