Change always starts with a voice refusing to be silenced. That voice, however loud or righteous, has the potential to push others toward sharing their own truths and creating an unstoppable force of power.
The MeToo movement created a burning desire within myself to share my own trauma in the hope of being the voice one person might need to feel strong enough to join the chorus calling for change. Despite years of therapy, I discovered the mere act of speaking a truth which had hounded me since childhood could be at once cathartic, then terrifying. I had no idea what I was in for, yet I regret nothing. I do, however, want to share how the experience affected me after so that you will have an idea what to prepare for and how to take care of yourself.
You’re Going to Be Exhausted
Surviving any kind of violation or abuse is far from easy, so it follows that laying bare the contents of your heart would be just as difficult. Immediately after my story was published, I felt a surge of proud adrenaline. I felt empowered in others knowing the truth, and vindicated in being able to essentially “stick it” to the person who violated me. Wonder Woman had nothing on me for that first week after my revelation.
What I did wrong was not immediately checking in with myself. I didn’t emotionally prepare myself for the whiplash effect of sharing.
Yet, just like a runner’s high, I came back down to the reality that I had indeed shared on a large scale something only a few of my most trusted family and friends new. After a few bouts of tears I was able to re-center myself and come to the realization the we need and deserve TLC. I’ve finally given myself permission to indulge in self-care. The therapy sessions you definitely need? Schedule them. That movie you loved and need to watch 12 times? Watch it. Screaming, crying, throwing things, eating pizza at midnight? Go off. You have earned the right to stretch yourself back out.
Some People Might Let You Down
There was a part of my heart that hoped telling the truth about my trauma would bring me closer to people whom I desperately wanted to be acknowledged by. I thought that if people could see I had been hurting all these years they would finally show me the softness I craved. Well… sometimes people just aren’t capable of that. Maybe you think sharing your story will be a bridge to someone who has cut you off or torn you down. This isn’t about them. It is about doing what is best for YOUR mental health. Be confident in the fact that what you will share is good for your ability to begin the healing process. Other people’s love wont change the weight of the burden you’re working on dropping off.
You might feel regret, but this is a valuable step in healing
As I have not so subtly hinted at above, this isn’t going to be easy. I think we have this tendency to believe actions being difficult or painful means they are wrong. Because it was so emotionally draining, I thought maybe it would have been better if I’d kept that part of myself hidden. We feel this even more so when those we love are involved. My parents wouldn’t have to field questions from relatives and my husband wouldn’t lose sleep if only I’d stayed silent. Luckily, that little voice that had first urged me to speak popped back into my head. It reminded me that anyone who loved me would have hurt in a deeper way if they believed I kept everything hidden to protect them. They wanted my suffering to end just as much as I did, and I was indeed suffering in silence. Good things sometimes bring pain, just as bad things sometimes bring relief. We struggled together, we talked, and I have felt my bones and heart strengthen in the process. I’m no longer afraid to speak, to hear my voice rise up in the chorus. I’m just a small person, but my life is worth saving, my wounds worth healing. The next steps are now mine to choose.
What Are The Next Steps?
I’m saying this loud as hell: THERAPY. THERAPY. AND MORE THERAPY. Nothing I’ve shared with you can be a substitution for professional help. On the contrary, everything I’ve learned over the years is thanks to wonderful professional help, group settings, and books. You simply can’t share all that pain and expect everything to be instantly fixed. Think of trauma as a kind of tree. The event plants a seed that grows roots and vines. It might be deeply rooted, but you can get to the heart of it and start chipping away at how it grows until you’ve got a handle on it. I can’t in good conscience tell you that trauma goes away, that you’ll be who you were before – that’s just not feasible. However, I can tell you with absolute certainty that with help you will be able to create a new healthy version of yourself who isn’t swallowed up in the pain. If a small person like me from the middle of nowhere can do this, you bet your ass you can, too. Please take care of yourself!
If you had asked me last year what I do to practice self-care, I probably would have just rolled my eyes and returned to my phone. Ok, maybe I wouldn’t have been that much of a douche, but I honestly wouldn’t have had an answer that wasn’t totally made up. It’s not necessarily that I thought the concept of self-care was lame – the truth is I didn’t think I was worthy of it. That belief was completely rooted in a misunderstanding of what the hell self-care really is. Let’s jump into it!
Self-care is merely defined as “care for oneself”. That’s it. Pretty simple, right? Not if you’re like me and don’t know where to start! So, I did some work with my therapist and realized I had the whole thing wrong. For many years I was simply uniformed about what constitutes taking care of myself. I thought it meant fancy meals, a trainer, mani-pedis, and other luxuries. I mean, how could I – a poor – afford to do any of that and still maintain a bank account? Well, those things aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but I learned that self-care is something I define for me. I’ll lay out some examples that seemed simple at first, but really help me to feel like I’m taking good care of myself:
Watching movies I love
Brushing my teeth 3 times a day and flossing
Reading a book I’ve wanted to read
Declining something I don’t want to do
Talking about topics I love
Writing in a journal
Going to the doctor when I have an illness instead of suffering through it
Getting dressed up
See what I mean? Some of these things are kind of innocuous, but when I look deeply at how I feel afterwards, my spirit just feels lighter. I’ve realized that self-care encompasses not only the things we need to do to survive in a practical sense, but also the little or big things we do to keep ourselves strong emotionally. Put simply, self-care is really just showing yourself that you matter. I’m becoming more active in doing what I have to do to feel better about myself.
So, I challenge myself to practice self-care whether I’m low, or feeling great. Just as we go to the dentist every 6 months (in theory) whether we have a tooth ache or not, it’s so important to take time for ourselves even when everything seems to be going well. You just never know when something might pop up, so why not have good things in place that you can turn to.
Every Monday I’ll be sharing my self-care favorites as well as tips to define your own caring ways! What are you doing for yourself these days?
When I was a kid I thought everything would be so simple once I crossed that magical finish line into adulthood. I would sprout boobs, have long hair, understand complex math equations, and conquer the world. I’ve done one of those things (boobs), but even that wasn’t as perfect as I’d hoped. To be honest, I’ve got redirection on lock. Yet, if I’ve learned anything in life it’s that our best laid plans are rarely what we really need. Sometimes we stumble, but then we live, and, if we’re lucky, we learn.
I started this very humble blog as a space to share the lessons I’ve learned along this winding road. There have been some outstanding ups and regrettable downs, but every moment has revealed strength I never knew I had. I want to cater to other survivors of sexual assault who might be needing some humor and reassurance. You’ll get movie reviews with triggers in mind, interviews with the kind of everyday badasses I adore, self-care advice, and more.
Thank you so much for joining me! I hope you’ll find what you’ve been looking for.