Grappling with PTSD

Flea

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... and introducing myself while I'm at it. :uhyeah: I guess it's a little weird to start on such a down note, but I feel some urgency with my question.

I'm a total MA novice; I just started a Systema class a few months ago in response to a nasty crime spree in my neighborhood. The crime situation has mostly resolved itself, but I really enjoy the class. Everyone's been great. I'm the only gyno-American, and the guys are all very respectful and encouraging.

My only big complaint has very little to do with the class itself. It's brought up flashbacks and other issues from something I thought I had laid to rest several years ago. I consulted with a therapist and decided to continue with the class. I get a lot out of it, and quitting wouldn't change the past anyway. I also took the teacher aside quietly and told him the situation. He was kind of cute -

"I don't understand. What's a flashback?"

"It's like PTSD."

"Oh."

He's been great about quietly encouraging me, and reassuring me as he sees the need. Sometimes he goes slightly overboard, but I think that's a fine problem to have.

The flashbacks are pretty much gone now after a few months ... until they introduced me to grappling. A couple weeks ago the teacher did a segment for everyone and offered very gently to show me some moves. I thought it over - it looks like fun, and I know it's very important to self defense. But there's just no way. There was absolutely no peer pressure from anyone, and some of my classmates even narrated their proceedings so I could learn passively. I got triggered and upset, but kept a tight lid on it. Even so I think it was pretty visible that something was going on. At the time I asked if the teacher knew of any women I could practice with, and he drew a blank.

The other night, the entire class was grappling for 2 hours straight. From warm-ups, the teacher segued into grappling in a very natural way that made me willing to consider it. I told my first partner - "microscopic baby steps" - and he was great. After 10 minutes or so we switched partners and I said the same thing to the next guy. My brain suddenly gave me that danger signal that I'm done for now!!!! I tapped out affectionately and left my partner confused on the floor. As I stood up and headed for the sidelines the teacher was right on task, asking me urgently "Are you okay? Are you okay? Flea? Are you okay Flea?" Not really, no, but I can't imagine what he could have done about it if I'd answered honestly. That, and I was already embarrassed over the whole thing and didn't want to attract any more attention.

I probably should have gone home at that point, but I wanted to be a trooper and so I stayed and watched. Every so often the teacher would interrupt to show some cool new thang one to do to wreak havoc and destruction. :whip1: But it got to the point that I realized I was unconsciously holding my head in my hands and catching a few sidelong glances. Once I got out to the car I realized how Not Okay I was, and had to collect myself for nearly an hour before I felt I could drive safely.

I have mixed feelings about the whole misadventure. Obviously I pushed myself way too hard, but I feel really badass for having done something I thought would be impossible. I grappled for ten whole minutes!! That's a heroic accomplishment. And now that I've proven that point to myself, I can peacefully let it go. It's a liability for me as a fighter, but that's the way it's going to have to be. The aftermath over the last 48 hours has been very mixed. High anxiety, righteous rage, nightmares, the whole grab bag (I know this is very textbook.) All tempered with pride over the fact that I had the brass balls to give it a try. I'm not really sure when I'll be able to make it back; the next class is on Thursday. I'm afraid that if I skip too long it'll be too easy to chicken out and not go back at all. I also worry about going back since my condition is probably pretty obvious by now - I don't want any of them to see me as "the crime victim." This sucks!

So ... I have questions:

Assuming there are other MA'ists with ptsd, how to you deal with the triggers on a routine basis? Overall I've found it to be very health because it desensitizes me to the triggers. I didn't expect such a strong reaction to the grappling though, and I'm not sure how to get past that. I even need to leave the room when they get started.

As for any instructors reading this ... how do you deal with students with ptsd? Is there some kind of protocol? Is there something you can suggest that I do to improve communication with my teacher? Or does everything sound okay on that front? I'm so new to MA that I wouldn't even know what to look for.

Thanks in advance ...
 
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mozzandherb

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You are an inspiration for a lot of people, not too many people could do what you do and even more courageous to talk about your mental state. I would agree that continuing to train would be beneficial, but I am no expert (however I do hold a Minor degree in Psychology), but by no means an expert. My advice however would be to still consult a therapist while you are training and let him/her know what you are doing and how you are feeling.
Desensitizing yourself is great, but I think it could and should be monitored by a professional. A person's mental health is incredibly important and if you do have some mental health problems, please take the right precautions. If you are fragile and training is triggering some thoughts, this might or might not be good, either way, it would be good to hear what a professional says and try to find a therapist that you are comfortable with. Good luck, and good training
 
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Flea

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Thank you.

As far as the therapy goes, The woman I consulted with initially was through my city's domestic violence shelter. I really liked her, but I found that talking about it for a full hour dredged up way more than I was willing to deal with. I couldn't imagine subjecting myself to that for a an hour a week. (How ironic is that? :lol2:)

She said that I made her day because I'm so literate about mental health and so proactive in taking care of myself; in other words, I'm already doing everything "right." She didn't have anything new to offer me other than a support group meeting.

As far as being outspoken about my condition, I'm an activist on mental health issues in my local community. I chair the Board of Directors of a very large mood-disorder support group. We're working very hard these days to connect with the city's larger disability community, and civil rights communities. We also did a lot toward getting the Mental Health Parity Act passed last year. Exciting times! My Systema class is about the only place I'm still in that closet, but usually it's not an issue for me at all. Thanks for the compliment though.
 

shesulsa

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*PTSD person here*

My suggestions in a nutshell:


  1. Discuss goals for this with your therapist ... AND with your instructor.
  2. Be honest with your training partners ... or have your teacher tell them when you're not around - but make sure he knows exactly what he's dealing with first.
  3. You are your boss in this; you'll have to face this moment by moment in your recovery.
  4. Expect this to take years ... at least.
  5. Keep a training journal and include your PTSD experiences in it.
You need to be able to trust the instructor and any partner you work with implicitly for you to get what you need out of the lesson ... for starters. Remember ... "starters" might be a while.

Keep us up-to-date on your progress, please. This is a big issue for many who come to martial arts.

:asian:
 

StrongFighter

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The first thing you need to realize is that PTSD will almost never go away, it just gets less with time.

I know exactly what you are talking about. The freezing up, the fear, everything else going on.

The only way you can work through this is to attack right back. Build yourself physically stronger.

The bad guys are not going to stop you even if you are having a flashback, panic, fear seizing you.

Think about it for a minute and this will make perfect sense.

Police officers have fought with some seriously bad dudes and the officers had flashbacks right in the middle of the street fight.

The cops aren't about to let that stop them. You shouldn't either.

Being thrown into the violent world of prisons, the rec yard, on the tier etc. Fights are always breaking out all the time.

There are guys that are bigger, stronger and faster. Some of them are way too violent and muscular even for the prison guards who are muscular powerhouses.

Fighting these bad guys are just real life nightmares that move with frightening speed because they are so physically fit. You have to fight them. You got no choice.

The lone bad guy who has not proven himself has targeted you and he is on a gang mission in the prison yard to prove his loyalty to his gang.

You are not a gang member and he will violently assault you anyways stopping at nothing to destroy you even if you did nothing wrong to him.

They simply don't care and they are way too angry to hold a logical and reasonable conversation even though you fear for your life. You can't reason with them.

They only thing you can do is fight or die. That is the reality both on the inside and the outside on the streets, especially when they get out of prison.

They are angry as hell and don't care. They think society owes them something, when society owes them absolutely nothing at all.

They ain't gonna stop for you. Hell, they could be having flashbacks as they are fighting you and you wouldn't even know it. They are gonna fight period because that is survival.

Street fights, you should avoid them but if you can't then you gotta defend yourself no matter what because at the end of the day.

Who gets to go home and who takes a trip to the hospital or the coffin ?

You want to be the one that goes home and the first time you ever been in the hospital. You will vow that it will be your last time you are ever in the hospital recovering from injuries.

Part of the healing process is getting physically stronger, doing all the things you need to do. Not just for your instructor but for yourself too.

If I were you, I would get into Japanese jiu jitsu ( not brazilian jiu jitsu ) and kick boxing, some judo. Those are far more realistic for the street.

The criminal has most likely has learned to out box, outclass and destroy you in the shortest time possible.

He does not care about your martial art or that you are a golden glove boxer, hell he doesn't care if your in the military or a police officer.

He just wants you dead because he wants your money for drugs, maybe some beer and food.

That is precisely the kind of scum you are training and fighting to stop.

PTSD can freeze you or bring the animal out of you. The choice is yours.
 
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StrongFighter

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Thank you.

As far as the therapy goes, The woman I consulted with initially was through my city's domestic violence shelter. I really liked her, but I found that talking about it for a full hour dredged up way more than I was willing to deal with. I couldn't imagine subjecting myself to that for a an hour a week. (How ironic is that? :lol2:)

She said that I made her day because I'm so literate about mental health and so proactive in taking care of myself; in other words, I'm already doing everything "right." She didn't have anything new to offer me other than a support group meeting.

As far as being outspoken about my condition, I'm an activist on mental health issues in my local community. I chair the Board of Directors of a very large mood-disorder support group. We're working very hard these days to connect with the city's larger disability community, and civil rights communities. We also did a lot toward getting the Mental Health Parity Act passed last year. Exciting times! My Systema class is about the only place I'm still in that closet, but usually it's not an issue for me at all. Thanks for the compliment though.

That is good you decided to be a survivor and not a victim keeping on getting victimized. I would want my daughter to have the survivor's mentality like you do.

I was busy responding to you and I thought you were a man. I am sure some of what I said can give you some good ideas for your training.
 

Brian King

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Hello Flea
First off welcome to Martial Talk. You honesty in your first and second post and willingness to ask questions and be honest in the detailing of feelings and experiences speak well for you and foretells your success in eventually dealing with the issues that you outline in your posts.


Systema will help you on the difficult journey that you face. You are not alone in your journey although the journey is yours alone. Please realize we all have our ’battles’ to face: every single guy in your Systema class including the instructor is training for a reason and is facing personal battles. Think of the push-ups and how at first you might think that everyone is watching you and seeing the pain, frustration and the battle not to feel sorry for yourself that you are waging but if you take a second to observe you will see that all are dealing with their own issues and not paying attention to yours. The issues might be seen but it is no big deal to the others is what I am trying to say no matter that it IS a big deal to you. Learn to deal with your embarrassment (pride) and do the work regardless. If you stick with Systema you will see people facing and overcoming many different fears and issues, you will see emotions exposed and dealt with many for the first times in years or decades. Remember that denial of these issues injures you twice- physically and mentally. Facing and over coming these issues will have positive outcomes physically and mentally that you cannot presently imagine.


You are new to Systema Flea and I may be making perhaps a unwise assumption that the Systema you are training is the same as my own I wonder if you know the other name of our system? From Vladimir Vasiliev’s web site
“Systema has another name “poznai sebia” or “Know Yourself”. What does it really mean to Understand Yourself? It is not just to know what your strengths and weaknesses are, that is good but fairly superficial. Training in Russian Martial Art is one of the sure ways to see the full extent of our limitations – to see how proud and weak we really are. Systema allows us to gain the true strength of spirit that comes from humility and clarity in seeing the purpose of our life.”
Flea Systema can be a system to cleanse and strengthen if trained correctly as well as an efficient method of dealing with violence on any level.


“Assuming there are other MA'ists with ptsd, how to you deal with the triggers on a routine basis? Overall I've found it to be very health because it desensitizes me to the triggers. I didn't expect such a strong reaction to the grappling though, and I'm not sure how to get past that. I even need to leave the room when they get started. “


One of the goals of your training should be in my opinion is to learn to de-link the memory from the arousal. Remember that fear, helplessness, horror, interpersonal aggression re-experienced is NOT PTSD. Take your training slowly Flea and be satisfied with victories of inches. It is interesting to note that many in the therapy field consider it a good session when the client has a break thru and leaves the session in tears. Systema can and will also produce break thru but as instructors after cracking the shell and achieving the break thru we try to take the time to rebuild and strengthen before the student leaves allowing them to leave stronger than they arrived. PTSD is not like pregnancy (you either are or you are not) but more like being over weight (you might be a little over weight or you might be obese) PTSD is not like frostbite (permanent damage to the body) but more like the flu (it can last awhile and can be dangerous but it can be overcame and survived).


There is a drill in Systema where we stack bodies onto the students. First one student lays down on the floor (either on stomach or on their back) then one at a time other students lay across the first students body and then on the other students stacking like firewood. One at a time with both the instructor carefully observing and which ever student went second observing the first student (and all the other students) After the student reaches their maximum comfort depending on the drill they either escape or the stay and practice breathing methods as the students on top of them are pulled off one at a time. We have had students have a difficult time with this drill as you can perhaps imagine. One in particular comes to my mind. A large in shape experienced martial artist and tough construction worker. He had a very hard time with this drill (suffers from claustrophobia) and had to work very slowly thru this drill and at first could only take one body on top as the second would throw him into panic. So we worked with one body and had him breathing while the body was on top of him. Breathing helps combat fear and anxiety. We had him empty his lungs completely and then fill them several times before allowing him to escape. After awhile he could take a second body…then a third. I think that he is now up to seven or eight bodies with little reaction although now and then if he does not breathe correctly and the panic gets too much to handle he can then only do a few bodies. I tell this so that you can see that others even large ‘macho’ guys have issues, to show how by taking time (in the above case we have been working for nearly a year) issues can be resolved and to demonstrate how breathing can give you strength.


In Systema breath almost always leads. Flea when next you feel that arousal try if you would like to, a method of breathing called square breathing one of the many different methods you will explore while training in SYstema. Practice this method of breathing before it is needed so you get good at it, so practice while doing push-ups, while walking/running or doing any physical task, practice it while reading. The basic is to inhale for a count of three-five then suspend the breathing (basically holding the inhale) again for a count of three-five then after holding for the count slowly exhale for the same count then again suspend the exhale (hold you breath) for the same count before again inhaling and repeating. Thru experimentation (increasing the count and changing the count during the different legs of the breathing pattern) you will learn what count works for you. The memory will return and you will have to work your way thru it but the breathing will help and as you practice you will get better at it (both the breathing and recognizing the when the trigger is causing arousal sooner so that you can cleanse easier) You may not be able to stay in the class while they grapple at first but again win by inches and be proud of your victories and you will notice staying longer and longer and again participating in the drills eventually.

Systema is a honest art so the students and the instructors have to be willing to take a step backwards in their training when they find themselves getting lost, sloppy, or confused. It is a strength to be able to recognize when something is not working and to be able to go back and further break down the training to smaller pieces and build back up the understanding. You will have to be able to do this on your own as well Flea as your training progresses. DO NOT worry about slowing your partners training, trust me Flea they are working on their own issues and slowing down helps all. The more advanced will find ways of getting training needed no matter who is working with them. Two can be working on the same drill and can be working on completely different aspects of the drill depending on their experiences and understandings. Be honest in your training.


“Is there something you can suggest that I do to improve communication with my teacher? “


It sounds like you already have decent communication. Be honest (with yourself and with the instructor and with your training partners) If something feels uncomfortable to you let the instructor know hopefully he can further break down the drill/exercise so that you can get more comfortable. He may have you tough it out as a means of tempering and stress inoculation and be willing to give it a try. Remember your breathing and if it gets to be too much step back and take a break (or do a very slow push-up)


“I also worry about going back since my condition is probably pretty obvious by now - I don't want any of them to see me as "the crime victim." This sucks!”



Yup your ‘condition’ may have been noticed and if the school is any good it was likely noticed the minute you walked into the door. It happens. Yes they may see you as “the crime victim” but it more likely that they will see you as the never again crime victim that is fighting back and will no longer be the victim.

Another consideration Flea is the help and dynamic that you can bring to the training. You can offer a unique perspective to your and as important your partners training. Your views and experiences will and do have a value to the guys that you are training with. They all have females in their families and may also have crime victims in their families or may have in the future. Your working thru these issues will ripple helpfully across many families that you may never even meet.


Flea, there are millions of people in America who have thought to themselves that they would like to learn a martial art. Most will never go beyond that point. Never get off the couch, get in their car and drive to the school and after sitting out in the parking lot for a few minutes gather their strength and walk thru the door and onto the floor. If you never take another lesson Flea you are already a hero that has done something that millions have wanted to do but never have and never will.

Do not beat yourself up Flea over the bad days and take pride in the good days! Condition yourself train yourself to keep going. Dust off and continue the journey.


“At the time I asked if the teacher knew of any women I could practice with”


I do not know where you are located Flea but I do know of a female Systema instructor and author that is very capable and knowledgeable. Janice Bishop is her name and every time I get to Toronto I look forward to working with her. Her info is here
http://www.fight-club.ca/fight_club_instructor.php She maybe too far away for you to work with in person but I encourage you to write her a note with your concerns and questions. Please also feel free contacting me thru PM or email if you wish to continue this conversation privately.

Good luck to you and with your training
Warmest wishes
Brian King
 
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Flea

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Wow, you guys have given me a lot to work with. I'm not sure where to start.

First, someone sent me a PM. The text of the message didn't come through, so you may want to send it again. Either that, or it went straight to the thread. Or maybe I just couldn't figure out how to open it. ;)

Facing and over coming these issues will have positive outcomes physically and mentally that you cannot presently imagine.
I'm getting a glimpse of that. I mentioned that I'm a mental health advocate; I come by that honestly. Since starting the Systema I've found myself more functional than I've been in years. For several reasons I've chosen not to share that part of my life with teacher or class, but maybe I'm not subtle about it as I think. That's neither here nor there.

Remember that fear, helplessness, horror, interpersonal aggression re-experienced is NOT PTSD.
How do you reckon? My understanding of ptsd is pretty close to what you describe above. http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/ncmain/ncdocs/fact_shts/fs_dsm_iv_tr.html I post the link not to argue, I'm just curious to know how you define it. Yes, we've had classes where someone was given the opportunity to talk and hash things out for several minutes. I probably would have had the opportunity to do the same the other night if I'd stayed, but I wouldn't have taken it. I've been tempted to call the teacher since, but I'm not sure that's appropriate. I'm really curious to know how he would have responded if I'd told him I wasn't okay. That's a conversation I'd insist on having privately, and of course I can't do that immediately before or after class.

We've done the "piling on" exercise. I understand the rationale behind it, but it seems pretty surreal. I don't think the teacher will ever invite me to try it, especially not after the other day. It's nice to hear that even tough guys would be stopped cold by some of the psychological stuff (not that I'm not tough - I think I demonstrated that pretty well the other night.) The time I did it, the guy next to me smiled "this is how we do it in mental hospitals." I was so angry I almost threw up; he makes "crazy" jokes all the time. The teacher doesn't intervene, and I haven't said anything since it seems to be a hostile climate for mental illness (I feel like Richard Simmons at a 700 Club fundraiser.) Another major reason I didn't own up to being Not Okay the other night. Ironically, he's an excellent partner in most other ways. He's very patient and helpful, and about twice my size. But it's hard for me to work with him - for me, crazy jokes are equivalent to the N-bomb. I can't seem to get past that, certainly not without coming out of that particular closet. Yes, acknowledge that I choose to closet myself, but that doesn't lessen the impact.

Thank you for the breathing exercise. I get the concept of the inhale-hold and exhale-hold, but what is three-five? The other day I experimented with breathing my way through an anxiety attack with moderate success. That was a good feeling.

I used to worry about slowing everyone down until I hurt my back and had to watch from the sidelines for a couple weeks. Wow! Everyone sucks! :lol: How very liberating. So now I just keep working at it. Since I started we've had another newbie come in after me, so that's a confidence builder too.

They all have females in their families and may also have crime victims in their families or may have in the future. Your working thru these issues will ripple helpfully across many families that you may never even meet.
Wow, that's profound. I honestly hadn't thought of that. Thank you.

I will most certainly continue with my training, but I need a few days to calm down. I actually got up Saturday morning intending to go, but got all weepy again before I was even done with walking the dog. There's a big difference between being "tough" and torturing or injuring oneself, and I consider my depression of the last couple days to be an injury. I'll slide through it; 30+ years of managing that qualifies me as an expert. I'll be okay. I've seen Janice's name as I've lurked on the Systema forum. Maybe I will drop her a line.

Shesulsa, I agree with you completely about the ptsd process taking years. That's one thing the therapist told me; it resurfaces with a will of its own with no apparent logic. No kidding! The benefit of the MA is that while the flashbacks are still there, it's put violence into a totally different context. Now, a bruise is a badge of honor after a fun evening. I never dreamed I'd see that day. As for the journal, I've thought about that but haven't done it. I guess it's important, eh? I'll hit the store for a notebook today.

I would want my daughter to have the survivor's mentality like you do.
Strongfighter, I have never seen myself in this light. Even since starting the Systema I still feel like I have VICTIM tattooed on my forehead simply because something negative happened. But you're right. The night I made the call about the class was the night that a guy who harasses women on the street corner called out to me as I walked my dog ... "I'll take the dog and the *****!!" Something snapped in me; that does it! No more!! I didn't reward his behavior by acknowledging him, but I called that number after midnight hoping it was an office line. (It was.) The rest, of course, is history.

This conversation has been a wonderful thing for me, and I'd like to continue it for as long as anyone else here is willing. Thanks again.
 

shesulsa

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Flea, I did my blackbelt paper on teaching the student with PTSD.

PTSD is the halted ability for the mind to complete the healing cycle from some kind of trauma - that could be an extreme emotional trauma, secondary trauma (witnessing a traumatic event happening upon another person or people) psychological trauma, physical trauma or any combination thereof.

The fear, horror, flashbacks, anger, aggression ... are *symptoms* of PTSD - the experiencing of those feelings as though they are happening right at that moment with the same intensity as the very first time it happened, same as the moment of trauma.

It is imperative for you to know these:

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

YOU ARE NOT A VICTIM ANY LONGER

YOU CAN REGAIN YOUR POWER

I want to commend you also for taking this step to taking your life back. I have taught self-defense to many girls and my share of women and I can tell you that I can read the fear in their eyes. Some can't bring themselves to touch another person. Some clench their teeth and make themselves do it, quaking with fear. Most are somewhere in between.

It takes ... GUTS ... SERIOUS COURAGE to face this and work through this. It's amazing to me (us, I'm sure) as it clearly is to you that you are here, you're talking about it, you're in the fight to get dirty and do what you have to do. The most amazing place you have come to is an appreciation for a positive purpose for violence. You are transforming its meaning for you and you are on a good, difficult, long path.

There is a thread here on MT called "Through the eyes of a rapist" - it's old, so you'll have to do some searching. I'm leaving that up to you to do do when you're ready to read; there are some stories there that might inspire you or at least lend you the opportunity to identify with other people - externalizing your experience may help. :)

If you ever want to chat privately, feel free to PM me.

-Georgia
 

StrongFighter

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Shesulsa, I think it would be a great idea if there was some sort of sub-forum that is reserved for ladies only discussion that is set to private.

Verification can be done by talking via the web cam for both visual and verbal confirmation that she is indeed a lady then she will be welcomed to the private forum discussion on MT where the ladies would feel more comfortable discussing these things between themselves.
 

shesulsa

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Shesulsa, I think it would be a great idea if there was some sort of sub-forum that is reserved for ladies only discussion that is set to private.

Verification can be done by talking via the web cam for both visual and verbal confirmation that she is indeed a lady then she will be welcomed to the private forum discussion on MT where the ladies would feel more comfortable discussing these things between themselves.

There already is. It's called The Ladies Locker Room and the info regarding how to get in can be found in a sticky at the top of the Women in the Martial Arts forum.

;)
 

Brian King

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Flea wrote:
“This conversation has been a wonderful thing for me, and I'd like to continue it for as long as anyone else here is willing.”

I am willing and glad to carry on the conversation Flea. With the hope that when you read my posts that you understand these three things. I am writing with you in mind (even if I have not meet you or know you) but I am also trying to write for others that may read this thread so some of what I write may not pertain to you or your current issues. With that in mind not every “you” written will correspond to you/Flea but may be a generic you. I will try to keep it separated and precise but I hope that if you read and are offended or confused you will grant me the benefit of doubt and maybe first assume that it was the generic “you” I was addressing and not you personally. Third I write because I believe our knowledge grows when we share it and I want to improve. I am glad for yourself Flea and for others reading this thread in the future that you are choosing to keep it going for a bit longer. We (mankind) can often be healed through telling our stories in community and Martial Talk is a good community for doing so (and Flea your Systema class maybe as well). Pain shared is pain divided and Joy shared is joy multiplied (E.E. Smith)


“I've been tempted to call the teacher since, but I'm not sure that's appropriate.”


As an instructor I believe that you cannot have too much communication and do not mind at all calls or emails or even visits from my students.

“I'm really curious to know how he would have responded if I'd told him I wasn't okay”


Me too but we will never know. It is a fine line sometimes helping people and often they have to do the majority of the work for the help to be effective. I am pretty sure that he knew something was wrong but also knew that at that moment you did not want his help and his offering would have perhaps been counter productive. As Systema instructors we do not spoon feed our students and often have to hold back instruction/advice until the student wants it.


Flea also wrote:
Quote:
Remember that fear, helplessness, horror, interpersonal aggression re-experienced is NOT PTSD.


How do you reckon? My understanding of ptsd is pretty close to what you describe above. http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/ncmain/ncdo...dsm_iv_tr.html I post the link not to argue, I'm just curious to know how you define it.

Please do not worry about raising an issue or offending by arguing (not that you are). We have our truths and understandings and the discussion of them and the testing of them should not be feared but valued and cherished. To honestly discuss means willingness to be offended and to offend but the trick is to not take it personally.

I am glad that you linked to the DSM-IV it makes this part of the discussion easier. I ask for your understanding and the understanding of anyone else reading these posts to understand I will usually be coming from the idea that I am addressing warriors, professional and civilian and Flea I see you in that light even if you do not see yourself so.

From my notes taken during a lecture giving by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman on Fort Lewis last year or maybe two years ago and from my reading of the DSM-IV PTSD is happening when;
1.) You feel “fear, helplessness, or horror” (I.E. have powerful SNS response in a life and death situation ) AND
2.)You “persistently re-experience” the event. AND
3.) You persistently avoid “stimuli associated with the trauma “ including “Efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma.” AND
4.) The disturbance lasts for “at least one month,” and it “causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”

Re-Experiencing the event can be a normal reaction to an abnormal event. It by itself does not necessarily mean that someone has PTSD just that they have to make peace/forgiveness with the memory and move on.

http://www.veroniquemead.com/sns.php for a better understanding of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS)

“We've done the "piling on" exercise. I understand the rationale behind it, but it seems pretty surreal”


A little off topic for this thread but understand Flea that the way we design the drills and train in Systema that every single person in the “pile on” exercise might be working on something completely different than every other person in the drill.

“I don't think the teacher will ever invite me to try it, especially not after the other day. It's nice to hear that even tough guys would be stopped cold by some of the psychological stuff (not that I'm not tough - I think I demonstrated that pretty well the other night.) “

I think they will and you should try it again and again and again. Regarding toughness I think you are perhaps selling yourself short. Continue your training and you will see every student and even the instructor 'fail'. It is not how often or even how badly you 'fail' it is whether you stop and give up or not or refuse to learn the lessons that the failure can teach.

“The time I did it, the guy next to me smiled "this is how we do it in mental hospitals." I was so angry I almost threw up; he makes "crazy" jokes all the time.”

Have you inquired what he does for a living? Perhaps he works in a mental institution of some sort and his ‘humor’ is one of his ways of dealing with the stress of the job and used as a survival mechanism? Or perhaps his use of ‘his humor’ is his way to deal with embarrassing and uncomfortable situations? Regardless his humor effecting you is giving you a great opportunity to work on why it angers you as well as perhaps an opportunity to gently help expand someone’s understanding of the issues that some face.


“Thank you for the breathing exercise. I get the concept of the inhale-hold and exhale-hold, but what is three-five? The other day I experimented with breathing my way through an anxiety attack with moderate success. That was a good feeling.”

That is GREAT that you are experimenting with the breathing. You will find it very helpful. The three-five is a count. It can be a slow count as in one thousand one, one thousand two etc. Eventually you will want to try to use your heartbeat as the counter but most when new have a difficult time feeling and monitoring their heartbeat while breathing or doing activities.

“I will most certainly continue with my training, but I need a few days to calm down.”

I wonder if you have done any of the Systema tense/relax inhale exhale body exercises? For instance inhaling thru the nose a long inhale and tensing the entire body then relaxing the body on the exhale switching the breathing and the areas of tension and types of tension type of exercise. I think that you will find real benefit from these types of exercises. Mikhail recommends that we do these every night and in the morning when we wake. I have found it very helpful in many different ways.

“There's a big difference between being "tough" “

In my opinion Flea it is not about being “tough” but being honest. Poznai Sebia is what it is all about.

I have not yet heard from anybody that has actually tried (EMDR) Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing treatment but have read that it has great success in dealing with PTSD. Have you any experience with these types of treatments?

“I've seen Janice's name as I've lurked on the Systema forum. Maybe I will drop her a line.”

I think she would enjoy the conversation Flea. I was just sent a you-tube link that just so happens to have her and others doing some hitting drills The clip is called “strikes Feb 09” and is located here
http://www.youtube.com/user/FightClubmma

Warmest wishes Flea
Brian King
 
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Flea

Flea

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Brian, you're the bee's knees.

I am writing with you in mind (even if I have not meet you or know you) but I am also trying to write for others that may read this thread so some of what I write may not pertain to you or your current issues. With that in mind not every “you” written will correspond to you/Flea but may be a generic you.
I wouldn't have it any other way. Honestly, when I made the OP, I assumed I was speaking for many people and wanted to be of service by coming out of the closet (a great metaphor for breaking silence about any taboo.)

Re-Experiencing the event can be a normal reaction to an abnormal event. It by itself does not necessarily mean that someone has PTSD just that they have to make peace/forgiveness with the memory and move on.
This sheds much more light for me. By those criteria I no longer have PTSD in the classic sense, although I did for a long time after the initial incident. I simply get very upset when I get too many reminders at one time. Realizing I dont have (another) diagnosible mental illness is a great thing and I don't take that for granted. Still, it's a convenient label to apply in explaining my situation as needed.

It is not how often or even how badly you 'fail' it is whether you stop and give up or not or refuse to learn the lessons that the failure can teach.
I realize this is beside the point, but one reason I keep going back is that I don't want everyone else there to see me as a quitter. Unproductive I know, but there you have it. But it's more elevated than that; I also know that the real question is not the presence or absence of fear, but what one does with with it. Some days I go in chating the AA mantra "just for today." I give myself permission to sit on the sidelines or leave early (that's very rare,) as long as I keep my covenant with myself to show up. Once I do that, everything else usually falls into place and I have a great time. It's a great metaphor for life, and I keep encountering these metaphors in Systema. For me, that's a big part of the spiritual component.

The three-five is a count. It can be a slow count as in one thousand one, one thousand two etc.
So ... that's inhale for a count of three, exhale for a count of five? Or in/ex three, graduating to in/ex five? I've ordered Let Every Breath through my library (I'm an incurable cheapskate!) but I'm not sure when it's coming in. The tension exercise sounds good, I'll have to try that. Out of curiosity, have you studied with Mikhail?

Have you any experience with these types of treatments?
Nah. I've been through literally dozens of therapists, hospitals, drugs, ad nauseum. I'm completely burned out on professionals. I know some people who've been helped immensely by EMDR and other treatments and I don't begrudge anyone their success, but every time I go to a psych professional I hold my nose and scramble away as soon as I possibly can. It's one reason why I have such a response to my classmate; of course there's a high burnout factor in social services, but when people's lives are on the line there's no excuse (there's my inner activist again. :)) I asked him about his experience and he said he did "code 100" work. The thing is, he has a crass sense of humor in general. He grates on other people too.

In any case, I'm really glad I started this thread. I've been deluged with PMs, all of which have been very supportive, and some confiding as well. It means a lot to me to know that I've been able to help people. Thanks so much everyone for joining in. Let's keep this conversation going.

Flea
 

bluekey88

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You've received lots of great advice. Might I also suggest from a professional perspective looking into something called Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? It's a version of standard CBT designed to help people deal with trauma...it's got some good empirical support. It may give you some additional tools to put in the toolbox so to speak as you continue with your journey.

Good luck, and hang in there :)

Peace,
Erik
 

Brian King

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Flea wrote
“So ... that's inhale for a count of three, exhale for a count of five? Or in/ex three, graduating to in/ex five?”

LOL yes! It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish with the breathing. The basic way is to have the inhales/exhales and the suspensions between the two at the same count. If you think of a simple line drawing of a square each leg of the drawing representing part of the breathing sequence that might help. You can vary the length of the lines as you learn to control your breathing. Once you get good(ish) at the ‘simple’ square breathing you can start to experiment by not only the length of breathing but you can start to vary the lengths between the different sections. Inhale for a count of 6 say, then hold for ten then exhale for three and hold for ten or any other combination. If done while walking or running you will find some combinations work better for you easing the ‘work’. For instance going up and down steep hills, or over broken terrain. It is a great way to see where you are greedy and needy in your breathing. Action professionals usually consider a 25 count as a good long distance while loaded with gear count. LOL I am not there.

This is important on a number of different levels but for your needs as I understand them it is important because breathing IS a bridge between your somatic and autonomic nervous systems allowing you to help control stress, heart rate etc. I hope that you can understand that?

“ I've ordered _Let Every Breath_ through my library (I'm an incurable cheapskate!) but I'm not sure when it's coming in.”


You will enjoy the book. There are a couple of threads on here refering to the book. I think Xue Sheng did a review of it?


The tension exercise sounds good, I'll have to try that. Out of curiosity, have you studied with Mikhail?”

The tension exercises ARE very good and have helped me in many different ways. When you are ready to try some let me know and I can write out some examples for you to try. There may be some on You tube as we do this at most seminars and such.

I have been fortunate to have been able to spend some time with Mikhail both on and off the training floor. I have not been to Moscow but he has came to the States and to Canada a few times.

Sorry to be brief but off to work

Shesulsa THANK YOU for taking the time to find for me that thread that you mentioned. As I said my search fu is very weak. I will be reading it tonight after work.

Bluekey88
“Might I also suggest from a professional perspective looking into something called Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?”

Thanks for the hint. From some quick searches it looks interesting.

Regards
Brian King
 

KELLYG

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Flea,

I have a great deal of respect for you and your attempt to overcome the obstacle that has been placed in front of you. No you are not being a wimp these feelings do not have to make since to anyone but you because you are the only one living in your skin. I think also a frank conversation with your instructor is warranted, at least he/she will know that you are not being lazy or disrespectful, but are having difficulty and trying to overcome. Work in class to the point where you feel uncomfortable then side line yourself regroup and rejoin, this will allow you to recognize that you have the power to start and stop with out ill effect. I think that this will help you regain your personal power and confidence. Do you have someone at home that you can practice these maneuvers with that you trust? If so show them what you were doing in class and have them work with you starting and stopping until you feel comfortable then move on the the next drill. Work little bits by little bits till you can work a whole class.
 

Tez3

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Flea, you have my admiration and respect!
I haven't had to deal with PTSD personally but many soldiers I work with and also train with have so your thread has been hugely informative and illuminating. Thank you!
I can't add anything other than there are some very good people here! Hang in there and keep posting please, you're part of us now! Can't give you advice I'm afraid due to my lack of knowledge but you have my prayers and good wishes :)
 
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Flea

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Thanks Tez. I'm glad to be here. A couple months ago I tried airing a little of this on a different MA forum and got piled upon. I've gone back there once or twice as a lurker and found that it wasn't really me; it's just a "spirited" environment. Good for them; I don't need it myself.

May I ask in what capacity you work with soldiers? My grandfather was an army chaplain for 25 years. I don't know whether he worked with "shell shock" cases, but it would stand to reason that he did.

After the shock to my system, I'm happy to say I'm just about back to my equilibrium. It's amazing what naps and comfort food will do. :drinkbeer I did yoga yesterday and found it very helpful, tonight I'll try some folk-dancing. I think any non-confrontational exercise is a good step right now.

My brain is still shooting me a couple curve balls; I got a new one today. I was a music student at the time of ... yeah ... and very into avant-garde jazz and classical. This morning I sacked out for a nap just in time for some roofers to BANG BANG ZZZZWEEEEE BANG next door. I haven't listened to avant-garde in a very long time, but those roofers lulled me gently to sleep. When I woke up, I listened to it with great pleasure for almost an hour before getting up. Most people would call it noise, to me it was aleotoric art. I'm sure no therapist in the world would call that a flashback, but what the hey. If there's one thing I've learned from all my years of mental health treatment, it's that we're all unique. Not everything is problematic for everyone, and no cure is universal either. Maybe I should call those roofers back and ask them to re-do the job? :wink2:
 

Tez3

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My job is security and policing but I'm a civilian...I wouldn't job the army lol, I'm proudly ex Royal Air Force!
Our martial arts club is mostly made up of soldiers and their families.We have thousands of soldiers here.
At first glance the problems we have to deal with are probably common wherever you get loads of soldiers, bars and girls but there's been an undercurrent for a long time now. there's an increasing number of people coming back from Afghanistan severely injured, losing limbs, being disabled as well as many being killed, the soldiers who come through 'unharmed' are expected to get on with life despite what they have been through or seen.
We are getting increasing numbers of violent behaviour, alcoholism and drug taking. Domestic violence is up. After they are arrested for whatever they often talk, they say it isn't usually like them to go off on one, that they don't know why it happened. When you start looking into the case you find these soldiers have had their mates die on them or been injured dreadfully in the most awful ways. Many of the soliders are still in their teens, the older ones have also been through Iraq and the Balkans before that. The MOD is aware of the problem and are trying to get more mental health staff in but along with being British ( stiff upper lip doncha know) they are also soldiers who won't admit to having any mental problems.

I'm intrigued by you country dancing! what sort do you do?
 

Bob Hubbard

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Just a side interjection. MT prides itself on trying to be as accessible to everyone as it can be, and as was mentioned earlier, we have a private Womans Only forum. We take it's sanctity seriously, and validate access to ensure it's private and womans only. Even I don't have access to it. On that note, if any of the ladies ever feel harassed, stalked, or otherwise made to feel "wrong" on here, notify our staff immediately.
 

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