With a force more powerful than thunder, they come. With terror inducing, nightmarish strength, they emerge. Unpredictable, unwanted, and definitely unasked for, there is nothing worse than their arrival, and yet, they still appear.

I am of course talking Flashbacks.

That awful feeling of being right back in the situation you have spent years trying to move past, the heart racing, the abject fear that overwhelms: these are symptoms of flashbacks, and are what most CSA survivors experience throughout their lives, usually overwhelmingly at times. Simply put they are considered part of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and include reliving a traumatic event. There is no rhyme or reason to them, they usually arrive in response to a trigger that reminds you of what you went through. Though appearing at random, these triggers always involve one of the 5 senses.

Flashbacks affect everyone differently, yours may last one minute or several, may come often throughout that day and then not appear for months. You may even lose conscious reality with the here and now. Once the senses become engaged, you could experience taste, smell, even sounds that feel so clear and vivid, you would swear you are that child again, powerless, vulnerable and trapped.

They can happen when you are;

  • Driving through a certain part of the city,
  • Hearing music from that era,
  • Touching a certain fabric,
  • Smelling something familiar to the situation,
  • Noticing the way someone moves.

The challenge with flashbacks is managing them when they seemingly appear out of the blue and you have to carry on as though everything is fine. It’s one thing being alone but what do you do if you’re in a group of people, or worse a professional setting?

Some ways to manage this could be:

  1. Leaving the room citing an urgent task
  2. Getting outside
  3. Breathing some fresh air
  4. Looking at your hands and feet, they belong to an adult, You!
  5. Repeating: I am safe, I am free, this is just a memory
  6. Touching nature: Tree, flower, grass, something that grounds you


Although you may be feeling powerless once they appear, take a deep breath and know you can control what you do with them. Don’t block what needs to emerge, rather breathe through it, allow it to be what it is and know it will pass. Flashbacks are just that, a flash of a moment back in time. You are here now, you are free of the actual events forever more, and you are safe from harm. No one can ever do that to you again.

Celebrate the fact you made it through. Each flashback is there for a purpose, and maybe to remind you of how far you have come, and how amazingly well you are doing in the world in spite of it! You won, you got through, you emerged and you are victorious. Take a moment to consider what you have achieved and what you did to get there. Think about your family, your children, partner, those adults who do love you. Notice the love around you, the light in your life that keeps you going and grounded.

You did that

Yes you did

Your mind will always take you back to negativity and lack, but you are not your mind, you are much more powerful than that. You did overcome, you are a living breathing example of positivity and hope to those that come after you.

So repeat after me; F those Flashbacks. You’ve already won!

Gloria Masters
Gloria Masters
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