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lemondrop

Flashbacks during self defense classes

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lemondrop

So I've been taking some martial arts/self defense classes for a while. I really like them, both for the physical/exercise aspect and how it makes me more confident I can keep myself safe.

However I sometimes get flashback type experiences during them. Was to due to things with my ex husband (who essentially forced me to have sex on numerous occasions and also threatened me many times) and now also do with a recent ex who physically restrained me/kept me confined/and minorly physically assaulted me. I will feel panicky and like I want to run. And dissociate quite a bit. So far I haven't done anything noticeable to anyone else, but I feel like they're getting worse/more frequent.

I'm really worried I'm going to have an embarrassing reaction eventually and I also just don't want my bad experiences ruining something I really enjoy. I don't want to tell the instructors what's going on, but I'm not sure what to do. I don't get flashbacks that much otherwise except a few panic attacks when certain discussions have come up with friends. So I'm not sure how to handle it.

Is there anything I can do to deal with flashbacks/related panic attacks in a public environment where I need to keep it together and make them less frequent/strong?

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whitebutterfly11

(((lemondrop)))

First, I think it's very cool that you are taking self defense/marital art classes. You are empowering yourself physically against abuse, which is essentially like flipping abuse off in the classiest way. :) I would imagine it's very therapeutic. What a great idea!

If I've read right (sorry if sometimes other posts get jumbled in my mind) you just recently left an abusive situation, is that right? Which would make perfect sense why you've had some flashback-like reactions during your classes. There are a number of ways to deal with these as they come up, and essentially you decide what works best for you. Here are just some thoughts:

1) Remind yourself that it's okay to have these reactions. They are there to remind you that bad things did happen. It's your mind's way of protecting you.

2) Take a breather, go on a brief walk, reconnect with your physical senses so that you can remind yourself that you are in the present, and you are safe.

3) Remind yourself that you are taking great care of yourself. You removed yourself from the abuse. You are taking classes to protect yourself. You are making choices to empower yourself. These are all mindful, compassionate choices that are nurturing YOU. Something to be proud of.

4) You don't have to explain to others unless you feel like it. It's up to you.

5) You are not alone. Many of us deal with triggers from our past in certain places and in certain situations. It is a normal reaction to abuse, and in fact proves that you were abused and did survive.

Just some ideas.

Have you researched PTSD? Flashbacks and panic attacks are fairly classic symptoms of PTSD, which many of us here deal with. It's manageable with awareness and compassion, and in some cases, therapy can be helpful, if that's something you would like to do.

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Jannaku

Great advice WB.

I'm just going to add a little based on my experience with "flashbacks" or triggers as I prefer to call them.

Firstly, the very fact that you are identifying these events as flashbacks/triggers is actually the first step towards diluting their strength. Being consciously aware of these events leads to a greater awareness of what's happening and why, and this in turn makes the event more manageable and ultimately reduces the time-lag between the event/reaction and your awareness. With ongoing recognition in this way you will eventually be able to immediately think "Hang on. This is a flashback" and that mere thought will help manage the situation. Secondly, grounding is essential at these times. It would probably be useful to do something that connects you back to the present moment. If you're in a class, this could be as simple as just focusing on the physical sensations of where you are. Feel your feet on the ground, look at something (e.g. a wall, window, another person) and focus on what you see. Focus on your breathing and try to consciously control it. Focus on what you can hear and tune in. Try to be more mindful of where you are by looking, feeling, touching, smelling, etc.

I understand that this advice is much easier to say than do. Being a victim of frequent triggers myself gives me a greater understanding of how we can instantaneously be transported from here to there. I've found the above to be most useful for myself and hope that it can help you as it did me.

Jannaku x

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Vanilli

Hey Lemondrop - it's very cool you're taking a self-defence class - so sorry you've been having these experiences. I'd definitely recommend a CBT approach - get a book on PSTD or anxiety and you can generally apply the techniques you read about. You can totally manage these feelings and enjoy your class if you apply something like CBT :). Hope it feels better soon

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Bennu

I bet you anything that the instructors have experienced similar things with a lot of their students. I think that an embarrassing reaction would be met with compassion.

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