Self care for Survivors
Trigger warning of sexual abuse.
To any Survivors, please exercise caution and self care.
I wrote this piece earlier this week when i found myself locked between numbness and feeling, following many, many (very necessary) conversations in the news + on social media platforms about the sexual abuse of minors.
These stories, horrifying and although not new, have opened up necessary dialogue and raised important issues around the safety of young and vulnerable Black girls in particular, which is, as many of you know, how the #metoo movement began.
Social media of course, tends to be a volatile place in times like this.
On one hand, it has centred the survivors and their stories and their healing.
On the other, it’s a minefield of triggers which can be difficult to navigate.
And despite all the work i’ve done around topics related to trauma and related subjects like neuroscience, anxiety and depression, not just for myself but as part of my ongoing commitment to my work in this field, holding space for others and offering tools that might empower them to feel more free, i still notice inevitable moments of “freeze mode” come up in my journey. I used to think that somehow meant i wasn’t qualified to use my voice, which only exacerbated the wrestle with my weighted silence.
What i know, is that you can be (forever) “working on yourself” and still be qualified to speak on things. I often use this example when coaching other yoga teachers for example- you have to teach from a place of what you know, cause your truth will stand up.
What i have learned, is that trauma isn’t something which is finite. It requires work and daily maintenance and heaps of compassion. It’s a process.
Many days can be good and uneventful, others can take you out.
So this week, with so much that's been going on, whether stories that have been circulating for decades, or new painful revelations, i wanted to defy my own fears in being seen and my shyness in sharing what has shaped me and my work.
It's interesting to notice the patterns in my body when these kinds of stories emerge. I feel so grateful for the body having the potential to be a map and guide...
There was the locking up of my throat and stomach (i mean, there’s a very clear link between the two - ask me about it sometime or listen to me talk a bit about it here - in a podcast episode i made about winter fatigue that touches on energy centres, vulnerability and expression), and my inability to function very well.
I shut down.
Couldn’t understand why i was so lethargic. Depressed. Anxious.
Insomnia is a warning sign for me, and i was also having weird fits of itchyness for no reason in the night. Anxiety was at a peak and i wanted to understand why.
So i tried to get as quiet as i possibly could. Which, if you have ever struggled with panic disorder, know, isn’t easy. But touching something that helps me feel more connected to myself, helps.
So i wrote.
Heaps, in fact.
I wrote about death. Grief. Joy. Trauma. Our stories.
Then i wrote this piece (below) on Tuesday.
Many of you know, writing is a tool that has rescued me, i’m sure, as long as i’ve been able to do it.
It offers me clarity and space to reflect. And to process.
I found myself thinking about stories that can hold us hostage.
...I know i have a few.
And the energy it takes to keep them just so.
I explored why i found this recent newscycle particularly exhausting.
And recognised how being emotionally invested in something that appears in our timelines can make us constricted when we haven’t found a way to be free yet. The energy it takes to try to avoid what is there, which brings up old wounds, that are still healing.
So understanding that in own story, i knew i was ready to get free.
How? I wrote my truth. My truthiest truth. (thanks gg)
It doesn’t mean a wave of a magic wand and one is mystically “healed”, of course, healing isn’t linear. It’s also a process. But i knew in this case, the drive to connect and share and build with others who might be feeling alone in their own story is worth more to me than the cost of my shyness.
Still, i questioned (agonised tbh) for some time whether to share this with anyone. A lot of Whatsapp encouragement and contemplative days and nights later, i realised, i know i get free when others do. My dear friend Poppy told me,
“Silence is one of the greatest oppressions and exhausts the heart with its heaviness. Vulnerability can be the alchemy for pain to turn into healing”
She's so wise.
So i want to make sure i am walking my talk and truth, however shy and uncomfortable i am at “putting myself out there”, so that i can hopefully make someone else’s journey a little more easeful and at the very, very least, to raise awareness, hold space and initiate conversations on developing emotional literacy, cultivating empathy for our own stories and open up channels for healing work.
So I wrote for anyone who might be navigating these waters, who might be feeling tired and/or stuck, especially in times when the news seems to be incessant. I wrote for those who feel helpless. Or unsure of their own path towards healing. You are never alone.
I also wrote to connect with other survivors and find a safe space to be able to share our stories. So, if that’s you, please feel welcome to reply to this mail, or use the tools i’ve listed below.
I’m always rooting for you.
8th January, 2019
I’ve been quiet these days.
The newsfeeds strike again. Except they never stop of course.
Victims of anyone affected by abuse. Forced to cover our eyes and ears yet can’t quite avert our attention.
It catches me every now and then
A little hook that holds me hostage
Reminding me of a life i tried for many years to forget,
then for many years to remember,
so i could process it.
Or at the very least, try to make my own peace with it.
To tell myself, over and over, that it wasn’t my fault.
That i did everything i could at the time to survive in the best way i knew how.
And i did everything i could following that to survive the aftermath.
The self hatred. The behaviour i didn’t understand at the time. And all the shame that went along with it.
For years, the silence buffered the shame. Companions that work well together to keep victims quiet.
The word “victim” too, something i used to try to disassociate from or have any connection to. Cause somehow that made me weak, and that was something to be ashamed of.
Shame - silence - self hatred.
The loop is a powerful one.
...It takes so much effort to be silent, doesn’t it?
And for so many Others who have a similar story
One that you might have been warned from ever sharing
The shame that makes its presence very clear should you ever think you’d amount to anything at all
You react in ways you are still deciphering
And still trying to work hard to make peace with
To accept it…..
For those of you who feel the clench of recognition
The fear of being found out
Stained and seen
i hold space for it all.
I hold space for you to be you, in your entirety.
With room for every layer. Every unravelling
And i say to you, it’s ok. To be seen. To crumble. To get help. To let yourself be who you are, and all that encompasses.
I ask, if you are holding onto a pain that keeps you small? Or trapped? Or fearful?
And i wonder what would happen if you could reclaim your space.
I wonder what would happen if you didn’t hold yourself back.
I wonder how you would feel if you could remember you don’t have to carry anything alone.
You see, so much of our pain and trauma is amplified when we use so much effort in disguising it. Hiding it. Pretending it’s not there.
Of course, our society has a long way to go in learning the language for these things.
We are clumsily finding a way to speak
It’s messy and awkward, but it’s emerging
An offering of freedom and understanding for what it is we carry.
You see, sometimes we don’t realise what we are even holding. Until we reach out for help to relieve the weight.
This of course, done in ways that feel safe, in the time that feels ready
But we know the calling, i think
The recognition that we could use a beacon right now.
For a lot of us, that might make us recoil into those old cycles.
Afraid of being a victim. Because for so long we have carried these stories alone.
Found coping mechanisms.
Built lives and careers. Perhaps relationships. Families even.
And we have successfully found ways to navigate the darkest parts
To feel their loom but veer out of the way to avoid meeting them again
The fear of feeling has become our barometer
Warning signs ever-awake, keeping us
Exhausted from running.
Avoiding and just about managing.
All that energy spent on quashing parts of you but -
i don’t know about you but i want to thrive.
To feel fully, immersed in the entirety of pleasure.
Or at least the possibility of it.
I don’t want to hold back.
To exist with restraint
And careful eggshells.
28 years later
I’m ready to feel free. To live, fully.
To pour compassion into the wounds
And flood fear with healing.
What if there was a place where we could show up for each other?
To cultivate the practice of compassion
Being with each other, as we are,
Holding space for whatever is there. Room to share our stories and
Feel empowered by them. Strengthened by our vulnerability.
And becoming fluent in emotional literacy
Recognising our power,
To build resilience with Others
Reminding us we don’t have to do this alone.
May we relish in our freedom.
Shun shame and instead embrace all facets of our vulnerable parts.
Not "simply" surviving, but
Being unapologetically, fully and wholeheartedly living.
Recognising a cycle of abuse
Want to connect?
I'd love to hear from you, whether you are a Survivor or just want to share your thoughts with me.
Send me an email.
Leave me a voicemail.
Find me on social (below).
Thank you for reading,