I'm not a professional this is just a lot of resources that helped me while I was being abused...
this website is a work in progress. please be patient <3
the original source of this info is scarresources on a certain hellsite, but since I know it's a trigger for a lot of my friends I made this site!
the "anime girl" at the top of the carrd is Milla Maxwell, she's a nonbinary spirit who I thought could represent this carrd well! She's from Tales of Xillia.
Processing New Information On Old Hurts
Maybe you had an epiphany.
Maybe someone just told you about something that happened that you’d forgotten.
Maybe you remembered something, or put it in context.
Maybe you see a post about alternative self harm methods and suddenly realized that you used to self harm.
Or were at an event talking about abuse and suddenly things started sounding real familiar.
Any way it happens- sometimes when we receive new information about old trauma- it can feel like we’re back there again.
The first thing you should probably do- is get it out there. Write it down, draw a picture, talk to a friend, whatever it is you need to do to get the information out of your head and into the world. Sign it, date it, whatever you need to do to remind yourself ‘this happened. I remembered this. this was real. for xyz reasons.’ Sometimes we have these moments and then a few days later we’re just as fretted because not only are we dealing with the feelings of old trauma, but suddenly we’re also not so sure why we thought it to begin with or if we can be trusted that it’s real.
Remind yourself that no matter what happened then, you made it. You know this. You have a life now, and even if you’re still struggling- you made it out of that trauma alive. I won’t tell you that the information doesn’t change anything- but it doesn’t change a lot. For the most part everything you knew yesterday is still there, even though I know it can feel like it’s not. Like the fact that you didn’t know means you can’t be trusted to know anything, or really trust what you thought you knew.
Learning new information about old trauma can really shake our sense of security of the world. To quote Sam Sax’s Learning to Breathe Water, “Who was I then who did not know this.” It can help to reaffirm the things that you do know, remind yourself of familiar things, of Truths that still exist.
Take care of yourself during this time, be gentle with yourself. Whether this realization happens a few months after the trauma or four decades later- you are likely to be in an emotionally fragile state. And that’s okay. Up your self care, reach out for social connection if you can.
Don’t feel bad if you have to just distract yourself for a while. Distraction, in certain doses, can be a positive coping skill as it allows us to put things off until we’re able to see them with a clearer perspective.
It’s important to have a plan of action when it comes to processing old hurts. Have an emergency plan, have self care and self soothing strategies written out plainly and the things you need to do them easily accessible. Do not, and I repeat, do not trust yourself to just ‘know’ them. When we’re distressed we’re extremely like to forget coping skills and the things we need to help ourselves.
When processing new information on old trauma, we have to ask ourselves what does it mean to us. What does it change about our feelings about what happened? Does it attack any of our core beliefs about what happened? What does it make us feel?
and what are ways we can go about combating those things. A lot of times it makes us feel damaged, or like we’ll never get ourselves together. Or maybe it makes you feel like there’s something wrong with you specifically, that there had to have been something about you that caused this person to hurt you or this thing to happen.
It’s important that we integrate this new information into our existing understanding of trauma, versus trying to ignore it’s impact or just set the information on top. New information for this reason often means processing the entire trauma over again. It can feel really overwhelming but know you don’t have to do it all at one time, you can do it in bits and pieces.
Processing can come in many forms. Writing about what happened, working the information into the memory, thinking and talking about what it makes you feel. Creating action plans for healing and for reintegrating your sense of self. Creating art work. Finding community and other people who have gone through similar hurts, listening to other people’s poetry or writing your own. Reading articles about it, both the trauma, the after effects of trauma, and the healing process. Drawing connections between these things and your own life. Nurturing the wounded parts of yourself.
It’s a tall order, I know, but it makes things so much easier in the end.
Take care of yourselves, okay?
Not every survivor remembers the date it happened. However, for the ones that do, these dates can be terrifying reminders of the past.
Personally, my traumaversary is Oct 29th. I started making plans for how to handle it 3 months in advance. Planning ahead, as far as you can, is probably a good thing to do.
If you’re in college, talk to your professors. See if you can be excused from class that day, complete work due that day ahead of time, stuff like that.
If you’re able to, see if you can take off work that day, or if nothing else, just give a heads up to your boss that you may not be at your best.
Remove temptation. If you’re worried you may hurt yourself that day, go ahead and get rid of the things you could do so with. Even if it is only asking a friend to hold on to them until you’re feeling better. This is not a sign of weakness, it is not you being a burden. It is you realizing that it probably isn’t going to be a good day and you don’t want to relapse if you can help it. It is a big step, and I am super proud of you.
See if people are willing to check in with you. Whether it be a phone call, a text, a facebook chat, or coming to hang out with you- it is nice to know that people are going to be there for you on that day.
Prepare. Make food before hand or have things that can be mircrowaved, have ‘easy’ clothing sets ready, You may surprise yourself and that day be perfectly okay- but it’s better to have things on hand just in case.
Leave nice notes for yourself. Or have a friend help you. Especially if you think the day is going to be really rough. Having a note on the fridge, the bathroom mirror, the door… Little ‘remember, you can make it through this. I believe in you’ and various things can wonderful.
The Day of:
Be kind to yourself. It isn’t your fault if you’re upset or angry or spend all day crying. It isn’t your fault. There is nothing /wrong/ with you for reacting. You are a human being who has been through terrible trauma and anyone who judges you for how you heal is ignorant and cruel. There is also nothing wrong with you if the day goes perfectly well and you aren’t affected at all. It doesn’t mean that what happened wasn’t terrible. It just means you’re at a different place in your journey.
Know that you’re in control. You’re allowed to be alone that day if you want. You’re allowed to surround yourself with friends. You’re allowed to go out in public. You’re allowed to stay at home. Do not feel like you have to do one thing or another. Your main concern on this day should be you. Even if you make plans, you’re allowed to change them. Just because you decide a week in advance that you’re going to do plan A doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to throw that to the wind and do something else on that day.
Memorialize it. Now this is a personal choice, not everyone -wants- to make their trauma dates into memorials and that is a-okay. But for a lot of us, it is about taking back that day and turning it into something new. Get a tattoo. Plant a tree. Go sky diving. Go to a theme park and ride roller coasters all day. Anything that you could look back on that date and go 'I did it.’
Self Care. Take a day for self care. Watch terrible romantic comedies/sci-fi flicks/horror movies all day. Take a bubble bath. Spend time with friends who love you. Drink your favorite tea/coffee. Go to the humane shelter and pet dogs/cats. Whatever it is that you think would make you feel better? Do it.
Make something. Follow your own emotions with it. Paint. Draw. Sculpt. Even if you’ll later destroy it. Even if you finish it- you immediately rip it apart or set it on fire. At least you got it out of your system.
Give back. I know plenty of survivors who choose to spend their anniversaries volunteering in one way or another. Go through your closet and donate old clothes to a shelter that helps survivors. Make a care package with a letter to donate to a women’s shelter- pass on encouragement and advice.
Whatever you choose to do, in whatever combination- be easy on yourself. Take a moment every now and then to check in with yourself, and ask if you’re okay.
No matter what, I want you all to remember that I believe in you. You made it through the trauma, and you can make it through this. And I’m not saying that to silence your pain.
Your pain is valid. Your hurt is valid. You are valid.
Take care of yourself, okay?
Why you aren't bad for loving your abuser:
For the purpose of this piece, please understand that I am using relationship to mean ‘prolonged human coexistence’ it could be an abusive friendship, an abusive parent, an abusive member of your community.
1. Abusive relationships almost always have honeymoon periods.
Which means some, maybe even a lot, of your memories of said abuser may be good memories.
And you may miss those parts of them.
Missing the ‘good’ parts of them, loving the good parts of them even, does not excuse the bad things they did to you.
It doesn’t make it better, or not as bad, since sometimes you laughed and had fun. It doesn’t change the fact that they were, or still are, abusive.
2. Abusers are, by nature, manipulative.
They’ll gaslight you- make you feel as if you’re the one who abused them. Abusers know that when they make their victims feel as if they’re the ones who did wrong- the person usually feels guilty. And in feeling guilty they usually double up on the 'If I loved you enough/behaved enough this wouldn’t bother me/you wouldn’t do this’ mantra that a lot of survivors have.
They make you feel like you deserve what they did to you. That they’re the good guys really, in the whole situation. They were punishing you so that you could learn- and thus become a better person.
All of these things are wrong though. It isn’t true. They were not the good guys. But the fact that you sometimes, you have conflicted feelings- because you began to believe them- believe that you deserved those things…. it doesn’t change the terrible reality of what abuse is.
and it doesn’t make what happened to you less significant.
3. Stockholm Syndrome/Traumatic Bonding
Traumatic bonding is “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.”
In abuse- especially in those who went through traumatic bonding or suffer from Stockholm syndrome… there is a lot of denial that the bad things are going on.
When going through these things… people cling to whatever small 'kindness’ that they can find. They often truly care for their abusers, partially in an attempt to make the bad things not as bad, or happen less.
Bonds like that can be hard to break. It is not your fault for struggling.
4. You feel like you owe(d) them.
A lot of abusive relationships start off with abusers doing really nice things. And then calling in 'debts’. This kind of goes along with the honey moon phase stuff- but not always. This may be more extreme than just a honeymoon phase.
These are people who step in and 'fix’ situations (some legitimate- some not) in order to call on it later and be like, “well, I mean.. I did do soandso for you.”
Looking back on these events, you may still feel a lot of gratitude. That doesn’t change the rest of what happened.
5. You were made to believe that it was as good as it gets.
This is usually done in a combination. First, they insult you. Try to ruin your concept of self-worth as much as possible. Remind you that no one will ever love you.
and then they step in and say that its okay because they’ll always be there. That no one will ever love you like they loved you.
It can be very hard to change these thoughts. They work very hard to make us believe them. It is not your fault that you are struggling to fix the wreckage they left.
6. You were young.
Children do not always realize that sexual touch is wrong. Especially when abusers tell them that its okay. That its their special secret. That its a prize for good behavior.
You are not at fault for having believed those things- and for occasionally slipping back into that mindset. It is not your fault that felt special as a child, and thus your memories are 'positive’.
You are not broken.
Having positive memories of your abuser, missing parts of what they were to you, even loving them…
does not mean you are wrong. it doesn’t make what they did okay.
You are trying to heal from a terrible thing, and no one can fault you for where you are at on your journey.
Having conflicted feelings does not make you wrong, it just makes you human.
But How Do I Get Over It?
One of the most common questions we get, and indeed the hardest one to answer is the most general one of all.
“How do I get over it?”
There are many different paths to healing but I wanted to have a post with the method I have personally found most effective. While Step One is always Step One, after that what order you do the steps is up to you. In fact, multiple steps can be done at one time, though I do advise to sticking to one Self Care and one Symptom Management at most at first.
STEP ONE: Break it down.
Recognize that healing or ‘getting over’ trauma isn’t all about one thing. SCaR supports a three pronged approached.
Processing. Self Care. Symptom Management.
At different points in the process, you’ll need more of one than the other, but in general, SCaR suggests starting with Symptom Management.
One of the reasons why it is so important to break the problem down is because if you don’t, you’ll continue to feel overwhelmed and as if there is nothing you can do to make a change.
Above all else, SCaR believes in our abilities to help ourselves. This doesn’t mean that we can’t use tools and that we can’t rely on others from time to time, but rather that SCaR believes in leaving control in the hands of the survivor. Other people cannot save us, they can help us, but they cannot save us.
STEP TWO: Symptom Management- Isolate your problem.
Open up a word document, grab a piece of paper- something. Now write down your symptoms.
Maybe you have hyper vigilance. Maybe you dissociate. Maybe you’re struggling to eat. Write down the various symptoms in your life right now.
Now pick one. maybe two tops. Don’t pick three. Don’t
STEP THREE: Symptom Management- Research.
So now you have a list of your symptoms, but more importantly you’ve selected one, maybe two of these symptoms to focus on.
Now you’re going to research. Maybe you’ll reach out to other survivors and ask how they handle dissociation. Maybe you’ll go to a library and check out a book. Maybe you’ll just google it.
But you’re going to research it and write down all the various coping mechanisms people mention- that you don’t immediately scoff at.
This doesn’t mean that if you scoff at it it wouldn’t work- but chances are you aren’t going to give it a fair shot, and there’s no point in trying it if you go in believing it isn’t going to work.
STEP FOUR: Symptom Management- Action Plan.
Now you have one, maybe two symptoms picked out that you’re going to focus on and you hopefully have a decent sized list of coping skills/mechanisms that others have tried.
You’re going to pick three.
And you’re going to give them an honest shot for at least a week. An honest shot. If you aren’t going to give the method a fair chance, don’t bother. If you honestly believe something isn’t going to work, it could be the most helpful thing in the world- but it still won’t help.
Only focus on the symptoms you’ve selected. One of the things people get overwhelmed with is they try to find one thing that helps everything- and that isn’t how it works. If you’re focusing on all your symptoms, you aren’t going to notice small changes in any individual one.
There is no one cure for most symptoms, you’re going to want to find 3-5 different coping skills that make a difference, and then layer them.
Once you’ve gone through your first week, make note of which ones helped and which ones didn’t- and then select a new group of coping skills to try. Do this until you have the 3-5 ones that do work at minimum.
Once you feel that you have a decent grasp on coping skills for a specific symptom, go back to your original list of symptoms and choose another one.
STEP FIVE: Self Care- Reactive Self Care.
Reactive Self Care is self care you do in reaction to something. So you’re distressed? What do you do? So you’re angry? What do you do? So you’re sad? What do you do?
A lot of these fall under what is called Self Soothing. They’re things that calm you down, not necessarily ones that make you happy. The idea is to help you return to a neutral state- not have you swinging from one end of the spectrum to the other.
Much like you did with Symptom Management- you’re going to make lists. It’s probably best to group them by emotion or by location.
For instance- when I get upset at school here are things I can do:
When I get upset at home I can:
STEP SIX: Preventative Self Care
Preventative Self Care is the self care you do to prevent something bad from happening. This is your ‘I know I’m going to have a really bad week so here’s what I’m going to do.’ your 'I’m going to rest this weekend so that I’m not battling exhaustion and _________’
One good idea for preventative self care is to create an 'oh shit box’ or a 'just in case’ one. Here is where you’ll store things you can use to cope in the case of emergency.
When you know that you’re going to be having a tough time, it’s also a good idea to do as much ahead of time as possible. Things like laying out outfits and prepreparing meals can go a long way in terms of making break downs easier.
STEP SEVEN: Maintenance Self Care.
While both preventative and reactive self care have their place, one of the things that we can do to better increase our quality of life over all is maintenance self care. This is neither 'a disaster just happened what do I do’ or 'I forsee a disaster coming’ it is merely 'I am taking care of myself because I am a person and it helps me function.’
Really look into what Self Care means. There are a couple of things on the masterlist that cover various bits- but it’s important to recognize that self care is a very broad term. There is physical self care, emotional self care, spiritual self care, all of these things. It’s important that when you have the energy to invest in those things, that you do. It can be a higher upfront cost in terms of energy, but often times once you get the initial bit out of the way- the return is much greater and much more easily sustained.
STEP EIGHT: Processing- your history.
I always mention processing first but say to do it last. You’ll need the skills you’ve learned from Symptom Management and the buffer from doing self care in order to process in a healthy way.
There are different kinds of processing, but the one people tend to focus most on is just telling their story.
Talking about your trauma can help, but don’t push yourself to do it too soon. It can be just as traumatizing in the end if you’re merely forcing yourself to do it because you think that you have to. Take it one step at a time in terms of talking about.
One of the things I’ve found helps more is to start talking about how it effected you first. Recognizing the pain that trauma has caused in your life, and your right to feel that pain.
STEP NINE: Processing- General Trends/Community
Another part of processing isn’t so much about your own history, but in how your history interacts with others. It is when you reach out and talk to other survivors, or in your interactions with the media and other day to day life events.
Processing is one of those things that is a continuous event, it is something you will be doing for the rest of your life. It’s something that can be done in therapy, can be done by going to poetry events, done by doing support groups, talking with friends, doing art, through reclaiming things that once triggered you. Anything that exposes you to either the trauma, or the trauma after effects is a chance to process what happened.
It’s important to remember that healing is an extremely personal journey. No one can tell you the exact right path for you. One of the absolute best things that you can do is to expose yourself to many different choices, many different journeys, and pick and choose the bits and pieces that seem like they’d work best for you.
Don’t shame yourself for where you think you should be. Shaming yourself accomplishes nothing. Everyone has a different pace, everyone has a different path and the best thing you can do is keep your eyes a head and do what’s best for you.
Things do get better. But it takes work, and the right resources, and a good amount of luck too. But it is possible, I promise.
Take care of yourself today, okay?
While most people have experienced a few nightmares in their lifetime, survivors are often plagued with them. It can seem like an impossible thing to overcome, because after all, dreams come from our unconscious minds.
However, there are some things that we can do to make things easier.
Some people have nightmares in the form of flashbacks, others based solely on the feeling of terror. A lot of these come in the form of re-occurring nightmares.
In these situations, professionals often suggestion visualization as a key. Say for instance, you have nightmares about drowning. They would ask you to imagine something that would save you from drowning- whether it be a boat, a life preserver, or even a rope coming from the sky. You’re supposed to think of this thing throughout the day, or whenever you become anxious.
It won’t immediately become a part of your dreams- but when it does, it gives you an out.
2. Rewrite the story.
This is related to the above. Especially in cases of re-occurring nightmares/flashbacks. Physically write down the story, preferably with pen/pencil on paper. and then change it.
Give yourself an alternate ending. Rewrite the nightmare so that isn’t a nightmare anymore.
For those of you who remember Harry Potter- think of it like dealing with a Boggart.
Take something terrifying and make it ridiculous.
3. Safety/grounding object.
This could be just about anything. A stuffed animal, a lover’s shirt, a stress ball. Personally, I have a spoon necklace that I take off every night and keep lying in bed next to me. If I wake up with a start, I reach over and grab it and begin my mantra.
4. Upon waking from a nightmare- mantras can help.
Personally, my mantra goes a little like this, “It is 2013. I am 20 years old. I am safe.” Getting more specific than the year probably isn’t that helpful- because a lot of people are disoriented about time when waking up. But at least the year, and my age forcibly reminds me that I am not that child anymore.
5. Nightlights/ create a safe environment.
Don’t give me that look. Shadows do not help nightmares. I have one of those portable lights that you tap on and off that I use to take showers in the dark- but it would also be pretty useful for this. You might not need to sleep with it on, but it would definitely help upon waking up. Also, they’re just generally suggested for people who have troubles getting back to sleep after waking up for anything.
If making sure that all the doors to your room are locked at night help you get to sleep easier, do it. Taking measures to make yourself feel safer are not a bad thing.
6. Deal with the underlying emotion/thought/memory beneath the nightmares.
Whether it be through EMDR, CBT, or other forms of therapy- or just… resolving the issue within yourself. Nightmares happen because of things that we’re thinking and feeling, they’re our brain trying to process and deal with emotions that … a lot of the time we aren’t dealing with during waking hours.
Some Basic Information about Panic Attacks
A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions. It can come on suddenly without warning, it can have no apparent cause, or be caused by triggers.
While the most common image of the panic attack is of someone clutching their chest and assuming they’re having a heart attack, it is important to remember that this is not the only way that a panic attack may occur. Racing thoughts, sudden senses of dread, a need to move/talk fast, are just as much panic attack related as the chest pain is.
➡ Sense of impending danger
• Fear of loss of control or death
➡ Rapid, pounding heart rate
➡ Trembling or shaking
• Shortness of breath
➡ Tightness in the throat
• Chills and/or hot flashes
➡Nausea and/or cramping • Chest pain and/or headache
• Dizziness, lightheadedness Numbness and/or tingling sensation
➡ Feeling of unreality or detachment
In case of a Panic Attack
Attempting to rationalize your way out of a panic attack is often a lesson in futility. In the cases of the more sudden, chest pain sort of panic attacks- it can be helpful to remember that they usually last less than 10 minutes. A mantra of “I am having a panic attack, and it is terrifying right now, but it does not mean it will be terrifying forever” may help more than trying to rationalize away your fear.
Removing yourself from the situation is one of the best things that can be done. Changing rooms, going outside, anything to put physical space and give you room to breath can help.
If you’re someone who has panic attacks, it may be helpful during calm moments to time your breathing. On a slow even inhale and exhale- how many seconds do you draw in and out? Attempt to follow that count while panicked. One of the biggest things people run into when trying to ‘take a breath’ when they’re panicking- is causing themselves to hyperventilate and escalating the situation. Everyone has a different lung capacity, you don’t have to be completely filling your lungs, but trying to be even can help.
It’s tempting to try and reduce the shaking, it’s human instinct, but there is growing evidence that it’s probably not in our best interest. Instead, giving yourself to shake- shaking your arms/legs yourself can help discharge some of the energy coursing through your system. Things like planking, and allowing your muscles to shake in the hold- can also help.
Grounding activities are often helpful, these are things that help bring you to the present moment. Some people are able to do so on an internal level- focusing on how their body feels in the moment, how their hair feels, how their clothes feel against their skin, the tension in their muscles. Other find this alarming and have an easier time simply introducing new sensory information- things like sharp tastes (mint, lemons) or touching things with different textures. Playdoughs, fabrics, ice, incense are often used.
Things that remind one of safety can help bring some people be brought ‘back’, being wrapped in blankets, listening to familiar songs, listening to a familiar voice- especially one reminding them that what day it is, that they’re safe, can help.
Getting the thoughts out of one’s head can help if they’re experiencing racing thoughts. Writing them all down, typing them into a word document, anything to get them into the ‘world’ and out of one’s brain can help in the processing process.
Repetitive acts that require low skill (relative to the person’s skill level) but can hold focus are a favorite of many. Tetris is particularly touted, knitting, origami, folding laundry, counting backwards in specific counts. Even to pull attention, easy enough that the panic doesn’t make it impossible.
After a Panic Attack
Remember that the body has just gone through flight/fight/freeze- it has just expended a very large amount of energy. Similar to having just worked out or having spent the day doing physical labor, even if it only lasted a few minutes.
It is completely understandable that your body is going to be exhausted. Take time to self-soothe and rest. Take a shower, a nap, watch a show to give your body a break- whatever it is that works best for you.
What is it?
Self-Invalidation is the term used for the comments survivors make about their personal trauma, things like: “I didn’t go through anything bad enough to still be hurting like this.” “It’s not like I’m a real survivor.” “It’s my fault it happened anyway.” “I’m probably just making a big deal out of nothing.”
It is can also be the idea that you don’t deserve help or to reach out to others.
Where does it come from?
Inevitably on a survivor’s journey, no matter how great of a support system a survivor might have and how much they try to tune out everything else, survivors will run into some really gross messages along the way. Whether it is victim blaming, micro- aggressions, or doubt over the impact of trauma or how often it happens.
Most self-invalidation is internalized messages survivors receive from either people in their lives or the media. This ranges from those who say that certain kinds of people can’t be raped, or that they should appreciate ‘the attention’, to doubt that the trauma even occurred. Sometimes the internalization even comes from messages from those who mean well- people who tell a survivor to ‘cheer up’ and ‘get over it’and those who try to ‘paint a silver lining’ by saying what happened wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
Why does it happen?
Another piece of the puzzle is the why. There’s not a single reason why survivor’s invalidate themselves, but a big one is the idea that if you can talk yourself into believing that it wasn’t that bad- that it won’t be that bad.
If you don’t call it rape- it won’t hurt that bad. This is an idea that is supported by society. We reassure screaming children that they aren’t hurting that bad, that they’re over exaggerating. That if they just calmed down they would realize everything is fine. We tell people to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and we tell people that if they’d just look at the silver lining it’d be okay.
But the truth is these things aren’t solutions. When we minimize what happened to us- we don’t make the effects of what happened any smaller, we just ignore them. And things don’t get fixed when we ignore them. If you tell yourself that a bowl is simply cracked, not shattered- it doesn’t hold water any better.
There are other reasons that self-invalidation happens of course, but this is the big one that usually needs to be addressed. That we’re allowed to feel like the situation is beyond our control but that pretending it isn’t as bad isn’t a long term solution.
What to do about it
There are a couple of different things that survivors who are struggling with Self-invalidation can do. The important thing is to remember that there is no one way to healing, and that there’s no shame for still needing time to heal or for having invalidating thoughts. Start out by reminding yourself that having invalidating thoughts doesn’t actually mean that you are invalid. It might help to have a simple statement you say to yourself, “My trauma is valid, I am valid, It is okay to hurt.”
Some survivors find it helpful to remember where these messages came from. Instead of hearing the messages as an internal comment- they remind themselves or visualize it as coming from an outside source. They may choose to turn that outside source into an overdone characterization. By making the comment come from a cartoonish outsider instead, it makes it easier to say “No, that isn’t true and I refuse to listen to you.”
Another step is to get validation from outside sources. You may find validation in reading articles that say that what you went through was trauma and that what you’re feeling right now is normal. You may find validation talking about what happened to other survivors whether in person, over the phone, or online. You may even find validation from other people reassuring you that you’re a good person, that you aren’t broken, or that you have value – even if the person talking to you doesn’t realize what you’ve been through.
Validating statements or comforting quotes placed where you might see it often is another option. This soft nudge done often can help unwind the damage done by others. Visualizations like thinking of a stop sign every time you have a self-blaming thought, or of the thought getting swept away by a hurricane- may be useful . Sometimes hearing or seeing the words isn’t enough, there needs to be a sort of picture attached for it to really sink in. You might consider writing the invalidating thought down and burning it, ripping it up, throwing it away or otherwise discarding it.
Imagine what you would tell a friend who was struggling with these thoughts. Gently tell yourself these same things, some find it helps to do so while looking in the mirror or a picture.
When you’re in a decent place, one where you do believe yourself- it can help to write yourself a letter for the moments when you do struggle. Tell your future self that you believe them, and that what they went through was bad enough. It can help to even list out, though possibly not in detail (or make it so that the detail can only be seen if you look further. Like in white text on a word document or in a second envelope if you write a physical letter to yourself.) because it can be hard to be reminded of those things, especially when you’re already in a bad place.
It’s important to remember that these things aren’t going to be an instantaneous fix. Doing one thing will not suddenly make the invalidating thoughts go away forever, and none of them may work at first. The most simplified approach is to try and stop ruminating on the thought- acknowledge that it is there and then move on, to contradict the thought, and introduce sources of validation into your life.
Getting Over Triggers: An Incomplete Guide
Not all triggers can be gotten over and even if a trigger can be gotten over, doesn’t particularly mean it should. It is entirely up to the survivor to choose which triggers to try and get over, and whether or not they want to get over them at all.
Sometimes when people get over a trigger- they will still be sensitive to it in the case of relapse or more stress.
First Step: Identifying Triggers
Triggers kind of fall in two areas. We have our super general triggers that can often be identified by a quick HALT check. (The halt system suggests that when stressed we ask ourselves ‘Am I a. Hungry b. Angry c. Lonely or d. Tired?’ ) These are things that aren’t necessarily ‘PTSD’ triggers- so much as they lower our threshold in general. You want to still be aware of these for that very reason.
Then we have our more specific PTSD/trauma triggers.
It can be a feeling. For instance- survivors of childhood trauma often struggle with anything that makes them feel small.
It can be a visual thing. Whether it be something your attacker wore, something that you watched a lot during your trauma period, people that look kind of like the assailant.
It can be an auditory thing. A sound, a name.
It can be a smell. Smells are actually extremely strong triggers usually.
It can be a touch.
Triggers are things that cause an uptick in symptoms. Whether they cause panic attacks, flashbacks, or a return to behaviors such as self harm or disordered eating.
Step Two: Learning how to Self-Soothe/Ground
Self Soothing/Grounding behaviors are a dime a dozen, it’s all a matter of finding a good handful that work for you.
It’s extremely important that you find a system that works for you before trying to handle a trigger.
There isn’t enough room on a post to go over every possible self-soothing/grounding behavior but I’m going to list some. Do some exploration on your own to find something that works or you.
1. Get an 'oh shit’ box, or a grounding bag, or whatever you want to call it. A place where you physically keep things that help you. Kind notes from friends. A color book. Play Dough. You’ll want things that cover all the sensory experiences.
2. Proper breathing exercises. These don’t work for everyone- but they do have a higher success rate when done correctly.
3. Cold oranges. Oranges kept in the fridge and then peeled help a lot of people 'come down’ from triggered states. It’s a sensory thing- both touch and focus and smell.
4. Keeping a grounding object. Whether it be a spinner ring, a necklace, a rock you keep in your pocket. Something you touch often and use as a 'I am here and this is now’
5. Essential oils can really help.
6. Journaling or Art.
7. Going back to a safe place. Whether this be a physical place or a 'place’ in your mind.
8. Counting down from 100 by 7’s. Or other things like that require you to focus.
9. Having a playlist specifically for these times. I find that having them set from sort of… high energy.angry. music to slowly going down to more calm helps me personally.
10. Progressive Muscle Relaxation.
But really, self soothing/grounding things… there are hundreds upon hundreds of options. It’s just a matter of looking around and finding what works for you. You’ll want to find multiple. These are not cure alls by themselves- they are skills to layer upon one another.
Step Three: Define Your Triggers
In step one- you identified your triggers, now I want you to better define them.
For instance- if touch sets you off- is it all touch? or is touch to a certain area of your body? or by people you don’t know? or when you don’ t have forewarning
This will help you understand where to start.
Step Four: Create an Action Plan and act on it.
Now you’re going to use all the information from steps three and two, as well as figuring out what skills and people you have in your life that would be willing to help.
Know what coping skills/self soothing/grounding things you will turn to.
Figure out how you’re going to start. Start small. For instance- if you have a touch trigger then you might want to start by making sure you’re as completely relaxed and in as safe an environment as possible- and then having someone you trust touch you.
Remind yourself that you are safe, that you know who is doing it, and that you’re going to be okay. Once again- start out small. Only do it for a few minutes at first- if that.
If a place is triggering, having a friend come with you and working yourself up to staying longer times. Knowing that this time? You can leave as soon as you need to. You are in control. Notice how you feel- notice the racing heart or the nausea or whatever it is- don’t shame yourself for feeling this way. Just know that it won’t be forever.
You’re going to want to make new associations as well. In over simplified terms- a trigger is basically when we see/feel/hear/whatever A and the synaptic connection immediately jumps to the trauma. What you want to do is make new synaptic connections so that it is no longer the first place you unconsciously jump to- and strengthen them regularly.
You’re going to want to slowly work yourself up to handling more and more. It is a slow process, and it often involves a lot of agitation. Don’t push yourself too hard too fast. It’s better to spend awhile working on five minutes at a time until five minutes doesn’t bother you- than to jump in and push yourself into a relapse.
Step Five: Self Care and Processing.
Make sure that you self-soothe before and after you do things and to spend time processing what happened and how it makes you feel. When you start to tackle triggers things will usually come up. It will probably help to keep a journal regarding this process. Talk about how it makes you feel, whether physically or emotionally. Talk about what seems to work and what seems to not. You may notice patterns this way too.
Don’t beat yourself up for not doing perfectly or still getting upset. Instead celebrate the successes and that you are now in control. You can end the trigger sensation when you want to. You can self soothe now. You have the power.
15 Warning Signs Someone's Past Trauma is Triggered
Please note that there are more than just this, but these were listed from the depression project. It was only in image format, so I made a text version.
1. Giving a "big" reaction to something you consider "small".
2. Staring off into space, or zoning out.
3. Trembling or shaking.
4. Avoiding making eye contact.
5. Express a strong desire to leave or be left alone.
6. They go silent.
7. They present self soothing behavior.
8. Shutting down emotionally.
9. They are avoiding physical contact.
10. The desire to move to a "low stimulating" environment.
11. Being unable to express their emotions.
12. Struggling to "give" or connect with another's needs.
13. Hyperventilating or shortness of breath.
14. Feeling unsafe.
15. Seeking comfort in something from their childhood.
to make (something abstract) more concrete or real.
One of the things that survivors often struggle with is incorporating positive emotions into their narrative. It’s not unusual for me to be talking to a group of survivors and it start with ‘sorry it’s been a bad day- bad week…. bad year… bad life.’ and in some ways- that is a way of coping in that sort of humor.
But there is also something to be said of the way we define ourselves by our low points.
About how hard it is in moments of sadness to recognize the good moments that did happen, or to think them relevant when things are hard.
But at the end of day, recognizing good moments? is a muscle. And the longer it is completely neglected, the harder it is to use it.
This is not to say that we must force positivity for the sake of positivity, because that’s often harmful. But instead about putting energy into reifying the happiness that does occur in our lives and strenthening our ability to notice it.
So, here are a few suggestions for that.
is a website that you can use to send yourself emails in the future. What I do is when I’ve had a good day- I send myself an email to myself on that the next year- reminding me of what I did and how I was feeling.
The benefit is three-fold. Doing this forces you to consciously acknowledge when you’ve had good moments, it helps you build a vocabularly around it, and then on a future date- it reminds you of it.
This helps build the memories and strengthen the synaptic connections in your brain.
The Jar Method.
You see this one go around social media, especially near new years. Basically, take a jar and then when you do fun things- write them down and drop them into the jar. At the end of the year reread what has happened.
It’s benefits are very similar to the futureme method.
I’ve also seen people who have made origami stars and dropped them in. Sometimes writing something on the strip, sometimes using colors to mean different things.
For those of you who use planners- just take a moment to jot down at the bottom of the day if something good happened. It could just be a word or two. For those who aren’t a fan of words- it could even just be something as simple as doing a blue dot on each day that was more good than bad. That way you can look back and see where your mood has been.
Rituals of Celebration
What are some things you enjoy doing? Especially smaller acts- like showers or tea or taking a walk or candles. Maybe even watching a movie or a show.
The point is to take a small series of things that make you feel good and chain them in a sort of celebration. Something like- watching your favorite show while drinking your favorite drink.
And making a point to take this small celebration? and use it regularly. Maybe for surviving the week- maybe after you finish larger
Making a point to celebrate things? helps us incorporate happiness and positive emotions into our lives.
It’s important to remember that all of our emotions are important.
Taking time to respect and recognize your good moments, doesn’t mean that you’re suddenly healed.
Those good moments don’t mean that you’re no longer a survivor. You aren’t betraying your trauma, or losing your community. You’re learning to be a healthier human being.
It can feel like being happy is impossible in the midst of healing- or like it’s strange.
But pictures with reds and blues are still just one picture- one color does not contradict another, they come together to creat a more vibrant and complex image.