Symptom: ‘Flashback Recidivism’

Flashbacks are symptoms of treatment resistant psychosis and they can be symptoms of vicarious trauma. One very specific type of flashback is what I call as ‘the flashback recidivism’. An example of a process of a ‘flashback recidivism’ is as follows.

In 2009 I traveled on KLM from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Europe to Vancouver, Canada. I was in the jetliner when the air-craft hit turbulence and profound air pockets. The KLM air-craft moved up and down, from side to side and at time the whole air-craft would fall kilometers down from the sky before being pulled back up to the intended flight-zone. This weather-bound turbulence happened above the snow-capped Canadian Rocky Mountains. It seemed like the air-craft was just above the peaks of the mountains. My thoughts were, ‘if this air-craft crashes into the peaks of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, who will ever be able to find me if I survive?’ I was quite aware that this air-craft would be like a grain of sand on a beach of hundreds of thousands of grains of sand, making it near impossible for any rescue plane to ever find this air-craft should we crash. Furthermore, there was an instance when the pilot came over the loudspeakers and announced that the air-craft was going to have to fly into another flight zone until the turbulence lessened. When the air-craft descended more, I looked out the window and saw another air-craft and their air-craft wing lights flashing meters away from the air-craft I was in. At that time I experienced a profound amount of terror because I realized that my airplane pilot was just as vulnerable as us as the passengers because I was sure the pilot: 1. could not see 360 degrees around the aircraft, 2. that there was no radar assistance from ground control this far up into the hemisphere and 3. I was quite aware that this air-craft could have landed up on top of that other air-craft (and it was an Act of God or a miracle that we did not).

When the air-craft eventually did touch-down on the tarmac at Vancouver International Airport, I asked the KLM stewardess about the turbulence and she mentioned she had never experienced that extreme level of turbulence in her 30 years of being a KLM stewardess. It confirmed, validated and justified my fear and the terror I experienced in the air.

Once landed on the ground and leading my life again in Victoria city, I started having flashback recidivism into this event approximately every one month or less. I would re-live the exact experience, as if I was on the air-craft and dropping out of the sky. The feeling of helplessness, complete loss of control and an absolute terror that I was about to die.

In the city of Victoria there are currently zero trained Mental Health and Addictions professionals, psychiatrists and medical doctors that can treat this phenomenology. It is my intention to investigate as to how to go about solving the flashback recidivism and perhaps in the future self- creating a realistic technique intended to lessen the psychological distress of my own flashback recidivism and perhaps it can be shared with others who experience similar processes to different events with the idea to help them too.

Written by Annuska van der Pol, BA, PDD-IMHA – Mental Health and Addictions Practitioner, Victoria BC, Canadaradar














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