Survivors’ Retreat

I recently learned of a retreat for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. It’s put on by The Younique Foundation (and, no, you don’t have to sell the stuff to go. But it’s also open to those who do). At first I though, “yeah, probably not something I could actually go to. Besides, I’m mostly OK and I’m still in therapy, but functioning.” But then, I started looking into it more seriously.

Here’s the lowdown:

  • It’s FREE. Lodging, food, classes…everything. Free. You just have to get yourself there, either to the meeting spot or to the SLC airport (they’ll even pick you up!).
  • The only requirement is that you were a victim of childhood sexual abuse between 0-18 years old and that you are now at least 18 years old and female.
  • The retreat takes place in a canyon in Utah, nestled in the mountains where participants can feel safe.
  • Several classes are offered–yoga, nature walk, cooking classes, journaling, group therapy, and some other cool sounding stuff.

Most of this info, I got from a video about The Haven Retreat. <—–You have to watch this! And then this is the Younique Retreat Walkthrough.

I sent in the application to attend. Then they follow up with a second form to gather a little more information. Next, you’ll receive an email with possible sessions to attend. It appears that they do these retreats 3 weeks out of each month, starting on a Monday and ending on a Thursday.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it ever since.¬†Survivors' Retreat.png

Even though I’m a bit scared/nervous, I’m also really excited to experience this and push myself forward into further healing.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in therapy or have yet to take that step, this retreat is for you. It doesn’t matter if your abuse happened one time or repeatedly over years, this retreat is for you.

I’m going in about a month and half from now. I can’t wait. I’ll do another post after I’ve attended to let you know how it goes. ūüôā And if you go (or have gone already), I’d love to hear your experience.

Here’s where you go to get started: The Haven Retreat application and additional information.

I think this is a beautiful thing to offer victims of childhood sexual abuse. It seems unbelievable, but it’s real.

Go. Sign up and take advantage of this resource.

Do it for yourself.

’13 Reasons Why’ I Choose Life

A few months ago, I read the book “13 Reasons Why” by Jay Asher and I thought it was well done while it¬†dealt with some pretty heavy topics–obviously suicide, but also bullying, sexual assault, rape, etc. It’s not one of those happy, feel-good reads, which I knew going into it.

Then the Netflix series came out under the same title, and really, I’m not sure I liked it or would even recommend it. I have a lot of mixed feelings. There are really good talking points for parents and children, but I don’t know that it’s something everyone should watch. Recent news articles such as this one on CNN and this one on ABC detail some of the concerns parents and others should have about their children or others who are vulnerable watching the series.

The whole thing was dark, with very little light to glean from it, if any. The rape and sexual abuse scenes were really triggering (my heart raced and my tension and anxiety amped way up–I had to re-ground myself in reality). It put suicide in an interesting light of someone perhaps choosing suicide as a way to get revenge on those who hurt her. And maybe that does happen sometimes, too, but in my experience, of those times I’ve been in a really dark place and contemplating my life, my thoughts of others are close to nonexistent. It’s all internal and my thoughts are all about how much everyone’s life would be better without me–that sort of unhealthy thinking. Depression and poor mental/emotional health are the main contributing factors to suicide and suicidal thoughts.

Suicide isn’t something anyone should consider and it needs to¬†13 reasons why (1).pngbe addressed from a perspective of hope, that things will get better, people do love and care about you, and that there are many other¬†options. Suicide should never be an option. Getting healthy by seeking professional help is what really needs to happen. Please, if you are having suicidal thoughts and/or actions, seek help from a professional, or a friend or family member who will take you seriously and assist you in finding the professional help you need (National Suicide Prevention hotline: Call 1-800-273-8255).¬†Healing our inner scars will alleviate those thoughts, feelings, and tendencies. There is always hope.

Life really does suck sometimes, and other people’s behaviors and choices can and do affect us. As a survivor of sexual abuse, I can see the ripples in my life from being violated and hurt as a child. Sometimes we think the only way to stop hurting, to stop feeling the weight and pain left in the wake of abuse, is to leave this life behind. But it’s not true–that’s a lie Satan wants us to believe.

Because of our Savior Jesus Christ and His atonement, we can heal, we can stop feeling the pains of abuse. We have hope. We have options. We are not what happened to us, we are loved by¬†God¬†who knows who we are and what we need. We can use His atonement and all other resources available to find peace and heal. You’re never alone.

While the main character of “13 Reasons Why” provided 13 reasons, or people, that led to her decision to commit suicide, I decided we should all have “13 Reasons Why I Choose Life.” You can put these reasons some place prominent and refer to it when you’re struggling and add to the list. There are always reasons to keep living. And if you can’t find one, ask someone close to you to help you see all the reasons why you are needed.

Here are just 13 reasons I choose life over suicide:

  1. My six children (who could really count as individual reasons), who are not perfect, but are incredible little humans.
  2. My patient husband, who is also not perfect, but tries hard and loves me despite myself.
  3. My faith in God.
  4. I have goals I want to complete before my life is complete.
  5. I’m stronger than I think I am.
  6. My close friends who enrich my life and encourage me to keep going.
  7. I have overcome a lot to get where I am now.
  8. I refuse to let the actions of others control my life.
  9. Without pain, I couldn’t experience joy. If I’m in pain, I know joy is around the corner.
  10. I want to help others know they’re not alone.
  11. Chocolate and Dr Pepper — you can’t have those without a body.
  12. I like progressing and improving and I can’t do that without being alive.
  13. Suicide would be letting a lot of people down–my family, my friends, and myself. And, of course, God¬†who doesn’t want any of us to give up.

What are your 13 (or more) reasons to keep on living? Write them down! Share them with a friend! Remind yourself frequently of every reason you have to stay alive.

Don’t give up, my friends. Suicide is not the answer. It will get better, you will overcome, you will heal. You are stronger than you know and you have so many people on earth and in Heaven rooting for you, cheering you on. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to cry out in prayer. You are loved. Don’t give up. You have many other, much better options. Reach out and seek help.

Therapy is Good, but so Hard

 

We’re all a work in progress, right? And unfortunately, healing doesn’t usually come at the pace we’d like it to.

I put a lot of pressure on myself to be done with this whole mess, which basically just leaves me frustrated and mad. And then when I think I’m making pretty good progress, something new comes up.

Something new came up a few weeks ago¬†after an EMDR appointment. I was given a little homework, which isn’t the norm, Therapy is Good, but so Hard.jpgbut I was struggling to break through some pretty big barriers (like, I started laughing uncontrollably and couldn’t stop. Laughing is my defense mechanism, and the level of my laughing was up there, so we figured I was covering for something pretty big). She wanted me to write down what happened during a specific instance of abuse. The problem? I was 3 years old at the time, so it’s not like I have a ton of memory to go off. But, I was still willing to give it a try.

***WARNING*** Some of the following content may trigger some readers. Please be mindful to your personal well-being.***

The next morning, while I was alone, I sat down and just let myself go into that place, the place of abuse that I’ve fought hard to avoid. I made progress, for sure. But I was a little shocked at everything that came up during this exercise.

Hate.

Fear.

Physical pain.

Raped (twice).

Pornography.

Gross.

Dead inside.

Wanting to die.

Disgusting.

No one cares.

Diseased.

Can’t trust.

Not lovable.

Broken.

Confused.

Alone.

There’s something wrong with me.

Fear of people knowing I’m not normal.

These were the intense emotions my 3-year-old self had to deal with, yet couldn’t and shouldn’t have had to. Some of this I’ve known, but didn’t want to believe it. With the intensity of what I was feeling, it became undeniable.

I moved in a daze the rest of that day, crying easily. It was if I was a thin sheet of glass with cracks all throughout it, and one small thing was going to shatter me to pieces and I wouldn’t be able to get myself back together. The next two days were filled with¬†more of the same. Like everything was happening around me, and I was watching it all from a distance, trying to not fall apart. And then I went to therapy again and was able to work through some of it.

Knowing more fully what happened doesn’t change who I am, I know that. But…it really just felt like the whole foundation of who I thought I was shaken, like my whole life has¬†been a big lie. As if¬†that fear of people knowing something is wrong with me ballooned into something bigger, where even I questioned who I am. Luckily, I have a great husband and some friends who told me I’m still me. This knowledge doesn’t change who I am or make them think of me any differently.

Things are a bit better at the moment, however I keep hitting a barrier with my therapy because some part of me is unwilling to just let go. I think after the abuse happened, that toddler part of me checked out and another part came forward to protect, take over, and has worked hard to keep all the awfulness at bay. But now I’m an adult and I’m working to heal from those decades old wounds and it’s not easy to get that part to relinquish its control.

I don’t mean for this to sound like a downer, but it’s a good reminder that therapy and healing take time. It doesn’t come all at once, and it’s definitely not easy. I so much so wish it were easier and faster! Sometimes it even feels like you’re not progressing at all, but you are. Give yourself permission to take the time your soul needs to heal. Sexual abuse is no small thing to recover from.

Don’t give up. It’s worth it and it will get better.

 

Building Healthy (& Intimate) Relationships After Sexual Abuse

When you’ve been sexually abused, it’s not over even if the actual abuse is. Sexual abuse affects us long after the incidences have occurred and have a negative impact on most, if not all, aspects of our life.

It goes without saying that dating and marriage relationships will also be impacted because  of sexual abuse. Not only is sexual abuse a betrayal of trust, but it also attacks how we feel and think about sex, making intimacy and sex within marriage often difficult to navigate. Being touched, hugged, kissed, and engaging in sex require vulnerability and trust. It can be scary to let someone get that close physically and emotionally to you after being hurt so deeply.

First, you need to make sure you’re seeking healthy connections. It’s easier for victims of abuse to fall into future abusive relationships. Healthy relationships are¬†based on mutual trust, respect, love, compassion, and safety. Those who abuse physically, emotionally, verbally, or sexually are not candidates for a healthy relationship. Watch for red flags suchBuilding Healthy Relationships.jpg as times where you are made to feel less-than or your significant other tells you that you¬†deserve the poor treatment¬†for whatever reason. Those are major indicators of an abusive relationship that should be avoided.

One you’ve found someone who will love and respect you, whom you can trust (or maybe you already found this special one), you may be dating heading toward marriage or already married. This is when intimacy naturally increases and we may begin to notice problems we have in regards to intimacy, yet another negative impact of sexual abuse.

According to healthysex.com, the 10 most common sexual symptoms of sexual abuse are:

1. avoiding or being afraid of sex
2. approaching sex as an obligation
3. experiencing negative feelings such as anger, disgust, or guilt with touch
4. having difficulty becoming aroused or feeling sensation
5. feeling emotionally distant or not present during sex
6. experiencing intrusive or disturbing sexual thoughts and images
7. engaging in compulsive or inappropriate sexual behaviors
8. experiencing difficulty establishing or maintaining an intimate relationship
9. experiencing vaginal pain or orgasmic difficulties
10.experiencing erectile or ejaculatory difficulties

How can we overcome these and build healthy, intimate relationships?

  1. Realize the abuse is not your fault and the abuse is not a part of who you are, but is something that has happened to you. Feelings of shame, embarrassment, disgust, discomfort, etc. that come from being sexually abused are normal, yet not something we want to feel. As you learn about how abuse has affected you and begin to heal, these symptoms will begin to alleviate. Being a victim of abuse does not change who you are. It’s not your fault.
  2. Establish healthy boundaries. As relationships progress, intimacy usually does as well. While dating may only involve hand-holding and kissing, and marriage takes intimacy steps further, any type of intimacy can be triggering. You need to know your personal limits and honor yourself by sticking to them. You probably don’t want to tell every person you’re dating “Hey, I’ve been sexually abused, so don’t do XYZ” but you can simply say you’re not comfortable with this or that yet, but such and such is OK. In marriage, it is probably a good idea to tell your spouse about your abuse so he or she can pay attention to your cues–if you tense up or disengage mentally–then whatever is going on during that moment needs to stop. Don’t be afraid to ask your spouse to stop doing something or say you need a break because you’re being triggered by past abuse. It’s not your fault if you struggle with any aspects of intimacy.
  3. Learn to ground yourself in the present.¬†When flashbacks and memories creep in during intimacy, make a plan for yourself that will help you snap back to the present with your spouse. Take a deep breath and latch onto your current surroundings. Communicating and being deliberate with thoughts or touch during intimacy can help keep your focus straying to past events. It’s not your fault you experience flashbacks and triggers.
  4. Learn to trust. Trust is a huge part of intimacy. Sexual abuse is a huge breach on trust and sexual boundaries, so reestablishing trust takes time. Hopefully, you’re in a situation where you have every reason to trust your spouse and you can allow yourself to open up to trusting your partner. Building trust and being vulnerable takes time, so don’t get discouraged when it doesn’t happen overnight. Start with little things that require trust and build to bigger things. It’s not your fault that trusting others is hard.
  5. Avoid behaviors that trigger unwanted memories and feelings. Flashbacks and triggers can be unpredictable, but when you notice that certain acts or touches cause you discomfort–physically or emotionally–avoid them. You may need to tell your spouse that touching you here or there or doing this or that makes you uncomfortable or triggers memories so he/she can avoid it in the future. It’s not your fault that some kinds of touch are difficult.
  6. Take charge of intimacy. This can seem a bit scary, but it’s actually empowering. Learning what does or does not feel good and allowing sexual exploration between husband and wife is a healthy way to get more comfortable with intimacy and sex. Sex should be fun, enjoyable, and bond a couple closer together. Taking charge of bedroom activities means that you get to decide what happens when and for how long. While being sexually abused, we had no control over our situation. By taking that control back, we are giving ourselves permission to be intimate in a safe environment. You are not broken if you don’t experience sexual pleasure the way you want to. It’s not your fault intimacy is difficult to navigate.
  7. Understand the difference between healthy sexual intimacy and abuse. On healthysex.com, Wendy Maltz states: “The first step in sexual healing is to learn to distinguish abusive type sex from healthy sex. If you commonly use words like, ‚Äúbad,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúdirty.‚ÄĚ ‚Äúoverwhelming,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúfrightening,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúhurtful,‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúsecretive‚ÄĚ to describe sex, you need to realize that these are descriptive of ‚Äúsexual abuse.‚ÄĚ Healthy sexuality is something very different. It is characterized by choice, consent, equality, respect, honesty, trust, safety, intimacy, and sensual enjoyment.¬†In the books that you read and the movies you watch, decrease your exposure to abusive sex images and increase your exposure to examples of sex in which partners are responsible and express love and caring for each other.
  8. Seek professional help. Healing from the trauma of sexual abuse is very difficult and requires therapy. This may also include seeking marriage counseling. Getting therapy is a healthy step. It means you recognize there is a problem and you want to solve it. Healing from sexual abuse will lessen the negative effects on intimacy and other aspects of your life. This is a huge step in having healthy relationships after abuse. Including your spouse in the therapy process can help him/her understand what has happened and what you’re going through better so he/she knows how to help you better. Please consider taking this big step toward becoming more whole and healing. Being sexually abused and the subsequent effects are not your fault. You should never feel ashamed for needing help to heal from these traumatic experiences.

This list isn’t all encompassing, so please continue to seek for ways to improve your relationships–especially with your spouse. There are other resources available. Healthy relationships are possible and vital to your well-being. Look for websites or books with more information and ask your therapist for recommendations as well.

Resources¬†(remember to take what you want and leave whatever doesn’t resonate with you. Not everything is for everyone.):

Healthysex.com

The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Maltz

And They Were Not Ashamed by Laura M. Brotherson

Not-So-Happy Holidays

For various reasons, the holidays can be particularly difficult for victims of sexual abuse and other trauma. Maybe it’s the stress and pressure the holidays bring. Maybe it’s the cold and gloomy weather which also brings a lack of sunshine induced vitamin D. Or perhaps the holidays mean spending time with those who have hurt you or it could be around the time of year you were abused.

Regardless of why, the depression and anxiety, the triggers, and the memories seem to amp up around this time of year. And it’s hard. It makes this beautiful time of year tainted with our past and very real pain. I struggle with this every year, sometimes more, Finding the Light.pngsometimes less, but it’s always there. I feel like I’m on the fringe of being okay. Like any minute I could teeter into the darkness of depression and I won’t be able to climb out. I do whatever I can to hold onto the invisible railing keeping me okay. I hold on to hope, to faith, to the good things happening around me.

But sometimes, despite holding on, I fall in. It’s too much and I have to work to climb out, to find the light amid the darkness.

What can you do?

  • Take time for yourself to pray, meditate, relax, reboot.
  • Look for the things you have in life to be grateful for–friends, skills and talents, family, the gospel, nature, etc. Gratitude helps shine light in the darkness.
  • Notice when you are being triggered and make a note. You can try to avoid that situation or person until you have healed enough to deal with it (remember to talk about this at your next therapy appointment).
  • Maintain a healthy-for-you diet. Eating foods your body needs better equips you to deal with hard times. Some chocolate or other treat is okay occasionally, but don’t make a meal out of it day after day.
  • As discussed in a previous post, have your “emotional first aid kit” at the ready. Pull out your music, fuzzy socks, journal, or whatever you need to take care of yourself when you’re struggling.
  • Call or text someone who will help you talk through whatever you’re struggling with. You don’t have to do this alone. Having support people is vital. If you don’t have one, there are victims’ advocates and help lines for you to use.
  • Go to a movie. Go for a walk or run. Exercise or do yoga. Go to lunch with a friend. Do something kind for someone else. Sometimes all we need is to do something that takes our mind and body out of our normal patterns to pull us out of the darkness so we can better deal with it later.
  • Visit a place that brings you peace, like the temple or its grounds.

Above all, do not give up. There is hope. You will find healing and peace. Keep working to get better. There is no shame in therapy or medications to help you get through and heal. Do what you need to do to get better. You are loved. You are important. You matter.

How to be in Control

Victims of sexual abuse often feel like they, their circumstances, and everything else around them is out of control or are all things they can’t control. This may be because they did not have control over being abused. They couldn’t do anything to stop it, get away from it, or undo it. This feeling of a lack of control bleeds into the rest of our lives.

I have a propensity for being a control freak. I know this isn’t healthy and usually leads to more anxiety and stress and unwarranted fears. The list of all I can’t control goes something like this:

  • My kids’ behavior or their choices
  • Sickness and serious illness
  • Death
  • Car accidents
  • Scary situations at my kids’ school or on their bus
  • Whether or not people are mean
  • House fires
  • Earthquakes or other natural disasters
  • Actions of others, and how they think or feel

Logically, I know some of these things are ridiculous to worry over, but it’s still there. The only thing that calms me down is to pray and give it to God and let go. I have to rely on the knowledge that the things I cannot control are in God’s hands. He is in charge.

But there is one thing I can control: ME. I am in charge of myself, my thoughts, my actions, my responses to others, my healing. I get to decide what to do and when. I can choose to act positively or negatively. How to be in Control.png

Obviously, we can’t always control mental health or moods, but we can choose to let it fester and get worse, or seek help and a solution to it. We can be proactive in improving or working at it even while we are struggling.

A huge thing you can do is take control of who you let in your life and how you allow others to affect you. You don’t have to keep letting people in your life who hurt you. Put up boundaries to protect yourself. You don’t have to respond to phone calls, texts, emails, or attend gatherings that will do more harm than good. You couldn’t stop the sexual abuse from happening, but you can stop yourself from being around those who hurt you, physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.

Take control of your healing and your needs. You are in charge of yourself and can’t be responsible for the actions or feelings of others. They are in charge of themselves and have to make their own choices. We all have our agency. You are not responsible for the happiness of others. Someone else’s happiness is not contingent on what you can or cannot do for them. Their happiness is not your responsibility.

This may seem selfish, but it’s not. It’s being smart and taking care of your needs to keep you safe–physically and mentally. Give yourself permission to let go of everything you can’t control and focus on what you can: yourself. Take your control back and choose healing. Choose safety. Choose peace. Choose happiness.

Take control of yourself and let God take care of everything else.

 

A Little Friday Inspiration

I’m a little tapped out to think of really great posts because I’m in the midst of this really huge project (so, if there is something you’d like me to address, please let me know! *hint hint*).

Anyway, I saw this The Piano Guysgordon-b-hinckley
video, and I knew this was a perfect day to share it. Because no matter what has happened to you, where you are in your life right now, it’s going to be okay. For reals. Gordon B. Hinckley stated, “Keep trying. Be believing. Be happy. Don‚Äôt get discouraged. Things will work out.”¬†(June 1995 Ensign)

So, click on this link and watch this video and remember it’s going to be okay.¬†This Is Exactly What You Need to Hear Today – OKAY – ThePianoGuys

What is Your Worth?

It can be tricky to know you have worth in a world that sends so many mixed messages. You’re too fat, too skinny, too weird, not smart enough, not talented enough, not rich, etc., etc., etc….¬†

Not only that, but Satan will use any “in” he has to his advantage. Abuse is easily manipulated into feelings of shame, disgust, hate, anger, fear, and yes, a lack of self-worth. But, remember, the scriptures tell us Satan is “the father of all lies” (see Moses 4:4). Lying is what Satan does best, trying to lead God’s children away by convincing them there is no God, their life is pointless, and it doesn’t matter what you choose to do as long as you are “happy.” The careful and calculated lies are pelted from every imaginable angle, any little tiny way he can assert his influence if we are willing to listen.

Those who have suffered sexual abuse seem to have a gaping hole where Satan sends a¬†What is Your Worth.jpgcontinuous, and sometimes debilitating, stream of lies he wants us to believe about ourselves and those around us. The voice of inadequacy screams even louder. We question our worth to those around us and doubt that God loves us, or even cares. If we were important to Him, why did God¬†allow us¬†to be abused? Why do I have to keep suffering?¬†God abandoned you. If he loved you, he never would have let this happen. No one can ever love you. You’re damaged, broken, disgusting . . .¬†

Sheri Dew, a former member of the General Relief Society presidency said, “Clearly, Satan wants us to see ourselves as the world sees us, not as the Lord sees us,…because the more clearly we understand our divine destiny, the more immune we become to Satan.”

Fortunately, our loving Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ declare the opposite of Satan’s message. There are many scriptures and talks that testify of this truth:

  • “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). – the Atonement would have happened, even if it was only for one person, such as YOU.
  • “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 18:10). – completely the opposite of what Satan wants us to believe.
  • “For behold, this is my work and my glory‚ÄĒto bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). – God glories in us.
  • “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:¬†And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17). – Pray to hear the Spirit testify to you that you are a child of God, even an heir, worthy of being glorified together with God and Christ.

You are not only of infinite and divine worth, but Heavenly Father loves you. He loves you regardless of what has happened to you or anything you have done. Trust in Him. Trust in the Atonement. Let your hope and faith grow. There is a purpose to your life, a mission for you to fulfill during your time on earth. Do not let Satan’s lies permeate your thoughts.

It may take time to truly believe in yourself, to believe in your worth and how infinitely God loves you as His child. Keep praying and asking for this answer. He will answer.

You are worth it.

 

Realizing and Dealing with Triggers

I’ve been struggling recently for no real reason, like depression slowly creeping¬†and trying to lure me into permanent darkness.

It starts with one little thing (like my struggle to lose weight, the feeling of inadequacy in so many areas of life, feeling completely overwhelmed with life, etc.) and then snowballs until it feels crushing. I feel down and emotional.

Friday, it all escalated. I was feeling all the bad feels and I realized something. It’s September. I always start¬†feeling lower than low in September. I used to think it had something to do with my birthday, though that doesn’t make sense. When it was my birthday,¬†I didn’t want attention drawn to me. I always wanted to disappear into the shadows, forgotten and unimportant. But, I couldn’t figure out why my birthday would cause me to feel so down.

Standing in the parking lot of the grocery store on Friday, I thought, “Why am I feeling so¬†Realizing and Dealing with Triggers.jpgdown?” Then the realization creeped in. It’s September. I always feel like this in September. This is around the time of year I was sexually abused at not quite three years old. I don’t really know if it was at the end of August or the beginning of September, but I know the depression¬†comes strong and without fail around this time of year.

My breathing quickened. I felt panicky and emotional. My heart pounded in my ears. I had found another trigger: September.

The weight of it increased and I felt frustrated and scared and I remembered something else. It was last September when I tried (and failed) to cut my¬†wrist.¬†It was this action that terrified me and I knew I needed to get more help because though I was doing better in a lot of ways, my lows were getting lower. Though I can see this as a good thing–me recognizing I needed more help–it felt like another failure. I had already been through therapy. I should be fine. But, clearly, I wasn’t.

So, back to this trigger realization. I talked it out with my husband via a messaging app. I told him about my cutting attempt last September (which I though I had told him about already, but I guess I just thought about it a bunch of times and hadn’t actually told him). I cried in silence. At least I wasn’t alone with this secret of mine and I was figuring out what was wrong with me every September. He expressed his love and support. I now need to work on un-triggering September.

What are your triggers? How do you know if it is a trigger? You can have a memory of something, feel sad or regretful about it, without it being a trigger. However, a trigger can cause you to disconnect from the present, hyperventilation, an increase heart rate, etc. It’s a more intense reaction to something that isn’t happening now, but your body reacts as if it is a current situation. Triggers can be smells, people, places, situations, or even a time of year.

What should you do when you are triggered?

  • Realize what is causing you to trigger.
  • Try to bring yourself to the present–focus on what you can see, feel, and hear that are part of your real surroundings.
  • Tell yourself that you are safe and that the unsafe event is not happening now.
  • Talk to your spouse, friend, or someone else who will be understanding and supportive.
  • Write down the trigger and how you felt so you can bring it up at your next therapy appointment.
  • Make sure you treat yourself with love and kindness and focus on the positive about yourself.

That list isn’t comprehensive. Please talk to a therapist about what else you can do when triggers arise. Triggers can feel very real and cause feelings that are unsettling. With proper professional help, these triggers and the instances of them can decrease. Don’t give up or feel like you are not progressing. Healing from abuse can take a lot of time. Be patient and allow yourself the time you need to fully heal.

 

Dropping the Stigma of Therapy

I remember dreading the first day I went to therapy. I literally cried to my husband, “I can’t do this.” I was scared of dealing with my past, but I also felt like there was something wrong with me, that I should be able to fix myself without therapy. Only “crazy” people need therapy, right? To be fair, I did indeed feel crazy.
Dropping the Stigma of Therapy.jpgThe therapy I attended was a group for sexual abuse victims. I expected everyone to look how I felt on the inside. Instead, everyone looked completely normal. I was shocked. Shouldn’t we all be a complete mess?

Apparently, we’re all very skilled at keeping it all together on the outside while everything on the inside swirls around like a hurricane. We take care to hide our wounds, flaws, and messy parts from the world. We wear nice clothes and do up our hair and make-up. We smile. We keep ourselves busy so no one will know anything is wrong with us.

The truth is, no one has a perfect life. And probably everyone could benefit from a round or two of therapy from a skilled professional.

So let’s drop the negative stigma that comes with therapy and allow ourselves to get the help we need, okay?

As mentioned in other posts, sexual abuse can cause all sorts of false beliefs about ourselves, negative or self-harming behaviors, PTSD or C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), depression, anxiety, etc. We can’t usually¬†overcome these things alone or with our own will power. You wouldn’t tell someone with a broken leg or a head wound to “just get over it” or “think positive thoughts” and then expect them to be healed the next day. Don’t expect the wounds of your spirit, mind, and emotions to heal merely because you or others want you to.

Please, if you need professional help or medication, don’t hesitate talking to a therapist¬†or getting¬†medications such as an¬†anti-depressant because of the stigma, or because you worry what others will think. Heavenly Father knows we sometimes need to rely on other resources to help us get back to a healthy place in our lives. We need to pray, receive priesthood blessings, and work on it ourselves, but we are also expected to utilize the great people trained to help us heal!

I don’t have any more fancy words, but I think the talk, “Like a Broken Vessel” by Jeffrey R. Holland is an important resource, as well as¬†his recent message on YouTube.Though he is mainly speaking about depression, I think his advice has multiple applications.

If it helps, instead of thinking of the help you need and all the fears that go with it, think of yourself as your child or one of your friends. What would you encourage or help them to do if they were in your situation? Do those things for you. Ask your support person to help you have the strength to talk to someone to get the help you need.