Sarah's story

I am a bespoke tailor and I enjoy photography as a hobby, using mainly film cameras. I have suffered from anxiety since the age of 11 and have post traumatic stress disorder from two separate incidents.

One incident happened when I was in my teens and one when I was in my early 20s. The second happened when I was in my final year at university.

I was fortunate to be in therapy for both traumatic incidents. My therapists were incredible and helped me so much along the way. I also had a small network of friends and family around to help me who were very supportive and still are.

Most days, I feel my normal self and experience regular emotions we all feel on a daily basis. Yet even years after the traumatic events and even with therapy, flashbacks can still surface. Sometimes out of nowhere, sometimes without warning, a trigger surfaces, resulting in a flashback and this can throw me off course for a few days.

Flashbacks are debilitating. They make me freeze in my body, feeling helpless and so small.

I am a lot better at coping with my flashbacks now as I’ve learnt tools over time in therapy. However when I first started enduring my flashbacks, they were extremely hard to manage and cope with and it became extremely disruptive in my daily living.

My flashbacks that came to me when I was awake were different to the ones from when I was asleep. One flashback when I was awake that really terrified me happened when I was lying in bed. A trigger surfaced out of nowhere, I felt a weight on top of me pushing down, I couldn’t move for what felt like forever. This resulted in a breakdown.

My most frequent flashbacks surfaced when I was asleep, through nightmares. They were either me enduring my trauma again or someone else enduring my trauma and me watching. I suffered daily from these for approx 2-3 months, every night. They were so graphic and lifelike I would wake up in cold sweats, sometimes I wouldn’t be able to move from my bed for an hour because I was so shocked my mind could conjure up such graphic imagery.  

Enduring these nightmares every night was horrendous so I soon began to not sleep ending up extremely sleep deprived and lacking concentration at university when I needed it the most. During this time I developed various other symptoms including a constant state of hyperarousal and hypervigilance which I still suffer from to this day.


If you have been upset by anything you have read or listened to, please phone the Samaritans on 116 123, text Shout on 85258 or find out more about Kingston mental health services here.

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Time to Change is a social movement aiming to change the way people think and act about mental health. Time to Change Kingston is the second funded hub in London. It is hosted by the Royal Borough of Kingston Council and coordinated by Healthwatch Kingston.

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