The media is awash with a flood of information about sexual assault, abuse and harassment. Beginning with #metoo and moving on to increasing numbers of women and men coming forward to accuse increasing numbers of celebrities and politicians of sexual crimes, we hear one story after another as we tune in to our social media,TV’s and radios, step into elevators, taxi’s, workout centers, and the waiting rooms of doctors’ offices. As important as this cultural shift is for the healing of survivors and society, if you are a survivor this rush of data and permission to speak about the anguishing violations one has experienced may be presenting you with a constellation of psychological and emotional triggers, stirring up your own history, and creating any number of distressing symptoms. What can you do to take care of yourself? Here are eight suggestions:
1. Reach out. Talk about it to someone you can trust. Someone who respects you and cares about you; perhaps a spouse or a friend, a clergy person or a therapist. If you’re in therapy be honest with your therapist about how you’re doing. If you’re not in therapy perhaps it’s time to consider making an appointment with a competent one. Another option is for you to speak to someone at the Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN) 800-656-HOPE is the 24/7 hotline and there is even more helpful information on their website: www.RAINN.org
2. Give yourself a media fast for as long as you need it. That means no TV, radio, newspaper, news online, and no social media. It's a way of protecting yourself from the constant bombardment of images and words that can create a constellation of triggering input.
3. Take care of your body. Get regular exercise and eat a healthy well-balanced diet.
4. Listen to music that you love. Music can evoke a range of feelings. Perhaps you need music that calms you, or maybe music that makes you happy, or that makes you sing, or makes you dance with joy. Let music transport your mind, body and spirit to a safe place.
5. Keep a journal, or express yourself through art.
6. Call a friend to meet you for coffee, or go to a movie with you, or for a walk or some other activity. It’s important that you don’t isolate yourself, and that you connect with activities you enjoy.
7. Immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. As Anne Frank wrote: “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.”
8. Remember to at all times be kind to yourself. Make choices during the day that are life-giving choices. Deepak Chopra’s book "Peace Is the Way" is packed with kindness and good ideas. Also, reading books that are specifically related to recovery from sexual abuse can be strengthening and I've suggested a few at the end of this blog.
I hope these suggestions are helpful for you. If there are more you'd like to share, feel free to post them in the comments section.
Websites for finding a therapist, support groups, and other useful information:
Books about recovering from sexual abuse:
"Say It Out Loud: Revealing and Healing the Scars of Sexual Abuse" by Roberta Dolan
"The Sexual Trauma Workbook for Teen Girls: A Guide to Recovery From Sexual Assault and Abuse" by Raychelle Cassada Lohmann and Sheila Raja
"Time To Tell: Healing my Life From Incest to Joy" by Donna Jensen
"Never Tell: The True Story of Overcoming a Terrifying Childhood" by Catherine McCall