Certain smells, spaces, situations or people tend to bring up bad feelings we thought we had forgotten about. Most people who went through abuse deal with this problem on the regular basis especially if they just left the toxic relationship or moved away from the abusive parent who left them with a serious trauma.
These bad feelings and flashback can manifest in different ways. Some of the ones I experienced myself are running out of air, losing my touch with reality, feeling like I can’t move, paralyzing shivers up and down my spine, excessive sweating, stuttering etc. One of the worse things I still deal with are my nightmares that happen on a regular basis. The problem with these flashbacks isn’t only that they make you live through your pain again but they can put you in serious danger. If you are in a situation where you could get hurt but your mind has a flashback and paralyzes your body you are in an even bigger danger because you can’t defend yourself.
In my 22 years of life I have been abused physically for roughly eleven years but the psychological abuse continued despite my father not being around because my mind was still trapped and going over everything I experienced as a child. I learned to control it a little bit but there are still certain triggers that give me flashbacks. Some of them are being in the presence of a man who reeks of alcohol, someone putting their hands near my throat…
With time I started to use my breathing to cope with these flashbacks and to calm myself when I wake up from a nightmare. Whenever we get agitated our breathing changes, so in order to ease your mind you need to get back to your normal breathing pattern. Try to even out your inhales and your exhales. Breathe in for 3 second and breathe out for three seconds. It’s that simple and it helps you center your mind. You just need to focus on your breath, on the sensation of air entering and exiting your body. As soon as you get your inhales and exhales evened out you will notice a slight release in your body. Your muscles will get relaxed, your mind will get clear and that pressure on your chest will slowly fade away.
This isn’t something you can accomplish perfectly in one take. It took me years of even reminding myself to breathe when I start having flashbacks and panicking. The other thing that helps a lot is meditation. I think it isn’t even necessary to state all the positive sides of mediation because you already know most of them.
When you get flashback and feel paralyzed, you have the feeling like the abuser is still controlling you. He or she is not doing it, you mind is! You need to become aware of the power your mind has over you and you need to develop techniques to calm it down and to rise above what your mind tells your body to feel.
Remember: Transform pain into strength and you will be invincible.