Fight or flight, when happens in public, is another major issue. It’s nothing like the autistic fight or flight, in which your body becomes overwhelmed. In the PTSD form of fight or flight, you have two options – literally, to fight or to run. Fight feels like, well, a fight. You have an overwhelming need to defend yourself.
I’ve never hurt anyone in those attacks, and I don’t think PTSD is an excuse for hurting anyone or anything else. I’m also not an angry person, and haven’t been before my trauma, but these attacks still come. When they happen, I go away, to be alone. I usually need to hit something: if I’m lucky, there’s something soft nearby. If I’m not, I stim, sometimes harmfully.
I guess this is where my Asperger’s come in handy, because it taught me ways to deal with overflowing emotion. The flight, that sometimes is preferable, is less controllable. I run, or fast-walk. I walk pretty fast as it is, but in a flight attack I’m in turbo mode. I walk or run with seemingly unending, propelling energy. I have to pay attention, because I can get too far, too fast, alone.
I learned that mindfulness meditation can help to give me enough control to choose between these two modes when the attack comes, but I cannot shut it down completely.
Freeze is another symptom that is invisible to others. I have yet to find a way to notice when it’s about to happen. I got pretty good at predicting meltdowns, and pretty good at managing fight or flight attacks, but the freeze just… happens. It can happen anywhere.
Once, I was at university and talking on the phone with my mom. At some point, I sat down. And I couldn’t get up. I could move my legs, I could move my body, and talk. I was not in a bad mood, and I didn’t notice any trigger. The only thing I couldn’t do was to get up. I was frozen. At some point, one of my professors approached me and I explained the situation. He asked me to come with him. Suddenly, I could.
Later, I was told by a professional that this type of freeze reaction is more primal, and so the motivation to get up gets blocked by the brainstem. Usually, I need someone to physically escort me away, and this is one of the main reasons I think I could benefit from a service animal.